Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What Were They Doing in Youth Group?

Cleaning my office I found a letter that arrived last year from my poisonous old church. It was neatly typed out, written by my son Andy on March 5th, 2001. He would have been nearly 13 years old. It arrived last year without notation or explanation. I have to assume it was something they did in a youth group.

Why send it now? Why not simply toss it? It's an odd sort of letter to be done in a youth group. It's from Andy to one of Tom Smith's sons, the middle one. The only one of the three to escape poverty and no education for Jesus. He's in law school now.

I'm betting both he and Andy would get a laugh out of this note.

Here's the letter:

Dear Nicky,
Star wars episode 4 is playing at the movie theater do you want to go? Yesterday I tried to skateboard at the new skatepark, I fell down on my head, what a pain! Speaking of pain Regis just moved in to our house. He kept asking me stupid multiple choice questions, like how many different colors of M&M's there are A:1, B:4, C:7, and D: 1,786 (the answer is D.) 
My new cartoon show "Snap, Cracle, Pop" is premiering tonight 
Your friend, 

I suspect the Youth Group assignment was something like write an encouraging note to a friend and this is what Andy came up with. Which really makes me smile and miss him terribly! This silly note speaks to his sense of humor with the Regis mention and even back then he was drawing cartoons and talking of making a television show/film. He always was funny and creative. He still is.

Ah Youth Group, a waste of time much of the time because at the old church they were busy trying to fit everyone in the same teeny tiny boxes. Laura and I were talking about Youth Group and Sunday School at the old church and she was telling me some pretty funny stories about how stubborn and defiant she had been when the pastor's wife tried to force her to do things she thought were stupid and constantly nagged her for not memorizing scripture like she was supposed to.

I remember those days because the pastor's wife would come to me and advise me to physically discipline Laura and then force her to memorize scripture. It would have been right around the time Laura was five years old, just learning to read. I remember telling the pastor's wife any mynah bird could parrot out scripted lines so I wasn't going to force her. Told her that when Laura's reading skills were better and she had enough intellect to better understand what she was reading we could revisit the idea of reading and memorizing the scriptures but I could not see the advantage in forcing a kid with health issues to do something like that at such a young age. Surely all it would do would be to turn Laura against reading and reading the Bible if she were forced?

What was the response? Another copy of "To Train Up A Child" by Michael Pearl thrust upon me yet again. Again I put it straight into the trash can, like I always do when it turns up at Goodwill or a thrift store. I buy the copies to throw away to keep it out the hands of impressionable people.

Neither of my kids believes in anything remotely like what was taught at our old church and I believe they are both much better for it. Laura's stubbornness and strong will have served her well. She's working on her masters degree while working full time at the university. Andy is working full time in the computer industry and pursuing his art still to this day. Both of the things my children have accomplished academically and personally would have been frowned upon at the old church, I'm just happy we got out in time for both of them to be free to be their truest selves instead of mashed into that tiny restrictive box.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

High School Narcs

Last week one of the few people from my last high school added me to a Facebook list for alumni of that school. It's been interesting if nothing else. I learned that attention-whoring former cheerleaders are mostly still obsessed with being popular, getting attention and looking as perfect as possible while fighting the realities of time, gravity and tide.

I hated high school and had something of a Veronica Mars attitude towards it. There aren't enough wild horses out there that would ever possibly drag my bloated ass back to my classmates at a high school reunion. I would have treated the cheerleaders and some of the class mates like Veronica did.

High school was a particularly hard time for me for a number of factors.

1) I was still a pawn in the hateful post-divorce game my parents played, at least when they weren't studiously ignoring me in the arms of their new significant others. My mother lived with her boyfriend in one apartment while I lived several buildings away in townhouse. Whenever she wanted to get back at my father she'd shake him down for tuition money to send me to various private schools, religious or not, mostly Catholic. The fact is that this meant I changed schools a lot.

When you hop from school to school you don't tend to pick up lasting friendships. Why bother when you know it's just a matter of time before as part of the post-divorce war you'll be switching schools again in six months. You know you're just passing through.

My parents never considered what this was like for me. The only good that came out of it was that because I'd spent enough loner misfit hours at Catholic schools I did actually pick up a decent education. Decent enough that when I started missing school for chemo and radiation I never had trouble keeping up with the class because my old school had long since covered what the public school that was my last high school was currently teaching. I skated with little effort.

