Settling for “crumbs of contentment”…

It’s hard to believe that back in the mid 1990s, my husband Bill, who had a degree in international relations from American University, years of military experience as an officer, and an excellent attitude toward work, was reduced to working at a toy factory for about $33,000 a year. On that salary, he was expected to support his ex wife, their two daughters, his former stepson, Ex’s sister, and Ex’s sister’s daughter. It was not work Bill enjoyed. In fact, he had been thinking about becoming a police officer, or perhaps a parole officer. But those jobs were very dangerous and paid about the same as working at the factory did.

How did this happen? Here was this guy, still in his prime in his early 30s, living in podunk Arkansas. They were there because Ex had fantasies of living in an idyllic small town with conservative values. With Ex’s encouragement, Bill was encouraged to leave his position as an active duty Army officer, take a $40,000 severance, and embrace life as a civilian. So Bill left the Army and joined the Arkansas National Guard.

Freed from the constraints of the Army, no longer beholden to the Army’s whims as to where they’d live, Ex decided they should to go live in a small town in Arkansas. She found a house. It looked like one she’d seen in a snow globe. Even though they didn’t have much money and the house was a money pit, Ex decided they’d make it work. And Bill, being someone who doesn’t like contention or strife, tried to go along with it.

The problem was, there wasn’t a lot for a guy like Bill to do in that part of Arkansas. In the 1990s, there was factory work. There was police work. There was probably retail. I believe Ex worked at Walmart for awhile, eventually getting into bookkeeping and/or management. But she didn’t work all the time. She only did enough so that it looked like she worked. Most of the time, Bill was left both earning the money and taking care of the children.

Bill would have preferred to do police work over factory work. But he had a family to support, and police work in that town offered long hours, very low pay (about $7.50 an hour), and dangerous conditions. So that’s how he ended up making plastic toys on the second shift… boring work in a town that offered little for him personally. Ex wasn’t all that happy, either, even when Bill later got a job working at a now defunct Whirlpool factory. It was his job to supervise a bunch of guys making refrigerator doors, screwing three screws into the doors all day. Those guys were happy to do that job, racking up years of seniority and extra dollars per hour. Bill was bored, and even though Whirlpool paid more, it was still a hell of a lot less money than he needed.

This morning, we were talking about this… We’ve been talking about this a lot since he saw his daughter a few months ago. As they processed their experiences living with a narcissist, they realized that they were conditioned to settle for crumbs of contentment. When you spend your time with a narcissist, you learn to settle for whatever they throw at you. The smallest pleasures are satisfying as you’re driven to give up more and more of yourself for the narcissist’s whims. It’s soul destroying.

Whenever I listen to Bill talk, I see the spark in his bright blue eyes as he tells me about the things that interest him. He likes talking about movies, music, history, religion, literature, and food. Since we’ve been together, I’ve watched him turn into a gourmet cook, a beer brewer, a wine connoisseur, and most recently, a beginning guitar player. When he was married to Ex, he wasn’t allowed to have hobbies. They were deemed “self-indulgent”. His job was to work, and to make enough money for the family’s survival. His happiness didn’t matter.

I remember seeing his old ID card from Whirlpool. He looked about twenty years older than he was. The jovial, kind, friendly expression I’m used to seeing was completely absent. He looked depressed, vacant, and unhealthy– used up and spent. I wouldn’t have recognized him.

After a few years of working in factories, Bill got the opportunity to go back to work full time for the Army National Guard. It would be like he’d rejoined active duty, only he’d be paid by the state of Arkansas and work as a federalized National Guardsman. Even though he would be paid over twice what he earned in factories; he’d have excellent medical benefits; and the work would be much better suited to him, Ex was not onboard with the idea. She wanted to stay in Arkansas in the house that was falling apart. She expected Bill to keep working in the factory to prove his love and devotion to her. When he asked her to give up on her Arkansas dream, she refused. So Bill went off to Kansas by himself.

It was about that time that he and I met online. I was starting graduate school in South Carolina. We chatted online for about 18 months before we met in person. During that time, he and Ex divorced. He lived on $600 a month, because the rest of his money went to her, as she shacked up with her now third husband in the house Bill bought for her. We have heard that #3 is now a certified nursing assistant. To be sure, it’s not his passion, but he’s now having to pay the bills, since Bill isn’t paying Ex anymore. They have two more children to support, and Ex has lots of debt racked up from her failed visions that were overcome by events.

