book reviews, business

Repost: Mary Kay Ash’s story…

Here’s a repost of a review I wrote for Epinions.com in 2007, when I was living on a military installation. I also reposted it on the original OH blog in 2015. It appears here as/is.

Comments from 2015

I am inspired to repost this book review because someone on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site compared the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to being a “Red Jacket” for Mary Kay cosmetics…  If the thought of that intrigues you, I encourage clicking the link and having a look at the thread.  It’s very interesting. 

Incidentally, Bill’s TBM ex wife used to sell Mary Kay.  She bought a shitload of products and started off like gangbusters, but then lost interest at a time when they were seriously low on cash.  They ended up taking a loss, which probably contributed heavily to the sorry financial state Bill was in when we first met.  Not surprisingly, Mary Kay cosmetics, while often decent products, is sort of a cult-like organization.  I have often found multi-level marketing schemes interesting.  Perhaps I will repost a few more book reviews on the subject. 

I wasn’t all that fond of Mary Kay’s writing, but figured I might as well repost the review anyway…

Original review from 2007

Mary Kay cosmetics are everywhere when you live on a military installation. As I drive around Fort Belvoir, I frequently see cars with bumper stickers advertising Mary Kay. Sometimes, I see a home with a sign that indicates that the resident sells the stuff. I’ve never used Mary Kay cosmetics myself, but I have heard about the company from former colleagues and my husband, whose ex wife used to sell Mary Kay. I had heard interesting things about the way the company is run and, I have to admit, I’m fascinated by businesses that use the multi-level marketing model. I also like biographies. All of those factors, plus the fact that Mary Kay Ash’s autobiography, Mary Kay, was priced at a dollar at the thrift shop, led me to read about the lady who started Mary Kay cosmetics and put countless women to work for themselves.

On my copy of Mary Kay, there’s a picture of Mary Kay on the cover. She looks disturbingly like Dolly Parton with perfectly coiffed, big hair, a flawlessly painted face, a beaded gown and rhinestone earrings, and a serene countenance. This book was originally published in 1981, but I have a copy from the third printing in 1994. The picture must be from that time. Mary Kay Ash is no spring chicken, but she looks very pretty and confident in the picture. That makes perfect sense, given the book’s subject matter. Mary Kay Ash has made a big name for herself by promoting a good self-image, high self-esteem, an enthusiastic attitude, and dogged persistence. That’s why the picture on the cover should matter to those who will read this book. In this case, you can judge this book, at least in part, by its cover. 

I suspect that Ash’s audience mostly consists of Mary Kay consultants. Ash’s writing pretty much boils over with bubbly enthusiasm for her company and the products it offers. She starts at the beginning, explaining how she went from being a housewife to an extremely successful businessperson. She explains some of her business practices and how some of her more popular products were developed. All the while, she keeps her message overwhelmingly positive and inspirational. Her message to her readers seems to be that they can accomplish anything. Judging by Mary Kay’s success, lots of beauty consultants have gotten that message loud and clear.

To be totally honest, though, I found this book a bit irritating. Maybe it’s because I’m a pessimist. I just found the high energy, overly effervescent, extremely positive tone in this book hard to take after awhile. I appreciate the fact that Mary Kay Ash made her dream a reality and I agree that a good attitude can carry a person far in life. However, while I think dreams are a wonderful thing, I also think they should be grounded in reality. The truth is, not everyone can cut it in sales. Not everyone has the appropriate personality to deal with people and deliver good customer service all the time. Despite Mary Kay’s overwhelmingly positive message, not everyone who tries to sell her products will be a great success… in fact, not everyone has it in them to be a great success in life. If everyone in life were a great success, people like Mary Kay Ash would be just average folks. 

I don’t know how available this book is nowadays. I would guess that the most likely place to find it is from a Mary Kay consultant or a used book outlet. Mary Kay Ash’s story is inspirational and reasonably well written, but the tone was a bit too chirpy for my taste. I recommend it to people who like very positive stories… otherwise, skip it. 

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disasters, divorce, Ex, LDS, narcissists, religion

“Time and all eternity…” (snicker)

A few years ago, I wrote a post on the Blogspot incarnation of The Overeducated Housewife entitled “The Ex is Much Like Wile E. Coyote”. I was inspired to write that post as I realized that a lot of Ex’s big plans eventually fall apart, much like they always did for Wile E. Coyote on the Road Runner cartoons. She has a way of coming up with really big ideas, but somehow, they almost always eventually lead to failure, if not outright disaster. Unfortunately, Ex is great at convincing people, so a lot of innocent folks have been harmed by her big ideas.

I should just call Ex Wile E. Coyote. She has much in common with him.

