Saturday, November 30, 2013

You Want Religion, Do You?

There is a movie played in Mormon temples. One of the lines that I remember best has been running through my head for the past week.
   Let me give some background. Adam and Eve have just been ejected from the Garden of Eden, and Satan is hanging about, generally being a pest. Adam asks about receiving more knowledge from God. Satan then replies: "You want someone to preach to you. You want religion, do you?"
   This has been in my head for awhile now, because I am realising that yes, I do need religion.  Throughout the last few months, I have stopped studying Wicca, and attending the Unitarian church. Part of it was laziness, part of it was a need to detox a bit from my Mormon experience, part of it is emotional exhaustion from foster kids, and part of it is the Unitarian church is an hour away.
   I've written a bit before of being emotionally overwhelmed, and I am starting to think part of that is due to an absence of spirituality. Mormonism isn't just a religion, it's a lifestyle. There's church on Sundays, weekly activities for youth, social activities on Saturdays, ladies meetings on Thursdays, feeding missionaries, temple trips, baptisms...just a lot of energy and time involved. Now that I've stopped attending the LDS church, I don't know where or how to put my spiritual energy.
   Mormonism (and even Wicca, when I was learning/practicing) gave me a way to feel like life was more than random chance. Want something very badly? Pray or perform a spell/ritual and perhaps the powers that be will make that work for you. Now, I've found myself asking a generic universe. I feel powerless. I feel...very small and alone.
   I miss feeling a part of something bigger. Churches, religion, often give one purpose. Spreading the "true gospel", becoming more attuned with nature, or making the world better.  Just things that are bigger than one's self. I crave that. Because so much of my life now is monotonous, unchanging housewifery. Laundry in-laundry out, cleaning, cooking, helping kids with homework.
    I want to feel part of something bigger. Something that makes me feel like I am more than just a cooking/cleaning automaton. I want friends, and a way to connect with people.  I want to believe in deity that will have a connection with me.

   Unlike Adam, I'm not waiting for "further light and knowledge from [God]". I guess I'm just waiting to give myself permission.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


This is a crazy week with the kiddos. No school, home visit, Grandparent visit, respite...
Basically posts will be whenever I can get to the computer for extended period of time.

Monday, November 25, 2013

CTNAHM-Mr. Command Part 1 (God the Father-In Human Form)

p 109-111

Howdy! Today we are talking about the Command Man. If you recall, the Command Man typifies God the Father. Michael himself is a Command Man, so I'm really curious to see how he spins this one. Off we go!
Text is in purple.

Visionary, Steady, Command
God the Father is King, ruler of the universe, commander of heaven's forces, the fullness of life of the godhead. He is dominant, sovereign, omnipotent God. Since God created man in his image, after his plural likeness, some men more naturally express the image of the Father. Those men that bear the image of the father are the dominant leaders among us. They have a way of rising to the top and organizing other men into a functioning group. For obvious reasons, we hesitate to call them kings, just as we hesitate to call the Visionaries among us prophets, or the Steadies priests. Since there are benevolent kings and tyrannical dictators in this group, we chose to call them by the more generic name of Command Man. As we said before, that fits the good, the bad, and the ugly nature alike.
   This is what comes to my head when I think about God. The Old Testament smiter, the one who tells Abraham to kill his son, holds grudges to the 4th generation, and can't handle losing a popularity contest to an idol. It is nice, though, that Michael includes tyrannical leaders under the Command umbrella; although I'm worried about what Michael considers tyranny. Guess we'll find out.
These Command Men are readily recognizable. They have what is called "gravitas" or "presence". When they walk into the room and speak, everyone stops to listen. When they make a suggestion it sounds like a command. [Lengthy re-rehasing of differences between types.]The history of war and the rise and fall of empires is the bloody trail of the Command Man, the king seeking a kingdom. Ship captains, presidents, kings, and czars are the roles filled by Command Men.
   Interesting. Apparently I'm part Command (wo)Man. Though I don't think "types" count for women. But I do have the characteristics listed.
   One other thing that confuses me. Aren't kings and czars inherited titles? If so, is it fair to assume that just because somebody is a King, that they are a Command Man? In fact, didn't Michael make a case for King David (of the Bathsheba debacle) being a Visionary? Yes, he makes exception for those being 2 types, but it's still a valid point.
To these men we owe our countries, our liberties, and our local organizations. They were the Hitlers, the Moseses, and the Maccabees. Patton and Rommel were quintessential Command Men, as was Stalin. The moral extremes expressed in the many Command Men reveals that the image of God is marred in all of us, some more than others.
   Call me crazy,  but Moses was a Prophet, right? Isn't "prophet" under Visionary territory? I might be missing something here, but I thought that Visionaries came up with the ideas for revolutions, but couldn't get the job done. So Mr. Command just took over. So wouldn't it be more logical to say "While Visionaries invented the gun, and supplied the bullets, Mr. Command took the shots." And instead of making the case that Command Men take after God, Michael seems to be saying Command men are jerks. Or perhaps that might be the same thing.
Since our world needs only a few leaders, God seems to have limited the number of Command Men. There seem to be many Steady men for every Command Man. They are marked by a lack of interest in small talk or insignificant, petty complaints. They are not as quick to blame others for their plights but ready to dismiss the inept. In the arena of conflicting ideas, Command Men are often able to see the full picture and encapsulate it to the satisfaction of both sides. 
   You know, if Command Man means to be arrogant and step on other's ideas...I mean see the full picture...then I'm kind of glad there aren't more of them. Though if Michael is trying to tell us leader=command, then he's wrong about the amount. Everything needs leaders. Schools need principles or deans. Hospitals and non-profits need Presidents. Towns need mayors, companies need CEOs. Heck. McDonald's needs managers. It seems to me that there are plenty of areas for Commands to lead. Just because somebody isn't starting wars or running a ministry, does not mean they don't lead.
People like clarity. For the average Joe, the Command Man seems wiser than normal. In a way, he is. The Command Man doesn't focus on minor points or the emotional side of an issue. His objectivity springs from his nature as an overseer. He considers the issues in light of all concerned.
   Alright. So, first, the Command men sees the full picture. But he doesn't focus on minor details or emotional sides. I guess he looks at the Mona Lisa and sees a lady; not the brushstrokes, not the half-grin, not the pretty background. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Yet I'm trying to figure out how a good leader can fail to deal with emotional aspects.
   Take King Solomon. (He's a king, so he's a Command Man, right Michael?) His most famous moment was with the two mothers claiming ownership of a live baby. Solomon's way to solve the problem was to cut the baby in half. He clearly counted on the emotions of the real mother to end the tug-of-war with the infant.  I feel like I need to stress that emotions are OK. Having emotions, acting on emotions, and dealing with emotions are natural and normal.  Ignoring emotions does not make one manly, tough, or unbiased.
That is the nature of a commander. In war, it will not do to have a Steady Man in charge. He would sacrifice the mission and even the war to save his men. His compassion rules above his head. Nor would it do to have a Visionary in charge. If he felt like it was a "good day to die" and he could "stick it to the enemy", he would risk sacrificing everyone just to make a magnificent and glorious statement. But the Command Man considers the overall picture and weighs the cost against achieving the objective.
   I will be the first to admit I don't know much about war, about military, or military politics. But I have heard stories and read about Commanders, Captains, Chaplains, and others who risked their lives (and the mission) to save their men. Isn't that one of the reasons the military hands out medals? The more I read, the more it sounds like Michael's idea of a Command Man is a robot: no emotion, just logic and algorithms. Which doesn't sound like anyone I'd like to be under, especially if they are in charge of my life!

LUKE 14:31-32
  31 Or what king, going to make war against another king sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?
  32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.

   Sure. These verses talk about a king. A king who is a strategist or makes peace overtures if he doesn't feel like he can win. I just don't see Michael being OK with anything other than complete dominance. That is why these verses that he selected are a mystery to me. If you read his child-training manual, he talks about "breaking the wills" of the children. Doesn't sound peaceful to me.