2) During the second half of my freshman year/first half of sophomore year I became very ill with an aggressive form of cancer. I missed many days of school for surgery, reconstructive surgery, chemo and radiation. Missing school isn't exactly conducive to making friends in school. Reading this FB group page I sort of remember names here or there, but not too many.

3) I was a shy bookish introverted stoner nerd type in high school and hid in books to avoid having to deal with my classmates. Didn't eat in the cafeteria but hung out with the other introverts that worshiped our biology teacher in her classroom at lunch. She welcomed us, listened to us and encouraged our group of misfits.

4) When I arrived at my last high school some of the 'cool' kids decided since I was arriving some months after the beginning of the school year and knew much of the academic material that I had to be a narc sent to the school to rat out who was smoking weed in the bull pen. I endured a different kind of hell on earth and first months in that school, bullied, harassed and even had someone threaten me with a knife. One of the things that happened during freshman year is that I was raped by the knife wielding classmate at knife point after school within a few months of moving to that school.

So when some idiot on the Facebook page started talking about narcs at the school and my name came up I went a little nuts, telling them of the harassment, and harm that was done to me all those years ago because of the label 'narc'. I'm still more than a little surprised that they were all still so paranoid about new people at their high school being narcs here after almost forty years. Also surprised at how many of my former classmates are the same as they were in high school, living in the same town, doing the same sorts of things, so bourgeois and petty.

Dropped off that list because those that I was closer to in those years are already friends of mine on Facebook. Every month or so someone that was less than kind or friendly to me in school tries to friend me on Facebook and I always reject them. If you had no use for me then what makes you think I'm going to allow you into my life now?

The past is the past and I refuse to live there. For those people who 'peaked' in high school I feel so sorry for you guys. Life is much more than high school. High school is a small blip on the screen of life, a tiny moment.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Goat Rodeo Getaway, Eye See You & Mercedes Parked in Weird Spots

This has been something of a rough week for me here. First I casually mentioned a Groupon hotel room deal to my youngest daughter, who immediately started organizing a 'Girls Weekend Get Away' for her, me and our bipolar relative. The problem being BPR said she could not get a sitter for her kids and did not want to put up with Laura's dog. They added me to the trip even as I kept explaining to both of them that I had to check with my husband to make sure we had nothing planned that weekend. Once Laura added her boyfriend, BPR added her kids and I realized they were talking about doing this on this very upcoming weekend I had to bail without even asking Jim. Hell is being trapped in a hotel room with little kids, big dogs and crazy relations. My blood pressure rises just thinking about it, particularly since BPR said that they had to book a extra hotel room just to have a 'safe' place away from the kids to smoke pot.

I don't care if they smoke more ganga than Bob Marley, but I do care that they are doing it in such close proximity to small children. Which led to a long phone call between myself and those involved in the trip. Give the bong a damn rest!

A few days later I had to drive Laura to a routine eye exam so that she could get new glasses. She's been having troubles with her glasses and contacts even if her prescription is less than a year old. With the appointment being during the work week there was no one to drive her and her dilated eyes back to the house afterward. I drove up to the city and took her to the eye doctor where everything went haywire.

Laura's vision problems stem from her having unnaturally dry eyes, so the day was eaten up with tests for all sorts of things to try to rule out a source for the eye problem. Many of those things are, surprise, surprise, immune system related. I hope and pray that she isn't developing something along those lines. Guess we'll find out soon enough. Hope the different prescriptions we put her on work and there's nothing long term going on.

It was on the drive into Manassas for a Costco run when I saw one of the oddest things I've seen in a long time. We're tooling along on Sudley Road near the Manassas National Battlefield park, the place the Battle of Bull Run was fought during the Civil War when I started pointing and shouting to Laura. She was still so blind from the tests, dyes and dilation that we were right up upon it before she saw. Some idiotic likely-entitled feeling Northern Virginia driver had somehow managed to get his Mercedes up on top of the split rail fence surrounding the battlefield park. That would be no mean trick, you'd have to be going something like fifty or sixty miles an hour on the narrow blacktop road cutting through the park and fly over the embankment to land on top of the fence. The driver was stuck in the car on top of the fence while the park police directed traffic, us rubberneckers, around the scene.