When I wrote that post, back in the fall of 2018, I was under a lot of stress. Most of it had nothing to do with Ex. However, because Ex has caused me and a lot of my loved ones considerable pain over the years, I couldn’t help but engage in a bit of snark. That post attracted a comment from a person calling themselves “Wondering Why”, who took exception to my habit of “trashing” Bill’s ex wife. This was the comment left for me by “Wondering Why”:

I have to wonder why you see the need to publicly trash your husband’s ex, repeatedly, on your personal blog. Why do you air such personal business? There is so much negativity coming from you in many posts, and SO much TMI info. So much of it is simply inappropriate. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you need to write it and then publish it. Write it to get out your angst, but seriously, let it go already. You come off as snotty, petty and bitter.

I think I know who this person was. As I have mentioned before, I carefully watch who visits my blog. I could see that this person had visited several times and had even engaged me in chat once or twice. She has since moved to Germany and is a member of a group I run. She once told me that she’s a “first wife”, and I think she assumes Bill’s ex wife is a normal and “nice” person, and that I’m just a mean, bitter, second wife who is picking on her. I can see why she thinks that, based on only reading a few posts.

However, my negative opinions about Ex didn’t form in a vacuum. They are quite well justified, and venting about them helps me maintain my peace in an insane situation. The truth is, Ex does a lot of destructive things that complicate life for many innocents. Her crazymaking has a tendency to make people myopic– they can’t see the big picture and get stuck in her lunacy. It’s painful and distressing to watch if you’re a decent person, which Bill and I are.

Believe me, nothing would have made me happier than if Bill’s ex and I could get along and cooperate for the sake of family. She’s made that impossible, and now that younger daughter is older and talking to Bill, we’ve learned that this is how she treats most people who get close to her. She somehow convinces the most vulnerable people in her life that they can’t live without her, even as she fucks up their lives.

I have noticed that “Wondering Why” now acts like she didn’t leave that comment, and I have never confronted her about it. She’s friendly to me in the group I run. However, I did respond to her comment on the blog itself, as did a number of regular readers who know the backstory about Bill and his ex wife. In fact, that comment spawned several posts, because I was irritated by the hypocrisy and tone of it. This is a personal blog. It’s not always going to be light and breezy reading. If that’s what you want, get a subscription to Reader’s Digest.

Anyway… this post is not so much about a random commenter’s uninformed opinions about my character and posting habits regarding Ex, as it is about Ex’s harebrained schemes that always seem to backfire. Ex does a lot of really impulsive and ultimately stupid things, a lot of which have lasting and very negative consequences. It would be easy to ignore her dumb decisions if they only affected her, but alas… they affect a whole lot of people, as I recently mentioned in my post, Ripple eff-Ex Volume 2. Case, in point, Ex’s foolish decision to convert to Mormonism.

Back in 1997, Bill and his ex wife were living in Arkansas. Bill had temporarily left active duty and, despite having an international relations degree from American University, he was working swing and third shifts in a factory. They were broke, and Bill was constantly working to try to keep things running. Meanwhile, Ex was doing everything she could to ruin their finances and fuck everything up.

During that time, Ex, who also had a friend who was LDS, noticed a “beautiful” family at a restaurant. Or, at least this is the story I’ve heard… I’m not sure if this really happened, or it’s just a fable that sounds good. Ex supposedly noticed how well-behaved, happy, and peaceful the family appeared to be. They said grace before eating, and looked like they all got along so well. She allegedly complimented them on how nice they looked and they told her they were Mormons. I’m not sure if I believe this is exactly how it happened, but like I said, it sounds good. The upshot is, Ex unilaterally decided that she wanted the family to convert to Mormonism.

Bill was desperate to save his marriage, and he knew that Ex was going to do what she wanted regardless. He agreed to join the church. So Ex contacted the LDS church, who sent missionaries. I’m sure they were only too delighted to have a golden contact family– that is, a family who came to them willingly for church membership, rather than having to be convinced to join. Even though Bill loves coffee and booze, he willingly gave them up to make Ex happy. He jumped through all the hoops and got “endowed”, meaning he became “temple worthy” and was deemed good enough to wear the special undergarments that supposedly grant super spiritual powers. Ex also became temple worthy, and the two of them went through a special religious ordinance called “sealing”.

I have written about LDS sealing before, especially in my old blog. It’s a very big deal to LDS church members. The ordinance takes place in a temple, which only the most devout church members can enter. They even have cards with bar codes on them that indicate whether or not a person is “temple worthy”. The members have to answer questions before the cards are granted, and they have to keep them up-to-date.

So, Bill and Ex were sealed “for time and all eternity”. Aw… isn’t that romantic? I’m sure when they got sealed, they were happy to know that their family would be preserved forever, even in the afterlife. During the ceremony, Bill and Ex also got special new Mormon names. Ex doesn’t know Bill’s name, because she’s not cleared to know it. But Bill knows Ex’s name… which is actually the same name all of the women who got sealed on that day at that temple were given. Same as the men. Every day, a new name from a special list is chosen, and everyone who goes through the temple on that day gets the male or female “name of the day”. Because Bill and Ex had two daughters together, as well as Ex’s son from her first marriage, who, at the time, was using Bill’s surname and being raised as if he was Bill’s son, the children were also sealed to Bill– “for time and all eternity”.