And when the rank and file face the guns, it's the Steady Men who stand shoulder to shoulder and go into harm's way to protect their families and their nation. Visionaries start wars. Command Men lead them, and the Steady Men fight them. Remember, there are Command Men on both sides of any war. The Japanese fleet that bombed Pearl Harbor was led by Command Men. There is no virtue in our image itself, but in the use we make of it.
   4 paragraphs ago, Command men were the start of wars. Now it's Visionaries. That's annoying. Also, I highly doubt every single soldier in every military branch everywhere is a Steady Man. The way Michael makes it sounds, if war was a high school, the Visionaries would explode the toilets in the football player's locker room. The Command man would order retaliation, and the Steadies would start a food fight with Steadies from the other side. If so, neither the Visionaries nor the Command Men ever have to face consequences for their actions, because that's what Mr. Steady-Cannon-fodder is for. Which sounds wrong somehow.
Command Men disproportionately fill the pulpits due to their tendency to push their way to the front, and because of the inclination of the public to mistake a commanding personality for spiritual power and authority.
   Alright. Let's go back up to Michael's list of Command men. Hitler, Stalin, Moses, Maccabees (Jewish rebel army), and Patton and Rommel (WW2 Generals).  How many of these would you say are revered for spiritual power and authority? 1? Maybe 2? Just because somebody is a bully (pushing their way to the front) does not make them more spiritual, or more authoritative. It makes them a bully. Michael seems to think that whomever can use the most force to get his way gets a prize. It doesn't always work like that, obviously.
If the truth be told, it is rare to find a Command Man qualified to be a pastor, because he does not focus on the individual. The Steady/Priest Man is best equipped by nature to fill the Biblical role of pastor. The Visionaries will do well leading revival services or camp meetings, and they make great evangelists, but as pastors they are too radical to hold a congregation together. They change direction and try new ideas too often. Although they are effective at stirring the congregation out of its indifference or lethargy, you don't want to give them the reins altogether or they will run the horse til he drops.
   So if Mr. Command is given authority because of his commanding personality, he is supposed to decline it for the betterment of his congregation, because he can't deal with them as individuals? Does giving up power (and spiritual authority IS power) seem like something a Command man would do?
   I'm confused about this next part. I had to look up the difference between a pastor and an evangelist. To put a Mormon spin on things (because that's how my head still works), the evangelists are the missionaries doing the converting legwork, and the pastor/bishop deals with the nurturing once the converts are in. If Visionaries are evangelists, and Steadies are pastors, where does that leave Command Men?
The Steady/Priestly Man will "weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that rejoice"-the perfect trait for a pastor. But Steady Men are not usually chosen to be pastors because they do not seek the position and they are not as dynamic as the other two types.
   Let me get this straight. Steady men are perfect for the job of pastor because they have empathy and can view the trees from the forest. Yet nobody wants them, because they're boring and unassertive. So instead of giving advice to Steadies on how to be more assertive, Michael just assumes Command Men will take over ministries, and things will be alright.

   Either I'm completely misinterpreting this section, or Michael is making a case for the most logical, unemotional, unemphatic, and pushy men to be leaders of churches. Does this sound like a horrid idea to anyone else?

Friday, November 22, 2013

CTNAHM-Mr Steady Part 12 (Dem Wimminz Hormonez)

p 106-107

Today we are finishing up the section on Mr. Steady. And how does Michael choose to close this section? Does he summarize the traits of a Steady? Will he exhort men to fix their weaknesses? Does he give a list of scriptures helpful for Steadies?
  Don't be silly. He talks about those female emotions.

Female Emotional Breakdowns
Mr. Pearl,
I have a few words to contribute to your men's book. I call it: WHAT MEN SHOULD AND SHOULD NOT DO.
As I am sure you have noticed, women are very emotional creatures. Sometimes crazy hormones or over-the-top emotions get the better of us. Now these instances should never happen, but we are human and sometimes they simply do (like after the birth of a child or the day before our periods are due to start). My desire for all married men is that they understand the following:
   *She is just having a "moment" so, please, don't take her seriously.
   * Perhaps just step out of the room for half an hour.
   *Go buy her some chocolate and be sure to give her a hug.
   *Then move on from the "moment" and let her move on too.
This is not a cop out, only a plea for some occasional room to be emotional.
Hopeful Lady,

   Egads. My first thought is that I seriously doubt a real "hopeful lady" named Amy wrote this letter. If  you recall the section where Michael compares women to ocean tides, the narrative voice is almost identical. Another problem I have, is why would a woman counsel men to not take their wives seriously? Also, I'm finding it difficult to believe that a sane person could write, on one hand, women are very emotional; and on the other, say "our emotions get the better of us-even though they shouldn't!"
  So apparently, it's natural that women are emotional, but acting on those emotions is a sign of being a weak person.  One other thing that's bugging me is the advice to give your menstruating woman some chocolate and a hug. How fake is that? "Hey, honey, I know you're on your period. Here's a Hershey's bar. Please don't get emotional at me."
   Also, this letter completely negates the fact that a woman (emotional or not) might be legitimately upset, or even have valid points. Saying "Oh, you're emotional, I'll be outside until you calm down." isn't helpful or very nice.  The letter isn't arguing for empathy for stressed or hormonal women. It doesn't counsel to listen to the wife's concerns. It just implies she's blowing everything out of proportion because she's hormonal.
   I am Bipolar, and hormones affect my moods in a big way. But even when I have escalated past the normal zone, and I'm screaming, or crying, or both, THE FEELINGS ARE STILL REAL AND LEGITIMATE.  I cry because I'm genuinely upset. Even if the reason I'm crying is because of something I just watched on TV. It's not always a matter of being a little bit irritated and reacting way too strongly. Sometimes the feelings are genuinely as big as the reaction. This letter doesn't allow for that.
   I think if Amy really does exist, and actually wrote this, she should be held accountable for how many women she's hurt by spreading this toxic nonsense.

Other Suggestions from the Ladies
*A man needs to understand when is wife is having an emotional fit. He needs to just pretend that she is acting completely as she should and just hold her in his arms and tell her how much he loves her.
   It really is OK for women (or people) to have emotions, and act on them. If you're sad, you can cry, or be sad, or yell, or however you deal with it. Yes, there are some healthy ways to deal with emotions. But the point I'm trying to make, is it's OK to feel and demonstrate things other than gentle contentment.  And why is the only time Michael counsels men to hold their wives and say that they love them is during emotional upheavals.  Honestly, if the only time my husband did that was when I was emotional, I would freak out all the time, just to get that validation.
*I think all men should understand that a woman has times when she is not as emotionally equipped as other times. During such  times she might yell or demand things that she normally would not. He should not take this occasion to tell her what is right or wrong but just give her time to get things together.
   What about when men demand things they shouldn't? What about when men are emotional? Or too proud? Or cruel? Or petty? Why are men's negative emotions/actions untouched, but when women offer anything other than a happy smile and willing attitude, they are hormonal, PMSy, emotional monsters that need to get their act together? I just can't stress enough how harmful these teachings are!
* Sometimes I feel real emotional and my husband just tries to calm me, which makes me feel worse. I wish he would just let me yell and not get upset with me.
   Perhaps this is something women should discuss with their husbands. Saying "I'm very upset right now, and all I need you to do is listen." when that's what you need is a healthy thing. Getting mad because your spouse can't read your mind and give you what you want isn't.  What makes me sad, is that it really seems the women in Michael's demographic don't feel safe enough to tell their husbands what they need.
*When I am mad and on a frustrated rampage, when I cry, when I'm moody or ornery, just give me a hug.
    Again, it's OK for one spouse to tell their SO what they need. If your spouse doesn't listen, care, or act on it, then a big chat (or counseling) is probably in order.
*Don't tell me I must be on my period and will feel better later.

   Well, I hope you learned a lot today. Those silly women with their silly emotions clearly don't deserve actual consideration or thought. And shame on you for thinking otherwise!

   Next time, we start up the section on Mr. Command. I'm a bit scared, I'll admit.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Emotional Unavailability

 Today I had a mini-breakdown. (Again, I know)

   I was hurt and upset that I spend most of my time taking care of the kids, and no matter what I do, I'm the bad guy. Not the TV-esque lovable anti-hero. Nope. The straight up bad guy. The one you hope gets taken down by the cops or the plague or something.
   Now my husband is very much the protagonist. He swoops in, sans cape, to save the day. And I love him for it, but I resent it, too.

   I was upset because the kids talk to him, listen to him, want to be around him. I wondered why they don't want that from me. Then I realised. It's because I don't give them what they need. I'm very good at following a to-do list. "Get the kids dressed, put them on the bus, do laundry, call school for IEP followup, cook dinner, help with homework, make sure everyone does chores and gets showered." I'm a very efficient task manager and manners police.
   But what I'm not good at is emotional connections. I can empathize and psychoanalyze with the best of them, but when it comes to good, old-fashioned sympathy, I have none. When the kids are acting out, or upset, I find myself thinking "Why are they upset about that? When I was a kid..."

   Then I realised, this is one more way I have turned into my mother.
   Sympathy, I think, is a learned trait. When you're small, and you skin your knee, if someone comes up to you, and says "Poor baby, let's get a bandaid." you learn how to do that with others. But if you grew up, as I did, with either nobody around to care, or someone was around that would bring up instances of how their childhood was worse ("My sister's bike got stolen. My dad threw her on the ground and stomped on her until her ribs broke." This was a common story from my childhood. Anytime I cried or got upset, this was what my mother told me. Or another lovely anecdote.), then you learn that your pain isn't painful enough-your feelings aren't valid enough-you're not enough. Ever.
   So while my husband was learning how to soothe and be soothed, I was learning that my experiences were not bad enough to worry or fuss about.

   And this is something that I am doing with my foster kids. I was upset with how they act after visitation. My husband said "This is the worst thing that has ever happened to them."  My reaction? "Really? They get taken from their parents. Their parents never hit them. Their parents never touched them inappropriately. The mom is trying her hardest to get them back. They have a ton of people who care about them. Why the F--- are they upset?"
   After I said that, I stopped. Then burst into tears. Because my sister, in one of our last conversations, told me I was just like our mom: emotionally unavailable. So I let her in. And she died; she left me after I was vulnerable. But she was right.

   How does one learn something they were never taught? I googled "Becoming emotionally available". The first site I looked at had a list. The first thing: love yourself. How the hell am I supposed to love myself? How does that happen? What are the steps?
   It's like I was given a brick, and told "Make a pyramid". Without knowing how to make more bricks, or how to build a structure, or even if the type of brick I was given is the right kind for structure stability. How do I give kids something that they need, if I don't have enough of it to even give to myself?
    I have no idea where to start, what to do, whom to ask, or where to go. But I know I'm drowning.

