Monday, October 05, 2015

How Do You Best Respond to Racists On Both Sides?

I never know what to say when folks act a fool about something as meaningless as race and skin color. One big positive I will say about my mother is that she never once denigrated people over their skin color when I was a kid. She some times says borderline racist statements now, but during my formative years she was largely silent on the issue. But I'm finding that silence is very unhelpful now.

Earlier today I was out and about at the laundry mat washing and drying my oversized comforter for my California King sized bed. It will not fit in either my washer or dryer so when I laundry it there is an obligatory visit to the same laundry mat I visit when the stupid expensive European dryer does it's every 18 month let's die.

While I was there I noticed a woman who had brought a pile of those Rubbermaid storage tubs with lids, the heavy duty ones in different colors. I sat watching her sort each person in the household's clothing, sheets and towels into their own labeled tub. I thought what a great idea that was, however on my way out of the laundry place I smiled and told her what a clever organizing idea that was and her response floored me. She told me not to patronize her just because I was white and she was black. I didn't know what to say because my saying something to her about her laundry skills had nothing to do with my looking down upon her or trying to somehow treat her differently than anyone else. I was just expressing admiration for a great organizing tip.

A few months ago I had a long internet conversation with a Louisiana lady I know, Heather, who has had internet bully troubles. We ended up talking about how daily kindness was about the only way to fight back and make a difference in this world.

My smiling remark to the lady in the laundry mat fell into the category, every day I try to speak kindly and encouragingly to a stranger, at least once a day, sometimes to everyone that crosses my path. Has nothing to do with race, class or anything else, just those folks that life throws in my path.

I hate that we've become so racially divided in this country that a simple remark meant kindly can be misconstrued as something else entirely. If you had asked me before the election of President Obama if racism was still alive and well I would have denied it. But as time as marched on I'm seeing so much more racist words and behavior. It's sickening.

During my trip down to Florida and back up I witnessed two very racist incidents that I'm ashamed to say I did not confront the offender. The first happened when Jim and I stopped for gas and lunch in South Carolina at one of the big truck stop gas stations on the interstate. As I stood in line to get a drink I overheard some big white rural-looking dude make a nasty remark about the black family checking out at the register, a mother, a father, a teenaged son and son of perhaps ten or so. When the man uttered the n-word and made his remark the entire line froze, you could have heard a pin drop. The rude man disappeared quickly, no one said anything to him. But when I got outside I saw that the nice looking black family was parked next to us and the momma was upset, wanting to go confront the man for saying something horrible in front of her kids like that. I wanted so badly to tell them how sorry I was by how they'd been treated, but I chickened out. I merely told them how cute their two dogs were, both dressed up in costumes and standing on the back seat, both sets of tails wagging.

On the way back to Virginia we stopped at a hotel in rural Georgia. I got on the elevator to trek out to the car to get my delicious chocolate coated coconut candy. Two young black ladies got on the elevator and were joking about chocolate and I joined in the chocolate conversation. We were all laughing. But when we got to the floor below the one we'd gotten on the doors opened and a family of four stood there. They were white. The woman said, "I'm not riding in no elevator with no n-word!" and stomped off with the young daughter towards the staircase. Again shocked silence, but the father and son got into the elevator and the father, who I admit I was judging silently due to his shaved head and copious tattoos. He apologized for his wife and told the two ladies not to pay any mind to his durn fool wife. It put a damper on my evening, leaving me yet again to wonder how and why people are still behaving this way, seeing first hand how hurtful it is to perfectly normal people just trying to live their lives.

What Churches and Time Shares Have in Common

Last week my husband Jim and I spent a week with friends at a resort in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It's a pretty nice place, perfect if you want to stay in a perfectly groomed white bread version of a tropical resort, minus the ocean but plus a pile of fancy swimming pools. It's wonderful for what it is. But it's not 'paradise'.

It's not a time share, nor do you actually own a week or a certain suite there. It's a vacation ownership organization that works on the points system called Wyndham Resorts. The Palm Aire Wyndham Resort.

We were down there with friends of ours from our old church. They were given their membership by a widow from our old mutual church who could no longer afford to keep paying the monthly maintenance fees. They took over her eighty dollar a month payment and paid to have the entire thing transferred into their names.

Through the years we've been down to this particular resort with this other couple a few times. This time was different. It was different in the fact that the resort offered Jim and I a certificate good for a free week's stay at one of the Wyndham Resorts if we'd sit down with them for a 90 minute sales presentation.