When Bill and I met in person, he’d been divorced for almost a year. He showed up at my apartment in bedraggled clothes that were several years out of style. Ex had bought them at yard sales. I remember wondering how I felt about him. Common sense would have told me to run the other way. But there was something in those startling blue eyes. He was so kind-hearted and intelligent… I wonder how it must have felt to be with someone who valued his opinions and didn’t see him as a slave with no right to enjoy living.

Last night, Bill made a Jordanian dish with tomatoes, peppers, and lavash (pictured above) as we listened to music on Alexa and I tried to play along with the Eagles on my guitar. Then he got his guitar and I showed him a new chord. Neither of us plays well yet, but this is something we can share.

Bill now makes over three times the money he made at the factories in Arkansas. He’s earned two master’s degrees since he left Ex, who seemed to resent that Bill had a bachelor’s degree (when they were married, she hadn’t finished college). He works mostly from home right now, doing work that interests him and suits his talents. Today, we’re going out to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, where I’ll watch his eyes widen as he tastes something interesting… something that didn’t come out of a can or a box. When I met Bill, he could only cook a few things. Now he tries all kinds of recipes. He’s not afraid of attempting things that are beyond his comfort zone.

I think about what Bill settled for in those years. He would have tried to keep going, but it was impossible. If he had kept living that way, I have no doubt that he would not be who he is today. He would definitely not be as healthy and happy as he is. There was a price to be paid. He missed out on watching his daughters come of age, and they also suffered under their mother’s tyranny. I know he wishes he’d fought harder for them now… or better yet, not settled for marrying their mother. She never did offer more than crumbs of contentment, even early in their relationship.

Somehow, when he was growing up, he missed the very important lesson that you can’t help others until you help yourself. He saw Ex as a damsel in distress needing someone to save her. He felt valiant by rescuing her, but deep down, he felt that she was all he deserved. He thought no one else would value him and, in fact, didn’t actually value her that much, since he settled for her.

She reinforced the idea that she was the best he could do repeatedly, telling him that no other woman would want him and convincing him that she was right. So he stayed with her for almost ten years and settled for what she deigned to let him have. By contrast, we’ve been together for almost 18 years, and those years have been a hell of a lot more fun for him. One time, not long after their divorce, Ex actually accused Bill of taking Rogaine. His hair was fuller and he looked healthier. I look at pictures of Bill as a 56 year old man and he STILL looks younger, healthier, and happier than he did in that Whirlpool factory ID he had when he was in his early to mid 30s.

I don’t blame Bill for staying with Ex. Leaving an abusive environment is difficult. Abusive people have a way of convincing their victims that leaving them is worse than staying. In an abusive situation, a victim can start to believe that the next situation will be worse. They’d rather stick with what they know. I’m not immune to this issue myself. I originally didn’t want to move to Wiesbaden because I was afraid we’d wind up in a worse living situation than what we were in. I was wrong. We ended up in a much better situation. There are things I miss about where we were before, but overall, moving on was the right thing to do.

The last point I would make is that sometimes it takes time to get where you’re going. The first five years of our marriage were lean as we tried to pay off debts and Bill supported his kids and former stepson. But we knew it was a temporary situation if we just worked together and kept our eyes on the prize. We made small financial changes that helped us get ahead on debt and eventually retire it. We stayed flexible toward each other’s goals and needs for happiness. And in spite of everything, we’re still very much in love. We have our ups and downs, like everyone does. But I don’t get off on sabotaging Bill’s successes. I like it when he succeeds, and I do what I can to help him get ahead. Likewise, he wants me to succeed, too, and he does what he can to help me.

Your life is your own. Sometimes you have to make concessions in order to survive. But when it comes down to it, settling for crumbs tossed out by an abuser is not productive. It doesn’t lead to anything good. If I had ever had a child of my own, I hope I would have taught him or her not to settle for crumbs of happiness. Don’t marry someone because you don’t think you can do better or you think they need rescuing. Don’t stay somewhere toxic because you don’t think the next place will be better. Sometimes, you have to take the plunge. Or, as my spirit animal George Carlin would say, you have to “take a fuckin’ chance”.

book reviews

Repost: A review of Elena Vanishing: A Memoir

This morning, I stumbled across this book review I wrote for my original blog on October 11, 2016. I am reposting it here as/is, because I remember enjoying this book.

