book reviews, LDS, religion

Repost: A review of Jessica Bradshaw’s You’re Not Alone: Exit Journeys of Former Mormons…

Here’s a reposted book review from my original blog. It was written in June 2017, and appears here as/is. Some things have changed since I wrote this. Bill’s younger daughter came around, and now talks to him.

As many regular blog readers know, I frequently hang out on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard, although I have never myself been a Mormon.  I started hanging out on that site because my husband, Bill, used to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He and his ex wife were converts at the end of their disastrous marriage. 

Bill was once a fairly enthusiastic Mormon; when I met him, he still claimed to believe.  I think he had high hopes that the church would help him save his first marriage.  But over time, it became clear that the church would not save his family and, in fact, made his situation much worse than it might have been.  Unfortunately, Bill’s two daughters became devout members of the LDS church and he pretty much lost them when he divorced their mother and later decided to resign from the church. 

It is certainly no secret that I despise my husband’s ex wife for many reasons– many of which have nothing to do with the LDS church. The truth is, what happened to Bill would have happened whether or not they had been Mormon converts. My husband’s ex wife delivered the same despicable treatment to her first ex husband. She effectively influenced her eldest son to reject his father. She did the same to Bill’s daughters. She will likely engage the same method if and when she leaves her third husband, with whom she has another son and daughter. That is simply what she does because she’s an abusive person, who thinks her children are extensions of herself, and uses them as weapons.

However, although I don’t believe the church was the main cause of my husband’s split from his now adult daughters, it’s been my observation that the LDS church is an excellent parental alienation tool. The importance of the church and its ridiculous lifestyle tenets– its insistence on being privy to the most private aspects of a person’s life and focus on perfect families– made it much easier for my husband’s young, impressionable daughters to reject their perfectly good dad as “unsuitable” and “undeserving” of them. To be honest, I agree that Bill doesn’t deserve his daughters. In my opinion, they aren’t good enough for HIM. Fortunately for them, Bill is a lot more forgiving about his daughters’ decision to reject him than I am. He once had a very close relationship with them. He is their father, and will always love them, while I have only met them in person once. I have no connection to them, and I think their behavior is unreasonable and just plain stupid.

Perhaps my brief rundown of my personal experiences with the church will offer some insight as to why I read so much about Mormonism– particularly about those who choose to abandon it.  Since I’ve been with Bill, I have come to know a number of impressive ex-Mormons.  It takes a lot of strength of character to go against the grain and reject one’s family religion, especially when it’s a very demanding belief system like Mormonism.  I have found that many ex-Mormons are very intelligent, sensitive, and open-minded.  I truly like them as a group of people.  For that, as well as for her decision to divorce Bill, I will always be grateful to Bill’s ex wife.  Her decision to go LDS and Bill’s decision to leave the church indirectly influenced my life in many positive ways.  Of course, had she not divorced Bill, I might not have gotten to be his wife.

It’s indirectly because of my husband’s ex wife that I “met” Jessica Bradshaw, who just published You’re Not Alone: Exit Journeys of Former Mormons. I read her first book, I’m (No Longer) a Mormon: A Confessional, which she wrote under the pseudonym Regina Samuelson. I enjoyed the book and reviewed it, and Bradshaw and I became Facebook friends. I was delighted when Bradshaw announced her second book, which would be published under her real name. She also solicited stories from her ex-Mormon friends and acquaintances. I wanted to get Bill to submit his story, but he never got around to writing it.

Over the past almost fifteen years of marriage, I have seen firsthand what can happen when a person decides to leave a high commitment religion like Mormonism.  Some Mormon families truly believe in “free agency” and are okay with family members deciding for themselves what to believe.  There are many more families that can make leaving the church extremely difficult.  Some ex-Mormons wind up getting divorced, being shunned by family members and friends, and even losing their jobs or getting kicked out of college over deciding that Mormonism doesn’t work for them.  Deciding to leave Mormonism was a huge decision for many past members; it can be overwhelming and terrifying.  Many ex members feel that they are alone as they make this monumental decision for their own lives. 

Bradshaw’s latest book is a compilation of stories by former church members who left.  Each story is very well edited and offers valuable insight into what makes a person decide to leave Mormonism.  I was amazed as I read about how each person’s eyes were opened to the world beyond the church.  It was gratifying to read how many of these ex church members began to develop insight, empathy, and an expanded perspective of the world around them, even as many of them found themselves ostracized from their families and friends.

One contributor wrote about how, as a Mormon missionary in Japan, he experienced extreme cognitive dissonance.  He observed how happy, moral, and loyal the Japanese people were to their families and employers.  They were able to be this way even without the direction and interference of a church’s oppressive lifestyle restrictions or strict “moral” code.  As the years passed, the contributor experienced a series of life events that led him from being an “acting Bishop” of a huge ward in Salt Lake City to a convicted felon who temporarily lost his license to practice optometry.  This was a decent person– a good guy who was having a crisis of faith and could not talk to his wife, other family members, or friends about his feelings.  He started playing racquetball, took his new passion too far, eventually got seriously hurt, and was put on opium based painkillers.  He developed an addiction to the painkillers, started calling in his own prescriptions, and soon lost everything. 

Many church members would look at that story and determine that it was the man’s decision to abandon the church that led him to such disastrous consequences.  Indeed, when church members resign, a lot of active members think it’s because they want to sin, are too lazy or weak to live by the church’s rules, or were somehow offended.  Active members tend to avoid those with weak testimonies because they fear they will lose their own testimonies.  It occurs to me that active members who fear those who are losing their testimonies must also have weak testimonies, because if their testimonies were strong, someone else’s doubts would not be a threat. 

A person leaving the church often feels very much alone and may turn to habits that can turn out to be destructive.  In the case of the contributor I just wrote about, he turned to racquetball.  Racquetball is not a destructive habit in and of itself, but if one plays to the point of becoming seriously injured and needs pain pills, that can lead to a serious disruption of one’s life.  Perhaps if the man could have talked honestly to his wife or church leaders about his doubts, he might not have experienced such a calamity.  Maybe he would have eased up on the racquetball and not gotten seriously hurt.  Or maybe the positive feelings he got from the drugs would not have been as seductive, since he might have been able to get a sense of normalcy and calm without needing medication.

