Like many good children coming of age in the South in the 70s and 80s, I was well-acquainted with the corny hillbilly variety show, Hee Haw, from an early age. This morning, I am thinking of Kenny Rogers’ ex-wife, Marianne Gordon, who starred on that show in the 80s, as a southern belle who regaled everyone with stories about her fictitious daddy, “The Colonel”. She always started her skits off by saying, “It’s been an exasperating day.” That’s kind of how I feel today.
It started with washing the sheets… always a pain in the ass, but especially when I also wash the duvet covers. We also decided to rotate the mattress, to redistribute the lumps in the mattress. My lower back was hurting, so I wasn’t much help. Bill got it turned on his own. Then, I realized the issue probably isn’t the mattress as much as it is the feather topper. It either needs to be replaced, or we need to get used to sleeping without it. Really, we need a new mattress, but it’s not so easy to get an American king sized mattress in Germany.
Then, once I got that mess straightened out, I had to wrestle the duvet into the duvet cover, which is quite an annoying task with a king sized duvet. I managed to do it without breaking out in too much of a sweat.
I sat down to write this morning’s blog post, but then got sidetracked by my music library. A few months ago, I replaced my old computer, but not all of my music moved over on the cloud. Consequently, I’ve got some “greyed out” files on my new computer. I end up having to manually move the music by using an external drive. The files don’t always successfully make it on the external drive, so I have to do it again. It’s a hassle, but worth it to me, because I love my music collection that much. I think I spent about an hour on that today, and I’m not even done with the task. Every day, I move more files, and it seems like the job is never ending.
I finally had to quit moving files, because I was getting so frustrated. It is kind of satisfying to see the greyed out files turn black, though.
I recorded a couple of new songs yesterday. One song went off pretty much perfectly. The other one was a real pain to get right. It’s not actually as perfect as I’d like it to be, but I was determined to get it up yesterday, so I settled for less. I got a comment from someone who thought it was my equipment that caused the issue, but no… it was a psychological issue. You know how, when you try to do something and you mess up, you kind of psych yourself out when you try again? That was me when I was trying to record “All I Have”. I did it nine years ago and it turned out just about perfectly, but no one ever hits that video because it has photos instead of me on camera. Nine years ago, no one watched my channel. Now, I have more people who pay attention to it.
Oh well. Maybe I’ll try again in nine years.
Last night, I found out that a British guy I met in 2011, while on a SeaDream cruise, is going to be joining Bill and me next month on our Regent cruise. He and his wife hung out with us on that cruise and we kept in touch for awhile, but then drifted apart. Looks like we’ll be seeing each other again. What are the odds?
Actually, that kind of stuff happens to me a lot. I have a knack for running into people I either used to know, or who know people I know. Here’s an example. Back in the late 1990s, I waited tables at a nice restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. One day, I waited on a couple with Irish accents. I asked them where they were from, and they said they came from Belfast. I told them I had a friend from there who lived in Newtownards (a suburb). We worked at a tiny Presbyterian church camp in the summer of 1994, then we traveled through Europe with his now wife, who’d also worked at the camp. The couple said, “Was your friend’s name Chris Sheals?”
Sure enough, it was… and it turned out he was their next door neighbor. What are the odds? There are lots of restaurants in Williamsburg, and plenty of waiters. Somehow, they found their way to my section.
Another time, a friend and I crashed at a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer’s apartment in Sofia, Bulgaria for about a week. When we got back to the States, I went to the Peace Corps office in Washington, DC to do some career networking. There wasn’t an event going on, or anything. I just went there on a whim. Sure enough, I ran into that guy whose apartment we crashed in Bulgaria… he was from New York and had come to the office for the same reasons I did. Again, totally unplanned…
And, here’s a final example. In the spring of 1999, I went to the Peace Corps office in DC again, that time with a friend I knew from Peace Corps/Armenia. I had planned to meet that friend. We went into the office and ran into another person from our group, Matt Jensen. And it’s funny that I’m writing this today, because Matt died two years ago in Brooklyn, when someone ran into him and left him for dead. I’ve written about Matt before… and that was the last time I saw him, on that day in the Peace Corps office, completely by chance. Incidentally, we’re still waiting for justice regarding Matt’s death. The wheels of justice are moving way too slow.
Those are just a few examples I can think of offhand of my running into people, but it actually seems to happen to me a lot. I run into people, or find out I know someone another person knows… or I end up connecting them with someone else who has a connection. It seems to be one of my special and more memorable traits. So I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to be bumping into someone I met years ago on another cruise… My world seems to be particularly small. 😉
Even meeting Bill was kind of like that. We met in a chat room in 1999. In 2001, before we met in person, he went to a convention in Little Rock, Arkansas… where he ran into my aunt’s brother, Ralph. Ralph was a member of the Kansas National Guard, while Bill was in the Arkansas Guard. But Bill wasn’t with the Arkansas people, because he was federalized. Ralph was in the Kansas Guard, but he lives in Virginia… Sure enough, they bumped into each other, and chatted. Later, Ralph told me he’d met my “boyfriend”. I laughed and said he wasn’t my boyfriend. We hadn’t even met in person at that point. Ralph said, “Oh, trust me, he’s your boyfriend. And don’t worry. He’s okay.”
I was nervous about meeting Bill, since we met online. Ralph also had the benefit of being a former Virginia State Trooper, which made him a pretty good judge of character. Twenty years later, you can see that Ralph was right that Bill is “okay”. And I guess he WAS my boyfriend, after all.
Well… I guess I should end this post. I am feeling calmer now, so I guess I’ll practice guitar and take Noyzi for a walk, then maybe make another video, or finish reading my freakin’ book. Later, y’all.
I was about to title this post “There’s more than one way to skin a cat”, but I figured it would be better to use an animal friendly alternative. One of my particular gifts is a love for animals, after all. Even if I weren’t an animal lover, that particular expression would make me cringe at the violent imagery of it. Besides, who the hell is skinning cats these days? Certainly not anyone I’d want to know.