Sealing, according to the Mormon tradition, technically means that after we’re all dead, Bill and Ex will still be married. This is where/things get a bit complicated. Mormons take sealing very seriously; however, the rules seem to vary or change depending on who a person is and who they know. I have heard a number of different things about what happens when a couple divorces and/or one person resigns their church membership. It mostly seems to depend on who’s involved with the temple divorce and who’s in charge of the church.

There was a woman who used to post frequently on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. She had an abusive ex husband whom she married when she was very young. She was “sealed” to him, because that’s what good and faithful Mormons do. But their marriage fell apart because he repeatedly assaulted her. She tried to get a temple divorce from her ex husband. This is a separate thing from a legal divorce– it’s something the LDS church does for women.

A temple worthy Mormon man is allowed to be “sealed” to more than one woman. All he has to do is get a sealing clearance indicating that he and the next wife are both worthy. But for women, it can be a hell of a lot more complicated, because women can only be “sealed” to one man, and getting unsealed, while technically possible, can be extremely difficult if one doesn’t have the right connections. Well, the lady on RfM has repeatedly written that even though she’s tried for over 20 years to get the “temple divorce”, the church would never do it. You can read more about this here. She also wrote that her hairdresser, who is “well connected”, got her “cancellation of sealing” in just a few weeks.

Take Marie Osmond, for instance. In 1982, she married and was “sealed” to Stephen Craig, who was a basketball player at Brigham Young University. They have a son together, but split up after only a few years of marriage. Marie later married Brian Blosil and, I can greatly assume, was granted a “temple divorce” so that they could be sealed in the temple. Marie went on to have two more bio children with Brian, and adopted five others. All of those children would have, presumably, been sealed to Brian Blosil. Marie later divorced Brian and remarried Stephen Craig. I’m sure that she and Stephen were resealed, simply because of who she is. For rank and file people, though, this is not such an easy thing to accomplish.

Bill officially resigned from the LDS church in 2006. When he resigned, he got a letter from the church letting him know that his name was removed from the church’s rolls and all blessings and so forth had been revoked. They also sent a cute little pamphlet inviting him to come back to church and get over being “offended”.

One would think that resigning from the church really would mean that he and Ex were automatically temple divorced, right? Not so fast. Again, it seems to depend on who you are and who you know– and probably how much money you give to the church.

Bill does not have any issue with his ex wife being sealed to someone else. In fact, he’d welcome it. When he resigned from the church, Bill even put in his letter that he supported allowing Ex to be sealed to her current husband, #3, who joined the church at Ex’s behest. But we also know that even if a former spouse has resigned from the church, church officials will send a letter to the former spouse if the actively LDS ex spouse wishes to be sealed to someone else. The letter invites the ex spouse to provide any reasons why his or her LDS active ex spouse should not be allowed to get re-sealed. Of course, any opinions given and the details provided aren’t an instant veto. Church officials make the final decision, although they might take into consideration any info they get from the Exes who respond to their queries. It’s just one more way they can get dirt on their members.

Some years back, when Bill and Ex were still squabbling over her decision to cut the children off from Bill (which really shouldn’t have surprised him in the least), Ex mentioned that she was going to try to get their sealing cancelled, so she and #3 could be sealed for “time and all eternity”. I remember early in our marriage, that always bothered me a little bit… because while I’ve always believed sealings are a bunch of hooey, I didn’t like the idea of Ex thinking she still had a hold on Bill. Now, of course, I don’t give a flying fuck what she thinks. I know for a fact that Bill won’t be uttering Ex’s secret name in the Terrestrial or Telestial Kingdoms (cuz I know neither of them are Celestial Kingdom material). But… I also know that Ex never managed to get that temple divorce. I always figured that she never tried very hard, probably because being sealed to Bill is a good thing to throw in #3’s face when she thinks he needs to be brought down a peg. You can’t tell me that Ex never compares #3 to Bill… because that’s what she does to everyone. She is a pro triangulator, and will happily stoop to whatever low depths she can sink to in order to keep people in her sphere compliant with her goals and wishes.