Unfortunately, for many people, the church does not lend itself to open discussion or honesty.  Married couples must cope with less intimacy because the church is a not so silent partner in their relationships.  Important decisions about things like religious beliefs are not left up to the married couple.  The church must be involved.  And the church’s involvement means there will be less privacy, pressure, and the potential for punishment and humiliation.  Many people who have doubts about the church don’t speak about them openly.  Instead, they simply fake it.  They lead lifestyles that are not authentic.  They miss out on a lot of wonderful life experiences and freedom due to fear of disaster and abandonment.  Being “fake” is also psychologically unhealthy and can ultimately lead to unhappiness.

I have only described one story in You’re Not Alone, but rest assured that the book is full of enlightenment about why people leave the LDS church and encouragement that there is life after Mormonism.  While the immediate consequences of leaving the church can be heartbreaking and devastating, most people are able to pick up the pieces and live better, more authentic lifestyles.  They make their own decisions and can accept their successes and failures as their own. 

I’ve seen firsthand how liberating leaving the LDS church can be as I’ve watched Bill.  When I met him, he was living on $600 a month and thought his life was ruined.  He thought God hated him.  What a blessing it’s been to have watched him blossom into a self-confident man who loves freely and enjoys his life.  He has plenty of money (not paying 10% gross to the church is a great thing), gets to travel, wears whatever underwear he prefers, and drinks whatever he pleases.  He is not afraid of being exposed to other people’s experiences and no longer has a testimony that must be protected at all costs.  And although he was abandoned by his daughters, Bill has found out that his life is still very much worth living and he is free to do it on his own terms.  I’m pretty sure that is what Jessica Bradshaw’s contributors have also discovered. 

Naturally, I recommend You’re Not Alone, especially to anyone who has been thinking about leaving the LDS church, but also to those who are in any belief system that has them in metaphorical chains.  I also think You’re Not Alone is a great read even if you aren’t LDS, although it probably does help to know something about the church before you read it.  I also recommend Jessica’s first book, I’m (No Longer) a Mormon.  Five stars from me.

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Ex, holidays, LDS, lessons learned, mental health

When the only flags you see are red…

I apologize in advance for going a bit off the rails in this post… I’m still kind of triggered by how all of this turned out, although I would say we mostly have had a happy ending of sorts.

This morning, I watched a YouTube video by Exmo Lex. I’ve written about her a couple of times in the past year. She’s an ex Mormon whose husband’s family disowned her and her husband because they don’t want to be LDS anymore. Although the video below is about Mormonism, I was a little triggered by it for other reasons, which I will explain in the following paragraphs.

This is a theme I’ve been a little triggered by lately…

Some regular readers may know that my husband, Bill, and I have been through a similar situation. Bill’s kids disowned him when they were still minors. One of the children, now an adult, and ironically an active member of the LDS church, has resumed a relationship with Bill. The other adult child remains estranged, although she and her mother have no problem continuing to glom on to Bill’s father’s family. Personally, I think it’s very sad, because one would think after so many years, these people would catch on to the fact that Ex is only interested in relationships that benefit her. It’s happened over and over again… that all too familiar cycle of abuse. And the one thing that really punctuates it is the complete lack of respect and regard for other people’s boundaries that Ex demonstrates time and again.

I KNOW that eventually, Ex will discard the people she’s reconnected with; although she never totally severs any connections– probably due to a fear of abandonment and constant need for narcissistic supply– she also never stays close. There is always some kind of eventual falling out that leads to her victims’ eventual discard. But the discards, unfortunately, are never permanent. She always comes back like a bad case of herpes. And she comes back, not because she loves, or even likes, her targets. She comes back because she needs something. Usually, it’s money, or someone else to do her dirty work.

This post wasn’t supposed to be just about Ex, though. It’s about red flags, and signs that indicate that a relationship is “toxic” and needs to be ended. A few days ago, the person who runs the Reddit Ridiculousness Facebook page shared a recent entry from Reddit’s popular AITA (am I the asshole) page. It was about a woman whose husband’s family regularly excluded her from family dinners, while they welcomed her husband’s brothers’ girlfriends. The poster got angry because, once again, she was being dissed. So she decided to go to the same restaurant where her husband was dining with his family and have a steak. Naturally, this upset her husband and his family, who no doubt realized that this was a rather pointed indication that the OP was tired of the disrespect. Still, the husband had the NERVE to get pissed off at his wife for having a steak in the same restaurant where he was dining with his parents and brothers and their girlfriends. Here’s a link to the original post on Reddit.

When I read this the other day, before the update about her leaving her husband was posted, I was reminded of the time Ex “invited” Bill and me to his father’s house in Tennessee for Christmas, and how totally disrespectful it was. Back in 2004, Ex had decided that this was the best way for Bill to enjoy “visitation” with his kids. She and #3 and their baby would be in attendance and there would be stuff going on, making it impossible for Bill to bond with his children and/or influence them in any way. When this happened, Bill and I had only been married for two years, and Bill still hoped he would be able to stay in his daughters’ lives. He knew that if he didn’t attend the holiday gathering, his ex wife would punish him.

For several weeks, I debated as to what I should do. After all, I am Bill’s wife, not Ex. And since I am Bill’s wife, those were now my in-laws, not hers. Yet, here she was, inviting Bill to his own father’s house. It really infuriated me, not just because of her fucking gall, but also because Christmas 2003 was spent with my family, and it had not gone well. I knew that if I went to the Christmas gathering at FIL’s house, and had to spend several days with Ex, yet another holiday would be ruined. I also knew that Bill’s kids weren’t interested in getting to know me, and would never have the chance to get to know me during that trip, which we also couldn’t afford, due to the enormous amount of child support Bill was paying. So, I finally decided that I would not attend. We didn’t tell the in-laws or Ex, because we didn’t want her to cancel the trip. Bill wanted to see his daughters. We knew that part of the reason she had cooked up this little scheme was because she wanted to get a look at me and an idea of what she could get away with.