Since I’m a singer, I happen to know there’s more than one way to sing a song. In fact, as I write this post, I’m listening to Kenny Rogers sing “Desperado”, a song that was made famous by its composers, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, and their celebrated band, The Eagles. It has also been done beautifully by many different performers… Linda Ronstadt comes to mind. Karen Carpenter sang it with her brother, who reportedly felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end when he heard it the first time. Clint Black also sang it for an Eagles tribute album. I do a pretty mean rendition myself, if I may be so bold. However, I won’t be recording it for YouTube, because Don Henley is a bastard about copyright claims. 😉 Not that he doesn’t have the right to be…
I often read articles to Bill– ones I’ve written, or ones I’ve found in any of the newspapers I regularly read. This morning, I came across “The R.T.O. Whisperers Have a Plan”, a fascinating article in the New York Times Magazine (unlocked) by Emma Goldberg about managers who have been trying to get people to stop wanting to work remotely and come back to the office. Instead of reading the article, I decided to play it– listen to it being read by a narrator.
The well written piece was all about how some workers are rebelling against the traditional requirement to work in an office setting. The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily made remote working a necessity. Now, people are finding that they don’t want to go back to the old way of doing things, and office managers are having to adjust. They’re even bringing in “whisperers” to try to figure out how to lure workers back into the traditional office environment, and doing everything from making goodie bags to hosting yoga classes. They’re finding that some people would rather quit than go back to the daily office grind, while others are much happier working away from home.
I knew this was going to happen years ago, though not because of a pandemic. I just realized, even back in 2000 or so, that people would one day be able to work from home with ease. Sure enough, I was right. Some managers are now having to change their perspectives and their attitudes to maintain competent staffing.
There’s more than one way to sing a song…
My first experience with remote work was when I was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina. I was a graduate assistant, and my boss, a very progressive nurse who had gone into working in public health legislation, hired me to help her research legislative and maternal and child health issues. After some time, she started telling me to work from home, which worked great for me. Looking back on it, she may have done that because she didn’t like having me around the office. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t always have the easiest personality for some people to take.
Not surprisingly, I loved remote working. I am able to be very productive in my home office. It’s an environment that works best for me. Much of what I did for that job involved writing and research, and working from home made it easier to concentrate. I also loved not having to get dressed up, sit in traffic, or deal with interpersonal conflicts and personality clashes with others.
After I graduated, I went looking for work in the Washington, DC area. Because I was an Army wife, I knew that the clock was ticking, because military families move a lot. I remember suggesting remote work to a hiring manager, who had a very strong reaction against the idea. I remember thinking that guy was going to be in for a rude awakening, because even in the early 00s, I could see that remote work was going to be a wave of the future. There’s a lot good to be said about it.
Yes, it’s hard for some managers to trust that their employees are going to be productive when they can’t actually watch them working. But people who can work from home don’t have to waste two hours a day in traffic. They don’t contribute to road rage, traffic accidents, or air pollution. They don’t spend as much money on dry cleaning or child care. Those who like remote working, whose jobs can be done remotely, and are capable of handling the responsibility, can be very productive and, more importantly, much more satisfied with their work. Moreover, a lot of time is wasted in office environments. Some people in offices spend time chit chatting and doing other stuff rather than doing their work.
The article that I linked specified other reasons why some people prefer remote work. Some of the reasons are issues that might not immediately seem obvious. For instance, the article mentioned that some people feel more comfortable working at home because of racial tensions in the workplace, or having to deal with people who are intolerant about other things they can’t help, like their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Or, perhaps they are more comfortable at home for other reasons. Recently, I watched the film, The Whale, which starred Brendan Fraser, who worked at home as an English professor teaching online classes. Fraser’s character, Charlie, was enormous, and he was ashamed of his appearance, so he turned off his camera, so his students couldn’t see him. This allowed him to earn a living, without having to endure the pain of his students visibly regarding him with disgust, or trying to maneuver in a world that doesn’t accommodate people who are literally huge. I’m not saying that’s the healthiest attitude to adopt. However, that movie does present a fairly realistic scenario highlighting a reason why some people would rather do their jobs from home. Some people work best on their own.
As for me, after that interview in which my suggestion to remote work was quickly shot down, I later scored some remote writing assignments. I found that I was able to complete them quickly, and well enough to earn bonuses. If we had stayed in the DC area a bit longer, I might have carved out an actual career, complete with a livable salary and benefits. 😉 As it was, I ended up leaving the formal workforce altogether.
Ah well. Maybe I could have had a conventional job until 2007. But then, we moved to Germany, and after that, moved three more times until Bill retired in 2014. Then we moved BACK to Germany. It would have been hard to build an in person work history when we were constantly moving. By the time Bill left the Army, we had truly made things work so that I didn’t really have to worry about working for money. Bill gradually proved himself over here, earned a couple of raises and promotions, and then started drawing his military retirement, which is literally like a second salary. We don’t own a home or other expensive property, and we’ve paid off most of our debts. So here I sit… a “professional” blogger and mediocre housewife. 😉
There’s more than one way to sing a song…
This certainly wasn’t what I had planned for myself. I did try to find a conventional job for several years. One day, Bill told me to stop trying to find a “real job”, because the process was really making me miserable, and we had enough money to make the household work. I remember, back in 2005, sitting in our Army provided house at the card table that served as our dining table. I said, “This is temporary. We are going to have a good life. It’s just going to take some time and discipline.”
Not long after that, I got a lucrative writing job that paid for a new dining table, a couch, and loveseat. I was able to do the whole project from home.
We’ve had some genuine perks related to my not having a “real job”, too. My not having a job meant that someone was there to take care of the dogs, do the household chores, and be available to deal with other domestic issues. It also meant that we only had to consider one work schedule when it came time to travel somewhere. Granted, during the early years of our marriage, we didn’t have much money for travel. But, when Bill went to Iraq, we had some extra money, which I used to pay off debt. I paid off all of his high interest credit cards (which he had because of the financial hell of his first marriage). I started paying extra on my student loans. Before long, we were ahead on our bills, and had some extra. I started saving and investing it. I supported Bill in his work, which meant I spent a lot of nights alone. I continued to write and made some money… not a lot, but something.
As Bill’s Army career came to an end, he worried about what was coming next. Once again, I delivered a prophecy that turned out to come true. I said, “I think your time to shine will be in your post Army life.”