   Too bad my next shrink appointment isn't for another 2 weeks.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

CTNAHM-Mr. Steady Part 11 (You're Not a Leader, But Lead Your Family!)

p 104-105

We are getting near the end of the Mr. Steady chapter. Personally, I can't wait to be done with the sections on types. Anyway, today Michael is summing up Mr. Steady's character, and offering advice about how to be better (read: be more commanding).
Text is in purple

Five T's of a Steady man
-Take action

Tell her what is on your mind-every day, every night
   Wow. While telling one's spouse what's on one's mind is a good thing, Michael completely left out the other part. Listening to your spouse tell you what's on theirs.  But I guess that's making the wife happy and doesn't really count.
Take action even if you don't really care which way things should go. Be aware of everything going on in the family and function as the manager.
   As much as I like it when my husband relieves me of decision making (occasionally), I've noticed that when he doesn't care, but chooses anyway, both of us are unhappy. I don't think forcing or coercing people without a vested interest in an issue to make a decision is really the best way of doing things. Also note that nowhere did Michael suggest a family council, where everyone gets a voice. Nor did he specify asking one's wife what her opinion is. Just "Man, make a decision!".  I wish he would include a section on what to do if the decision is the wrong one.
Teach your wife to be productive and useful as your help meet.
   Ugh. This one makes me feel squicky. Because it sounds like directing a child. "Go over here, and do this, because it will keep you out of underfoot for awhile. There's a good girl."
Talk to her like you would if she were a very good friend and business partner. Explain your goals and how she is helping that dream come true. Talk to her about what you have already accomplished and what your goals are as a team.
   I think it's telling that Michael needs to implore men to talk to their wives AS IF she were a very good friend. I consider my husband one of my best friends, and he me. Why be together if you're not good enough friends that you can't talk to each other? Here again, there is no mention of the wife's goals or dreams. Only telling her what she can do to further the man's. Even when Michael talks about a team goal, it's implied the man decides for the whole team.
Target key issues in your life. The dictionary meaning of the word "target" is "an object aimed at." The second meaning is "goal or objective toward which effort is directed." You need to incorporate both meanings in your life. Focus on a goal and go forward.
   This is actually a decent one. Everyone needs some sort of goal or target to keep from stagnating. Though I think this would be better placed with Mr. Visionary than Mr. Steady.

Your Theme
Get out of your comfort zone and assume the headship of your family, for the lives of many people are affected by your actions or the lack thereof.
   I think it would be better for all of the "many people" that the person leading the family is the one who is more competent at it. Just because someone is a man and a father doesn't mean he is automatically suited for headship. He could have a shy personality. He could be completely awful at managing people. He could be too laid-back to discipline or enforce household rules.
   Also, it is more important to have good communication, respect, and trust within the family than to have a dictator that steps on everyone's feelings.

Proferred Points to Ponder
*Of the three types, you, the Steady Man, are most liked by everyone.
   I would love to read the scientific study Michael did before making this pronouncement. I wonder how many thousands of people he polled, and his research parameters. What defines "most liked"? People willing to show up at a BBQ or funeral? People that listen and heed advice? People that know their name?
*As a Steady/Priestly type, bringing comfort to those in need is easy. You seem to know what a person needs in times of great sorrow. Your still, quiet presence brings peace. That is one area the Command Man will back away from and surrender to another. There is nothing that makes him more uncomfortable.
   It's curious that Michael assumes peaceful=empathetic. Just because somebody is quiet and stable doesn't mean they are mind readers, as well. And from what I've understood about Michael's Mr. Steady, he seems to be quite socially awkward. So I don't really see him as being OK with giving comfort, because he wouldn't know what to do with himself. Not everyone wants peace. Sometimes, what people want is conflict, or escalation, or a way to blow off steam, or advice. Zen has it's place, but it isn't the solution to everything.
*You are not a leader. You will not thrive if you are thrust into the position of a Command Man. So pursue those areas that are most consistent with your nature and give attention to commanding when it is called for. Outside the family, you were not meant to lead, but to support. Don't let your wife push you into a commanding position. Know your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses, but don't choose a path contrary to your nature.
   Um...if you're not comfortable leading, wouldn't saying "LEAD YOUR FAMILY OR ELSE THEY WILL ALL BE SCREWED UP!" make things even more uncomfortable? I don't get how Michael draws the line between leading the family and leading others, because it's kind of the same thing. For example, I was an amazing manager at the pizza place where I used to work. I am good with people, and I'm a bit bossy. That translated really well into me "managing" foster kids. Unlike my husband, who is the classic "nice guy", that people like, but don't really listen to. So I would think that leadership ability is leadership ability, regardless of where you're leading. I guess as long as the wife isn't leading, that is...
*As a Steady/Priestly Man your strongest trait is that you do not focus on the eternal picture, nor do you look through a microscope at the details, but you do respect both perspectives. You are the glue that makes both Visionary and Command Men able to function as a team. Without your balance there would be stress between them.
   The more I read, the more I think Michael just makes up stereotypes. Because with almost everything, I want to tell him that just because somebody is stable doesn't make them right, nice, decent, or glue. It almost seems like Michael insists that Mr. Steady can't be selfish, petty, judgmental, or a jerk. Which isn't true, because everyone can (and is, depending on the circumstance).
*You bring balance. If you will lead and direct your wife, as a couple you will bring balance to many people. Together you will be key to any organisation, church, or community. When it is needed you must step out of your comfort zone and rule your wife to keep her from becoming a problem for everyone else. You, Good Brother, must get off your comfortable recliner and get your house in order.
   Why is Michael saying, on one hand, Steadies aren't leaders, and then on the other saying LEAD YOUR FAMILY OR ELSE? I've asked this several times, but still haven't gotten a good answer. Except that if a man doesn't lead his family, his wife will (oh, horrors!).

   I think it's really interesting how big of a deal Michael makes of the woman leading the family. I  wish he could give detailed reasons why this is bad. The only one I remember is that women are emotional and don't always make logical decisions.  Isn't that true of everyone, at some point? It's odd that Michael's idea of leadership is dictatorship. Tell your wife your goals, teach your wife to help you, explain to your wife your plans for the two of you. Nowhere does he talk about communication, common goals, or active listening.
   Which makes me feel super sorry for Debi.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Irony of Foster Kids

When we first got married, we wanted a passel of kids. And by that, I wanted 8, and he wanted at least 12. We were going to be the large-brooded, homeschooling, homesteading Mormons that everyone would look up to. I would be a stay at home mom with a blossoming baking side business. Our kids would be smart and clever and good. We would be understanding and have great relationships with each kid (who we would have plenty of 1-on-1 time). In short, we would be perfect in every way.
   We got pregnant rather quickly after getting married, and though that we were on our way to our goal. We started dating in April, engaged by May, married in July, and pregnant by September. We thought it was funny that 6 months after we started dating, we were expecting.
   But the pregnancy ended soon after we found out about it. Technically, it wasn't a pregnancy at all, and my body just thought I was pregnant. (Blighted ovum)  When I went to the doctor for some anti-depressants, he sent me to a shrink for counseling. Turns out I had undiganosed bipolar, borderline personality disorder, and ADHD.
   Still, we kept trying for kids. Every month I would cry, because I felt like a failure. I began to hate pregnant women, and would look away if I saw one. I was convinced I was worthless because we couldn't reproduce. Couples that had gotten married after us were spitting out baby after baby after baby. We were looked at with pity in church, and in our small social circle. I cried a lot during this time. Baby clothes, diaper commercials, pretty much anything baby related would reduce me to tears. We felt sure we were going to get pregnant again, soon, so we stocked up on baby stuff. A crib, changing table, clothes, Bumbo, cloth diapers, baby's now sitting in the garage, because I can't bear to get rid of it. We even painted a room to be a nursery.
   Somewhere between year 1 and year 3, that changed a bit. We had time to get to know each other, I got medicated, he got a better job. We realised we had tons of free time, extra money (because I worked), and enjoyed hobbies outside of the house.
   But still we felt...empty. We still wanted kids. So we looked into foster care.  Finally, we got them. And here's the irony. After all that crying, praying, screaming, hating and wishing for kids-now that we have them, I find myself missing the childless life. I miss my free time, our TV marathons, cooking whatever I wanted. The kids (who are OK kids most of the time) have court on Dec 19, and a part of me hopes they can go back to their mom.
   Neither my husband or I are sure if we want kids after these guys. My answer changes daily. There is so much that I want, and I'm not sure if kids fit in. I wonder if we'd be happy with forever kids. I wonder if we'd be happy without kids.

   It's ironic, because I spent so much time hoping for kids, and now that I have them, I wonder how soon they are leaving.
   And still, I feel like a failure.

Monday, November 18, 2013

CTNAHM- Mr Steady Part 10 (How Dominant Wives Destroy Daughters)

p 102-104

Well, we are in for a treat today! Having spent the last few weeks talking about Mr. Steady, now we are talking about the horrors that come from dominant mothers. Specifically, how mothers that are in control screw up the chances for daughters to get married. As an added bonus, Michael attempts to use cool-kid phrasing. I hope you're ready.