Sounds good, right? We would be out nothing but our time, but get out of the meeting in plenty of time to swim and hit the hot tub before dinner. This would allow us to score a free week to use when traveling down to Texas see my in laws in December. We'd be able to get a suite big enough to bring adult children and their significant others with us. Being that my husband is an economist and I am impervious to sales presentations after working in high end sales a few years it wasn't likely we'd ever be tempted to buy. We'd both seen many Wyndham Vacation accounts for sale for almost nothing on Ebay, no way we'd pay retail for this. We went into it agreeing there would be no buying of any vacation plan, no matter how they diced the payments.

Five hours later we emerged from the extremely high pressure sales meeting, both of us mentally exhausted. I turned to my husband and said, “Why do I feel like we just came from a 'Come to Jesus' meeting? What was that all about?”

As we walked back to our suite we talked, both realizing there was much that the sales process had in common with how cultesque Evangelical or Fundamentalist churches go about recruiting new members.

How is that, you ask? In a very few simple ways.

1 – They try to woo you by showing you a perfect facade, a fantasy-like perfect world that you too can join.

From the moment we entered the sales center on the grounds of Palm Aire everything, and I mean everything, was perfect, perfectly manicured, perfectly decorated, perfectly maintained. Everyone connected to the sales facility was smiling, well-groomed and obsequious. They couldn't be helpful enough, pressing us to partake in sodas and snacks as we settled in. Even the showcase suite they showed us was like something out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, much nicer than any suite we'd already stayed in at that same place.

This was also how it went when we first joined our old church. The pastor and others were falling all over themselves to compliment us, show us around, fawning over us while pointing out all the perfect families and perfect people, saying if we joined we could have that same level of perfection. What the church was selling wasn't a vacation in a resort, but more the promise of a Christian elitism with claims of perfection.

Why are appearances so revered and guarded in Christian Fundamentalist culture? To quote NLQ's Aletha “ In Fundamentalist culture, appearances are more important than facts. Even in Mormonism, how you really are doing means less than pasting on a smile and pretending everything is perfect.” Part of the polished facade is the way it is used to recruit new members. Doesn't everyone want perfection?

2 – They check your credit or your credentials. Sometimes very subtlety, sometimes not bothering to hide that they are summing up your net worth.

One of the things that the sales support team at Wyndham did when we first arrived was have us fill out a form and insist we allow them to photocopy our drivers licenses. When I questioned the need to copy my drivers license I was told that it was to make sure we were who we said we were so that we could receive our gifts for attending. Turned out to be a disingenuous attempt to information gather.

What they didn't state was that while we were talking to a sales agent was that someone in the back of the building was contacting the credit bureau and running a hard inquiry on our credit score. We found out that they'd run our credit report only when someone came from the back with a printed out offer of what we qualified for. The finance agent was crowing about our A-1 credit rating while letting us know we qualified without writing a large down payment check on the vacation. Keep in mind we'd not said yes to anything and had already told several folks working there that we were only interested in information on how their points system worked, we weren't ready to buy anything. No prices of anything had been stated until they had our credit history in their hands. That alone made me suspicious we were about to receive the full court press.

I was rather angry when I discovered they're run a hard inquiry as you are only allowed so many per quarter before it negatively impacts your credit score. We are in the middle of planning a home remodel and we knew we were going to open a line of credit, possibly a store credit or small loan to do this. Wanted to keep the hard inquiries down because of the upcoming expenses.

But, Suzanne, I hear you asking, I never had any church run my credit score before I joined or even as a member. But of course they do, not through the credit bureau, but in a thousand small ways beginning when you join.

When we first joined our old church one of the things the elders seemed the most interested in were things such as what subdivision our home was in, were we buying or renting, and what we did for a living. I chalked it up to natural curiosity until a couple of things happened that indicated that the church leadership was well aware of who had what money. When my father died and I inherited lands and money our pastor mentioned more than once to both my husband and myself that I was supposed to immediately tithe 10% of the inheritance to the church. I heard later through someone that worked at the church office that someone had looked up the court papers online to figure out if I had received anything after the death.

Later when church giving was way down the pastor held a meeting and sent out a letter indicating that he knew what everyone in the church was worth, what their homes were worth and what their salaries were before angrily demanding everyone pull their weight and tithe a minimum of that 10% again. He was also outraged about lavish vacations and trips to conferences, saying that anyone that could afford to conference-hop or go on a fancy trip should be tithing well past the 10% mark.