Sure enough, in Germany, Bill has been a bright, shining star… He is much in demand for his diverse, yet hard to find technical skills. He’s also very well-liked and respected by his bosses, co-workers, and his clients. Meanwhile, I started saving and investing more of his salary, growing a modest $1000 investment to fifty times that. Bill opened an IRA. We paid off my student loans in 2018, nine years ahead of time. Last week, he got a nice raise. Now, we’re quite comfortable. My 2005 prediction has come true.
There’s more than one way to sing a song…
Why am I writing this story? Because I want to point out that there’s more than one way to be successful. There’s more than one way to get through life. Just because someone isn’t doing things the conventional way, that doesn’t mean they’re a waste of space or not contributing.
For years, certain people have given me a ration of crap over the way I live my life. Most of the people who have had a negative attitude have been people close to me. My dad had a real problem with the fact that I didn’t work outside the house. One time, when Bill was deployed, he called me and demanded to know what I was going to do with my time while Bill was in Iraq. He suggested that I get a job– even if it was waiting tables, so I might have more self-respect. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that how I spent my time was NONE of his business.
I suspect that he made that suggestion because it was embarrassing for HIM to feel like he needed to tell his friends that I was a housewife. He didn’t accept that I am a writer, or that writing is a “real job” for me, for which I have even earned some money.
After years of hearing my dad’s criticisms of everything from how I laughed, to my appearance, to who I dated (though he ended up loving Bill– probably more than he loved me), to where I worked, I was fed up and not about to take it anymore. So I told him to mind his own business, and stop harassing me about how I lived my life. It felt great, especially since there was nothing he could do but react with appropriate sheepishness and finally, STFU.
I’ve also heard comments from people wondering how we can buy certain things. Like, when we bought my car in 2009, my sister wondered how we could afford it and actually had the nerve to ask me. We got a discount and paid it off early. I still have it 14 years later. Years of paying things on time means that Bill and I both have outstanding credit ratings. When I met Bill years ago, that was not the case for him. His credit rating was in the 400s. I told him we would not be doing things the way they were done in his first marriage. We live within our means, and now we both have credit ratings in the 800s.
Other people– family members, acquaintances, ex landladies 😉 … and strangers– have looked down on me for living life the way I do. They think I’m lazy and don’t contribute, because I don’t obviously pull down a salary, and I’m not raising kids. They don’t realize that I contribute in lots of other ways, nor is it really their business, anyway, as long as the bills are paid.
The way Bill and I have done things doesn’t work for everyone. Not all couples can pull off what we have. However, the point is, our lifestyle HAS worked for us, and I have, actually, used that “fancy” education in making this lifestyle work (the finance classes were helpful). Living this way involves a lot of mutual trust, suppression of egos, and understanding. Frankly, given what Bill went through with his ex wife, I’m surprised he trusted me. It did take some time. But twenty plus years later, here we are, and it all works fine for us.
Now… if I needed to work outside the home for our survival, of course I’d do it. But, in our situation, it’s simply worked better for me to stay home. As I sit here, contemplating where we’re going to go on vacation, I can’t deny that it’s worked out fine.
There’s more than one way to sing a song!
After all these years, I feel kind of vindicated, even if it’s still sometimes hard to accept that in a conventional workplace, I was kind of a failure. But that doesn’t mean I’ve failed at life. I’ve just done things kind of differently than expected. And frankly, I’m grateful I didn’t have to spend the last twenty plus years in a cubicle, trying to think outside the box.
Not having a “real job” has also allowed me to make the video below… my version of Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need of Love of Love Today”, a song from 1976 that is sadly still so relevant in 2023..,
Most people who know me well, know that I am very passionate about music. I love all different kinds, from classical to country to R&B. I have an enormous music library with songs from almost every genre you can think of. Even though I’m not a very religious person, I have a lot of religious music in my catalog. That catalog includes a large number of different interpretations of religious songs, many of which are usually enjoyed during the Christmas holidays. Music helps keep me sane, and before I was married to Bill, it kept me company.
Back in the fall of 1990, when I first started attending what was then Longwood College, I took a voice class for my degree. The class was taught by an adjunct professor named Ann Ory Brown, who also taught at the University of Richmond. Because my parents were involved in music in my hometown, Ms. Brown knew my dad. Her mother was once a concert pianist, and Ms. Brown’s mother directed some locally run choral groups that counted my dad as a member. I, of course, did not know these people at all. I was mostly uninvolved in music when I was growing up, mainly because I didn’t want to do what my parents were doing. But then I took Ms. Brown’s voice class, and she told me I should consider studying voice privately with her. I ended up taking private lessons from her for three semesters, until she stopped teaching at Longwood.
At one point during our time together, Ms. Brown gave me a copy of a Kathleen Battle CD. I don’t remember why she chose to give it to me instead of one of her other students. I remember a voice major who was in my studio actually asked me to give it to her, instead. I chose not to do that, and fell in love with Kathleen Battle’s beautiful, distinctive, crystalline voice. I started collecting Battle’s music, and sometime in the late 1990s, I acquired a Christmas CD she made with a classical guitarist named Christopher Parkening. On that album, there was a song called “Mary, Did You Know.”
This was the very first version of “Mary, Did You Know” that I ever heard. I thought the melody was very pretty, especially coupled with Parkening’s intricate guitar playing. It never occurred to me to be offended by the lyrics of this song. I didn’t know anything about the songwriters, Mark Lowry, who wrote the words in 1984, and Buddy Green who wrote the music in 1991. I just enjoyed the music for what it was to me– peaceful and appealing. The whole album, Angels’ Glory, was just relaxing and good for studying, which I was doing at the time, as I was a graduate student when I first bought it.
Some time later, I came across another version of “Mary, Did You Know” done by The Isaacs, who are known for performing bluegrass, gospel, and spiritual music. I love Sonya Isaac’s voice, and she does a gorgeous rendition of “Mary, Did You Know” with her family members– mom, Lily, sister Becky, and brother, Ben. Lily’s ex husband and the father of Sonya, Becky, and Ben, Joe, was a member of the band until 1998, after he and Lily divorced. Last year, The Isaacs were invited to become members of the Grand Ole Opry.
According to Wikipedia, Lily Isaacs’ parents were Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors; she was born two years after they were liberated from a concentration camp and two years later, they moved to New York City, where Lily’s musical talent soon became evident. She got her first recording contract in 1958, when she was just ten or eleven years old. In 1970, Lily married Joe Isaacs, and they became Christians after Joe’s brother died in a car accident. Their group exclusively performs bluegrass gospel music.