I'll say one thing, the Mercedes didn't have so much beyond a few scratches and dents. They are tough cars. I had one in Germany, skidded on black ice, hit a rock wall and only shattered a head light cover.

Bet that driver feels pretty damn stupid right now.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Television! Horrible Sin or Blessed Distraction?

This week I've been watching Netflix's comedy "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and laughing my ass off! Jim didn't like it much the few episodes he watched with me but I loved it! It has the same goofy sweetness that a show I used to love, "Ugly Betty" had.

Here's the theme song, which kind of says it all. It's a parody of Antoine Dodson's viral video "Bed Intruder"

The entire show is about a girl who was snatched by a cult leader when she was 12 or 13, hidden away in an underground bunker before emerging and starting her life outside of the cult. It is pretty funny, if not sort of slapstick and farcical. I love it! The fact that some of my favorite actors from "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" have popped up in surprising roles on the show only ads to my goofy glee over this show. I binge watched it on Netflix over the course of three days.

That's one of the things I love now about not having a cult church part fundy/part evangelical set of rules constantly hanging over my head, I love, love, love being able to watch television without the guilt. I remember my old church days of sneakily taking a peek at "Sex and the City" and other television shows on those rare occasions I had to travel for work or conferences and feeling bad about it for weeks.

Television that wasn't 'The 700 Club" or sporting events was super frowned upon. Even our pastor kept his television set in the large upstairs closet of his house, only to be used for news and sports. Most of the members either didn't have television sets or had no cable or television reception, trading VCR tapes back and forth of various ministers and church approved kiddie shows.

I always thought it was very hypocritical because anything that even slightly possibly might smack of sexuality was perma banned but the action movie with killings and explosions was not. I remember taking my children's brand new VCR copy of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" to another church family's home, a home where we'd watched oodles of violent action movies that I never liked that were somehow "okay" to watch because there wasn't even a whiff or hint of sexual tension, much less anything remotely sexual.

We settled in to watch the movie, moms and kids and got to the part where Esmeralda was dancing during the Festival of Fool when the man of the house, lover of action films, came into the living room and started screaming about how we were exposing the kids to unHoly, unrighteous S-E-X. He punched stop on the VCR player so hard while I observed the veins bulging in his neck while he shouted out that I could take my filth home and never bring it back. Seriously, over a Disney movie!

A week or so later I got a call from Mr. Violent Movies sheepishly asking if they could borrow our copy of "Hunchback". I had to ask him why the change of heart and he told me that Pat Robertson had given the film his approval, saying that the film showed people praying in a church. I refused this man's request and told him I was refusing because of his initial overreaction when his kids and mine got together to watch the movie.

During my years at that church I learned to keep to myself the fact that I was watching "Homicide: Life on the Street" and some movie musicals that the church would have frowned upon lest someone tell me how 'sinful' I was being. It kept me from watching much television beyond a few shows and movies secretly.

As soon as we left I started indulging in VH1's pile of sleazier reality shows such as "Rock of Love" and "Surreal Life" and "Celebrity Rehab" and discovered shows such as "The Tudors", "Mad Men", "Ugly Betty" and "Law & Order: SVU" just to name a few. The same fall I left my old television-watching eschewing church was the same time my asthma went batshit crazy. I started a love affair with the old boob tube while I was wheezing and horizontal. Many many times when the asthma is super bad, or they've given me some rather odd treatment for it, like the six months I was on chemo to turn off my asthma and I cannot function I can turn off my anxiety, my pain and my struggling against the whims of my body by picking up my crochet hook, some plarm, sitting back and escaping some place I can never really go, like "Game of Thrones" Westeros or "Breaking Bad" Albuquerque.

How can anything that legally lifts you out of your physical pain and sad condition really that bad? I no longer watch any reality television or the talk shows, but I cannot wait till the rest of "Man Men" and the return of "GoT"

Thursday, March 12, 2015

When Parents Religious Choices Inhibit Their Children's Earning Capacities in the Future

I've been out and about this week after having kicked over the traces of my mainstream church. I've been feeling worlds happier, more confident and just all around better after settling emotional boundaries and enforcing them. It's a learning process for me. Plus I have some new ideas as far as my spirituality. Leaving that church and moving forward.