3 – They don't take 'No' for an answer.

Once the finance guy and our sales agent heard the first, second and third 'nos' from us they just doubled down, coming back with different price points and programs. The two of them were claiming again and again that if we didn't buy one of their packages we weren't committed to vacationing and would not vacation every year. Of course that's with them conveniently ignoring that I'd already told them that in the last six months we'd gone on a two week luxury vacation of Costa Rica and Florida and gone for a week to Michigan to visit friends plus this little jaunt to their resort. Our vacation time for 2015 was at that point a total of four weeks. I'd say that is a significant commitment to vacationing.

Eventually it dawned on them that we were not going to buy. I was asked why and I told the salesman that a) we do not make major purchases in the course of a few hours without researching our options and discussing it away from the salesman. b) memberships to their resorts come up all the time on Ebay for a tiny fraction of what they were trying to retail it to us and lastly, c) If one simply put their monthly payment and monthly maintenance fees into a vacation account at a local bank that by the end of the year you'd have enough money put aside to buy a vacation much like our Costa Rican one without being tied to a lifetime financial obligation that buying their package would entail.

We were handed off to a different fellow at that moment, supposedly a guy that was going to give us our week's free stay certificate. But the only thing that happened was that this third man came in with a different program to pitch with completely different figures. His approach was strong arm and we were completely over the idea of ever buying a vacation from this company. Mr. Number Three only reinforced the desire to never buy a vacation from this company. Eventually we were given what was promised and allowed to go.

Once we got home we received a letter from the company, having hard pinged our credit report again with another offer with completely different figures.

While I never experienced the whole never taking no for an answer from my old church since we did go and join quickly, I have had this treatment when I've visited similar churches after leaving and looking for a new church home. I've had church staff blow up my phone with messages, had long letters, tons of emails and had members showing up on my doorstep to visit out of the blue insisting we give Church X a chance. Some have become rather hatefully rude when I've said a polite no and stated that their place is not right for me.

4 – Both types of organizations are actually selling fear. They aren't afraid to lie to you to get you to buy into that particular fear.

Within the first five minutes of our sales presentation I caught out one of the presenters telling a whopper of a fib. It was a lie designed to make people fearful that if they didn't lock into this vacation plan that very day that they'd never be able to afford to keep taking vacations. The presenter stood at the white board and stated that it's a proven fact that hotel prices go up every year between 7 and 8 percent so buy your vacations now and the rooms would never go up at their locations.

Unfortunately for him I was armed with my Iphone and an insane desire to research random things told me by strangers. Looking at the US Dept. of Labor's consumer price index I was able to see that the official numbers for the last ten years were closer to 2 to 3.5 percent, not what he was stating. Once someone lies to me in a sales presentation there's no way I would ever trust them enough to purchase anything.

The cult churches do this too, in fact, they have it down to an art form, much better than any slick Harold Hill type salesman. They are selling insurance, divine insurance for the afterlife and aren't shy about promoting the idea of an eternity of torment if you don't sign up for their own brand of faith. They'll even go as far as tell you that everyone else's version of faith will sent you to hell. They use fears of all sorts to get you to join. The sad thing is that there is no logical way to research all of what they are pushing and debunk it.

So what can churches and vacation salesmen do to make what they do a little less toxic and damaging?

It's simple.

Don't lie to people.
Don't fear monger.
Don't try to take away anyone's free will.
Don't try to make it all about money.
Don't try to speculate on someone elses money because it doesn't belong to you.
Be real, be genuine and be truthful.
Finally, to quote Joan Harris of the AMC television show “Mad Men' - always be a supplicant.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

By the Sea

The last few weeks we've been on vacation, down in South Florida with friends from our former church. It was fun and it was hairy all at the same time. I got to see some things up close and personal that I find fairly disturbing.It was a bunch of firsts.

The Good: Had Cuban food. Got to hang out with Cindy Kunsman at Hollywood Beach, an atonal karaoke and a drag queen show. Did tequila shots for the first time ever. Jim and I spent the afternoon of our drive back at our beloved Ormond Beach. Watched the sun rise over Pompano Beach. Got to swim daily in one of the many resort swimming pools.