So I stayed home, and Bill went to Tennessee alone to see his kids. It turned out to be the LAST time he would see them until March 2020, when Bill was finally able to visit his younger daughter in Utah. During that visit at Christmas 2004, younger daughter refused to speak to Bill. #3 was a perfect asshole to Bill, treating him with disdain in his own father’s home. And Ex bent SMIL’s ear about how I had “snubbed” the family by refusing to come. By the time she was finished, Ex had SMIL blaming ME for that fiasco. I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t plan it, nor did anyone even ask me what I thought about it. I was just expected to show up and smile, no matter what.

Many people told me I should have gone to that Christmas gathering and tried to be friendly with Ex. I remember on RfM, a poster took me to task when I wrote about this situation in 2011. She claimed I had “made up” the story, and it was my fault that everything fell apart. This was what the poster got from my anecdote:

You are making this up – you did not cooperate and you will never know what kind of effect it would have had. You thinking it would have had no positive effect is your way of justifying what you did. Right or wrong – you will never know. When it comes to my ex having a relationship with his kids, I will never get in the way, but I am not like a lot of ex’s I have heard of.

You may have had a positive influence, but you will never know. I am a bit inclined to agree that ‘no good would have come of it’ it is pretty clear that was your intention all along – based on results.

I am also certain you would not have had a good time – you had no intention of doing so. You can only control you and making shit up to justify your behavior is only that – making it up.

Then, when I pointed out to the poster that she doesn’t know me or the other people involved, she insisted that I was in the wrong… and was making up this story. She reiterated that it was MY FAULT that Christmas 2004 was a disaster, because I didn’t cooperate with Ex, turn the other cheek, and let her treat me with disrespect. The person did eventually come around after hours of arguing with me and other RfM posters, but it took some real doing to convince her. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are programmed this way. They think that giving in to controlling manipulators, who are abusive and mistreat other people, is the best way to attain peace and positive results. I eventually told her to fuck off, and this was her response.

No attitude at all, I am just saying that she was so sure it would be bad that she got to be right. Sheesh – tell me to fuck off if that makes you feel better. IMO this is a case of an unwillingness to be accountable. The outcome may have been much more positive had she set boundaries while still going. One will never know and speculation is all that is going on here. IMO pridefulness got in the way of everything. The end result is that her DH has no relationship with his children and IMO that is a tragedy.

Feel free to blast me, but get accountable here and stop acting like the victim.

As I mentioned before, I wasn’t the one who had come up with this plan. No one asked me for my opinion about it. I was just ordered to show up for it, even though it was incredibly disrespectful and inconsiderate on many levels. And the reason I was being expected to show up was supposedly for the kids’ sakes. But honestly, how many kids really want to see their stepparents on the biggest holiday of the year that badly, especially if they don’t have a relationship with them? It would have been one thing if they knew me and were eager to see me. But at that point– and still today– I had only met them in person once. My not being there wasn’t going to make any difference to them. It would only matter to the adults– FIL, SMIL, and Ex, and Ex only wanted me there because she wanted me to be in a controlled environment where, she expected, I would rein myself in and not cause a scene. The in-laws just wanted permission to invite Ex so they could keep seeing the grandchildren. My feelings didn’t matter, because in their minds, I was the interloper– even though I had NOTHING to do with the divorce. It was as if because I came second, I should simply tolerate blatant disrespect as a matter of course. Well, that’s simply not in my DNA anymore.

And actually, I don’t think I was “acting like a victim”. In fact, I avoided being a victim, because I could see through Ex’s scheme and didn’t show up like a lamb to slaughter, setting myself up for yet another shitty Christmas. There is no way Ex and I would have gotten along, because Ex isn’t a normal person, and she wasn’t willing to cooperate with Bill on any level. What kind of person invites herself to someone else’s home, demands to be allowed to stay there, even though it’s her ex husband’s family’s home, and then demands that her ex husband and his new wife show up to observe the biggest holiday of the year? It’s absolute lunacy! And it took incredible nerve and entitlement– as well as willing flying monkeys– to pull it off. In the years that followed, Ex tried to get Bill to sign papers that would have allowed #3 to legally adopt the girls. Of course, I doubt Ex would have filed the papers, because that would have meant no more of Bill’s generous child support. As it was, she got the girls to legally change their last names. BUT… SMIL has forgotten all about that, and has allowed that bitch into her house again. She has apparently believed Ex’s lies about her own stepson.

When another RfM commenter wrote that she wasn’t sure if I did the right thing, I responded with this:

I am not asking anyone to “agree” with what I did. The fact is, a lot of people didn’t agree with what I did. I second guessed my decision myself for awhile, until it became very clear that the Christmas gathering was a trap set by a narcissist who sought to control me and my husband.

Here are the facts. My husband’s ex has a long history of putting people in awkward situations and exploiting them. A year before my husband and I met, the Ex served my husband divorce papers at his father’s house over Easter. The children were there for “that” little spectacle, too.

I did not plan that Christmas gathering. I was just expected to attend, whether I wanted to be there or not. Visitation of the kids was an issue that was between my husband and his ex wife. I had nothing to do with it. I am not their parent and THAT was made abundantly clear from the very beginning.

I would have liked to have had a relationship with them, but I wasn’t about to have one on my husband’s ex wife’s terms. That would have set us up for years of her violating boundaries.

It seems to me that if the Ex wanted me to “bond” with her and her husband, along with the kids, she would have picked a holiday with fewer expectations, less religious significance, less pressure, and less stress– say, Memorial Day or July 4th. She would have chosen a neutral location. She would have asked ALL of the adults who were involved if they agreed with the arrangements, instead of just expecting everyone to comply with her demands without question. She would have approached this situation with a lot more respect for EVERYONE, not just me.

When someone advised me to ignore the woman who kept telling me how “wrong” I was to skip the Christmas gathering, she wrote:

That’s not what I’m saying, what I am saying is that her attitude and attendance could or could not have made a difference. His children have been told to demonize her and she did not show her face to present anything different. Had she gone and chosen to act like an adult, they would have seen she is not the horrible person their mother has told them she is. They did not get that chance because she refused to attend. I am just not one to say that pouting, stomping your feet, and saying I will not set aside my own pride for the sake of my husbands children is a good thing. You all can say that all you want, I just don’t agree.

ETA – Many divorced couples are setting aside their differences and attending events together in order to create a win/win. My ex and I do this, my daughter and her ex and her new bf’s ex do this. It’s a healthy thing IMO – it shows that adults can set aside their differences and create something better.