There have been many different interpretations of this song, done by a huge gamut of performers. Kenny Rogers did a version with Wynonna. Dolly Parton has also sung it.
And so has CeeLo Green!
By now you can see, this song has been recorded to great success by MANY fine musicians, coming from an array of different racial and musical backgrounds, and even representing a broad array of genders and sexual orientations.
Most of the performers have sung this song earnestly, with great emotion and warmth. While I can’t say that this particular Christmas song is my favorite, I have generally enjoyed most of the versions I’ve heard. It never occurred to me to be affronted by this song. Until last night, that is… when I ran across a very active post on Father Nathan Monk’s Facebook page.
Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I’m really getting sick of people trying to tell people what should or should not offend them. I’m no fan of mansplaining, which regular readers of my blog will probably notice, but honestly, I have never thought of the lyrics to “Mary, Did You Know” as offensive in any way. I certainly never thought of them as “mansplaining”! Maybe it’s because the versions with which I am most familiar are sung by women! To me, the lyrics express wonderment and awe. They aren’t about trying to school Mary, the mother of Jesus, about how special her baby is. I’m quite sure Mary knew very well. It probably started with that whole immaculate conception thing, followed by her talk with the Angel Gabriel, and the Magnificat. It’s the regular rank and file people who didn’t know about Jesus… and to me, it would make sense for them to ask Mary if she knew. In the song, Mary doesn’t answer. I picture her smiling serenely and nodding, not getting pissed off and offended that a man would ask such questions. I think Mary would be above being offended by mansplaining. 😉
As one might imagine, Father Nathan Monk’s post blew up, with many people opining. Quite a few people heartily agreed with Father Nathan Monk and Jezebel Henny (aka Ally Henny) that this song is “offensive”. Ally Henny, herself, also weighed in, clarifying that the tweet originated in 2019, and that Lowry deleted the tweet without apology.
I totally understand that when someone puts something creative out there– be it a song, artwork, a film, or even a blog post, they invite criticism. I’ve gotten some pretty salty remarks on things I’ve written. In fact, until quite recently, I used to occasionally get nasty comments via this blog’s now defunct Facebook page. I disabled the page because I was tired of getting abuse for simply expressing myself. I don’t mind having respectful dialogues with people who might disagree with me, but I don’t feel like I should have to abide threats, rudeness, or disrespect. Maybe Lowry’s retort to Henny was a bit snarky and rude, but he’s human. I’m sure he was annoyed that she reduced his song to simple “mansplaining”. I would be, too. Like any human, prick him and he’ll bleed. I saw many people referring to Henny as a scholar, and I’m sure she has an impressive intellect, even if I didn’t necessarily discern it in her tweet. I had never heard of her before last night, though. I’m sure Mark Lowry hadn’t, either, when he retorted to her criticism. Maybe he didn’t know he was supposed to be deferential to her. He probably made that comment off the cuff in a flash of irritation. By most people’s standards, his song is an enormous success. I can’t blame him for responding with annoyance, even if it’s not the best look.
I don’t think Mark Lowry sings his song like a mansplainer would. There’s no hint of condescension when he sings… just wonderment, reverence, and awe. The above interpretation is a bit dramatic, and that could possibly annoy some people, who might think it’s too over the top. Others will find it uplifting and inspiring, as Lowry tries to convey the miracles Jesus will deliver during his brief lifetime. There is no accounting for taste. One of the lovely things about being human is that we can each have our own perspective and our own preferences. Many people love “Mary, Did You Know?” and would never see anything about this song as “offensive”, no matter how many supposedly more evolved people tell them their opinions are somehow “wrong”.
Bear in mind that Mark Lowry is also a Christian comedian. In addition to “Mary, Did You Know”, Lowry also wrote and sang a song called “Hyperactivity”. Someone on Father Nathan Monk’s post was upset about that one, too, claiming he was “making fun” of neurodivergent children. I had not heard of “Hyperactivity” until last night. To me, the song sounds like Lowry wrote this song about himself, not all neurodivergent children. It’s supposed to be funny. Not everyone will find it funny, which is the nature of comedy. Personally, I think “Hyperactivity” is kind of an annoying song, but I can see why some people like it. I wouldn’t presume to tell them they shouldn’t enjoy Mark Lowry’s song about hyperactivity, even if it sounds, to me, like he’s trying to copy Weird Al Yankovic.
Here’s one about overeating… Weird Al had “Eat It”. Mark Lowry has “I Can Eat it All”.
I am a big fan of personal expression, particularly when it’s politically incorrect. I think people should be allowed to speak their minds, even if I might not always like to hear or read what they have to say. Some of it might offend me. I might even take a vow not to use certain language myself. For example, I refuse to call someone a “karen” or a “dependa”. I don’t use the term “douche” as an insult, just as many people don’t use the n-word or the word “retard”. I think it’s important to allow freedom of speech and expression. That does also apply to criticism, of course. I just wish people would stop insisting that others share their views, because that’s how we end up with dangerous megalomaniacal people like Donald Trump in the White House.
There’s a large contingent of people in the United States who like Trump, because he freely says what they’re thinking, but feel too intimidated to say out loud. They’re so enthralled with hearing Trump stand up for the “conservative values” that some sanctimonious people are trying to quickly bury, that they excuse and ignore the really awful things he says and does. Then they show up and vote for him at the polls, and the rest of us are stuck with him and his toxic brand of fascist “leadership”. I think if some of the “woke brigade” took things down a notch, lightened up a bit, and showed some respect for other people’s differing values, they would get further in changing hearts and minds. People don’t like to be lectured or shamed.