Starting the preparations for our upcoming trip to Costa Rica next month and some of those preparations fit well with the things I did for my mental health, such as go out and get a massage and a facial. One of the best parts of the trip prep has been my daily trips to the tanning salon. There's just something about laying in that glowing buzzing tube that acts on me just like a tranquilizer. I don't know if it is the ritual and the associated pampering, but I always come out feeling better.

I've also been going to the park to walk daily so that I build up my muscles for the possibilities of hiking, zip lining and paddle boarding.

Another part of my new spring rituals for preparing is going to the Mennonite store near the park for a salad after the walk. Yesterday I ran into a familiar face from our old church that I was sad to see in that situation.

Remember Tom Smith from my old church? My tales of Tom Smith's sons and Andy and Laura being good friends and playing together? Remember the episode with Tom where he wanted to borrow a huge amount of cash from us and berated us for having put money aside so that Andy and Laura could go to college and he could not afford to send him? I saw Tom Smith's youngest son, the married son.

This son, Aaron, is Laura's age and he's been married for the last three years. The last I'd heard about Aaron he'd been on staff at a big youth church in Fredericksburg and was going freelance handyman jobs to supplement the tiny stipend the church paid. Both he and his oldest brother were doing those things together.

Now he's got a third job, stocking shelves at the Mennonite store.

I played the coward and slunk away clutching my salad to my bosom to avoid being seen.

While I hold nothing against Aaron, nothing that happened in the past had anything to do with him, bad or good, he was just a child, I cannot stand to see how the Fundigelical path Tom Smith has taken has pretty much doomed two of his three children to poverty.

Back during our old church days the Smiths had encouraged their children upon leaving high school to enroll in Teen Mania Ministries for several years, followed by time at IHOP, Mike Bickel's church in the St. Louis area.

During their growing up years Tom had instilled in them that they must deny self to minister to others after they finished high school and treated the idea of college as if it were a poisonous bed of liberal snakes seeking to kill off their faith. Plus he drilled into them that hoary old chestnut repeated again and again at church, 'God will provide' if you're a good enough Christian.

You'd think after Tom had trouble keeping a job and they lived on the brink of poverty all those years that all of them would come out with the mentality that they would not repeat their odious childhood, that they'd either get scholarships or student loans and go to college so that they would not have to worry about money. One of the boys was so smart he was offered a full scholarship to UVA, but, due to the indoctrination he'd received at home and church all these years he turned down the scholarship to spend four years away at Teen Mania and IHOP.

Only one of the three boys is in college. The middle less indoctrinated child. He is currently in law school. Aaron and Jorge are not.

Genteel poverty sucks. I know, when I divorced my first husband I had a small child and almost no income. I struggled to finish up my degree and raise my daughter at the same time. It wasn't easy but I'd gone through enough with my ex Dan that I was determined to make a better life for us. I didn't have the huge impediment that the Smith boys have, I had no religion or ideas that you should only work at a self employment situation or for a 'Christian' business, or that education was somehow 'unGodly'.

The series I wrote for No Longer Quivering about my bete noire, Tom Smith

Part 1 Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | 
Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Monday, March 09, 2015

Double F*ck Church

There's a cartoon at The Oatmeal that perfectly suits my yesterday and today and the crazy that is now my mainstream church. I cannot find it or I would post it, instead I'm going to have to use my limited simian vocabulary to try and impress the wonder that is The Oatmeal's  Godzilla cartoon. In the cartoon Godzilla sees the ginormous hornets of Japan, turns around to trudge back into the ocean while he flips double middle fingers and mutters 'Nope, Nope, Nope'

That's me leaving church forever...Nope, Nope, Nope!!

Last week I talked about in my blog how I was coming to the conclusion I was completely 'done' with organized religion This week it's no longer a conclusion, I am done. The last few days have clinched that deal.

Way back in September I wrote a post called 'Shake It Off' talking about a situation involving the worship team leader Sam that I had been oh so unwillingly drug into. Short version: Sam did a mass Facebook private message to a total of 22 different women in the church asking for prayer for his marriage. He also shared quite a lot of personal information about his wife Stacy and why she was 'Worst Wife EVER!'