Mmm’kay… so “acting like an adult” means that I should simply tolerate abusive bullshit from my husband’s ex wife? That means that we give up precious vacation and family time to put up with her schemes, no matter how completely horrible and sick they are? My mental health doesn’t matter? Wow… unbelievable. I might have agreed with the poster if Ex was a normal person. She’s not a normal person, and this wasn’t a friendly invitation. It amazes me that this person is so sure that, not knowing any of the people involved in this scenario, we could all just come together in harmony, and that the whole thing hinged on me. What was really important is that Bill was able to see his kids. I didn’t need to be there for that. And I don’t think I was a victim. I think Ex is an enormous asshole who uses her children and other people to feed her need for control. She should have sent the kids on a plane, but she refused to do that. She had to be in the middle of it, controlling everything. Sorry, but as an adult, I don’t have to sign up to be under her control. Fuck that, and fuck the poster who apparently thinks that having a “golden uterus” entitles Ex to call the shots.

Someone finally spelled it out to the clueless poster who blamed me for the Christmas disaster. She wrote:

“My husband was trying really hard to nail down visitation with his daughters. He truly loved his kids and wanted to see them, but his ex kept shooting down all his proposed visitations. “

His ex was making it difficult for him to see his kids.

You’re projecting your situation on hers, and then condemning her for not being able to do what you were able to do, bigred. THE OP was working with a deck stacked against her. There was never going to be a positive way out of this one – the ex was clearly not interested in keeping things civil and wanted to be in control of everything (right down to dictating how she’d be staying in OP’s DH’s family home!)

She was right to back out of the situation to keep herself out of the equation. Remember – they’re not her kids, and he doesn’t have primary custody, so the term “stepmother” would be so incredibly loose as best that she had no right to get in the middle there.

There was a history of problems, and she rightly stepped back out of them.

The ex poisoned her kids against the husband, and used the OP as fodder for more negativity. The OP couldn’t have done a single thing here, other than make things worse if she stepped into it.

There was a lot more to that post. I’m still kind of triggered by it, even though I wrote it eleven years ago, and it was about an incident that happened in 2004. It’s not easy being a second wife and stepmother. It was especially hard for me in the early days, because so many people assume that second wives are abusive homewreckers. Bio moms and first wives are often automatically assumed to be victims, when that isn’t always the case. Ex uses that “First Wives Club” idea to promote her own agenda. One person wrote this– again assuming that I caused this shit, and projecting their thoughts onto our situation. I promise you, I didn’t cause this.

Whenever I hear the term ‘alienation’ I see it used as a way to trivialize any legitimate feelings the children have and lump them all on the ‘offending’ parent.

If my dad left my home, moved halfway across the country, and started a whole new life with some stranger, spending more time with her than me (as a daughter myself, I have no doubt that these girls saw this as ‘dad loves her more than us’ thing) I think I would be hurt and angry too.

I doubt the ‘evil ex’ had to do much, if anything, to ‘get’ those girls to write off their dad. I also have to wonder how much of the craziness/anger with the ex has to do with her being upset that her children are so upset.

I know this shit usually takes two, I just always have to wonder what the other side of the story is and why this dad had, according to the story, spent so little time with his kids in the last 2 years. He got married and had not one, but two kids with this woman. Did she just turn crazy after the divorce? I’m sure he played no part in it, he was just an Innocent bystander, right?

Sorry to say this, knotheadusc, but as far as those kids are concerned, you ARE an interloper. You got involved with a man who was already in a committed relationship, a father/minor daughter relationship. The kids haven’t been ‘alienated’ by a wicked ex, they are human, and for all intent and purpose, you stole their daddy. At least that’s how it feels to them.

So, the above person hasn’t heard of people in the military, who usually have to move at least every three years? Ex also moved after the divorce. She went the opposite direction, and lived in a state where there are very few military installations. She demanded so much child support that we couldn’t afford to visit. The courts weren’t involved in their divorce, other than to approve the filing, and we didn’t have the time or money to use them to force her to allow visitation. And after a divorce, Mom can get remarried, but Dad can’t? And somehow, this is all MY fault? Ex demanded the divorce, and I didn’t even know Bill in person when it happened. Later, we learned from younger daughter that Ex had pretty much forced her and her sister to be alienated. They weren’t naturally inclined to be that way.

Finally, Bill decided to explain, and that was when the thread blessedly ended… the woman who took me to task eventually apologized in another thread.

knotheadusc’s husband here.

While I appreciate that it’s human nature to “armchair general” other people’s actions, knot and I are the only folks here who where there and know the entire story. It is not so cut and dried.

I reentered the Army toward the end of my ninth year of marriage to the ex. Even though our marriage had almost deteriorated past the point of no return and I was living in a toxic environment, I was still willing to save it (for the sake of the children, no less). I was offered (really ordered) to an assignment in a neighboring state, and I asked (really begged) her to pack everything up, get rid of the money-pit house that was falling down around us and go with me. She refused.

We were geographically separated for five months before she served me divorce papers. In that time, she succeeded in packing up and sending out all my things, removing pictures of me and my mother from the house and from photo albums, telling the kid’s teachers and other Ward members and Bishopric that I had just “left”. She tried to convince my family that I was a sick and abusive misogynist, and some of them bought it. I began to see that she was shaping an environment whereby I’d be isolated from family and friends, and the only way to break that isolation would be to comply with her demands, reenter the toxic environment, and “shut up and color”.

Read Orwell much?

Two months after serving me papers she packed up the kids, abandoned the house (oh yeah, I was paying the mortgage too) and moved to AZ. Why? Don’t know–neither of us have any family there. However, her move created a complex problem set to visitation. First, I just started a new job and people aren’t successful in their jobs if they are never there. Then there was distance–I couldn’t have my kids over every other weekend or go see them for that matter, just “on a whim”. Economics. Knot did mention that after paying the mortgage, alimony and child support I had about $600 left over, right? Still, I was able to see them five times during those first two years.

The I moved to VA and got married. 9/11 became an excuse for her to deny my requests to fly the kids to the East Coast. If I wanted to see them, then I had to come out there. She was the mom and “knew better”. Frankly, I didn’t have the money or the time to take her to court. And losing my job over it briefs well as a Lifetime Movie script, but it really would have been irresponsible.