So, sometime recently I purchased a couple of books about eating disorders.  I generally like to read memoirs, so Elena Dunkle’s book, Elena Vanishing: A Memoir, was one of the books I downloaded.  Elena Dunkle co-wrote this book with her mother, Clare B. Dunkle, who is an established author.  It was published in 2015.

I didn’t know this when I started reading, but I have some things in common with Elena Dunkle.  For one thing, she spent several years living in Germany.  Her father works for Ramstein Air Force Base (I gathered, anyway).  The book opens with her as a seventeen year old at a hospital. She doesn’t mention it specifically, but she’s apparently at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.  The psychiatrist there is described as a bit of a putz as he threatens to send her back to the United States, where she’ll be stuck in a hospital with a tube forced up her nose.  Later, she describes being sent back to the States in what sounds like a military transport plane.  Having been on a few hops myself, I have to admit enjoying the read about those military planes because I could picture it well.  I had no idea they sent civilians back in them for medical purposes, though.

Elena Dunkle’s parents own a home in San Antonio, Texas, which is where Bill and I lived before we moved back to Germany.  Her parents temporarily move back to Texas while Elena gets treatment.  Elena has big dreams of being a nurse and manages to go to college.  But though she gets a job as a resident assistant, she makes the unfortunate mistake of mentioning her eating disorder.  That revelation leads to negative consequences, which don’t help her situation.  College life is stressful for Elena.  Her eating disorder is exacerbated by some traumatic events… events that would trouble anyone. 

Elena Vanishing is the true story of Elena Dunkle’s five year struggle with anorexia nervosa.  It’s a stark accounting of what it was like to be treated for an eating disorder nowadays.  It also offers an insight into the character of a person with anorexia nervosa.  I read one comment on Amazon.com in which a reader criticized Elena for “not being likable.”  I felt the need to respond to that comment because I felt Elena’s less likable and less trusting nature offered very good insight into the experience of having an eating disorder. 

Although many people who struggle with anorexia are “people pleasers”, the illness itself manifests with manipulative, secretive, dishonest, and ultimately unpleasant behavior.  Having an eating disorder is not wholly unlike having any disorder involving addiction to a substance or a behavior.  Part of the disease means being untrustworthy.  None of these elements of a person’s character are usually regarded as pleasing or likable.  But that’s what having an eating disorder ultimately leads to; a person who isn’t sweet, loving, and pleasant.  They resist treatment and become very recalcitrant.  The disorder causes them to fight against those who are trying to help them.

In 2007, the British soap opera Hollyoaks had a very good storyline about anorexia nervosa.  The actresses portraying the characters Hannah and Melissa demonstrate how nasty and sneaky an eating disorder can make someone become.  Skip to 2:29 to see how Melissa and Hannah affect a simple backyard party.

Overall, I thought Elena Vanishing was a well written and interesting memoir.  If I had to offer a criticism, I would say that this book ends rather abruptly.  I was surprised when I got to the end.  However, I have read a lot of books about eating disorders and found it to be a very good read, as well as an accurate portrayal of one person’s experience with anorexia nervosa.  I was particularly interested because I have myself shared some similar experiences to Elena’s, though thankfully, I have never suffered from an eating disorder that ever landed me in a hospital.

This book is recommended for readers from the ninth grade up.  I think that’s an appropriate age for reading this book.  I also liked that it didn’t seem to be very triggering.  There’s nothing about specific weights or sizes that would serve as “thinsperation” for eating disordered readers.  There’s also little about specific behaviors that could be triggering for sensitive readers.  By contrast, the 1978 book The Best Little Girl In The World by noted eating disorder therapist Steven Levenkron, is said to be very triggering (and I will confess that when I read it as a teenager, I was pretty obsessed with it myself).  

Anyway, I liked Elena Vanishing and I think I’d give it a hearty four stars.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on purchases made through my site.

social media

Noise I don’t need in my life right now.

In praise of “real friends”…

Last night, just before I went to bed, I read yet another derisive status update by someone I don’t know particularly well. This guy, famously or infamously known as “newnamenoah” on YouTube, has over 4000 “friends” on Facebook. People tend to love him or hate him. I’ve always mostly thought he was interesting and entertaining, with big brass balls. Here was a guy who invaded LDS temples with pinhole cameras and recorded “secret” ordinances, then posted them on YouTube.