Anyway… getting back to Father Nathan Monk’s post… I noticed this comment just now and was left a little bit puzzled…
I can see that a lot of people commenting on this thread don’t like Mark Lowry’s music or comedy. I see that some people, like me, didn’t even know who he was until they read the above thread. Now they’re describing him as “execrable”, “in the closet”, and “a turd” in a thread about how he “mansplains” to Mary, the mother of Jesus. It’s very strange to me, because some people are quoting the Bible and demonstrate actual knowledge of theology when they present their arguments. Others have just resorted to character assassination and name calling, having only been exposed to ONE song by the man. I am not a big consumer of contemporary Christian music or comedy. I only know what I like. And I sure as hell don’t need other people telling me that I’m wrong for enjoying what I like. I would feel a bit nervous, though, to add too many comments to this thread, lest someone call ME “execrable” for daring to disagree with them. 😉
Actually, I DID leave a couple of comments. It was to a well reasoned dissenter’s observation. Behold:
One woman wrote the below comment, which I think is pretty respectful. I mostly liked her take, but I was disappointed when she seemed to doubt herself for liking the song. There’s nothing wrong with “checking” oneself, but this response read a bit like a disclaimer. She’s not wrong to wonder if the lyrics come across as mansplaining when they’re sung by a female singer like Dolly Parton or Kathleen Battle, who is not only female, but is also Black. Would I call either of them “mansplaining”? Would I question their choices to sing this song? Neither of them are slouches when it comes to making music, that’s for damned sure!
What an interesting discussion!
I always hear the song from the viewpoint of a mother. I could personally not imagine all of the joys, trials and tribulations my sons would experience and bring me as their mother. I thought about how a theoretical mother of god could not possibly conceive of her future either, even knowing what the score was upfront.
Then again, I can be a little naive about intentions. And yet again, my demographic has me pretty experienced in receiving mansplaining.
I also didn’t know that Dolly Parton did a version. She is pretty much a feminine divine voice IMHO so even though she isn’t the male composer, I would have to hear it differently from her.
But “I didn’t ask?” Humph. When you put art in the world that’s what you risk: criticism and interpretation.
Another person, a guy calling himself a “musician”, wrote this derogatory comment:
Mostly, that song just sucks. As a musician, that is among the WORST and least fun, festive, or even touching or emotional Christmas songs. It’s just a boring list of stuff Jesus did with a weak contextual premise. If little kids don’t like it, and/or it doesn’t touch you emotionally, it’s trash.
Um… lots of bonafide and highly accomplished musicians would totally disagree with the above comment. And plenty of people are “touched” emotionally by “Mary, Did You Know”? Does the fact that the above musician isn’t moved by the song negate other people’s experiences listening to it and overall opinions of it? I don’t think so. And there are a lot of songs I might think of as “trash”, but that’s just MY opinion. I only get one vote, even though I am pretty musical myself. 😉
This whole controversy reminds me a bit of the huge uproar a few years ago about the song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” In the wake of the “Me Too” movement, people were saying that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” promotes date rape. I wrote a blog post about my annoyance about that, since “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was written decades ago, during an era when it was considered improper for women to stay unchaperoned with men. The song was written by Frank Loesser and his ex wife Lynn, meant to be a “parlor song” for entertaining their dinner party guests. It has nothing to do with date rape. But people sure want to project their modern sensibilities on classic songs and “cancel” them. Is the world really a “better” place without so-called “rapey” songs like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” polluting the airwaves? I don’t think so. I think the world is a better place when people consider context, original intent, and history, and stop trying to impose 2022 values on songs that were written decades ago. Even “Mary, Did You Know” is a pretty old song. It’s 38 years old! And the world was very different in 1984, right?
If people don’t like certain songs, they have choices they can freely make. They can choose not to listen to it, sing it, or buy albums that have it on the playlist. They can listen to and promote songs that are more to their tastes. They can even express why they don’t like it and invite a dialogue. Or, hey, here’s a novel thought– they can try to write their own, more “appropriate” song! But please don’t tell ME that I shouldn’t like a song because of how YOU interpret it. I’ll try my best to show you the same level of respect for your individual opinions and taste. And please don’t try to qualify yourself as a “musician” and declare someone else’s song as “trash”. Lots of musicians, most of whom are more famous, successful, and acclaimed than you will EVER be, completely disagree with your assessment.
I’m getting real tired of people– especially total strangers– insisting that there’s only one way to look at something. I’m tired of people telling me to “stop” doing something because they don’t approve, or that I should do something because it’s the “right” thing to do. I’m over being told how and what to think, especially by people who claim that their freedoms are being infringed upon. This happens on both sides of the political spectrum, and it’s time more thinking people spoke up about it. If we really live in a free society, then people should be allowed to create things freely without fear of being canceled. Yes, it’s fine to criticize creative pursuits, but when you resort to personal insults and character assassinations, you risk falling off that moral high horse and landing at the bottom of the pit with the rest of the lowlifes. I’m just saying.
I have been hanging out on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard for about twenty years now, and I’ve been exposed to a lot of LDS stuff over that time period. However, somehow I completely missed out on Saturday’s Warrior, which started out as a “humble drama project” in California back in 1973, was turned into a Brigham Young University stage production in 1974, and then in 1989, became this musical monstrosity weirdly reminiscent of Saved By The Bell.
Because I had nothing better to do yesterday, I watched this whole film, and started a thread about it on RfM. On the surface, this show is pretty laughable and silly, but digging deeper, there’s actually kind of some disturbing stuff here. And since I haven’t upbraided the Mormons in a good, long, while, I thought today might be a good day for doing that. Germany is very stormy and windy today, and my dogs are too scared to go out and pee without strong encouragement from me. They probably won’t want a walk until things settle down.
This time of year is always difficult for me, especially in Germany, where the weather generally sucks for weeks on end. The past two years have sucked more than usual, mainly due to the pandemic, and the fact that it’s a good excuse for me to be reclusive. I have a tendency to hole up when there isn’t a deadly plague, but this virus just gives me a reason to hunker down more, which is actually not that great for my mental health. For one thing, I tend to drink more when I’m holed up at home. For another, I find myself watching bizarre videos on YouTube. Well… Saturday’s Warrior definitely fits the bill as “bizarre”, at least for the uninitiated. I can’t believe I watched the whole thing. And, well, afterwards, I was left a bit flabbergasted. More on that later.
Some background for those who don’t “know” me…
I grew up a Protestant (Presbyterian) in southeastern Virginia. Back in my kid days, there weren’t a whole lot of Mormons in Virginia, at least not in the area where I was coming of age. Now, of course, many LDS church members have descended on my mother’s hometown of Buena Vista and the surrounding areas, and I know there are a number of LDS folks in northern Virginia and other urban areas, particularly around Washington, DC. In 1996, church members bought my mom’s alma mater, the former Southern Seminary Junior College (Sem), in Buena Vista, and turned it into LDS influenced Southern Virginia University. I call the school “LDS influenced”, because the school is not owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but was purchased by several LDS businessmen.