Well… recently, it came to light that Ex had, in fact, tried to get that temple divorce. Younger daughter explained that she and #3 had tried and failed to get permission to be sealed, and they appealed all the way to the First Presidency of the church. That’s about as high as it gets, folks. But the church refused to give her the sealing cancellation for a couple of reasons. First– either one or both of them were not “temple worthy”, meaning they weren’t following all of the rules and paying the necessary tithes to get into the temple. Second– Bill could always decide to rejoin the church, at which point, all of his “blessings” would be reinstated. And younger daughter added that Ex was told that even if the church did allow Ex and #3 to be sealed, Bill’s children and ex stepson would NOT be sealed to #3. Only their two children together would be sealed to #3. Evidently, because of that, Ex stopped trying to get the temple divorce. Obviously, being sealed to #3 was less important than having another thorn to stick in Bill’s side over their divorce. And if she couldn’t steal Bill’s daughters in the afterlife, what good was jumping through all the hoops? I doubt she cares much about #3, anyway.

The best part of this story? It turns out that younger daughter did not want to be #3’s daughter for time and all eternity. Once the temple divorce idea was finally put to bed, she said, “So that means I’m going to stay sealed to my dad? Good!” Of course, she was not speaking to Bill at that time. But it does his heart good to know that younger daughter never forgot him, as Ex had claimed she had.

So… like I said, Ex is much like Wile E. Coyote. She comes up with brilliant plans that she doesn’t think through completely, and they very often end up turning to shit. The decision to joint the LDS church, which I’m sure was a way of getting Bill to be more like her fantasy ideal of a good husband and maintain control over the children, has blown up in her face many times. In fact, the LDS church even served as a way for younger daughter to escape her mother’s clutches. Church members, noting the way Ex is, helped younger daughter out immeasurably when she needed to get away from her mom. And they have tried to help older daughter, too. Unfortunately, older daughter remains stuck… at least for the time being.

I always have a lot of empathy for people who post on RfM about the whole “temple divorce/sealing” issue. I know that subject causes pain, particularly if one is a believer in the church’s teachings. But even if one is not a believer, it’s kind of hurtful to think of your spouse being “sealed” to someone else, even if it’s a bunch of religious mind fuckery. On my original blog, I posted about this subject when, back in 2012, someone on RfM posted about how he was sealed to his first wife and his second wife was upset about it. Here’s what he wrote:

I am in a really difficult situation and would really love to hear from others on my problem. I was raised in the mormon church. I went every Sunday. As a kid, I held all of the leadership roles one could hold. I didn’t go on a mission because my “testimony” just wasn’t there. I rarely expressed my thoughts about the church because it felt so fake. I got married instead at the young age of 19. We had a civil marriage and got “sealed” in the SL temple exactly one year later, in June. Our first child was conceived that same month and born 9 months later. We had another one 18 months after that. Life seemed to just roll along. I just did what I was told. Finally, after 22 years of marriage, I found a reason to take a job in another city and so I could commute (and get out of the situation as much as I could). Little did I know that the end of my marriage came after only a year or so of commuting (BTW, we got pregnant again, unplanned, and #3 child was born just before I started the new job). After one year of commuting, I met someone and fell in love. She was non-mormon and didn’t really know much about the religion. We moved in together and I told my wife I wanted a divorce. She was very angry at first but then we finally ended the marriage.

Now for the problem:

My second wife and I have been married now for almost 8 years. We live in a different city than my kids (750 mi away) but we get to see them fairly often. My 10 yo girl spends time with us and loves her step mom. My ex (still single but has a BF) and I get along, no real problems at all. My older girls, now married and have small babies of their own, are warming up to us again. The problem is that my wife wants me to divorce my ex in the mormon church. She is adamant about it and says that our marriage will not be complete until I do this. We don’t practice the religion. Heck, I met with a SP 9 yrs ago when we were living together (and before my divorce was final) and told him everything. I don’t even know if I’m a member of the church anymore, and I really don’t care. I have two main concerns: 1. Opening this “can of worms” will cause a huge issue between my ex-wife and I where we have things working just fine right now. I don’t want to create problems that will be costly down the road due to our 10 yo. 2. My kids are STRONG believers of mormonism. If I do this, they will surely find out, and everything we have worked for will be ruined as far as my relationship with the older kids is concerned. If I lost my relationship with my older kids (and their kids), I would hold my wife accountable and would never be able to forgive her. I’m in a tough spot. Would love to hear from anyone who has been in this or a similar situation, or you just have thoughts about it. Also, I have no feelings for my ex wife. My wife sometimes thinks that I still have feelings for her. I don’t. We are friends to the extent that she is the mother of my children, and I want to just keep it that way. We only communicate when it comes to the 10yo. Thx.

My heart went out to this man and his second wife, so I left this response for them (remember this was circa 2012– things have changed since then):

I empathize with your current wife. My husband and his ex were sealed after they converted. Unlike you and your ex, my husband and his ex do not get along. His kids are very estranged and TBM and he hasn’t talked to them in 7 years. She has remarried, but as far as I know, the sealing she has with my husband is still intact (i.e.; we haven’t gotten anything from the church about a sealing cancellation, though my husband did resign a few years ago). For the first few years of our marriage, it did kind of bother me, because I figured the ex was still thinking she had a claim to him… She had told my husband that she had never wanted the divorce and didn’t want to be married to her third husband. I didn’t think he’d ever go back to her, but that sealing thing was just stuck in my craw.