Dominant Mamas and Dawdling Daddies
We have received many letters from young ladies whose marriage plans have just been crushed by decisions made by their dominant mothers. The stories are the same over and over again. It's almost like there is a species of mother out there that is predestined to repeat this patterned response so as to fulfill some dark twisted destiny, and their Steady husbands dawdle away in dreamland. It is the stuff from which tragic love stories are written by old spinsters whose mothers destroyed their one chance at happiness while henpecked Father sat by quietly.
   Check out the language here: dark, twisted destiny...a species of mother...old spinsters whose mothers destroyed their one chance of happiness. Michael should write PSAs. His usage of scare tactics and blaming would convince people of the error of their ways! But in this instance, it seems a bit overdone. Though I suppose, since Michael believes that men are the God-appointed rulers of the home, then he feels it's his right to tell men the "way it should be". And then give horror stories of what happens when it isn't.
   Though I'm wondering about all of the failed chances at marriage because a father didn't think anybody was good enough for his daughter. Or where the father encouraged a relationship that didn't work out very well, and the couple is either divorced, or unhappily married. Or, frankly, anything that could be anyone else's "fault" than the mothers.  Oh, and I thought Visionaries were the dreamlanders...wasn't the whole first part of this chapter how steady and decent these guys are?
The events unfold like this: There is an easygoing Steady Man who doesn't say much and has always allowed his wife to take the lead in family matters, mostly because he wants to keep the peace instead of listening to her give him a piece of his mind.
   My husband would be considered Steady, but he lets me take the lead for different reasons than Michael suspects. First, I'm better at managing people. In a corporate world, at home, or at school, I'm one of those people that say "jump", and people ask "how high". My husband says it's a combination of intimidation and charisma. Whatever it is, I am much better suited to dealing with people. Second, my husband doesn't have very many opinions-on anything. Honestly, he just doesn't care about most things enough to want to dictate any particular way. I'm wondering how many Steadies let their wives lead for similar reasons.
   And let me stress: it's not a bad thing. We went through foster kid training, and we were taught to play to our strengths. My husband's strength is patience and listening, and my strength is managing and efficiency. That's what works for us. Just because it may be different than the stereotype doesn't make it wrong.
The daughter is a happy, obedient young lady with great hope for a glorious marriage. Into their lives comes a young man that is attracted to their daughter. Mother immediately likes him because not only is he highly moral and disciplined, having made preparation for his future, but he is exciting, too. Not like her dull husband, he is commanding and has a vision of accomplishing great things. Mother would be proud to have him as a son-in-law, and Daddy goes along to get along, liking the fellow just fine and glad his daughter is going to get such a fine husband.
  At this point, it's a good story. One, in fact, that I think a lot of people have for their kids. POOF! Enter charming prince (or princess), and happily ever after! Though it really bothers me that Mother immediately is drawn to the fact that this boy is different from her husband. The thing that really bugs me is that the daughter has no say-anywhere. A boy comes into the picture, Mom and dad are OK with him, cue wedding bells. Yes, daughters in this circumstance probably want to get married, but I wonder how many marry to be married, rather than because of personal connection. (I've known quite a few Mormon marriages like that). But Michael doesn't leave any room in this story for the daughter's perspective.
   But when we get the letter from the young lady, stuff has hit the fan. After planning the wedding and going through several months of families getting to know each other, Mother discovers that her exciting prospective son-in-law is not like her submissive husband; he is "self-willed". He acts like he is a king or a prophet. He is stubborn and opinionated. Mother characterizes him as "not kind" or "not teachable". 
   I feel very defensive, for some reason. I want to shout at Michael, "Maybe the mom has a bad feeling about the guy or something!" Or, honestly, considering how Michael believes Command man are tyrannical dictators, and Visionaries will let their families starve, I can see how a mother might be hesitant to give the daughter over. Especially since that type of person might not be anything the mother has ever encountered before, and that can be scary. (Not to mention how she might feel her daughter would have to deal with).
The young man has recognized the mother-in-law's overbearing attitude and has taken charge. He may have made it clear that when they get married they are going to do things a certain way-regarding homeschooling, or where they live, or what church they go to, or any number of life choices. Mostly it is just his personality she doesn't like. He acts like he intends to be head of the family in ways this mother doesn't appreciate. So after failing to persuade him to make changes to his personal demeanor, she calls off or postpones the wedding. Postponing is more to her liking because she can use this time to get "the boy in line" by holding the bait in front of him.
   No wonder Michael thinks himself a prophet! Look at him go. From one letter (by the daughter, no less), he can ascribe motive and circumstance of ANYONE in the wedding party. Also, I am noting, again, that the daughter's feelings in "life choices" are absent. I'm not a mother, but I think it would be easier to hear my daughter say "Homeschooling is what I want to do." or "We discussed it, and we think private Christian school would be the best choice for us." than to hear it as a pronouncement from fiance like his will makes it a fact.
  It is also possible to have a personality conflict, and still be OK with a wedding. I think it's interesting that Michael seems to equate not understanding with disliking. In this type of isolated culture, it is entirely probable that the only man the mother had been around prior to her own wedding, was her father. And preacher, but I doubt that was much of a relationship. So she could have gone into her marriage knowing only how to deal with a man in one way; the way that she interacted with her dad (or saw her mother do).
  Oh, and feelings can change. People grow on other people, the more exposure one gets. Just because you seem to be at odds with the fiance now, doesn't mean that you will always be. Plus weddings are stressful on parents, because (I'm imaging here, if I'm wrong, let me know) they've raised their kid, tried their best, put a lot of love and effort into making the kid into a decent person, and then somebody swoops in and wants to take all that away.  All I'm saying is that Michael might want to cut these mothers some slack.
But the boy is too much of a man to put up with the old biddy. The girl is brokenhearted and blames her Steady father for not taking a stand against her domineering mother. But he has his head down, making sure he doesn't catch any flack. His wife makes the bed and allows him to sleep in it, so he doesn't want to pull the rug out from under her.
   Here's where I get confused. The girl is hurt and angry-why doesn't she talk to her dad? "Dad, I know Mom doesn't like him, but I love him and want to be with him forever. I know you love me and want what's best for me. Why can't you let me decide what that is, and support me in what I choose?" Heck, she could say that to her mom, if daughters making requests is taboo. The point I'm trying to make is: WHY DOES NOBODY COMMUNICATE? The mom just says "Nope." and the subject is over.
The young man, being a Command or Visionary, is not at all wired to cater to a bossy woman, and he has too much pride to grovel. There are plenty of other fish in the pond, so he winds up his line and goes downstream to fish, careful to "not again make the same mistake" of getting involved with one of those "courtship" families where Mother presides over the court.
   I feel like I have to re-state that people can change. Just because a guy is "wired" to be Command, doesn't mean he can't listen to other's points of view. I'm wondering what kind of culture this is where the fiance can't tell the Mother "This is what your daughter and I both want. I love her and will take care of her. I would like you to trust me with this. I promise I will be good to her." Instead, he just says "Ooooh, don't want to deal with domineering women-guess I better try elsewhere!"
   And if that really is how the culture works, how very sad.
The most tragic letters are those we receive from girls in their thirties who have given up hope. They had one chance at marriage eight years earlier and Mother "didn't feel the leading of the Lord" in it. And Daddy is still sitting in the same chair, watching old "Gunsmoke" programs on Netflix. Hey, Mr. Steady, grow a pair and tell the lady when to cease and desist. She might even begin to find you exciting for a change.
   Aaaaaand here is the Michael technique we all know and love. After the scare tactics are over, instead of offering constructive advice or examples, name calling and insults abound. Why help a person see where they're "supposed" to go, when you can make fun of them for not being there? Why go through all the trouble of telling men they are different types, if the rest of the book is spent turning those types into the same thing?
Remember, your responsibility as a husband is to sanctify and cleanse your wife with your words, not support and condone with your silence. As a Priest your love is made known to your wife by nourishing and cherishing her, even as the Lord the church. She will know you love her by your willingness to lay aside your uneasiness in taking the lead on important issues. Love doesn't allow; it leads in the right direction.
   Yes, Michael, you hit the nail on the head there. Your wife will know that you love her when you dictate to her your will. She will be so grateful that you have overcome your "uneasiness" in leading, that she will be happy to overlook the complete 180 you've just pulled. Also, just because the man leads, doesn't necessary make that the right direction. If you don't believe me, please see the section on lazy Visionaries.
And now you have a disgruntled old maid to take care of until you die. Thanks, Mama that was a real cool move. And Father can go back to watching Matt Dillon and Kitty; there are now two unhappy women in the house.
I know, I know, I have an attitude. After hearing from 500 old maids blaming their bossy mothers and laid back daddies, I've earned the right.
   Wow. Just wow. "See, Mr. Steady? See what you did? Because you didn't take the lead-like a godly man should-you now have two WOMEN to take care of! I hope you're happy."
   Nevermind that single women can become missionaries, teachers, heck, astronauts, whatever. And this is the problem with equating women's worth with marriage (I'm looking at you, too, LDS church!). Because sometimes women (even if they really, really want to) don't get married. Then what?
   But of course, the solution to that is say yes to the first guy that comes a-knockin', no matter how you feel about him.  I'm curious, now, about those girls who never get a suitor. What's a parent to do, then?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Rubbed the Wrong Way

  I got a massage Thursday. I usually love massages. I have huge, painful knots, and massage helps. I also use them to de-stress (and lately I've had a LOT of stress). I had a great relationship with a massage therapist, but then she moved. I bought a Groupon for a massage from a place I had never heard of. The massage was cheap, so I tried it.
   The first time I went in, it was pretty good. The guy reminded me of an old hippie, even though the place was professional looking and classy. It was a darn amazing massage, too. He did lots of techniques and even some acupressure. So I set up another appointment.
   That last appointment was Thursday. And something happened that I'm still not sure about. There were a few times when I felt his hands wandered into places they shouldn't. There were a couple of times while he was massaging my thighs that his hands brushed places I wasn't comfortable with. Then something scary happened. When he did that, I got a flashback of my dad. I was 8, in the bathtub, and he was "helping" me take a bath.
   Did I ask him to stop? Did I say I was uncomfortable? Nope. I just laid there and tried not to scream. I was a kid again, and I had no control. I was scared, and I didn't act. I outweigh him by like 130 pounds, and yet I let him keep going.
   Then when he was rubbing my shoulders, he rubbed between, atop, and beside my breasts. He didn't ask permission, or even tell me what he planned on doing. I kind of freaked out-a mini panic attack. Later that night, I emailed him explaining that I was uncomfortable. Haven't heard back yet.