I almost decided to go to Southern Sem when I was finishing high school in 1990, because I was really into horses and Sem had a great riding program. Six years later, the school had completely changed. What used to be a barn is now a basketball court, and what was once a tiny, private, women’s college is now a religious co-ed school. My mom was a day student at Sem; she got a full scholarship in exchange for playing piano for the glee club.
The funny thing is, one of the men who became a bigwig at SVU used to work in Farmville, Virginia, where I attended Longwood University in the early 1990s. I knew his wife, because she joined the auditioned choir, The Camerata Singers, of which I was also a member. She was probably the first Mormon I ever met– a mother of five, a graduate of BYU, and frankly, a little bit annoying (but in fairness, so was I). At the time, I had no way of knowing that one day, I would one day serve in the Peace Corps and meet a LDS couple, and then marry a Mormon convert a few years after that.
This may be a little “woo” of me, but I have always felt that the universe has a tendency to prepare you for things, if you’re paying attention. I think that LDS couple I knew in Armenia helped prepare me for meeting Bill, who is no longer Mormon, but totally could have been a stereotypical representative of the faith. He looks and acts the part, minus the fakeness/assigned friend tendency. You know how some people have a very convincing and superficially “nice” exterior? Well, Bill really is a very nice and extremely kind person. He is the kind of person who would take to heart the feel good, warm and fuzzy, teachings of the church. But he’s genuine, whereas I think some of the others in the faith, aren’t so much. But then, one could probably find that dynamic in most groups. It just seems more obvious to me in the LDS church.
My husband’s now adult daughters were raised LDS by their convert mother, who used the church as one of the many tools in her parental alienation arsenal. My husband’s younger daughter is a “returned missionary”, and is still an active member of the LDS church, but I think the others have mostly fallen away, except for when they need money or support of some kind. Bill was effectively estranged from both daughters for about 13 years, and only managed to see one of them in 2020, fifteen years after their last in person meeting. He now talks to his younger daughter regularly. The other daughter is still completely estranged and still lives with her mother. One of the many reasons they were estranged had to do with the LDS church and the way members are encouraged to guilt and manipulate people who choose to leave the religion.
For many reasons, ex Mormons are some of my favorite people. A lot of them are genuinely really good folks, but they are also smart and courageous, and they often have great taste in books and music. I’ve also noticed that some of the more rebellious ones have wonderfully irreverent senses of humor. It makes sense, too, since one has to be kind of brave and rebellious to leave Mormonism, especially if one’s whole family is invested. In Bill’s case, he was the only one in his birth family who had joined the church, so his family was mostly delighted when he resigned. They all gave us coffee and booze gifts at our wedding in 2002.
Until recently, I took a very negative view of Mormonism. However, at this point, I’m somewhat less hostile toward the church, because some members very kindly helped Bill’s daughter when we could not. So, as you can see, while I was never a member of the LDS church, it’s definitely touched my life. Over the past 20 years, I have learned a LOT about the LDS church through meeting exmos and active members, reading many books (especially memoirs), and watching a lot of LDS inspired programming.
The Osmond connection…
As I mentioned before, I did not know this show existed until yesterday afternoon. If I didn’t know something about what Mormons believe, as a non Mormon, I think I would have been totally confused by it. The film begins with credits, and I immediately notice Brian Blosil’s name. Brian Blosil is Marie Osmond’s second ex husband, and the father to all but one of her children.
In 2011, Marie Osmond remarried her first husband, Stephen Craig, and they have a bio son together who was born before their divorce in 1985. In 1986, Marie and Brian Blosil wed at the Jordan River Temple. They had two bio children together, and adopted five more children. As Saturday’s Warrior was made in 1989, Marie and Blosil were then still somewhat recently married. They divorced in 2007.
I read that Saturday’s Warrior was filmed at what used to be the Osmond Studios in Orem, Utah. The Osmonds sold the studios in 1989, and for some time, it was used by another outfit for television programs. Jimmy Osmond later repurchased the studios and refurbished them. At this writing, the buildings are being used by famed Utah rehab center for the stars, Cirque Lodge. Cirque Lodge is where Mary Kate Olsen went for rehab, allegedly for treatment of an eating disorder, when she was 18, but she went to the Sundance location. The Orem location is a newer facility for the luxury treatment center, which mostly treats drug and alcohol addiction (and that’s why I wrote that Mary Kate “allegedly” went there for her eating disorder).
I mention the Osmond connection, because as I was watching the video, I was reminded very much of Osmond family specials that aired when I was a child. I didn’t see a lot of LDS programming in those days, but even gentiles like me were exposed to the Osmonds. They were world famous and quite visible in the 70s and early 80s. Years later, as I was learning about Mormonism, I became a little fascinated by the Osmond family. Saturday’s Warrior really reminded me of the Osmonds’ variety shows and specials.
Now, on to my thoughts on the 1989 version of Saturday’s Warrior…
I mentioned up post that this show was originally a stage production performed in California in 1973. It was written by Douglass Stewart, a Latter-day Saint playwright, who is best known for writing Saturday’s Warrior. He has done other things, but this show is his most popular work. The video version I saw yesterday was based on a screenplay written by Bob Williams and his wife, Barbara.
The music was written by Alexis (Lex) de Azevedo, also a Latter-day Saint and father of ten. He’s a pianist, composer and actor, whose work is well-known on “beautiful music” radio stations. According to Wikipedia, de Azevedo’s music is popular on the Sirius station Escape, and at least one of his sanitized versions of popular songs is played every hour. As someone who loathes “Muzak/beautiful music”, I am a bit dismayed to read about this.
A lot of people who saw the original play criticized its story, and the doctrine upon which it was based. However, it proved to be very popular, and it was later produced at BYU. Evidently, the 1989 film was shown a lot in Mormon heavy areas, and a lot of 90s era LDS kids were raised on it. As I mentioned before, the production reminds me a little of Saved By The Bell, which was a popular Saturday morning television show back in the late 80s and early 90s. I’m sure the resemblance is coincidental, though.