So the Christmas idea was all hers, brought up while we were negotiating visitation. She played it off as a “win-win”–they’d get to see their parents, and knot and I could be there too (she never said that the kids wanted to see me or their stepmother). I didn’t want to do it at first. I’d known the ex at that time for over 18 years and understood what she intended to do. She was shaping my parent’s house as a “killing ground” of sorts. She was bringing her husband and the kids she had with him. So, if knot and I showed up, the ex would monopolize all my parent’s time, bring up the past (remember when we…), and do all she could to probe knot while pushing her to the periphery. Her husband was there to enforce loyalty binds and he did so, working his best to take my kids’ attention from me. Christmas was miserable, and later I told my parents that I would never do that again. But it was the only way to see my children.

This has all been a bunch of TL;DR, but life is about making choices and dealing with the risks involved. I made choices and accepted risk that other folks may disagree with.

But they weren’t there.

Incidentally, Bill recently sent his younger daughter– the one who wouldn’t speak to him during that Christmas visit– a box full of goodies. This morning, we got to see a video with her and her two kids. When we were in France last month, I found a block of gingerbread flavored chocolate, which came with a little wooden hammer that can be used to break the chocolate into pieces. The kids love it! And they were so adorable, saying hi, smiling, and waving. Bill is going to tell his daughter how to make a kugelhopf, since we sent her a form. She thought it was for making juice! You see? Sometimes, these stories have happy endings.

I really didn’t mean to write about this again today… but Exmo Lex’s video about red flags and the Reddit Ridiculous post really brought it all back to me. Conventional wisdom often turns out to be wrong in some situations. I know I was right not to give in to Ex’s manipulation tactics. I was right not to let her control me, or really, to allow her anywhere in my presence. She’s toxic; the red flags are there, and as I wrote in that post, someone has to stay out of the vortex… or on the side of the quick sand pit. I just wish we hadn’t been put in that situation in the first place. Sometimes, being “nice” and cooperative only leads to heartbreak. You often have to use your head to avoid hurting your heart. That’s my motto, and the moral of the story… and with that, I will close today’s post. If you made it to the end, thank you very much for reading.

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Duggars, LDS, religion

Repost: Adoptions gone wrong…

I’m going to repost two more posts I wrote about adoptions that went wrong… They are going to be reposted as/is, and I’m only posting them because I saw a video on YouTube about the despicable practice of “rehoming children” yesterday. These posts generated controversy when they were first posted, but I’m still going to try not to alter them.

The first one was posted January 28, 2013.

Adoptions gone wrong…

I have never had any desire to adopt a child, even when it became clear that my husband would not be able to get me pregnant without medical intervention.  I have a lot of reasons for feeling the way I do about adoption.  Those who want to do it have my admiration, as long as they’re doing it honorably and with the right intentions. 

I have noticed that a lot of people who are interested in adopting children are very religious.  In fact, there’s a woman who hangs out on the Recovery from Mormonism forum who has several adopted children.  She freely admits that she adopted them because she thought she was leading them to the gospel, never mind that two of them turned out to be severely affected by reactive attachment disorder and visited complete chaos on her home.  

Last night, I read with interest an update about the case of Sergeant Terry Achane, an Army drill sergeant whose ex wife had his daughter in Utah and gave her up for adoption without his consent.  The child was adopted by the Frei family, who already had five children and were hoping to find a black child to be a companion to their adopted black son.  When Achane found out about the illegal adoption, he took steps to get his daughter back.  The Freis fought back; consequently, 22 month old Teleah is just now with her rightful father instead of the people who have raised her since her birth.  

I first heard about the Achane/Frei case back in December, when someone posted a news article about it on RfM.  Here’s a quote from that story…

On a blog about the case, where the Freis have raised more than $20,000 to help with legal bills, they vow to appeal McDade’s decision, describing the arrival of Achane’s daughter in their lives “a righteous desire blessed to fruition by God.”

“We have not lost our conviction that we are in the right!!!!!!” Kristi Frei wrote after McDade’s Nov. 20 ruling dismissed their adoption petition. “We have only ever wanted to do right by Leah, and have always felt we have been acting in her best interest to keep her with our family and raise her as our own. Our hearts have demanded it — there has never been any question to us that she is OURS!!!”

I visited the Freis’ blog last night and noticed that it appears to be cut down to one page. I imagine they got a lot of negative comments about their plans to raise the child they call Leah, mainly because a lot of people recognized that they had no right to raise her. She has a perfectly good father who wanted to be in her life and legally had the right to raise her. However, the Freis believe that they had the divine right to have the little girl… I imagine they think they were anointed by God.

Changing gears, another story that has gotten a lot of press is that of Kendra Skaggs, a woman who started a blog about her attempt to adopt a Russian orphan named Polina. Polina is disabled. Kendra Skaggs and her husband are devout Christians and they decided they wanted Polina. They jumped through many hoops to get her and were almost ready to be approved when they fell into the cracks of a new law proposed by Russia’s president, Vladmir Putin, prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children.

Many Russians are very upset about this legislation, since so many orphans languish in Russia– especially ones like Polina who are physically disabled. Looking at the Skaggs’ blog this morning, it appears that they will get their new daughter. That’s a happy ending, I think. It’s better for Polina to have a family that wants her than grow up institutionalized.

About ten years ago, there was a lot of press about Anna He, a Chinese girl who was sort of “stolen” from her Chinese parents, who thought they were giving her up temporarily to an American couple. Her biological parents and adoptive parents fought for years over who would raise her. She ended up going to China when she was a young girl, not knowing the language or the culture and totally missing her American parents, who had apparently gotten her under some shady conditions. 

I remember when Anna He was still very young and thinking her adoptive parents should let her biological parents have her before it was too late. As it turned out, by the time she got to China to live with her biological family, after her parents had split up, Anna He was a stranger in a strange land. I think she ultimately got a raw deal. She did get to visit her former foster parents in 2011, though. 