The Bad: We had two pretty horrific hotel stays, one place had blood splatters on the comforter, the other someone had jumped all over the bed with dirty little feet and the floor was littered with potato chip crumbs. We sat through a five hour time share pitch just to score a week at a resort. Our friends didn't show much inclination for leaving the resort. I got told off for continuing to admin No Longer Quivering more than once, which was just rude considering there is a lot I could criticize about the person giving me grief. I bit my tongue.

The Ugly: I got to watch my beloved friend struggle with fear, fear over her diet to keep her sugar down, fear of sharks in the ocean and a variety of other fears. I fear for her because it's not emotionally healthy to have that much fear in your life. Also I had two back to back asthma attacks that were about a nine on he one to ten scale without knowing why. I blacked out several times but eventually the meds kicked in and I was better. This time had a twist - Jim said I got weird, antsy and very not myself at all in the hour leading up to the attack. Apparently my oxygen levels were tanking during the sales pitch and I didn't know it.

The Weird: I had a pedicure right before we left and have my toes done up in a pink pearly shade with iridescent pink glitter at the very tips. One morning in the ocean a six inch long yellow snapper fish decided that my glittery toes looked way too much like enticing worms. He followed me no matter what I did or how I kicked, darting in to take nibbles from my toes.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Rat Group Sexual Experience

Have you ever attended a meeting and come away saying to yourself 'What the heck did I just attend?' That was my evening at the HOA That Ate My Brain meeting this evening.

The treasurer's husband went on a rant that everyone hates his wife and harasses her. I was straight up accused of being the person that sent around the anonymous letter threatening to sue. Ha! If I was going to sue them I'd at least have the balls to put my name on the letter. In fact, I would have my lawyer write the letter with both our names on it.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the decision to turn it over to a management company was the right one. The treasurer told a few big fibs about not being asked to turn over the records, which I know isn't true and lots of angry words were hurtled by her. She was deliberately insulting to my husband.

Me. I kept my cool, smiled and took meeting minutes. I need a drink now. There are some days I hate being an adult. Tonight was one of those times.

Again, NEVER move into a development that has an HOA unless you enjoy Exedrin headaches times infinity.

Furbaby Heartbreak New and Old

After an uneventful week of Jim working part time at our local newspaper covering sports and writing a fantasy football column while not substitute teaching and myself engaged in work, research for various folks and several hours of Spanish homework every day I find myself so rudely triggered yet again.

It's not the fact that last Sunday many of us at our church were left with a rather nasty taste in our mouths when one of the pastors rattled on and on and on about the need for everyone to donate money towards the new steeple on a week when tragic news and heartbreaking photos were emerging in the press about the Syrian refugees. Yeah, there are some of us there that would rather raise funds go to towards helping the Syrians instead of rebuilding the steeple.

It's not even the fact that I've had tattle tale family members sharing someone else business I have no wish to know. Nor the fact that a friend has been threatening suicide.

This morning when I came home from church I saw a discussion online at a place I frequent about pit bulls being dangerous and the original poster expressed a strong opinion that all pit bulls and pit bull mixes need to be registered and monitored. Why? Mostly because of the incident in NYC where a lady unleashed her pit bulls on an innocent stranger and the animals almost took the man's life.

It wasn't the claims that pit bulls are extremely dangerous that upset me. Pets only behave in the same manner that their owners do or do not train them. Owners are ultimately responsible for their animals, in all ways.

What happened was that a lady commenting on the topic told the tale of how when her child was born one of her two cats she'd had quite a while bit her as she held the baby. Rather that trying to figure out why the animal did this and was it a one time thing or was something physically wrong or emotionally wrong with the cat she decided to get rid of both cats. Okay. So that strikes me as a bit extreme, but a mother was afraid her child would be attacked by her pets.

Did she take them to an animal shelter or make any attempt to find someone in her circle of acquaintances that might be able to take the cats? Nope. She took them to the vet and had both cats euthanized.

I was jaw dropped reading her solution to a one time biting problem, and had to compose and recompose what I wanted to say to her. I had to take it down from a place of obscenities and wishing violence on her to simply telling the lady how awful her actions were.

A few people supported what I had to say but then it turned into an internet pile up like I figured it might. I never replied to anyone after my initial comment telling the cat killer how reprehensible her actions were and pointing out the alternatives. This was a a place where there are lots of people who used to be fundamentalist Christians and were no more. This is also typical behavior towards animals I have witnessed again and again among the more extreme Christian cults. You know if they cannot treat their own children with loving respect and care that it's too much to think that they might be able to treat poor defenseless animals with any loving kindness.