But oddly enough, as the years went by and the ex did some truly mean and hateful things to destroy my husband’s relations with his kids, I started to care a lot less about it. The LDS church is a bunch of horseshit anyway. Besides, my husband has made it very plain to me that he doesn’t have any loving feelings for his ex-wife. That was visibly clear one morning when I accidentally happened to mention her name in the bedroom when we were about to have sex. He immediately lost his hard on. After that, I knew she was absolutely no threat and their “temple marriage/sealing” meant absolutely NOTHING to him. And that’s really all that matters to me. As long as he doesn’t have any thoughts of reconnecting with her, I’m cool. Of course, in the years since that bedroom incident, it’s been made even clearer to me that he would never get back with her. He hasn’t spoken to her in over five years.

Maybe your wife needs to spend some time among us here in exMormonland… It really is a meaningless thing if you don’t believe in the mumbo jumbo. It sounds to me like your wife just needs to know in no uncertain terms that the fact that you have kids with your ex wife doesn’t mean that you still have romantic feelings for her. I think it’s great that you two can be civil though. Believe me, I wish that was how it could have been with my husband and his ex. Total estrangement from his daughters has been very difficult for him.

He responded:

Thx specifically for your reply. I’m sorry to hear about the relationship your husband has with his kids. That is very sad to me, and I hope things turn out for the both of you the way you want them to. I really appreciate your insight to this whole mess. It has helped a lot.

And my reply:

You’re welcome.

I’m sorry my husband has a bad relationship with his kids, too. But that has a lot less to do with Mormonism than it does with the fact that his ex wife is just unreasonable and crazy. She did the same thing to her first husband and the son they had together and will likely do it again when she and her third husband split. And I’m pretty certain they will split eventually, though she may prove me wrong.

I hope my husband’s daughters someday figure out what they’ve thrown away and come to their senses. But even if they don’t, I hope they find peace. My husband and I are very happy and though it’s been hard for him not to have contact with his daughters, he knows that they’re young women who have to find their own way.

I wish you luck with your situation. It sounds like you’re fortunate enough to have a reasonable ex wife and a good relationship with your kids. That’s a blessing. Your wife probably just needs to be educated about Mormonism. Once I learned about it, it really helped me get over the sealing lunacy.

Wile E. Coyote, I tell you… Ex has a special gift for fucking things up… especially for herself! And friends, this is just the tip of the iceberg, which is why I continue to occasionally “trash” my husband’s ex wife on my blog. She is certifiably nuts, and she has hurt a whole lot of people… and continues to do so. Happily, she can no longer hurt Bill or me. And now that younger daughter is older and has gotten out of the toxic fog, she’s well on her way to being “vaccinated” against Ex’s fuckery, too. It’s bad enough when your mom is nuts… but adding ridiculous religious bullshit to life, which is already complicated and tough enough, really makes things harder than they need to be. That’s very unfortunate, as #3 once said to Bill when he said he wouldn’t be spending Christmas with him and his ex wife in my father-in-law’s home but, instead, would be coming home to his wife. I may not be “sealed” to Bill, but I love him dearly and I’ve never abused him. Living with that “for time” has got to be better than being shackled to an abuser “for time and all eternity”.

I guess when we’re all dead, Ex might be wandering around listening for Bill to call out for “Leah”… and she might be waiting a long time for a man to pull her through the veil. ūüėČ Of course, since Bill turned his back on the “one true church”, maybe we’ll be in Outer Darkness. I suspect that will be a more interesting place than Mormon Heaven is, anyway…

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book reviews, LDS

Repost: Buttprints: The Thing that Wouldn’t Leave… (a review of You Can Smile Now You’re Rid of This A**hole)

Here’s another reposted book review. I read and reviewed this book on Epinions.com December 12, 2012. The author, who uses a pseudonym, has become a good Facebook friend of mine. We “met” on RfM some years ago. She’s really witty and funny, although her story is scary and cautionary. I am reposting it as/is.

I guess I should consider myself very lucky.  I met my beloved husband of ten years, Bill, on the Internet.  We did not meet on a dating site, though.  In fact, we started out as casual friends, having first “met” in a chat room based on a mutual interest.  Over the course of about three years, our casual internet friendship bloomed into love.  I have no regrets over having met my spouse online; though I do know that others haven’t been as lucky as I was.

I just finished reading¬†You Can Smile Now You’re Rid of This A**hole: A Memoir of Abuse and Discovery¬†by Bobbi Botaz¬†(2012). ¬†The title of this book, which I downloaded for my Kindle, pretty much says it all. ¬†Like me, Bobbi Botaz got friendly with a man she met online. ¬†Like me, she met her online boyfriend in person and ended up living with him. ¬†Unlike me, she has many regrets for having met “Rick Doubledee” offline and allowing him into her life.