Finally, there’s the case of Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who legally adopted a little girl named Veronica in 2009. When it came to light that Veronica had Cherokee Indian blood, the adoption was challenged by Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown, a registered member of Cherokee Nation. Brown had apparently initially agreed to allow the girl to be adopted, but later changed his mind. 

In 1978, The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed as a means to stop abuse that had been going on for decades, which separated Native American children from their families and heritage through adoptions. From what I read on CNN, Dusten Brown thought the mother intended to raise the child herself, so he said he would relinquish his parental rights in order to avoid paying child support. But when he found out she intended to put the girl up for adoption, he decided he wanted to raise her himself.

The Capobiancos have had a very difficult time in their quest to become parents. They had gone through several IVF treatments that all failed. Adoption appeared to be their only chance at having children. I can’t even imagine their devastation at having this happen, even as I also have empathy for biological fathers who are denied rights to their kids when the mothers decide to give them up for adoption.

Had my husband not had a vasectomy when he was with his ex wife, we probably would have had kids. I always wanted to be a mother. But all these stories about adoptions going wrong (and there are even more of them out there) makes the prospect of adoption very unappealing to me. And I figure if adoption doesn’t appeal to me, it’s probably better if I don’t become a mother. The urge isn’t strong enough to withstand that kind of heartache.

In any case, I am truly happy that Sergeant Achane got his daughter back. I hope they have a good life. I’m glad it looks like Kendra Skaggs will get Polina, because I think staying in a Russian orphanage will not serve the little girl. As for the Capobianco case, I’m not sure what to think… 

Edited to add… This morning on RfM, someone posted this…

TBM niece “wants one of those” (black babies)…

A year or so ago one of our TBM nieces (with 5 kids of her own) and her DH adopted a black baby from Haiti. When she posted photos of the kids together, her TBM friends all “cooed” (quite patronizingly) about how adorable her family was, especially the new adoptee. One of our other nieces-also TBM with 3 kids posted “I so want one of those!” I was horrified but her comment was revealing of the general sense that adopting a little black child was the newest fad amongst this group of TBM Utahns.
I found it disturbing on a number of levels.

Yikes.

And the follow up, which was posted on March 21, 2014…

I noticed this morning that my blog has been getting a lot of hits on a post I wrote in January 2013 about adoptions gone wrong.  Interesting that this would come up today because I just started reading a book about adoptions, specifically those done by religious people as a means of bringing more children into a belief system.  It’s often evangelical Christian and Mormon couples that adopt kids to “bring them to the gospel” and it seems to be trendy to adopt these kids from foreign countries. 

The video I watched yesterday (in 2022) that prompted me to repost these articles.

Interestingly enough, today I read an article about a young woman from Haiti who was adopted in 2009 at age 13.  Nita Dittenber’s adoptive parents, Tony and Michelle Dittenber of Nampa, Idaho, had four biological kids and took in five more adopted ones from Haiti.  Among the five Haitian adoptees was Nita’s biological sister,   Evidently, Nita was having problems in the Dittenber home and by the time she was 14, Michelle Dittenber had taken to the Internet to offer her to another family.  She went to two other families, both of whom sent her back. 

Then, when she was 15, Nita was sent to Marysville, Ohio to live with Emily and Jean Paul Kruse and their nine kids.  The Kruses are evidently Christians.  I read an article about them that was run as a PR piece by the Ohio National Guard, which is where Jean Paul Kruse worked.  Jean Paul has a son from a previous relationship.  Emily has three kids from another relationship.  They had one child together.  Then they adopted four kids from Vietnam and Liberia.  Nita lived with the family for 17 months.  While she was there, the girls told her that Jean Paul Kruse was sexually abusing them.  Though he apparently never touched Nita, she was terrified.  She told Emily Kruse, who accused her of lying and threatened to send her back to Idaho.

One day, Nita went to visit other Kruse relatives with some of the other children.  One of the Kruses asked Nita why she was so downhearted.  Nita told the person about the abuse and then the younger girls shared their stories.  Fortunately, the relative took action, but when Emily Kruse found out that Nita had talked, she sent her back to Idaho… supposedly so she wouldn’t be questioned by local authorities.  The Dittenbers were on vacation.  Nita arrived in Boise with nothing but the clothes on her back and was temporarily taken by her adoptive aunt and uncle, Tammy and Michael Dittenber.  When Michelle Dittenber came back from her trip, she immediately offered Nita up on the Internet again for yet another re-homing.

As I read this story, I got the sense that the Dittenbers are probably LDS.  I did some searching and found evidence that at the very least, extended family is Mormon.  They live in Idaho, which is very Mormon.  They’ve adopted a bunch of kids from Haiti, which is a very Mormon thing to do.  Tony Dittenber works for a “food warehouse”, which may be a euphemism for one run by the LDS church for families in need.  Michelle works at home booking flights for an airline… probably JetBlue, which is known for employing stay at home moms and was co-founded by David Neeleman, a Mormon Brazilian-American businessman.

ETA:  Minutes after this post went live, I was contacted by Tammy Dittenber, who was mentioned in my blog post and in the story about Nita Dittenber.  She writes that she and her husband are LDS converts of 13 years, while Michelle and Tony Dittenber are Pentecostal.  Tammy Dittenber writes that she and her husband are the only members of the LDS church in the family.  As one can imagine, what happened with Nita has been devastating to the entire family.  I imagine the Reuters article, since it went live, has caused quite the firestorm for the Dittenbers.  I want to thank Tammy Dittenber for correcting me as well as being very nice about it.  I am very sorry for what that family is dealing with, even as I am also very sorry for Nita’s troubles.    

An article linked to the one about Nita Dittenber relates the sad story of Inga Whatcott, who was adopted from Russia.  A year after bringing 12 year old Inga home, Neal and Priscilla Whatcott gave up trying to raise her.  They claimed that she had problems too severe to handle.  She struggled to read and write, smoked cigarettes, was depressed, and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.  Over six months, the Whatcotts sent Inga to three different families, none of which worked out.  In one family, she had sex with a sibling who then urinated on her.  In another, she claims she was molested by the father.  She finally ended up at a Michigan psychiatric facility, where she claims she had sex with her therapist, who said he “never crossed the line physically” with Inga.  Indeed, he reports that she was very troubled.