   So what I'm trying to figure out is if he did something wrong, or, because of my sexual abuse background, I just read too much into it.
   I've also never remembered so much about my past with my dad. I'm hurt, confused, angry, and irritated. I don't know what to do, or how to feel. It's just annoying that I am just starting to get over my issues with my dad, that something else happened to throw me back into that mind space. I thought coming to terms with my abuse history would empower me, not allow me to be victimised again.

Friday, November 15, 2013

CTBAHM-Mr. Steady Part 9 (XBOX Will Steal Your Children's Souls!)

p 101-102

We are still in the sections where Michael talks about the downside of being a Mr. Steady. Today we are discussing the biggest sin Mr. Steady makes. Here's a hint: It's being Steady in any way except for working to support or "teach" his family.
Text is in purple.

Mr. Steady's Most Damning Sin
Some Steady Men who lack a vision, and therefore lack motivation, will eat too much, sleep too much, and watch too many movies or play questionable video games when they should be with their families. Many Steady Men are known to cross out their humanity on their Xbox. Basically, they will take their ease more than they ought. Through video games and media of all kinds, the lounging Steady Man will open the door of his home to devils who then steal the souls of his children and erode his marriage until the family is more a type of hell than of heavenly love.
   It is true, there are people that eat, sleep, watch TV, or do other things to excess. I have to admit I'm prone to that (and I don't consider myself Steady). They might even cause some stress in the house/marriage. But to claim (again) that anything but family time will kill, corrupt, or maim the children, is pure scare tactics. Yes, it is unhealthy to take anything to the extremes. But I think it would be more important to explain how to stop doing whatever it is (quite so often).
   Also, I feel like I need to add, what makes Michael the judge of when things are "too much." What is "too much" for one person is exactly the right amount to keep somebody else sane. And there is nothing wrong with leisure time. In fact, I would argue that jumping right from work to homelife to work without any breaks or leisure time would be a recipe for burnout.
The withdrawn Steady Man will sit on the sidelines condemning but doing nothing while socialists take over the country, the preacher dabbles in false doctrine, his wife develops a deep relationship with a dominant woman, and his kids spend time with their lascivious neighbours.
   Wow. I read the first paragraph and was a bit taken aback. But I was completely stymied by this paragraph. If I'm reading this correctly, too much leisure time will cause un-Godly men to take over, churches to start spouting false doctrine (and what does Michael consider false? I've spotted at least 12 Biblical fallacies since starting to read this book). Wives to either turn into dominant women or have a fling with a dominant woman (I'm not quite sure), and kids hang out with scandalous next-doors.
   That is quite a lot of threats for a few paragraphs. Holy cow. I can't imagine counseling anybody by simply threats. I talk a lot about my foster kids (and boy howdy, I've made mistakes with them!), but I don't try to control them with threats. I tell them the rules, and give them reasons why their behaviour is unhealthy or unacceptable. If I did nothing but threaten, I would be completely burnt out, instead of just needing a little break.
   One last thing. It is perfectly acceptable to not feel personally responsible for the country or church. Just because somebody doesn't "speak up" doesn't mean they don't care. They just may feel overwhelmed or apathetic.
If that characterization fits you in some measure, then it is understandable why your wife is pushy and demanding. She shes the family in danger of manslaughter and you sit like a frog on a log trying to decide whether you should jump or go back to sleep. You would rather keep your nice guy handle than suffer the emotional trauma of standing up for country,community, or even family.
   Well, at least this is a change from blaming the woman. But, once again, I feel I have to say: YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW ANYBODY ELSE BUT YOURSELF BEHAVES.
   Though my husband is often indecisive, and sometimes I tell him that he is too afraid of not being the "nice guy" to properly deal with the kids.  But I don't blame my yelling or anger on him. And for Michael to tell people that it's one person's personal responsibility to fix country, church, wife, and kids is a bit destructive.
God tells us whom we favors and why. Abraham was a man highly favored of God because he was active teaching and leading his children. "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice judgement; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him (Genesis 18:19)"
   I'm wondering about the other people God has favoured (Jesus, Peter, Elijah, Elisha, etc) who didn't have children or households. In fact, Jesus was rather famous for his nomadic lifestyle. I was taught that God looks on the heart and calls people that are qualified, regardless of situation. Moses could barely speak in public, yet he was called to lead the Jews out of Egypt. There is nowhere in the Bible that says the only way to win God's favour (if that is your motivating factor) is to get married, have kids, and be a spokesperson for the Conservative Right.
   There are many different types of people, and many ways to praise whatever God you believe in. If you choose to believe in any. Whatever works. One-size-fits-all doesn't work in clothes, nor does it work in life. Also, it confuses me how a portion of Christianity that shuns "the world" (and all it's evils), feels the need to influence politics. Wouldn't it make more sense for them to form their own, isolated communities, kind of like the Amish?
Abraham was called "A friend of God." As a Steady Man, you have more friends than the other two images, but make sure you are a friend of God.
   I'm trying to figure out how Mr. Undecided Frog that brings destruction on his family has a ton of friends. Maybe because he's a "nice guy" that doesn't upset anyone? I'm not sure.
To be a whole person, well rounded, sometimes we must get out of our comfort zone and act in ways that are not natural to our types. The Command Man must slow down and show a priestly side when it is called for. The Visionary must set aside his drive to do great things and work like a Steady Man. And the Steady Man must rouse himself to command his family and children and adopt a vision of something greater than peace through pacification. There will be many times in your life when you will need to make a splash, offending many, and throwing caution to the wind. To do nothing or to delay action is often the most damning of all sins.
   It is a valid point, that sometimes life is uncomfortable, and takes us out of our comfort zone. Though I'm completely disagreeing that in order to be a good man, someone must "command his family and children." Commanding does not equal greatness, automatically. And I think it is perfectly acceptable to have "peace through pacification". I'm emotionally volatile, and my husband is very zen. Like he's raised his voice 3 times since we've been married. He is very pacific, and it is really useful in helping to calm me down. If he doesn't escalate with me, I'm much more inclined to see that my behaviour is not helping, or acceptable.
   I'm just not impressed with Michael this section. It's really interesting to see how Michael views the type that he doesn't consider himself. It seems his whole rhetoric is "Be more like the Command and Visionary." But when you look at the traits of a steady: non-promoting, consistent, patient, peaceful, I would be OK with saying I think Michael needs to try to emulate that, instead of preaching "Commanding=Successful."
   But I'm a domineering woman, so what do I know?

Next post, we'll talk about how dominant mothers screw up their kids. Ooooh boy.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Turning Into My Mother

Yesterday was the birthday of the younger foster kid. How did I celebrate? By yelling at him and making him cry.
   You see, he's a very picky eater, and we have a "2 bite" rule. But yesterday, he served himself about 3 bites worth of salad. We said that since he picked out how much he wanted, he had to eat it all. He threw a hissy. He asked literally 5 times since he ate 2 bites, was he done. Each time, me or my husband repeated "You put it on your plate, you need to eat it." Then he would pout. And sigh. And push food around on his plate and ask again.
   Finally I snapped. "We are done discussing this! You put it on your plate, and you will eat it. NOW!" I roared.  So he ate it. With tears rolling down his face. Because yelling scares him; it causes him to shut down. I knew that, just in the heat of the moment, I didn't remember.
   I apologised soon after, and things went back to normal, but I realised something. I had turned into my mother. My mom could go from irritated to enraged in 2 seconds flat. My mom was a yeller. My mom couldn't handle very much rambunctious behaviour, as she was constantly sleep-deprived and stressed.
   I realise I've been a parent for all of 3.5 weeks, so I haven't had a chance to evolve in my parenting very much. I also know that there are numerous books about dealing with kids at their level (and remembering they are people with feelings). The problem I keep running into, is in the heat of the moment, I escalate so fast, I don't even think about anybody else's feelings but mine.  
   This isn't just a problem that I've noticed since kids. I do this to my husband, my mom, and at prior jobs, too. I just don't know how to change it.