Botaz grew up Mormon, though she was definitely not one of the faith’s most devout followers.  She explains her upbringing as the book begins, perhaps shedding some light on why she has had such terrible luck with men.  It starts with unsatisfying high school dates, continues with a brief, loveless marriage that produces her son, Eric, and ends with Rick, the so-called “thing that wouldn’t leave”.  After a flowery and romantic online courtship, Rick moves from Pittsburgh to “Goldeneye”, a pseudonym for the Colorado town where Botaz was living in the late 1990s.  From the get go, it’s pretty clear that he’s not the man Botaz thought he was as he shows up in a beater of a car, stuffed to the gills with his worldly possessions.  Botaz and her son are both immediately repulsed by Rick’s slovenly appearance; yet incredibly, she lets him move in with her, where he lives and freeloads for the next two years.

I was astonished as I read about the things Botaz and her son put up with when Rick was living with them.  He was chronically unemployed and always had an excuse as to why he couldn’t support himself.  He claimed to be sick, yet had no issues eating Botaz out of house and home or smoking cigarettes.  Rick was a very “talented” con man.  Despite the fact that Botaz didn’t particularly enjoy her loser house guest’s company, she continued to let Rick live with her as she financially supported him, even when it became clear that he was dabbling in some risky behaviors that could have put Botaz and her son in grave danger.  As time went on, Botaz realized that not only had she put herself at tremendous risk, she had also put Eric at risk by letting Rick live there.   

As I read this account, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that something like this would never happen to me.  And yet, I have to wonder if maybe I could have been victimized as Botaz was.  Thankfully, she does eventually find the courage to give him the boot.  As he leaves her life, he says “You can smile now.  You’re rid of this a**hole”, gifting Botaz with the perfect title for her book about their miserable life together.  Unfortunately, his butt prints were still left in her sofa long after he’d gone.      

Full disclosure here.  I have interacted with the author of this book on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site and Facebook.  I think that gives me a bit more insight into her story than others might get just from reading You Can Smile Now.  Botaz has a wry sense of humor that comes through in her writing.  While I couldn’t help shaking my head in dismay as I read about how she allowed Rick to take over her life, I also felt relief that she and her son survived the ordeal.  Maybe Botaz wasn’t the most street smart Internet user in the world back in the late 1990s, but she did at least learn from her mistakes and is willing to share her experiences.  She also takes responsibility for her choices, which I think is very refreshing.  A lot of people would simply blame Rick for being an a**hole, but Botaz seems very cognizant of her part in this fiasco.  And again, she’s learned from her mistakes and seems determined to be smarter in the future. 

I think Bobbi Botaz has guts to put this story out there for the world, since I expect some readers will judge her.  But if her story serves as a warning for just one person– male or female– I think it will have been well worth the effort to read it.     

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever been tempted by an Internet romance and needs a cautionary tale.  I also recommend this book to people who like true stories about real people.

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

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book reviews, LDS

Repost: How blogging led me to discover excellent exMormon literature (reviewing I’m (No Longer) a Mormon)

Here’s another reposted book review, which I originally wrote for Epinions on June 27, 2013. I reposted it on the Blogspot version of this blog, and am now reposting it again, as/is. I used to keep up with “Regina” (a pseudonym), but she has dropped off my radar. I did enjoy her book very much.

If you regularly read my book reviews, you might have noticed that I love to read true stories. ¬†I have read and reviewed many books by people involved with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially those who have chosen to leave the faith. ¬†I have a blog, and a lot of my blog is about how Mormonism has affected my life. ¬†I am not LDS, but my husband was for awhile and his two daughters are Mormons. ¬†So I’ve studied the faith and read lots of books, and lots of Mormons and ex Mormons stumble across my blog.¬†

One day, I noticed I had some hits coming from another blogger’s site.  I clicked on the link, which took me to Regina Samuelson’s blog in support of her 2013 book, I’m (No Longer) a Mormon: A Confessional.  I was gratified to see that she had linked my blog, especially since until very recently, I didn’t tend to advertise it because it’s full of a lot of p!ss and vinegar.   

Anyway, after reading some of it, I was intrigued by Samuelson’s blog, so I decided to read her book on my Kindle.  I just finished I’m (No Longer) A Mormon and, I have to say, it was a most excellent read.  I learned a lot.  I enjoyed her writing style.  And I could even relate to her, since I get the sense that she’s about my age and living a somewhat similar lifestyle.  She’s a stay at home mom and I’m a stay at home wife and “mom” to beagles.  Scratch that.  I don’t have kids… but I know what it’s like to have left the career track.  Before she married, Samuelson was a teacher in Utah.  Before I married, I had big plans to be a public health social worker.