Another article by Reuters highlights the shady non-legalized adoptions that go on too often when adoptive parents realize they can’t handle a child they’ve taken in from another country.  Sometimes adopted children end up in the care of very scary people who are never vetted by social workers or law enforcement.  Sometimes the end results of these “non-legal adoptions” turn out to be tragic.     

Just yesterday, I read another article about Stacey Connor, a woman who, along with her husband, Matt, adopted two children from Haiti.  The older child, a five year old boy, turned out to have severe problems that threatened the younger child, a baby girl, and the woman’s biological child.  She ended up deciding to re-home the boy.  In that case, it sounded like Connor did what she could to find an appropriate home for the boy, rather than just sending him away to anyone willing to take him.  Still, it’s very disturbing that these kinds of situations occur, that parents bring home kids from other cultures and then can’t keep them.

The book I’m reading is called The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption and it’s all about how adoption has become a big business, especially in religious circles.  Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the famous couple with nineteen kids and a reality show, have said they are considering adopting more kids for their gigantic brood.  I feel pretty certain that any child adopted by them will be adopted so they can be “brought to the Lord” and perhaps keep their reality show going. 

I don’t necessarily think that it’s wrong or bad for religious people to adopt children, as long as they are adopting because they truly want to be parents.  Many times, these international adoptions work out fine and the kids end up much better off than they would have had they not been adopted.  Other times, the adoptions turn out to be disastrous for any number of reasons.  Sometimes kids that come from other countries have severe mental and physical health problems that prove to be impossible for well-meaning adoptive parents to handle.  Sometimes there is simply no bond.  When the well-meaning parents give these kids up to strangers, the kids can end up getting hurt or killed. 

Unfortunately, I believe that a lot of families who are religious take in children for the wrong reasons.  They do it so they’ll look good in church circles or to bring souls to Christ, rather than fulfilling a desire to be parents.  A few years ago, I read an incredible book by Julia Scheeres called Jesus Land: A Memoir.  Scheeres has an adopted brother named David, who is black.  Her very religious and violent parents adopted David and another black boy named Jerome.  If you ever needed to read a story about how people can adopt for the wrong reasons, Jesus Land is that story.  I reviewed it, of course…

Originally I included my Jesus Land review in this post, but since this is so long, I’ll put that review in a fresh post.

Standard
bad TV, good tv, LDS, religion, YouTube

A non-Mormon looks at the LDS film, “Saturday’s Warrior”, and has a good cringe…

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 the years. 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.

Apparently, this film, aimed at the youth of my day, was quite the LDS cultural icon to teens of the 90s.

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 early in their marriage at the time. Their marriage ended 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 hoarding 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 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.

Below is what one poster wrote when I brought up the disparaging of other locations:

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?”

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.

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 turns out to be wheelchair bound and sickly.

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 I didn’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.

Co-written by one of the stars of Saturday’s Warrior, Erik Hickenlooper. It does have LDS vibes. My exmo husband has bought me roses on two occasions in 2022.

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.

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Bill, home, lessons learned, love, marriage

He still brings me flowers… but thankfully, he doesn’t sing me love songs…

Mushy bragging post ahead. You’ve been warned.

Yesterday, someone shared the photo below in the Duggar Family News group. They posted it because Josh Duggar is now a jailbird and is allegedly living this lifestyle. But as I read the characteristics in the meme, I realized that it’s also a pretty good description of my husband, Bill, who is definitely not worthy of the nickname “Wild Bill”, even though some of his friends jokingly used to call him that when they were in high school.

Bill hasn’t been to jail… at least that I know of. But this describes him pretty well.

I had to copy and share the above photo, because I know those who know my husband would get a good laugh from it. The truth is, he’s really not the most exciting guy in the world in terms of loving the nightlife. His brain goes down with the sun, in that he really can’t function beyond 9:00pm. It’s like Cinderella at midnight. He turns into a pumpkin. BUT– he is kind, thoughtful, hardworking, decent, intelligent, and an excellent provider. I consider myself very fortunate to be his wife. And I’ll tell you something else… I don’t think I would enjoy being married to an “exciting” guy who loves the nightlife and wants to boogie. I’m very happy to be married to someone who is loyal, kind, and considerate, and loves me for just who I am.

Last night, Bill had to work late, thanks to Mr. Putin. He was also planning to telework today, although that was called off last night. On the way home, he stopped at the store to pick up some orange juice. While he was there, he noticed bouquets of roses. And although I hadn’t sent him any emails indicating depression, irritation, or anything else, he decided to pick up one of those bouquets for me, just because it was Friday night and he’d had to work late… and right now, things are kind of depressing and bleak.

When he got home, past 7:30pm, Bill found me sitting at our Eckbank Gruppe, listening to music and drinking beer. He didn’t know I was feeling a little blue as he pulled out the bouquet of roses in today’s featured photo and presented them to me with a big smile. I was pretty moved that, even after nineteen years of marriage, Bill still likes to surprise me sometimes with unexpected delights. He knows I like flowers– especially red roses, which are my birth flower. And it was such a small thing, but it put a much needed smile on my face, since I was feeling a little sad last night.

This time of year in Germany can be kind of rough, especially if you’re from the southern United States and used to sunshine. The weather usually sucks. It’s cold, dark, and often rainy, so it’s not always appealing to get out and about. When we lived near Stuttgart, it would often snow, though not as often as it did in decades past. Up here near Frankfurt, it doesn’t snow very often. When it does, we get maybe an inch or two and it quickly melts. I don’t miss the snow that would stick around for weeks, but the alternative is the soupy, sloppy mess in the backyard and gets tracked through the house. Of course, that happened in Baden-Württemberg too, as the snow melted. I remember coming in from walking the dogs inevitably always with mud all over my pants, because there was water and mud everywhere and we lived in a relatively rural area.

The pandemic makes the crappy weather worse, because we can’t really have much fun. Yes, places are open, but it’s just a real hassle to go out in public, and even going out for a change of scenery is a reminder of the plague and how transmissible it is. I have some hope that when the weather is better, I will feel somewhat less depressed. But for now, it’s especially stark and bleak. So that little bouquet of grocery store roses was a real pick-me-up. I genuinely appreciated it, and the thought that went into the gift. But one thing Bill doesn’t do is sing me love songs…

Bill doesn’t sing me love songs because he can’t… But he probably would, if he could sing in a way that wouldn’t send me running from the room.