So if anyone has advice on how I can stop turning into the Hulk, and stepping on everyone else but me, please let me know. Because I hate how I'm acting, and hate what it's doing to my relationship with the kids.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CTNAHM-Mr. Steady Part 8 (You're Valuable, but Nobody Cares or Notices)

p 99-101

I've made mention of this earlier, but this section is more pronounced. It seems that Michael has very little respect for a Mr. Steady. Possibly because he views himself as Command/Visionary? I'm not sure, but the more I read in this chapter, the stronger that feeling gets. Let me know if you agree/disagree.

Text is in purple

Your Role as a Steady/Priestly Man
In the church, Steady/Priestly men are very important to stability because they are compassionate, steadfast, and loyal. Their lack of hastiness in making decisions puts the brakes on potential conflicts. They help bring balance when a headstrong Visionary gets out of line. Priestly/Stead Men are rarely rash or foolish, although (to their discredit) they will sometimes tolerate foolishness or error without dissent.
   It bothers me a lot that Michael just assumes everybody who labels themselves as "Steady" is compassionate, steadfast, and loyal. Just because somebody takes a long time to make a decision, doesn't mean it's the right decision, or even a nice decision. It is totally possible to be stable and cruel at the same time.
A Visionary doesn't make as good an elder as does a Steady Man. The Visionary/Prophet makes a better evangelistic preacher and reformer. The Command Man is more suited to eldership, although a plurality of elders should contain all three types with Steady Men predominant. The modern concept of pastor (though not Biblical) is best filled by a Command Man.
   Well, lookee here. Not only can Michael tell men how to run their home, but he even gives advice as for who to call as an Elder, and who should be pastor.  Is there anything Michael isn't authority on??
Usually Mr. Steady's children grow up to highly respect their gentle speaking dad. If mother has been negative towards Dad, the adult children will strongly resent her. It is a man's responsibility to make sure this doesn't happen. Children need to grow up adoring their mother, lest they have emotional issues as adults. When you walk together as a team, your children will admire you as successful people. It is good soil for the seeds of little souls.
  My husband would be considered at least half Steady, and the foster kids respect him a lot, because of his gentleness. (I'm more of an irritable drill sergeant). It is true that children can be resentful if there is negativity in the home-but assuming it's all the mother's fault is not healthy. I'm concerned that Michael doesn't explain how the responsible man should make sure this doesn't happen. What's the point of having scare tactics, if you don't explain how to avoid them?
   Also, it's been my experience, that most children, naturally adore their parents (not just mothers). Yes, sometimes they get along better with one parent than the other, but most children think their parents are great. Our foster kids came from a really messed up home, yet all they want to do is go back, because they don't understand that their background isn't healthy. Likewise, I grew up in an abusive home situation, and it took me until I was 23 to be able to admit that it was abusive and neglectful. There are exceptions, of course.
   It's a good philosophy to work with your spouse as a team. That should be a no-brainer. Though I don't know how well teamwork=successful people. I guess it all depends on how one measure's success.
Women and men alike are drawn to a Command Man. Likewise people are often drawn and compelled by the volatile Visionary, finding him exciting and stimulating. But the Steady Man is taken for granted. He is like the pain you don't have and don't know you don't have it, whereas the Visionary is a chronic sensation-good or bad.
   I think Michael would have more convincing points if he would stop trying to compare all of the types against each other. Why not just say "Steadies do this, are like that, and need help here." Why compare how little Steadies are looked up to? Also, that last sentence reminds me of a heartburn commercial I recently saw. "I know my medicine is working, because my heartburn comes back. That's how I know it was gone!"
The Steady Man is seldom a campaigner. He is needed, but not flashy enough to win the spotlight. He will never brag on himself and is typically very poor at promoting himself and his skills. A Visionary will sell you a handmade hat before he attempts to make one. The Command Man will organize others to make the hats, but the Steady Man will take the job and undersell his product and forget to put his label on it.
   Here is what I was alluding to in the introduction. What Michael seems to be saying throughout this chapter is "Steady Men are necessary, but mediocre." And honestly, if the options are Visionary's possible poverty or Command Man's tyranny, why is mediocrity (which isn't always a bad thing), the wrong choice? It seems that Michael feels the more flashy and self-promoting a man is, the more successful he can claim to be.  Again, Michael doesn't tell us how he veiws success.  Nor does he explain why he assumes Steady Men are bumbling idiots that will undersell their product and forget to label it.
The Steady Man employed by the Visionary or Command Man does not promote himself and does not do well in management, nor being comfortable telling others what to do. His employer may not know his value until he is no longer employed.
   Here again. "Steady Man are valuable, but people won't notice it." Why would anyone want to see themselves as Steady, if it's as lousy as Michael seems to think it is? Plus, being "Steady" doesn't mean you are an unfit manager. I would think steadiness would be a good trait. From what Michael has said, Steadies are slow to anger, overlook trivial things, and are reasonable to deal with. That sounds like a good manager to me! In fact, considering some of the management I've known (mostly Commands who think they are the cat's pajamas), I would prefer one who says "Let me think about what you said and get back to you." As opposed to "Nope. I've already decided."
Many Steady Men become quite competent in their fields and rise to own a business. When they first employ others to work in their business, they find it difficult to command their employees-even more difficult to fire them. Even a good employee never knows if he is pleasing his boss. In time Steady Men mature and assume a more commanding role, but it is emotionally difficult for them at first.
   Why does Michael automatically assume leadership=commanding? That might be the way he leads, but it is in no way the only way! Also, the Steady Man is supposedly representative of Jesus. I would define Jesus as a pretty good manager, all things told. He did what he set out to do, changed the things he felt were wrong, and inspired people to be better. I think that's a lot more "managerial" than "DO WHAT I SAY BECAUSE I'M THE BOSS!"
Typically, Steady Men do not become as well known as Command or Visionary Men. They are not odd or standout men. They are not loud. They are neither irritating nor particularly magnificent  If they do rise to public notice, it will be because of a great achievement or because they are trusted for their very visible traits of honesty and steadiness. Yet they are so well liked that when they die a greater number of people attend their funerals.
    Seriously. Is it even possible for him not to make sweeping comparisons? There are people that are perfectly content without notoriety, yet Michael consistently insinuates that this is a bad thing. I don't get how Michael insists Steadies are mediocre, but then claims they can achieve greatness. This whole section is just...distasteful.

   I wish Michael realized that people can be different, without having to compare and rank them. Just because he doesn't view himself as a Steady doesn't mean they don't have value. If I remember "The Tortoise and the Hare" correctly, slow and steady actually won the race. So why does Michael insist on painting it as a bad thing?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"What Do You Believe Now?"

"I can't even talk to you; you've changed so much!" My best friend typed. "I mean, what do you believe now that you're anti-Mormon?"
   This is part of an exchange I've recently had with one of my friends. It started by discussing some of the challenges I'm facing with the foster kids, and she gave me a traditional churchy answer. I was wondering what to teach the kiddos about smoking and drinking, because they come from a family of druggies and alcoholics.
   My friend said "Duh. The World of Wisdom." Which is the Mormon creed of no tobacco, drugs, alcohol, or caffeine. Of course, if you actually read it, it actually talks about small amounts of meat, abundant vegetables, and heavy on the grains. But that part seems to get pushed under the rug in worthiness interviews. I've actually told Bishops that I don't keep the WoW because I'm a carnivore that likes sweets, and was told that I should probably eat better, but it was more important that my body was kept free of drugs and alcohol. (I've always thought the picking and choosing of importance was odd).

   Anyway, after she said that, I was taken aback. She knew about my recent break with the church, and my current (complicated) feelings about it. So I was shocked that she would offer a Mormon answer to a common problem. And I told her as much. That's when she hit me with the above line.
   I had no idea what to say for a minute, and then I wrote:
   "I believe that making personal choices is more important than following blindly. I believe that people should decide for themselves how they are going to live, and then accept the consequences. I feel that children should learn that drinking, smoking, drugs, sex, etc-are big decisions that require a lot of thought. I believe that peer pressure doesn't always come from the person handing you the joint-it could come from the Sunday School teacher telling you to "Just Say No". I believe that children should be taught what is healthy, and know their family history, and choose for themselves (when they get older). I believe that all I can do is give them the tools for making the healthy and safe decision and then I have to let them make their choice."

   She hasn't talked to me since.

But that started me thinking, about what else I believe now. And some of this may be repeats from other blogs. Yet this is the first time (well, these past 5 months, really) are the first times that I've been able to define my own beliefs and feel personally OK with that.
   So what do I believe now?

  Well, I believe that I'm a good person. I know that lying, stealing, cheating, and murder are wrong. I know that there is a bunch of gray between "good" and "evil", and that my choices tend to be in the middle. And that's OK. I believe that there is some type of God and Goddess, but they are less concerned about my every action (and needing to repent), and more concerned with my journey.  I believe that deity is more than just the "vengeful Father" I was taught as a child, and that I can forge a loving, respectful, healthy relationship with a higher power, that doesn't require me to feel abased.
   I believe that I am in control of my destiny, and that there is no fore-ordination of choices. I know that I will have consequences for my choices, and that that is natural and acceptable. I believe that life is hard, because it's LIFE, not just a trial period of aforementioned vengeful God. I believe that while I can learn from other's examples, nobody can dictate to me what my choices should be, though it is my duty to be respectful of the Earth, and her inhabitants.
   I believe that men and women should be treated equally, and that if two people love each other, it shouldn't matter what their genders are, because I believe love knows no bounds. I believe that the needs of the mother, and the potential life of the fetus after birth should be more important than the growing group of cells.
   I believe we all make decisions, and those decisions affect others. I feel everything is connected: grass, trees, animals, people, water. I believe I should respect other's points of view, opinions, and choices; as I hope they respect mine.
   I believe I am trying my best, and that will have to be good enough, but that I am capable of improving. I believe that change is hard, but possible.
   And I believe that I have the right to change these beliefs as I see fit.