Incidentally, the name “Regina Samuelson” is a pseudonym.  I’m guessing Samuelson chooses not to use her real name because she doesn’t want to deal with the backlash of being honest.  I can relate to that, too… it’s a major reason why my blog was kept relatively on the downlow for so long.  I suspect Samuelson’s backlash would be a lot worse than mine would be; most people who know me in person probably already have an inkling of what I think about most things.  But who wants to invite unnecessary drama, right?

Samuelson explains that her parents converted to Mormonism in the 1970s.  She grew up doing the whole Mormon thing, which culminated in her attendance at Brigham Young University.  Despite being LDS, Samuelson was very free spirited and occasionally got into trouble with church officials for being outspoken and/or doing things that were considered wrong.  For instance, one anecdote Samuelson relates involves her decision to work in BYU’s art department as a model.  She was given a bikini to wear while art students sketched her.  Bear in mind that most Mormons are pretty uptight about nudity and the very fact that she was wearing a bikini for legitimate work at BYU might have already been a bit scandalous, though technically legal.  The work was easy, paid well, and was somewhat enjoyable.  One day, an art professor asked Samuelson if she minded posing nude for some BYU students outside of the university’s art department.  Samuelson explains that the money offered was substantially better and art students need nudes in their portfolios in order to have a prayer of finding legitimate employment.  Anyway, Samuelson did the nude modeling… and got into trouble.  Read the book if you want to find out what happened.  Suffice it to say, that if you don’t know anything about Mormonism, a lot of what Samuelson writes might be a bit of a mind blower.

Samuelson’s title, by the way, is based on a recent publicity campaign put on by the church.  If you hang out on YouTube, you might see the ads made by “normal” folks who proudly proclaim all the neat things they are doing with their lives and… hey, guess what?  They’re Mormons!  Samuelson’s title says, “I’m (no longer) a Mormon” and here’s why.  She has a lot of valid reasons and explains them all logically and intriguingly. 

I really enjoyed Samuelson’s very conversational style and slight irreverence.  I got the sense that we could be friends.  I also learned some interesting things about Mormonism that I didn’t know.  In one interesting passage, Samuelson explains how Johnny Appleseed was indirectly responsible for the creation of the LDS church.  She cites a popular book by author Michael Pollan and, in her own entertaining way, describes the chain of events that led to her statement that Johnny Appleseed had something to do with Mormonism.  It was a fascinating read.  When I mentioned it on an ExMormon group I belong to on Facebook, someone immediately recognized Michael Pollan’s work and suggested the book that Samuelson had referenced.  It’s now on my reading list.  I think any book that leads to more study is worth reading. 

I think another aspect of this book that I enjoyed is Samuelson’s many colorful, witty, and sometimes shocking stories about her experiences in the church.  I was particularly interested in her stories about BYU.  As I read this book, I realized that Samuelson is a very bright person who uses her mind and powers of logic.  By the time I was finished, I really respected her intellect and resolve.  I also respected her husband, who was born and raised by a very Mormon family.  If you know nothing about Mormonism and what happens when people leave it, you might not understand why I respect him so much now… but if you read Samuelson’s book, you’ll soon get the picture.  It can be dangerous to leave the church if you want to keep your friends and family.  It can also be risky to stand by a spouse who goes apostate. 

Overall

I liked I’m (No Longer) A Mormon, and not just because the author apparently has read and enjoyed my blog.  I would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who is interested in a woman’s personal account of leaving the Mormon church. 

Here’s a link to Regina’s blog, although it hasn’t been updated in ages.

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

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book reviews, LDS

Reposted review of Perfect: The Journey of a Gay Ex Mormon

And finally, one more repost for today… another Epinions review from March 2012, posted as/is.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) has been in the news a lot lately, partly because Mitt Romney, a prominent Mormon, is hoping to become the next President of the United States.  I have a keen interest in Mormonism, mainly because my husband, Bill, is a former member of the church.  I spend a lot of time on a Web site called Recovery from Mormonism (www.exmormon.org), which is a lively discussion forum populated by people interested in or affected by Mormonism. 

Many people on the Recovery from Mormonism site are former members of the church, but there are also participants there who still attend and some people, like me, who have never been LDS, but have somehow been affected by or interested in the church.  Having spent approximately nine years hanging out on that Web site, I have read many stories of people who were raised Mormon.  One issue that consistently comes up among ex-Mormons is homosexuality. 

Officially, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes a dim view of homosexuality.  In order to remain in good standing, church members who experience SSA– that is, same sex attraction– are required not to act on their homosexual feelings.  In many cases, members of the LDS church who are gay are encouraged to get “therapy” in an attempt to overcome their homosexual feelings.  Being gay and Mormon is a very big deal among the LDS faithful.  Mormons believe that marriage is only valid between a man and a woman and only married people can get to the Celestial Kingdom, which is the highest level of Heaven.  Every faithful member of the LDS church wants to go to the Celestial Kingdom when they die.