I actually love the above duet, which is kind of a sad song about the death of a relationship. But I’m glad I can’t relate personally to this song, because nineteen years past our wedding day, Bill still brings me flowers and presents them with a sweet smile. I was terminally dateless in my younger years. It seemed like everyone thought I was weird or even legitimately “crazy”, and many people had criticisms about me that ran the gamut from my penchant for profanity and inappropriate frankness, to the fact that I don’t have a cute figure, or a desire to be dressed up and made up all the time, to my propensity toward depression. By the time I was 27 years old, I thought I was going to be an “old maid”. That was the year Bill and I ran into each other in an “adult” chat room… where no one was really chatting about adult subjects. At least not publicly.

It was absolutely the last place I would have expected to find my spouse. At the time, I was very new to the World Wide Web. I was bored and lonely, having started grad school in a strange city. I didn’t know anyone or have any friends. One night, I decided to indulge the kinkier side of my personality and wound up in that chat room, where Bill also was… freshly separated from Ex and living alone in a state far from me. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to meet him offline, let alone marry him. I am now convinced that we must have been destined to meet, because we’re just so perfect for each other.

A couple of days ago, I was reading a thread on RfM, and a guy was lamenting about how he was finding it difficult to meet a nice woman following the death of his wife. The guy complained that most of the women he had met were “in it for the money”, but he was looking for a companion. He lives in Utah, and does not want to go back to the LDS church (for which I can’t blame him). He asked for suggestions, and many people were quick to offer them. One woman even piped up with a post about how she is also looking for companionship with a man. She invited him to look her up on a popular dating site to see if they are compatible. He shot her suggestion down, because I guess he didn’t want to go through the rigamarole of joining a dating site. I can see that view… although he might want to consider the extra challenges that face women.

Actually, when I think about how and where I found Bill, I am extremely relieved and grateful that he turned out to be so awesome. It definitely could have turned out badly for both of us. But fortunately, the stars aligned somehow… we were both honest with each other, and we just fit so well, even if I can’t really tell most people how, and specifically where, we met. That site is now defunct, anyway.

One of my friends expressed admiration for Bill’s ability to make me happy. He wrote that he “gets in trouble” almost every day. When I asked him what his wife would do if he spontaneously brought her flowers, he wrote that he would probably bring home the “wrong” ones. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad and surprised by that comment. I don’t know anything at all about my friend’s wife or their relationship, but his off the cuff quip reminded me of an old story I posted about in this blog regarding Ex. I truly hope he can’t relate to this anecdote, but I’m going to share the story, anyway.

The short version is, one day, Bill and Ex were traveling in the car– probably PCSing or something. They pulled into a gas station to get some gas, and Ex wanted a soda. So, after filling up the car, Bill went into the gas station and bought his ex wife a plastic bottle of Dr. Pepper. When he handed it to her, she immediately got very upset. Why? Because it wasn’t a fountain drink. Ex claimed that if Bill had really loved her and cared about her feelings, he would know that she prefers fountain drinks with ice in them to bottled ones. The rest of the road trip was spoiled by the heavy cloak of resentment that hung over them as they sat in the car, fuming at each other over the wrong soda.

This seemingly insignificant event in their marriage turned into a huge row, that Bill still occasionally talks about years later. It wasn’t so much about the soda, and the fact that Bill brought her a bottle instead of a fountain drink. It was about Ex’s constant need to test him, and to find ways to criticize him for anything and everything. It was her way of trying to stay in charge by turning on her rage machine and forcing Bill to be on the defensive. That kind of behavior, which she frequently indulged, was crazymaking. He never knew what would set her off.

For years, Bill excused Ex’s inconsiderate and ungrateful responses to his efforts to please her, because he wasn’t sure what would happen if they divorced. He couldn’t stand the idea of being estranged from his kids– including his ex stepson and his two daughters. They were incompatible and unhappy, and their marriage was full of these kinds of unfortunate and unpleasant interactions. She would not have been happy with a bouquet of grocery store roses. She probably would have preferred tulips or hydrangeas or something… or she would have scoffed at him for buying them in the grocery store instead of having them sent by a florist. Ex frequently used songs and children’s stories as object lessons, supposedly to inform Bill on how he should be and what would please her. But nothing he did was ever enough. She didn’t appreciate any of his efforts. In fact, she seemed to resent them.

Anyway, the rest of the story is pretty well laid out here. They did eventually split up, and things were pretty hard for awhile. But then Bill and I met, and the the rest is well documented history. After nineteen years, I do appreciate what he does for me. I can’t imagine not appreciating that he bought me a soda or a small bouquet of roses. It means he thought of me in a positive way. Why wouldn’t I be pleased?

Now, I will admit being a little less appreciative when he once brought me a bouquet of almost dead flowers that he bought at the Class VI store, especially since he could have picked a fresh bouquet from a field on the side of the road for a lot less money. Germany has fields of flowers where people can pick whatever flowers they want, and pay for on their honor at an unmanned cash box. But when I pointed that out to him, instead of getting angry that I wasn’t “grateful”, he brought me my next spontaneous bouquet from one of those fields! They were beautiful, and very patriotic looking– red, white, and blue!

But even when Bill has brought me half dead flowers, I still really appreciated the thought and care that went behind that gesture. I think small, thoughtful, and kind gestures like that one are what helps keep relationships alive. It’s a shame that sometimes those gestures go unacknowledged. Most of us are way too critical, especially of people who are closest to us. I like to think of myself as Bill’s staunchest ally. I don’t want to tear him down. And, in return, he has my back and is the one person I know I can turn to when I’m in need. It’s comforting to have that in my life, and I’m happy that I can offer that, in return, to Bill.

I’m still always so glad to see him when he comes home. I still miss him when he has to work late or go on trips for work. He’s truly my best friend. And it was so nice to be remembered last night, even after he’d worked so many hours and just wanted to come home and put on comfortable clothes and eat finger foods… I feel very fortunate we found each other, and I hope Bill does, too.

It’s nice to be remembered in such a kind way.
On another note… lately, I am really relating to this song. Leave it to James Taylor to have the best “Karen” story.

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