Oh, and I'm not "anti-Mormon". I believe the church encourages people to be responsible and decent. But I feel it is held back by the man-driven patriarchy that rules and reigns. If anything, I'm a saddened-former-Mormon. Saddened, because there are beautiful doctrines in Mormonism (eternal learning and creation, families forever, etc), but they are overshadowed by a never-ending list of "rules" that are required as a benchmark to eternity.

Reading this all, it really shows how far my opinions and feelings have moved from the patriarchy-driven Mormonism of my childhood. And perhaps some relationships just aren't worth the fight. But there will be other friends, other conversations, and other chances.

Monday, November 11, 2013

CTNAHM-Mr. Steady Part 7 (Give Your Ornamental Wife a Purpose)

pp 98-99

This section is interesting to me. In fact, I think it is one of the more intriguing sections I've read. Mostly because Michael comes dangerously close to saying women have needs and desires of their own. Yeah, I was shocked, too. Read on!

Your Wife's Greatest Need
In good economic times the vast majority of letters our office receives are from women criticizing their laid-back, quiet, slow, unassuming, undemanding, hardworking husbands for their "carnal" habits. These women are not rebellious; they are just floundering in uselessness. In times past when people were less affluent, these women would be busy just trying to survive. Mr. Steady's wife would be hauling water, milking cows, growing a garden, and preserving thousands of pounds of food for the coming months. She would be a grand asset. Now these ladies married to a Steady Man are just ornaments, and it's a boring, unrewarding job.
   I think it's interesting that any bad talk about husbands are "rebellious" in Debi's eyes, but not Michael's. And I'm curious to know how having a differing, even negative, opinion of one's spouse is considered rebellion. My idea of rebellion is...I don't know...American colonies starting a war with Britain, or something. If marital disagreements were considered (in more mainstream culture) rebellion, I'm fairly certain I would have been hung as a traitor while my husband and I were still dating!
   I also think it's interesting that Michael calls these women "useless". Because the target demographic is stay-at-home-moms to large broods of children. These women are in charge of cooking, cleaning, educating, shopping, and discipline. I'm failing to see how that is useless. With 1 breadwinner and at least 6 kids, I'm wondering how "affluent" these families really are. And I'm getting the feeling that Michael thinks women should stick to the aforementioned list: hauling water, milking cows,etc.
Your wife needs a vision, a purpose; she needs to be employing her gifts and talents helping you become successful. You, as a Steady/Priestly Man, need to help your wife be a thriving success. Let her know you would like her to show some initiative. 
   Look! Michael says women have gifts and talents! Which is more credit than Debi ever gave them. Though it's sad (yet unsurprising) that the wife's vision should be to make the husband successful.  I'm curious how a Steady Man can make his wife a success, since Michael seems to equate steadiness with mediocrity.
If she grew up under a Command or Visionary father, the idea of accomplishing something apart from you might seem unfeminine. She might need more than just an encouraging word; she might need a clear directive. Would you like her to learn accounting, photography, natural medicine, or some other skill? What has she shown an interest in? Ask her to study Proverbs 31: 10-31. Have her choose key words that describe a virtuous woman.
   Wow. This wasn't where I hoped Michael would go. "Yes, women have talents, and you should think about what your wife is good at before you decide what she should learn."  I guess it's better than not thinking of her skills? Still...I'm very uncomfortable with this. Because it almost sounds like he's saying "Boss your wife around-that's what she's used to, that's what she needs!"  Ick.
Ask her to think about what she wants to learn and accomplish. She needs to be assured that you will not see her success as competition but as a complement to your goals. Tell her that you want her to use her natural skills, abilities, and drives to add to your life as a couple. Let her know that her achievements will be an honor to you. If she is uncomfortable with it, teach her how to handle money and invest it with an eye towards profit, how to pay bills, make appointments, and entertain guests with confidence.
   OK. At least he's advocating asking the wife what she wants to learn. Though it saddens me that she has to be assured her husband doesn't think she's competing. But I guess with Michael's view of marriage as a war, almost everything is a competition. One thing that makes me mad is "Let her know that her achievements will be an honor to you." Why can't the woman get credit for her own achievements? If she can grow the biggest squash for the state fair, it's her doing-not the husband's! Why is everything good she does a reflection of the man, but everything bad she does a reflection of her carnal spirit?  I am in favour, though, of people being taught in areas where they are uncomfortable or unsure. (That's why I'm considering getting a certificate in auto repair)
Don't just finance and idle hobby. Invest in her side business or venture with an eye toward financial returns. It is very important for her to succeed in something worthy and even bring in additional income as long as it doesn't hinder her family responsibilities. She needs to know her success is HER success.
   There is nothing wrong with having idle hobbies. Sometimes people need breaks. I can't imagine the pressure of raising 6+kids, keeping house, homeschooling, being constantly pregnant or nursing, and still feeling required to make money at a side business. I feel exhausted just thinking about it.
   I do agree that people should succeed in something worthy. I just think that Michael's idea of worthy (income-producing home-based business) may not work for everyone. Not everyone has the time, money, energy, or resources to start and maintain this.  Also, it's confusing that a paragraph up, her success was her husband's success; but in this paragraph, it belongs to her. Does Michael ever proofread?
Encourage her to adopt hobbies that involve your children so she can teach them to be busy and productive every day. At the end of the day, talk to her about what she has accomplished and rejoice in the value of having a worthy partner in the grace of life.
   Michael keeps adding stipulations to the wife's hobby. First, it has to make money. Second, it has to stay at home. Third, it can't take away from family responsibilities. Now, it has to involve the kids. Personally, my hobbies are singing and theatre. I will never, ever make money from these, yet I love them. But, according to Michael, I should forget about these and throw all of my energy into my baking business. (Which isn't doing well, by the way. People want quality cakes at Wal-Mart prices)  And, even though I only have 2 (foster) kids, I LOVE doing things by myself. I like my alone time. I would feel awful if my hobby was encroached upon by even the people that I love. There is nothing wrong with personal time!
   I like that Michael encourages talking over the day with your spouse. I think talking and any 1 on 1 attention between spouses is important. As is gratitude.
All women will thrive under this opportunity, but few would reach it without their  husband's strong encouragement. A Go-to Gal will think she is in heaven. No need for drama if she is fighting the winds of business or struggling to help someone. Every day will be glorious.
   He says "strong encouragement", but I hear "orders". Anyone else? While I think it is important for both spouses to have outlets for their talents, I think the emphasis on making money and involving the kids kind of takes away from that.  They're called outlets for a reason.
   I'm also irritated that Michael brought in the drama angle. Again. Not every woman has a yen for drama! And just be cause somebody has a home business, doesn't mean every day will be glorious! Talk about a promise you can't keep!
My wife has directed many Go-to wives into activities like helping stop abortions, and lately she has encouraged ladies to establish ministries to stop child sex slavery. This terrible plague is growing at alarming rates here in America. Every state of our union is guilty of entertaining this debauchery. Your wife could be making a difference in our society while growing as a person. Children are not the only ones who need a good self-image. is activities like anti-abortion rallies or establishing ministries home-based, and bringing in income for the family? And while I am all for stopping child sex slavery (as well as all kinds of child abuse), I'm wondering how one includes their children in that fight. How does someone from a very conservative culture try to explain child sex slavery to kids? It sounds traumatic on a lot of different levels.
   From these examples, it seems that what Michael is really encouraging is giving one's griping wife some busy work. I do this with my foster kids. If they are fighting with each other, or having exceptionally awful attitudes, I say "OK. Let's do chores." or "Can someone help me pick out a movie?" Basically, I distract them from what's causing the problem. And that sounds like what Michael is advocating. He dresses it up with buzzwords like "self-image", but what he's really doing is telling husbands to keep their wives busy so the wives keep their mouths shut.
   Or, at least that's what I'm getting out of it.  If you disagree, sound off in the comments!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

CTNAHM-Mr. Steady Part 6 (Encourage Your Wife-By Telling Her Her Role!)