I've been disgusted and rattled most of the day, unable to move past the fact that people still treat pets like they are as disposable as a dirty kleenex.

For many years now I've done animal rescue, fostered animals, had my own precious pets and I just cannot wrap my mind around that sort of cruel treatment to a fur baby. I feel like puking.

When I attended my old church I'd encountered this attitude of animals being disposable and worthless more times that I like to think about. This goes well beyond some of them that were too cheap to get adequate medical care for their animals to a cruel indifference.

But what did I expect, some of these type people are the ones I'm hearing now calling for troops to go into Syria and flatten the place to solve the refugee issue. Killing never solved anything.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The HOA Ate My Brain Once Again

We're dealing with a new HOA mess. Folks, if you can avoid moving into a community with a Home Owners Association please do so!

Ancient history. About ten years ago these two people took over our HOA as president and treasurer and have royally fucked things up. The president by sheer incompetence, but he did try to resolve some of the community problems after some of us started poking him with a legal stick to try to get action on the many legal issues we residents might be on the hook for.

The treasurer is just a nasty, nasty woman. She has refused to show anyone the books for almost ten years now. If you asked you get cussed out. She takes two to three months to cash a check for the dues. She monopolizes the clubhouse and pool use. Most everyone here hates her guts. It is very suspicious that she's been so secretive about the books.

By the time the president decided to try and straighten out the roiling rolling mess that our community has turned into most everyone has stopped paying dues, leaving no money for pool maintenance or to maintain the green swards of open grass, the playgrounds and common areas. Local attorneys have been advising most of the homeowners here not to pay.

A couple of weeks ago the president called me out of the blue after months of not hearing from him and asked if I would back him if he turned the entire HOA running to a management company. I sit on the board, so I had to be one of the people to sign off on it. I told him, sure, please do that, because it's what I suggested we do four years ago, let someone else run it that does not live here so that they cannot be accused of favoritism like some on the board have been charged with. I heard nothing else.

It was kind of sneaky because no one on the board consulted the treasurer at all. It was presented to her fait accompli. Predictably she's since had a huge explosion and cussed out many people on the board. She's also refused to give over the financials to the management company. But we all knew this was likely to happen since she has made everything to do with running the HOA so dramatic and filled with threats and cursing. No way was anyone going to give her any say in this decision.

A week ago Jim and I got a letter from the management company now handling all the dues collections, state compliance, bill paying, maintenance and architectural oversight. The letter simply stated that they had taken over and here was the info on paying the dues. Simple and to the point.

Yesterday the president came to our front door and showed us a letter that one of the furious residents had put in his mailbox saying he was going to sue the treasurer and the president for turning the HOA over to a management company. He was frantic for me to send out a community wide email saying the treasurer had nothing to do with the decision to hire the management company and that it was his decision alone.

I did it and put up an explanation of what was going on with bringing in the management company. So far I've not received this lawsuit letter addressed to me, but I anticipate it coming since I'm on the board and three members have received it already.

This is all sorts of silly and disgusting because the people now complaining that everything is now going to be legally and properly done don't even bother showing up for HOA meetings and have never volunteered once to help out with the many things that need to happen here. We're have maintenance and work crew parties to repair the fences around the community, paint the club house, deal with the landscaping issues and no participation from anyone in the community but the board members. We're the 5%ers here apparently.

The last place I saw a pile of adults acting this childish was at my old church. Le sigh. I guess as long as the treasurer doesn't show up on my doorstep and I have no more meetings to attend it's all good.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Protection, Projection and Maturity Levels

Did you know I was once approached to do reality television? Yes, it's true, happened about a year before I left my old church.

One of the causes I passionately supported back then was that I was over the top extremist against children's beauty pageants. I thought the entire world of Honey Boo Boo was one of the most disgraceful and dangerous for the safety of children there could ever be. I had a website, was frequently contacted for information by news organizations doing news stories on children's pageants and developed a database of information on why it was wrong.

I am still opposed to children's beauty pageants but now I have a more sangfroid view of the industry. It seems to appeal to the same folks that buy lottery tickets and chain smoke, so it's just another tax on poor choices. Who am I to try and take someone's hobby from them, even if the hobby is horrible for their children?

You know who likes to take away all personal choices from people? Religious fundamentalists. Which I am no longer. Just keep your hobbies and choices legal and I have no problem with them. As long as the only person you're hurting is yourself we're all good.