The story begins with cheesy music and an obvious stage set, depicting a group of young, attractive, white people, mostly adolescents or children, in what looks like some kind of heavenly location. Pretty blonde Julie Flinders is fretting to her eternal love, Tod, that he’ll forget about her. She’ll be too “ugly” for him. Tod promises that he’ll find Julie, no matter what.
After a few minutes, it becomes clear that these attractive young people are waiting to be born. Mormons believe in a pre-mortal existence, and that children choose their parents. There’s an “angel”– a motherly looking woman with a clipboard– who keeps herding the kids to their destinies. A group of eight children of varying ages, destined to be siblings in the large Flinders family, talk about Earth and what they will do “down there”. The angel prods the young people to keep the schedule, lest they end up in Siberia or Madagascar instead of Utah. I mentioned this on RfM, and one poster pointed me to some of the more racist beliefs promoted this idea in the church back in the 1950s and 60s. Given that this was written in the 70s, I can see how those attitudes might have snuck into the script. They seem a little tone deaf in 2022.
Believe it or not, this was a significant influence on mormon culture and reinforced mormon beliefs. It also allowed abusive parents to absolve themselves and turn the blame back on their children because “you chose us as parents in the premortal existence, you knew what you were getting into.”
As for “disparaging other places, like Siberia and Madagascar,” standard official mormon doctrine. I give you the incomparable Mark E. Petersen, from “Race Problems – As They Affect the Church,” 8/27/1954:
“[C]an we account in any other way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden China or among the starving hordes of India, while some of the rest of us are born here in the United States? We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence, some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Indians, some as Negroes, some as Americans, some as Latter-day Saints.”
And let’s not forget Alvin Dyer’s “For What Purpose,” delivered in 1961:
“Why is it that you are white and not colored? Have you ever asked yourselves that question? Who had anything to do with your being born into the Church and not born a Chinese or a Hindu or a Negro? Is God such an unjust person that He would make you white and free and make a Negro cursed under the cursing of Cain that he could not hold the Priesthood of God? Who do you think decided and what is the reason behind it?”
The youngest of the kids, a little girl named Emily, begs the second eldest, a boy named Jimmy, to make sure he keeps his promise to her to see to it that she’s not “forgotten”, as the youngest of eight. Jimmy, played by Erik Hickenlooper, bears a passing resemblance to Donny Osmond. His “twin”, Pam (played by Marianne Thompson), looks a lot like Marie. Jimmy even sounds a bit like Donny as he acts conceited, just like Donny used to on the old Donny & Marie shows. And Pam worries that she’ll be a “sweet spirit” (not such a pretty girl), but all she wants to do is dance. Pam is born wheelchair bound and sickly.
As the kids are born, after a dance routine, Jimmy turns out to be rebellious. He’s been hanging out with worldly “atheists”, who see children as a burden and cheer for birth control and abortion. They sing a scandalous number about how “zero population” is the answer. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s parents keep having more kids, which really pisses off Jimmy. His family worries about him. He’s forgotten about his promise to Emily, to make sure that she’s not forgotten and is born.
A subplot involves Julie Flinders, who is engaged to a missionary named Wally (Bart Hickenlooper), who also looks like an Osmond and is just as conceited. Wally is shown at the airport with Julie, who is distraught that he’s leaving for his mission and making an embarrassing scene. It’s at this point that I see parallels to the Book of Mormon Musical, which I saw on stage in San Antonio, Texas. I’ll bet this movie was one of the influences for that show. I totally see “Elder Cunningham” in Wally’s mission companion, and “Elder Price” in Wally. Of course, they aren’t as funny as the Book of Mormon Musical characters are.
Saturday’s Warrior is all about how rebellious Jimmy eventually sees the light and realizes how important it is to bring souls from the pre-mortal existence down to Earth. Meanwhile, Wally and his companion manage to fix things so that Julie eventually meets her eternal mate, Tod, who had promised that he would find her on Earth, no matter what. And then, perhaps the most criticized aspect of this film happens, when Pam, who is sickly and can’t walk, dies and somehow ends up back in the pre-existence (which apparently isn’t doctrinal). She sees Emily, and reassures her that she will be born. As the movie ends, Emily is being born, and Jimmy is happy about it.
Things Ididn’t mind…
Saturday’s Warrior has sort of a “feel good” theme to it. If you like “happy” endings, and you’re LDS and think that conversions and births into the covenant are “happy endings”, this movie will probably make you warm and fuzzy. Of course, as someone who is not LDS, the plot made me cringe a bit. The overall message seems to be that the purpose of life is to become LDS, find your special someone, get married, and have lots of babies that are waiting in the spirit world, hoping to come down to Earth. Also, it seems to help if you’re white (and delightsome). The story is only about the importance of family and converting people to the religion, then bringing more souls to the religion. I think think there’s more to living than religious beliefs and pumping out kids who are waiting to be born. Especially given the state of our climate these days. I can see why believers would like the message, though.
I do genuinely believe that the cast is legitimately talented. One of the cast members went on to be in the country group, SHeDAISY. Erik Hickenlooper co-wrote the song, “Buy Me A Rose”, which was a huge hit for Kenny Rogers (with help from Billy Dean and Alison Krauss) in 1999. I know the song, and now that I read the lyrics, it doesn’t surprise me that it was composed by a Mormon. But as a fan of Kenny’s and Alison’s, I admit to liking “Buy Me A Rose”. If you look up Erik Hickenlooper, you’ll see that he’s now a real estate agent, but he’s quite proud of his hit song. He sings a LOT like Donny Osmond.
There are some beautiful dancers in this film, reminding me that the LDS church puts a high premium on the performing arts. Everyone mostly sings well, too, which is a blessing. Some of the singing is a bit trilly and seems not to fit with the pop music style used in most of the film. I would expect to hear it in a more classical composition. But nobody really hits any “clunkers”. The lyrics are very LDS, though. I hear the phrase, “on their merry way”, which I’ve noticed is used a lot by Mormons. I’ve heard the Osmonds use it more than a few times.
The little girl who plays Emily reminds me of a girl I knew in high school. She could be her daughter.