pp 97-98

Text is in Purple

Understanding Your Roles
If Mr. Steady Turtle were to come out of his shell, what could he do immediately that would encourage his wife? First, you need to address her concerns that you are not spiritually minded and are not open to her. I have read her concern in thousands of letters.
  "He is not a spiritual leader. I just pray and pray that he will step up and do what God has designed him to do as head of our home. He won't even pray with the family at meals."
   This is odd, because I have felt the exact same way. When we were first married, and way less questioning of the Mormon church, my husband was like this. If I didn't suggest scripture study, or non-meal prayers, they wouldn't happen. And I would go so enraged. "It's your PRIESTHOOD duty! It's not my place to be spiritual head of this household!"  Thinking over it now, it's rather embarrassing, but that was what I thought. (Dang, it's crazy how much can change in 3 years!)
   I even remember scandalizing women at church, because when they would ask the question "What should I do if my husband doesn't lead?", I would always answer "Don't do it for him, because he won't take the responsibility ever." You would think I would have suggested killing kittens, for all the shock I received in return. But my philosophy was "If it's not important enough for him to lead, and it's not my responsibility, it's not my problem anymore."
   But then we reached a tipping point, and I was frustrated. And you know how I fixed the problem? Did I write to my stake president? Talk with my bishop about how I could support my husband while encouraging him to take an active Priesthood role? (These were both solutions presented in the aforementioned women's meeting) No. I talked to him, and told him it was important to me that he lead. So he did. Not 100%, but about 70; and that was good enough for me.
   The point of this extra-long story? The same point I always make: If you're not satisfied, talk with your spouse!
You can fix this problem. Lead the family in prayer at the table. At least once a day, express your gratitude for God's blessing's on your family, either in family prayer or just an offhand manner. Set aside a time each day when you and your wife sit down together to read the Scriptures.
   While it's good advice, if the problem was only "Men need to lead", Michael doesn't give strategies for actually doing it. Here's what I mean. Michael begins this entire section with "If Mr. Steady turtle would come out of his shell..." Does he give strategies, encouragement, anecdotes, or examples of ways people can become more comfortable leading spiritually? Not at all. It's something that had always bothered me about church, and I see now that it's not just with my church. But there seems a lot of emphasis on telling people what to do, without telling them how to do it.
   And yes, sometimes it is better to say "Do it and it will eventually get easier.", but the fact that men in this culture need to be told and reminded they are spiritual leaders, the problem doesn't seem to be with them not knowing this. Perhaps the real problem that should be addressed is why they're not doing this.  But either Michael doesn't realize this, or he doesn't think it's a valid reason.
Announce that the two of you are going to review all the Scriptures on the duties of husbands and wives. Write on a calendar the verses you will read each day. Go slow, "here a little, there a little." If you don't like to read then tell her to read aloud to you because you like the sound of her voice. Discuss the texts. She needs to know that you are aware of what God says about your duty, and she needs to know what God says about her responsibilities as a wife. Sharing your heart is what will change her actions.
   I think it's interesting that there is no place in this paragraph for a wife's opinion. Maybe she wants to read verses on compassion, or the miracles of Jesus, or verses about love. Maybe re-reading verses about her marriage duties will make her depressed, or uncomfortable. Maybe she has an opinion on which verses she wants on what day. Heck, maybe she doesn't like reading aloud any more than the man does. The point I'm trying to make is that it makes me sad that there is no room for the wife to have an opinion on anything, even reading scriptures.
   Also, if the churches of the book's targeted demographic are anything like the Mormon church, there should be no question that each person knows their gender's roles and duties. Because, at least in my experience, it is preached almost from cradle to grave.  So again, we have a case of people not doing something, for reasons other than ignorance.  Michael, give solutions for those, please!
Certain passages are key for a Mr. Steady and his help meet to read together. First Peter chapter 3 talks about a wife being in subjection. Titus 2 covers the man and his wife's positions before God. Ephesians 5 is also used in marriage counseling, as is Colossians chapter 3. These verses are not for you to use to lord over your wife, and I would not recommend Mr. Command or Mr. Visionary read these verses to their wives unless they just happened to be reading through that book of the Bible.
   I was going to type out what these chapters say, but after reading a few, I was too distressed. So I linked them above. If you're curious, click away. One thing I am grateful for, after reading this: Growing up LDS, these scriptures were never harped on. Which is weird, because it seems like Mormondom agrees with these tenets. But for some reason, the actual scriptures were never brought up. I'm grateful, because it was bad enough hearing "God made women for XZY purposes! Aren't you lucky to know what God expects of you?" I don't think I would have done well being pointed to scriptures that said the same thing.
   I think it's funny that Michael claims he wouldn't recommend submission texts to Command or Visionary men. It's funny, because his wife had no problem at all badgering those points to the wives of C's or V's. Perhaps Michael wouldn't recommend them because those wives are already submissive? I'm also amused, because there is no emphasis on what the husband needs to do. What would have made sense to me, is, if you insist on touting gender roles, and believe the wife is to submit and the husband is to love, suggest some scriptures on love for the husband!  Why just use your together time telling the wife what she should do? Gah!
But if you, Mr. Steady, will open a dialogue with your wife she will relax, knowing that you are not asleep at the wheel. Then she can begin to trust your quiet spiritual leadership.
   I'm confused as to why Michael assumes spiritual leadership entails re-hashing of verses the wife probably had memorized at age 12. In my head, spiritual leadership is praying, encouraging people to love the scriptures (mostly by example), listening to other's concerns, and making decisions based on what you know/believe. Not just shouting "THIS IS YOUR PLACE! SEE ME LEADING!" Because, honestly, that's not leading, that's dictating.
   Which may be what Michael really thinks, after all.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

More Seperate = More Equal, Right??

  I've made mention before about the Ordain Women movement that is happening in the LDS Church. The short version is that there is a growing group of people that think women should be more equal in the church. Equal in terms of leadership, administration, priesthood, and authority.
  They organised a meething this past October, in which women and male supporters would try to gain access to the Church's semi-annual Priesthood session. Which is a conference for, by, and in behalf of men. Men being males aged 12 and older, Mormon and non-Mormon alike. They were turned away by the door keepers and spokeswoman, and eventually, a garbage truck was placed in front of the door to block them from individually asking for tickets.
   I've already posted my feelings on that, but something new has come up. A few days ago, the Church officially announced a new Women's Meeting to be held the Saturday before General Conference. This is historic for a few reasons. First, there was no Women's meeting in the church since the days of Joseph Smith. Yes, there are Relief Society Broadcasts, but they are for adult women. Though sometimes they allow Young Women to attend. Now they're adding kids. This new women's meeting will be for females ages 8 and up.  Second, because (according to the press release) this meeting will be conducted by the Presidencies of Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society. This is new, because in prior conferences, the First Presidency of the Church (Prophet or 1st Presidency) would conduct and give the keystone address. I'm unsure of whether there will be male speakers, or males presiding. I guess we'll have to wait until April to find out.
   The Bloggernacle is, as usual, divided on this issue. So I'm going to chime in with my two cents.

I think it's a bad choice. I will let my husband sum up why. When I told him about this new meeting, he laughed and said "So the Church's response to women wanting equality is to give them more separate meetings?" That is pretty much my first complaint in a nutshell. History has proven over and over that separate will never, ever be equal.
  Another reason that it bugs me is because of the age range. So now "women" are considered from 8 to adults. Call me crazy, but there are tons of different developmental stages within that age bracket. At least with the Priesthood meeting, there is a general point from which to gather talks : the Priesthood. Honestly, the only thing females from 8-100 have in common is their gender. Which may be the point, but it feels like (once again), the church feels that women are rather like children.
   Along those same lines, how can the speakers present things that can be understood by an 8 year old, but not too dull or trite for an adult? And 2 hours of walking that balance? Not to mention the problem of female Church speakers and their "Primary voice". (Imagine the high pitched, small worded way people sometimes talk to children. Now imagine that voice speaking for 10 minutes.)
   Also, this meeting will not be held during general conference, nor will it be called a Conference. It is a women's meeting. It really seems to me that they just took the Relief Society Broadcast idea and said "Oh, just let some younger women show up. It's just like the Priesthood session now, right?"
   A concern I have about this meeting, is that it enforces the idea that men and women are radically different. Instead of it being a church of people, it's a church of men and women with very different roles. Roles that, in my opinion, should be based on talents, experience, intelligence, and desire. Instead, they are based off antiquated gender roles and genitalia.  "See, Janey? You're a girl, so you go to the girl meeting. Ricky is a boy, and he goes with Daddy to the boy meeting."
   I'm really curious to see what they talk about in this Women's meeting. Half of me thinks it will be "YOU ARE A WOMAN. RAISE YOUR CHILDREN. GET MARRIED. STAY A VIRGIN UNTIL MARRIAGE." The other half thinks it will be a mishmash of varying opinions (like this past session of conference), just so there's an "out" for the leadership. "We care about feminists' opinions! Read Brother XYZ's talk!"

   So while it does seem like a (baby) step in the right direction, I think the First Presidency has a ways to go. I think they should start by concretely answering the question that has been asked of them : Will women ever be able to receive the Priesthood, and have the authority to act in God's name?  I feel like the longer they try to wait in limbo, the more harm they are doing to people on both sides of the issue. Because women's ordination is such a divisive issue, people have strong opinions. And sometimes it gets difficult to separate the disdain for someone's opinion with disdain for the opinion holder.
   That's what we're seeing in church, especially on blogs and Facebook. Here is a great word cloud gathered from various Tweets, Status updates, and comments. Yes, it was gathered by a FeministMormonHousewife blogger, and may be biased. But having seen reactions that people in my ward have had when I mention things, I don't' think it's that far off.

  Though I have left the Mormon faith, I am still interested in it's progress. I still feel connected to it, even as I try to disentangle myself from the dogmas.  And even though I no longer attend, I still care about those still practicing. Having been hurt so much by a church that preaches love and acceptance, I want to be able to provide love and acceptance to those that may disagree with my choices. So though I no longer consider myself a Mormon, I will always be a Mormon activist.