There’s no telling how many people newnamenoah, aka Mike, has helped with his videos. He’s probably pissed off just as many people by ruining the “mystery” of the LDS temples. He’s been arrested for trespassing, too. I followed his antics for a few years, but had no personal dealings with him. I often thought he was funny, especially when he dealt with self-righteous people who wanted to tell him what to do. I had respect for his “work”, although lots of people were pissed at him for exposing something they considered “sacred”.

But coronavirus has changed things. Some things have changed for the better. Some have changed for the worse. Some things have just plain changed. I think the virus has forced most people into a different lifestyle… things are topsy turvy, which people not knowing what they’re going to do about some major issues like accessing childcare, going to school, caring for elderly parents, and paying their bills. I don’t know.

People are stressed out and pissed off. Some are depressed. Many people are frustrated and worried about the future. For some folks, this is about simple survival on the most basic level. Some people are reacting by trying to exert some form of control, whether it be by haranguing rule-breakers or rebelling against the rules. It’s causing a lot of people to be ruder than they might otherwise be, although I think Mike has pretty much always been dismissive and rude to people he doesn’t respect. Fair enough.

At this point in my life, I am very fortunate. I currently live in a country where the virus has been mostly contained, and it appears that we’re going to get to stay for awhile longer. Life is not completely normal here, but it’s close. I’ve been “locked down”, but not really because I’ve had to be. I’ve mostly decided I’d rather stay away from the risks and hassles of being out and about. But I realize that’s a privilege that many people don’t have. As fortunate as I am, though, I have found that the virus has made me a lot less tolerant of things I used to brush off with relative ease.

It’s not even so much that I’m feeling upset anymore. It’s more that I just think I fell into a path that had me putting up with stuff that I shouldn’t. A lot of shit is just that– shit. It stinks and needs to be flushed.

Prior to the virus, I tolerated things that seemed important… I put up with an abusive landlady, griping all the while, yet acquiescing when I was told I didn’t have the right to complain about the shitty way she treated Bill and me. I put up with people being “mean” to me on the Internet, when really all I had to do was unfriend or block them. I wrote many words about being upset or disappointed by people I thought were better, when I really should just expect that a lot of people are jerks and don’t have regard for other people. Just let them go and be done with it. It is what it is. Bitching about it makes me feel better temporarily, but doesn’t really change anything.

I recently wrote a post called Mask-Misanthropy. I’ve noticed a lot of people hitting it lately. I don’t know why people are reading it. Are they reading it because they agree with me that people have gotten a lot less “civilized” lately? Or are they reading it, thinking I’m a clueless “Karen” (hate that term) who needs a reality check? You know what? Who fucking cares? If you read my stuff and come away with the idea that I don’t take the virus seriously, then I must conclude that reading comprehension isn’t one of your strengths. I don’t like masks and I go out of my way to avoid wearing them. But I do so by staying home most of the time. I think that’s more effective than wearing a mask, and I’m lucky enough that I can do that. When I go out, yes, I wear the mask. I hate it, but I do comply with the rules.

The main point of the Mask-Misanthropy post is that I don’t think being rude and nasty, calling people names, being insulting, and lecturing so-called “friends” is the way to get them to cooperate. I understand that people are feeling tense and frustrated. I get that they’re scared and rightfully worried about the future. I just don’t understand how cursing at and shaming “friends” is the way to make the situation better. If someone is a “friend”, doesn’t that mean you hold them in some kind of positive esteem? How is it friendly to call your friends “morons”?

That was where I was last night as I was looking at Mike’s Facebook page. He’d written a post insulting people who are “anti-mask”. It was one of many I’d seen by him on a variety of controversial topics. He basically called them “mouth breathers”. Someone on his page took him to task for name calling. He insulted her, too. Then, I guess when she decided to unfriend him, he wrote a rant on his page about how he doesn’t lose a minute of sleep over people who unfriend him (I think he might have called them morons, but I don’t care to check). In the past, when he’s done that, I’ve laughed it off. But then it occurred to me that it must matter to him on some level, because he took the time to post about it. And what he posted was just more of the same bile.