What I didn’t like as much…
I have a pretty high tolerance for cheese, but Saturday’s Warrior is really cheesy. Some of the dance numbers are downright hysterical. Like, for instance, when Julie sings to Wally in the airport, she and a couple of other LDS dancers do a true song and dance, complete with high kicks and high soprano screeching.
Then, there are nonsense songs like “Daddy’s Nose”, which is a cornball number about how all the kids got daddy’s big schnozz. Pam, sitting in her wheelchair, looking very lovely and Marie Osmond like, sings about how her nose ruined her chances of going far with her face. She compares it to Jimmy Durante, complete with his “hach cha cha cha”. Egad. When Pam dies, there’s not a lot of grief. That’s when Jimmy comes back to the fold.
There’s a lot of trite stuff. Some of it is just really silly… very much like some of the less cleverly written sit-coms back in the 70s and 80s. If you don’t know anything about LDS beliefs, you might be very confused by the story. It’s also very whitewashed– I think I saw one token Black guy in the cast. I’m reminded very much of how old I am. The fashions and hairstyles are a real time warp. And again, the storyline, which to me, is kind of ridiculous and insulting, especially to those who can’t have babies. But then, I am not LDS.
Here are many screenshots from the film, but to really get what I mean, you may want to watch it yourself. Or maybe not…
I feel like I’ve really stumbled across an element of LDS culture now. I don’t believe in Mormonism, of course, and having done some reading about this show and the story behind it, I think the story is genuinely ridiculous. But I can see why it appealed to some people and, again, I am truly impressed by the talented cast. There are some legitimately gifted people in this production– good actors, singers, and dancers who are also physically attractive. Given what they had to work with, I think they did okay. But the material is very corny and… “Osmond-esque”.
I have read that this show was redone in 2016, with a couple of new musical numbers added. There were also a couple of sequels done at BYU. It might be interesting to see the remake, but I probably won’t. Maybe if the opportunity arises somehow. I doubt I’ll go looking for it.
Anyway… I’ve prattled on long enough. Got some things to do, like the dreaded vacuuming chore and guitar practice. Maybe I’ll stumble on another “Hard to Find Mormon” video, which is the channel on YouTube where I tend to find these cultural “gems” from the Mormon world. See you tomorrow.
Here’s another reposted book review. This one was written for Epinions on October 8, 2012. It appears here as/is, although Kenny died on March 20, 2020. I miss him. His music was a big part of my childhood. So was his acting.
The other day, I ran across a news article about country singer, actor, and photographer, Kenny Rogers. The article was about his brand new book, Luck or Something Like It: A Memoir (2012), and his publisher’s demand that he remove a chapter about his experiences with plastic surgery. Having grown up in the 1970s and 80s, and having a mother who loves his music, I was already pretty familiar with Kenny Rogers as a singer. I had heard a little about his photography and business ventures with Kenny Roger’s Roasters, a chain restaurant he lent his name to, and I had seen him act in Six Pack and a couple of television movies. And I had noticed the dramatic change in his appearance after he got his eyes done… I knew I wanted to read his story, even if there wouldn’t be anything about who botched his surgery!
Kenny Rogers… a man of humble origins
At the beginning of Luck or Something Like It, Kenny Rogers writes about his humble origins in Houston, Texas. He’s one of many children, born in the middle of a big brood. His father, who died in 1975, was an alcoholic who spent all his extra money on booze. His mother was a practical woman who worked hard. When Kenny was young, they lived in the San Felipe projects in Houston, but were later able to move to a better part of the city when the family’s finances improved.
Kenny Rogers attended Jefferson Davis High School in Houston and eventually got into music as a means of getting girls. He was also athletic and went out for sports teams, but it turned out he was better at making music than playing sports. Oddly enough, Rogers didn’t seem to come from a particularly musical family, though he does write that his older sister, Geraldine, taught him how to sing harmony when they were in church. Rogers writes that he was immediately hooked on harmony and it became a defining feature of his sound. He loved being part of a band because of that sound.
Speaking of bands…
Kenny Rogers has been in quite a few of them. Perhaps his best known band was The First Edition, which was the band he was in when he became famous. Rogers explains how he moved to Los Angeles and rubbed elbows with some very talented folks. He learned how to play folk, jazz, and even a little psychedelic styled music. He learned how to alter his image so he could fit in. And he even writes briefly of auditioning Karen Carpenter for The First Edition when their lead singer decided touring wasn’t for her.
He also writes about his famous duet partners, particularly Dolly Parton and Dottie West. He very graciously explains why he owes Dolly Parton a great debt, since their famous duet “Islands In The Stream”, helped keep his career going after he signed a deal with RCA that seemed destined to ruin him.
Speaking of songs
I really enjoyed reading about Kenny Rogers’ hits. He takes the time to explain the stories behind some of his biggest songs, like “Lucille”, “Reuben James”, and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.”
Married five times…
Kenny Rogers claims that he loves being married. In fact, he loves it so much that he’s walked down the aisle five times. Granted, his first wife was the result of a shotgun wedding. Rogers seems to have gotten the hang of marriage, though, having now been married to his fifth wife, Wanda, for twenty years. Besides being a prolific husband, Rogers has also fathered four sons and a daughter. He writes a bit about his kids. I was heartened to read about how he managed to heal his relationship with his eldest son, a product of his third marriage and the victim of parental alienation.
Kenny Rogers is well-known as a singer and an actor, but did you know he’s also a photographer? Rogers writes about how he became interested in taking pictures and some of the projects he’s undertaken with his camera.
I really enjoyed reading about Kenny Rogers’ life. He comes across as a nice person, suprisingly down to earth and candid about his successes and failures, and gracious to all who helped him get to where he is today. I didn’t even miss the missing chapter about his plastic surgery.
Kenny Rogers has been around for 74 years and had some amazing experiences. I never got the sense he was bragging about his good fortune or whining about his misfortunes. He just comes off as someone who came from humble origins and had a rare combination of drive, talent, and luck that propelled him to success. His story is the kind that has the potential to give people hope.
He includes photos in both color and black and white. Just as an aside… In case anyone is wondering, no, Kenny doesn’t include the roasted chicken recipe made famous in his restaurants.
I would definitely recommend Luck or Something Like It to Kenny Rogers fans or even people who just enjoy a good life story. I read this book on my iPad and am pleased to report that I had no issues with that method. Even the pictures looked great. Five stars.
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