It was on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site that I first read about Joseph Dallin’s book, Perfect: The Journey of a Gay Mormon (2009).  Since I love true stories and have a special interest in Mormonism, I decided to read it myself.

Joseph Dallin’s story 

Born in 1975, Joseph Dallin grew up in Utah, the eldest of his Mormon parents’ six children.  He was a very faithful member of the LDS church and had always been obedient to the church’s tenets.  From the time he was a young boy, Joseph Dallin expected to go on a mission for the church, get married, have children, and live a happy, church-approved lifestyle. 

But then Dallin turned thirteen, a difficult age under the best of circumstances.  As Dallin entered puberty, he noticed that he was attracted to males.  Knowing his church’s rigid stance on homosexuality, Joseph Dallin realized that his feelings were inconsistent with the church’s teachings.  He immediately began to fight against those feelings that he had been taught were so inappropriate.

At age 18, Joseph Dallin went to college at Utah State University, where he met a lovely young woman named Emily.  Joseph and Emily bonded and became very close friends.  After their freshman year at Utah State, Joseph went off to Houston, Texas to serve a two year proseletyzing mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The whole time he was gone, Emily and Joseph wrote to each other.  Emily clearly had set her sights on marrying Joseph when he came home.  Then, the two of them would transfer to Brigham Young University and begin a happy life together.  But while the transfer to BYU happened, the marriage could not.  Joseph Dallin was gay and had too much integrity to marry a woman he could never love as a wife.

Joseph Dallin became embroiled in a battle between the man his church expected him to be and the man he actually was.  Dallin’s internal struggle almost led to his suicide as he tried to reconcile his forbidden attraction to men with the church’s strict teachings against homosexuality.

My thoughts  

I think Perfect is definitely worthwhile reading, particularly for those who have found themselves in Joseph Dallin’s situation.  His writing is very personal and thoughtful.  I think this book would be best received by people who already know something about Mormonism, although those who are very faithful to the church may be offended by it.  Dallin does not mince words as he describes his sexuality.  His writing becomes very vivid when he relates the struggle he had between his attraction to men and his desire to stay faithful to his beliefs.

Dallin writes that he began to have doubts about the church during his mission and includes some quoted material that may be offensive to some readers, particularly those who are LDS.  On the other hand, those who have thoroughly studied the church’s history will probably not be surprised or offended by Dallin’s revelations.   

Actually, as a non-member, the only thing that shocked me was that Dallin made his discoveries as a missionary.  Apparently, he was never taught about the church’s racist past and, in the course of learning more about his faith so that he could be a better missionary, Dallin discovered some disturbing quotes by Brigham Young in the Journal of Discourses, a volume with which Dallin had previously been unfamiliar.  He writes on page 111:

“… we were teaching the missionary lessons to a black woman who was preparing for baptism.  I couldn’t help but wonder what she would think of this statement:”

Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race?  If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot.  This will always be so.

Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10

It is a missionary’s job to convert new members.  However, in reading about Dallin’s startling revelations about his church’s history, it occurred to me that missionaries are selling something they may not know that much about.  And becoming a Mormon often requires major lifestyle changes and sacrifices that can actually tear apart families.

Dallin explains that the part of Mormon history concerning race was never discussed as he was growing up in the church or during his training.  He had discovered old doctrine that had been swept under the rug and whitewashed with more current doctrine by newer church prophets.  Suddenly, everything Dallin thought he knew about his faith was fragmented by new information.  He discovered he had been taught to rely on his feelings rather than logic or factual information.  Naturally, the new information led to Dallin’s feelings of betrayal and bitterness, which helped change his perspective of his church.       

Dallin’s story includes a lot of perspectives from others.  He uses sub-headings to relay his anecdotes and different fonts for letters sent and received during his mission.  I’m not sure the different fonts were entirely necessary.  I actually found them somewhat distracting, especially since he uses fonts that are somewhat unorthodox.  For example, letters from Emily are printed in a very flowing, feminine font.  Dallin’s letters are presented in a font that looks like handwriting rather than a more conventional type.

As a final note, I was impressed by the way Dallin’s parents handled his “coming out” to them.  While their reaction wasn’t completely without drama, ultimately, they treated their son with a lot of love and respect.  Their loving reaction serves as a fine example to other religious families dealing with a homosexual son or daughter.

Overall

I would recommend Perfect to anyone who likes true stories, especially if they are empathetic to homosexuals who are struggling with religion.  This may be good reading for parents who are struggling with a child’s homosexuality, particularly in relation to the Mormon faith.  I think this is an especially good book for gay Mormons in search of some reassurance that the struggle between faith and sexuality doesn’t have to lead to suicide or other drastic measures.  Perfect is ultimately a very positive book that may serve as a source of hope to others in similar situations.

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

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