Back when I was still heavily involved with the church I was approached by someone on the staff of the television show "Wife Swap". We were invited to make an audition tape, look at the contract and possible be chosen for the show. We did the tape and then I took a look at the contract. The contract was all sorts of horrifying. Basically you were giving up your rights to your own image, how you were portrayed, what they could film, what they could do with the footage. The more I stared at the contract the more uneasy I  became.

Granted, since we were going to be the anti children's pageant people it's not like we were going to be portrayed as bad or evil. Likely we would have gotten the heroic edit. But... the more I thought about it the greater my sense of unease grew. Andy and Laura were 16 and 13 years old at the time. Laura into the Christian part of the whole Straight Edge movement, pretty fierce in her beliefs of purity and abstained from everything bad for you while dressing emo and loved punk rock. Andy was always the quiet child, a true introvert with quite the artistic flair for music and writing. Both of them were heavily involved with the youth movement at our church.

What I finally concluded was that even with the lure of filthy lucre (the payment was 50K if I remember right) that my desire to protect my children was even stronger. I never signed the contract or returned any of the paperwork to the production team, telling them in several phone calls that I could not do this to my children. Being a teenager is hard enough, but being a teenager on reality television would open both of them up to an array of criticism, petty harassment and other things I never wanted either to have to experience.

In the long run I knew I'd made the right choice even if it would have been nice to have the money to add to the kid's college funds. I haven't always made the best parenting decisions through the years but that one was a decision I got right.

This last month I've reconnected with a boy from our old church, who remembers my family and I much more than I remember him. I remember his momma, because she was one of the group that decided that those of us at the church who were divorced needed to be run from the church and removed from any position of authority. They also denigrated and mocked those of us that liked to go to the Toronto conferences. They also took the church's already stringent modesty standards to a new extreme, insisting all ladies wear head coverings. They ended up leaving the church after demanding the pastor force us out, we had a lot of divorced and remarried people at the old church.

They moved on to the local Mennonite community and tried to join. The Mennonites wouldn't have them and several of the ones pushing the hardest about divorce ended up divorcing.

The young man showing up at our new church is the first sign of hide or hair of the Head Covering faction.  So here's the rub, the young man has started talking to me about what happened. He's bitter and he's broken. I've talked to him many a long hour now and encouraged him towards figuring out what his own path is in healing, with a caution to avoid certain survivor groups because here we are ten years on and more and many of them are still stuck in that damaged state that wants to blame everyone else and not take the necessary steps to help themselves.

It's okay to be broken, to be in pain, to be confused, hurting and needy. It's not okay to stay there.

Dear nice young man (and everyone else who's parents failed to protect them), Your parents failing to meet your need or protect you isn't your fault. You didn't deserve it. You should have been loved, cherished and protected, but you weren't. I am so sorry for that, but you deserve better than to stay stuck in the trauma. I would never wish for you to stay in a place of hurting. Do what you need to do to heal, seek out those that build you up. We love you.

Monday, August 31, 2015

It Depends

Jim worked today again as a substitute teacher at the middle school. It's his new normal in retirement, at least until he hits 66 and can file for full social security. We're not touching the bulk of our retirement account, trying to live on his federal retirement pay. But we're spending much less moolah now. No train tickets into the big bad city, no overpriced lunches at Union Station, and no tanks of gas just to drive an hour away to catch the train.

We're both rediscovering the lost art of the nap. Like today, around 4:30 I found myself just completely wiped out after using the time Jim was teaching to sweep, mop, vacuum, dust, scrub and straighten. I laid down for a few minutes for a quick nap. Jim joined me a few minutes later. Never did that before he retired. I had to be sick in the bed sick to lay down in the bed during the day.

Jim's learning it drives me nuts when he leaves the kitchen cabinets open or takes out the trash without replacing the trash can liner and I'm cooking from scratch for every meal because Jim prefers it. We're settling into his retirement without the drama, angst and tears that accompanied the first week or so.

My language classes are going well, I'm starting to finally get in the groove of how languages are taught very differently than they were when I last attending college thirty years ago.

Late afternoon I got a call from my friend that told me that young people learn so much quicker and other silly things almost as if she were trying heartily to discourage me. She called and said that she was calling to cry on my shoulder. I laughed and told her if she was going to try to tell me I'm too old to learn Spanish again I was not going to be in a mood to listen to her cry. Then I laughed. Hard. She realized I was joking/not joking, slightly miffed about her discouragement of the other day.