I had absolutely nothing to do with last night’s drama. Before I unfriended him, I almost never commented on Mike’s posts. I read some of them, enjoyed a few of them, but mostly they were just “noise” on my page. A lot of his posts were about what a schmuck Donald Trump is. And I agree, Trump is a schmuck– putting it very mildly. A lot of posts were about how damaging Mormonism is. And I agree, Mormonism is pretty damaging to a lot of people. Sometimes, he posted stuff about him living his best life, which was nice to see… but he also posted about being arrested when he stepped on LDS church property. But since a lot of that shit is public, I can read it whether or not we’re “friends”. And I’m getting tired of reading angry, insulting, shaming, frustrated posts by people who paint anyone who doesn’t agree with them with a broad brush and dismiss them as “stupid mouth breathers”. It’s noise I don’t need in my life right now.

As the old song goes, “what the world needs now is love, sweet love”. On the whole, I think being kind and supportive is better than being angry, derisive, and confrontational. I realize that I’m not always one to practice what I preach, but I’m working on it. I mostly try to keep my rantings to my blog, which people have to actually navigate to if they want to read. I understand the impulse to lash out at people who aren’t doing what you think they should be doing, but it seems counterintuitive to call these people “friends” if you’re going to also curse at them and call them names.

I’m finding that the stress of the coronavirus and my need for some semblance of normalcy has made me much less willing to tolerate unnecessary “noise” and drama. I’ll probably unfriend a lot more people as time goes on… or maybe, as I have been threatening, I’ll just dump Facebook altogether and become a recluse. By the way, as of yesterday, I finally lost my “orange badge of shame“. Glad it didn’t take a year.

Bill does this all the time. It drives me nuts.

Mental health is very important. There’s no point in staying physically healthy if your mind is so fucked up with depression and anxiety that you can’t enjoy your life. It’s already stressful enough reading the news every day, listening to Donald Trump speak, and realizing just how much he has fucked up the world. I don’t need the extra noise in the form of angry accusations, constant insults, and non-stop political rants. If I wanted that, I could watch Fox News.

Given that he has over 4000 friends, I doubt Mike will miss me anyway. On the other hand, having tons of friends isn’t a guarantee that unfriending won’t be wounding to some folks. Last month, I got blocked by a guy I unfriended because I didn’t want to read so much about politics. Since we didn’t actually know each other offline and we almost never engaged, I figured he wouldn’t care– although I did know he had a “friend tracker”. Boy, was I wrong! He sent me a PM, apologizing if it was something he said. Then he got all pissed off when I explained that the constant barrage of negativity was causing me mental stress. Guess he wasn’t really a friend, after all. Ditto for the woman who blocked me when I unfriended her for the same reason. I can’t say that I mind being blocked by either of them. It’s not like we were actually friendly.

A real friend wouldn’t want to cause me stress, strife, or anguish. Instead, they would wish me well. A real friend wouldn’t call me stupid, clueless, moronic, or a mouth breather. No one has really done that to me personally, but when I see things addressed to a group as a whole, it turns into an insult that includes everyone who reads or hears it. And I just don’t need it. No one does.

I often like to say good things can come out of almost any situation. Maybe one thing that will come out of the coronavirus is that it will help me streamline who I allow into my life. Real friends are rare and valuable. I’ll do my best to keep them, since I’m lucky enough to have some of them– a few are even people I have never met offline. Fake friends on Facebook are just noises I don’t need in my life. I’m going to learn to let them go sooner rather than later.

book reviews, LDS

Reposted book review: Saving Alex

I posted this book review on my original blog back on March 4, 2016. Because a friend reminded me of it, I’m reposting it here as/is. In other words, pretend like you’re reading this in 2016, because I’m not editing it.

Last night, I read almost entirely in one sitting, a brand new book that was released on March 1, 2016.  It’s been a very long time since I last read a book in a matter of hours.  My attention span is not what it once was.  Nevertheless, I was compelled to finish this book.  Once I was finished reading, I was good and angry.  I think if I hadn’t taken a couple of Advil PMs, I would have had a really hard time falling asleep. 

Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That’s When My Nightmare Began is certainly a mouthful of an unoriginal title.  Had the author, Alex Cooper, simply called her book Saving Alex, it may well have gone unnoticed.  Ever since the blockbuster film Saving Private Ryan came out, there have been other titles that have used the “saving” motif.  It’s the second part of the title– the mouthful part– that got me to order it.  I read a lot of so-called “exMormon lit” and I am also interested in gay and lesbian issues.  I have also read a whole lot about the so-called “teen help” industry, especially as it exists in Utah.  It was only natural I’d want to read Alex Cooper’s story, so I did.  And folks, it made my blood boil, even though I am neither a parent nor homosexual.  Some parents are simply shitheads and I think Alex’s parents qualify.  Edited to add:  I read in another review that Alex and her parents are on good terms now and they are very sorry for what they did.  I’m glad they have made amends, though I still think what they did puts them in shithead territory.  Just my opinion, though.  I’m not known for being forgiving.

Alex Cooper’s story

Fifteen year old Alex Cooper’s parents had moved to Victorville, California in an attempt to raise their daughter in a “safe” environment.  Alex’s mother was born and raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Her father was a Mormon convert who didn’t necessarily agree with all of the church’s teachings, but decided to go along with them for his family’s sake.  Alex points out that her dad had chosen the religion as an adult, whereas she had been born into it and was forced to live by its tenets her whole young life.

Alex hated Victorville.  She found it boring and uninspiring.  As she was approaching adolescence, she also started to realize that she had romantic feelings for females.  Mormons are famously intolerant of homosexuality.  It’s considered a grave sin for church members to act on “same sex attraction”.  Nevertheless, despite Alex’s strict Mormon upbringing in the church and association with church members, she turned out to be a lesbian.

One day, a few of Alex’s Mormon friends introduced her to a beautiful 18 year old woman named Yvette.  Yvette was pretty much on her own, making her own money selling marijuana.  She was a lesbian.  Alex became fast friends with Yvette and they were soon engaged in a sexual relationship.  On a couple of occasions, Yvette and Alex took off together without telling Alex’s parents where they were going.  Alex’s parents did not know Yvette and would not have wanted Alex hanging around with her if they did.  They were faithful church members who believed homosexuality is wrong.  Besides that, Yvette was a legal adult who supported herself by selling marijuana.  Alex and Yvette were very attracted to each other and Alex describes Yvette as a good person, despite her less than church approved lifestyle. 

Alex’s parents became aware of Yvette’s presence in their daughter’s life after the second time the pair had run off for a couple of days.  Alex had left a note lying about her whereabouts.  During the confrontation, Alex came out to her parents.  They promptly kicked her out of the house.  Alex stayed with friends for a couple of weeks.  It was during the summer and Alex wondered what she was going to do when school started again.  Would she even get to go to school? Would she be homeless?  Little did Alex know, her parents had some big plans for her.

Conversion “therapy”

It’s not a big secret that many Mormons think they can “cure” homosexuality through so-called conversion therapy.  For many years, there was a program based on church teachings called Evergreen International.  It was considered a “support group”.  I have read some heartbreaking accounts of what “support” at Evergreen was actually like.  Evergreen is now defunct; it has been replaced by another program called North Star.  North Star supposedly focuses on the “law of chastity”, accepting that some church members struggle with same sex attraction, but must be encouraged never to act upon those feelings.

Alex was not sent to a program like Evergreen or North Star.  Her parents told her they were going to send her to live with her grandparents in Utah for awhile.  They packed up all of her things and drove to St. George, a town in southern Utah that has hosted a number of so-called teen help facilities.  There is big money to be made in the troubled teen industry.  Having informally studied the industry for about fifteen years, I have noticed that many programs targeting troubled teens are run by faithful Mormons.  Some are run by other religious groups, such as southern Baptists, but Mormons seem to really have a stake in the industry.  I have written about this phenomenon plenty of times in the past, so I’m not going to rehash it in this post.  Suffice to say that if you Google, you will soon find out more about churches and “troubled teens”.

LDS leader David A. Bednar explains why “there are no homosexual members in the church”.

Dirty trick

So Alex arrived at her Mormon grandparents’ home in Utah.  She greeted them warmly, thinking they would offer her love, acceptance, guidance and shelter as she tried to straighten out the mess she was in.  But her grandparents and her parents had banded together and came up with a plan to deal with Alex’s “problem”.  They enlisted help from Johnny and Tiana Siales, a Mormon couple who attended the same ward as Alex’s grandparents did.  The Siales took “troubled youth” into their home in an attempt to rehabilitate them, even though neither Tiana nor Johnny had any real training in counseling.  They were just devout Mormons who had worked in Utah’s burgeoning teen help industry and knew a few abusive techniques to get teens to do their bidding.