We're good friends, good enough to be honest with each other and not have to totally agree on everything. A mutual friend of ours is having a time of it with the treatments for brain cancer and she just needed to vent to someone how hard it was watching our friend struggle so hard.

Damn, I need a brownie right now. Time for homework.


It has been an interesting few weeks once the news that Josh Duggar banged a porn star and had two Ashley Madison accounts came out. I've been busier with No Longer Quivering than a proverbial one legged man at an ass kicking contest. Crazy Duggar news fuels crazy hit numbers and even crazier commentary.

The funny of it for me involves three things.

1 - Josh Duggar's 'turn ons' and requested sexual hijinks reported from the Ashley Madison hack were so completely safe, boring and vanilla. I don't know why but I was picturing him snorting blow off a dead transexual hooker's ass, not requests to give and receive oral sex and cuddling. Bill Maher put it best this last weekend, it basically boiled down to anyone not breastfeeding a baby while wearing a prairie dress.

2 - I wrote an article on how taking the purity culture thing way too far leads to guys turning out like Josh Duggar. I was careful to neither bash or praise Josh, I explained the danger of purity culture and got a crazy capacious ass-load of complaints from Christians coming into No Longer Quivering accusing me of making up excuses for Josh, for defending him.. Me? Defending Josh? Not on your tintype. I'd be more likely to hop, skip and jump around a lava pit than defend that boy! At least it gave me lots of interesting fodder for the Jerks4Jesus site, including two different young men claiming to be virgins. Well, bully for them but they're missing out on the most fun a person can have that doesn't involve laughing gas.

3 - Vyckie Garrison was interviewed by In Touch several times and was quoted by People magazine in both their print issue and online coverage of the Josh Duggar Infidelity Goat Rodeo. Almost immediately after the People publication a site decided to try and say that Vyckie does not know what she's talking about. It's a site that we used to be affiliated with but now avoid. The reason we stopped having a relationship with them involved a certain nasty group of people that are behind the scenes there. They've gone on to attack a large number of others, forcing someone I know out of the organization that she founded, harassing a number of online religious bloggers and writers including The Naked Pastor and Rachel Held Evans.

The interesting thing is that I can almost hear word for word the voice of the leader troll behind the scenes in the piece and it's someone that Vyckie launched that has no gratitude at all, merely jealousy and hatred. I was laughing reading the piece because it's disjointed and confusing plus it is glaringly obvious it was written out of the greenest of jealousy. Ms. Troll cannot stand the fact that Vyckie was the one being interviewed for these publications. That's unfortunate because Vyckie and I both have always been supportive every time Ms. Troll is interviewed and during all of her projects. I'm always glad when something good happens in the recovery movement no matter who is happens for, but not everyone is apparently. I've heard some pretty crazy stories about survivor wars from my friend Cindy Kunsman and others.

But here's the thing, it takes two sides to fight and quite frankly I don't care enough to fight. I am in the zero fucks zone now. Let the dogs bark but the caravan moves on. I'm only interested in moving forward.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

So What Happens When A Child-Raping Pastor Leaves Prison?

I don't know what's going to happen after IFB big shot Jack Schaap finishes serving his twelve year prison sentence for violation of the Mann Act by taking a 16 year old girl over state lines to have sex with. But I am getting a view to what it looks like in a small town.

Does anyone out there know what the actual hierarchy is in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church? I was raised Catholic before joining my old fundigelical church that was not affiliated with the IFB. Emailed that fount of wisdom over all things IFB Bruce Gerencser, but haven't heard back yet. I'm confused as to who is actually in charge, or is it like my old church where each pastor was the leader of his own lil' fiefdom and allowed to behave much like King Henry the VIII and enact as many crazy rules and laws as possible while the rest of us scramble to make it happen. I just do not know.

Here in the Culpeper area we had an IFB church and school that was ruled over by King...eerr.. Pastor Charles V. Shifflett. Shifflett was palsy-walsy with Jack Schaap's father in law Jack Hyles, founder of the Hyles-Anderson College in Hammond, Indiana and Pastor at First Baptist in Hammond. Shifflett had Hyles down here to speak a number of times over the years and the church sent a large number of young adults to Hyles-Anderson. Symbiotic relationship.

There were always whispers about Shifflett, that he'd beaten this child or been sexually inappropriate with that one. But the church covered up any rumors, kicking out anyone that disagreed with him. Finally in 2005 during a church split former members and their children came forward with horrendous tales of rape, beating and other claims of bizarre sexual abuse. Half the church went with Shifflett to form a new church in Brandy Station, Virginia, First Baptist Church of Culpeper. The other half stayed behind and started with a new pastor.

When the Commonwealth finally brought charges again Shifflett and he was convicted in 2008 it was not for child rape, it was for a variety of other things. From Stop Baptist Predators:

Shifflett, who was pastor at Calvary Baptist Church for 17 years, received five years each on nine counts of obtaining money by false pretenses from his congregation, three counts of filing fraudulent documents to obtain a worker's compensation award, five counts of obtaining money by false pretenses from two insurance companies and three counts of making false statements on 2003-05 Virginia income-tax returns.

I've written about this before because I was mistakenly told last year that he was out of prison even after receiving a 100 year sentence. That wasn't true. But he's out now and more crazy and outrageous things have come to light.

The new church he started, First Baptist Church of Culpeper, has been paying him a full pastor's salary the entire time he's been in prison, roughly seven years now. Not only that they've not paid the man who's been acting pastor in all that time, only Shifflett got paid while he did de nada. When Charles V. Shifflett emerged from prison one of the first things he did was attempt to return to the pulpit at First Baptist. But Shifflett was unsuccessful, there are a few attending now that sit on the elder's board that stymied his return. But guess what? They have to keep paying his salary to him.

I've been closely watching this church for quite some time now, keeping tabs on who is attending and who the pastor is. I'm not surprised at all that Shifflett tried to retake his pulpit, but I am shocked that they've been paying this child raping criminal while he's been serving prison time. That's just low.

One day his buddy's son-in-law, Jack Schaap, will emerge from federal prison and we'll see something quite similar go down if past history is a indicator of future behaviors. Betcha the first thing Schaap tries is to regain his throne.

The Substitute

Jim got to substitute teach this week. In a class for kids with behavior problems. At the middle school level.

To me this sounds like hell. He says he liked it.

The comedic aspect is that one of the kids kept asking him if he'd ever been to a strip club, or gotten a lap dance, if he smoked pot or looked at porn. Ha!

When Your Friends Aren't Your Friends

Last night I got a phone call from a friend of mine. We were talking about the challenges in our lives and I confessed that I'm struggling with the college beginning Spanish class I'm taking. I'm struggling to keep up with the 18 year olds in the class, struggling with the hour plus of home work every single night.

She'd been sharing about some struggles related to a particular job opportunity, including that she'd decided against pursuing it because it would mean working some hours when her husband would be traveling for his business. Travel she always accompanies him on. Plus she wasn't willing to put in the classroom and study work the job was going to require.

I was surprised by her attitude because I know she and her husband are in serious financial straits and need the money she could bring. But I still encouraged her to find something she could do.

Her advice to me was a shocker. She started telling me that 55 year olds cannot possibly learn as easily or as swiftly as 18 year olds so I'd better be thinking about dropping the class and getting a refund before that deadline passes. She then went on to say any number of discouraging things about going to school as an mature adult.

The last time I had a friend try to run a number of me like that was something like fifteen years ago. That person just about complete derailed my life on many levels. For many months this friend, who is now deceased, tried to guilt me because I'd married out of college and not pursued my art career, like she had. She kept proclaiming what she'd done as 'true' and 'honorable' and 'artistic' and what myself and others had done by marrying and keeping our art only to a hobby as 'small-minded' and 'predictable' and 'waste of a life and education'.

I nearly bought it, I just about walked away from my marriage and my life because of all the guilt and condemnation she heaped me with. I could have stopped her, I could have told her how wrong she was, but I didn't. I allowed her jealousy to infect everything good about my life for about 18 months before I woke up and realized she was upset that I was leading the life she always wanted. Our friendship ended over it once I discovered that she was manipulating me in order to make herself feel better.

I don't think this friend is deliberately doing what the dead friend did. But I do think there's a measure of fear tinged maybe with a soupcon of jealousy. This person isn't very self-confident and has asked me before how I dare do some of the very things I love to do and doesn't seem to understand I do what I do because I want to do those things.

One thing is for sure. While the homework is long and arduous, and I'm not loving the classroom time I'm no quitter. I'm going to see this through to the end, pass or fail.