Johnny had a bad temper and suffered from gout, so he was unable to work.  He spent his days playing video games.  Prior to “helping” Alex, Johnny had been a goon at one of the teen help schools in the area.  Tiana worked nights as a “counselor/security guard” at one of the local facilities; it was her paycheck that mostly supported the family.  They also had young children of their own.  Alex was forced to share a room with the Siales’ young daughters.  She slept on a mattress and wore “modest” clothes that were cast offs from Deseret Industries.  The Siales destroyed Alex’s own clothes.

Even though her parents didn’t know the Siales from Adam, they decided the Siales’ home was a better place for Alex to seek help for her “issues”.  They signed over custody of Alex to Johnny and Tiana.  And then, the nightmare began in earnest. 

My thoughts

I’m really tempted to keep writing Alex’s story and describe all of the horrors her caregivers subjected her to.  I’m not going to do that, though, because that would make reading Saving Alex unnecessary.  I think people should read this book, especially those who don’t have a clue about the Mormon church’s ugly policies regarding homosexuality and their attempts to “cure” it.  Alex was basically held prisoner by a couple of incompetents who abused her for months, trying to get her to change her sexual orientation.  What they did to her was cruel and disgusting.  I was seething as I read about Alex’s “treatment”.  Incredibly, she still wanted to go home.  She missed her parents.  Had I been in her shoes, I’m not sure I’d ever want to speak to my parents again.

Now, I’m not trying to say that Alex was totally innocent in this situation.  Had I been her mother, I would have been very upset about my 15 year old daughter running off with an 18 year old and not telling anyone where she was going.  I probably would have been highly inclined to discipline her.  I don’t think that’s unreasonable under the circumstances. 

What I do think is unreasonable is kicking your minor child out of the home and then sending her off to live with people you don’t even know.  Then, when she tries to tell you what they are doing to her– and what they are doing is legitimately abusive— turning your back on her and forcing her to continue to endure it.  And I ABSOLUTELY think conversion therapies are ineffective and damaging, even as I understand that there is a market for them.  If a legal adult wants to try conversion therapy, that’s their choice.  Personally, I don’t think it works, but I also think adults have the right to make their own decisions. But conversion therapy should never be forced on a child.  And a fifteen year old is still, by legal definition, a child!

Alex Cooper spent days wearing a backpack full of rocks, staring at a wall.  She was beaten, isolated, shamed, called a “dyke” and kept out of school.  Her parents completely abdicated their responsibility to raise their daughter to total STRANGERS with no actual expertise in helping teenagers except by employing abusive brute force methods.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  The many church members who witnessed the Siales’ abuse of Alex Cooper, including the many Mormon missionaries who came over for dinner and saw Alex wearing a backpack full of rocks, should also be ashamed of themselves.

I’m not sure how Alex’s life is going now.  She seems remarkably mature and evolved, especially given what she went through.  I admire her bravery and respect those who helped her, which included some good-hearted Mormon church members who are a bit more evolved than Alex’s family was.  Her book pissed me off, though.  I do recommend it to those who need to be educated about conversion therapy and Utah’s “teen help” industry. 

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music, videos

It’s Friday, so…

Here’s a new video. I bought a new interface for my computer in case I ever get good enough at guitar that I can record myself playing. Also, I had been using Shure xlr to x2u device, which makes it possible to connect dynamic non-USB mics to the computer. I’ve so far owned four of those devices. They’re expensive, limited in what they can do, and after about a year or two, they tend to break.

This new interface allows me to sing into a mic without an extra doohickey that can break and cause the sound to go out. I suspect it will also be more robust and, should Bill ever want to record his guitar playing, there are spare jacks for that, too.

So anyway, this video was made with the new audio equipment. The pictures are of Bill and three of the five dogs we’ve rescued so far. I think it turned out alright…

Yeah, it’s a little like elevator music, but it’s only three minutes. And I have a soft spot for The Carpenters. I think this new interface could be a game changer!

Next week, we’re taking a trip, so that means new photos! Yea!