I replied on the mass pm that a) this wasn't appropriate venue to share that information because in my past experience at my old church sharing like this just led to gossip not prayer, b) he could ask for prayer without bashing his wife (who is a friend btw) and c) I was pretty sure his very shy wife would be hurt and shamed if she knew he was sharing like this. The response I got was pretty awful so I removed myself from the conversation by clicking on a button to leave the pm.

I decided that at some point in the future when I wasn't triggered over the stuff at the old church I'd try talking to Sam one on one. Ultimately I decided against that after watching his fawning horde of ladies from the church and that list and experiencing first hand yet again that if you don't go along with everyone else you're going to be subjected to ugly remarks and snubs.

Since September I've not been at church as much. Starting in late November I stopped going at all. Not one person from church has bothered to ask where I've been and what's going on.

And then this weekend happens. Someone I used to know very well from the conference circuit friended me on Facebook and proceeded to give me the business, telling me I was never really a Christian because I've stepped away from the revivals and conferences and fundagelical church movement. Condemning, blasting, not much love of Christ. FFS I've been away from all that since November 2007, nearly eight years and folks are still trying to beat me back into the fold?

That same day I was out shopping and had another nasty encounter with one of the ladies on Sam's list that has been acting like assholes since the prayer list. I was standing right behind her at the counter in Walgreens, I said hello and asked her how she'd been and she replied that she was 'too busy' to talk to me.

So typical of the bullshit that's been thrown at me since I told Sam his request wasn't right. I shrugged, mentally tallied up how many times this stupidity had happened since then.

Sunday morning started off on just the wrong note. Jim begged me to go to church with him. I did and it was okay, except the only person curious to know why I hadn't been there was the pastor. After the service one of the ladies in that clique said something very ugly to me right in front of the pastor and walked off. He asked me what that was all about and I told him about the prayer list and what happened. He knew about the Facebook mass prayer request because someone else on the list had complained about it to him and the pastor had spoken to Sam about it months ago. So apparently someone else also thought it was a very bad idea but didn't speak up. Likely she knew it was church social suicide to do just that.

I felt better after having spoken to our pastor and took courage in some of the things he said, he had some suggestions about how to reply to those ladies.

Let me say that I'm not 'mad' at Sam, disappointed with his immaturity yes, but not angry.

So imagine my surprise when Sam calls me this morning in an extremely offensive and hostile mood, telling me he completely disagrees with me on the appropriateness of the prayer request mass Facebook thing. We talk and it's pretty clear everything I'm saying is not going in at all, he's defense, defense, defense. I ended up the call. He kept telling me that I shouldn't tell the pastor he called. Screw that! The pastor had no business telling him what I said, what I said was in confidence, or I thought by telling him he was not to share what I said. Nothing I said blamed Sam at all, just said that these silly women were treating me like the devil's red headed stepchild since I spoke up on the list.

Several hours ago I sent the pastor an email telling him I knew he thought he had my best interests at heart but that sharing what I told him in confidence just upset me and I didn't appreciate the hostile phone call I got from Sam.

I am done with the lot of them. The next time one of those Good Christian(tm) women from this big mainstream church pull their passive aggressive hostility towards me out and about I'm going to give them an earful and I'm not going back to church. I am beyond done at this point. Let's see what a year without church looks like.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Generational Differences

Yesterday morning I got  a phone call from an older friend of mine, a widowed lady who is 75 years young now. Not a fundamentalist Christian or anyone I've gone to church with ever. But someone who has been part of my life for many years now.

She caught me at a very bad point in my day, shortly after the latest bit of confloption screwball stupidity that is trying to book a a long planned vacation in Costa Rica with side trips to Panama and Colombia. She said she could hear the irritation in my voice.

The trip. I stumbled upon quite by accident a travel agency out of NYC that only does package deals to Central America and the Caribbean. They can beat anyone's prices and I've been doing the numbers and researching this trip for months. The problem being only that dealing with the young man with the heavy Brooklynese accent morphed into a nightmare on Tuesday night when he informs Jim and I that there are documents that must be approved by 7 pm at nearly 5 pm.

When I get the trip invoice he has our names completely misspelled even after I'd filled out all the trip information several times and emailed it to him. No excuse for the misspelling and you know sure as hell TSA isn't going to let either Jim or I on the plane with tickets that do not match our passports. It takes the rest of the evening for him to make the corrections and for me to approve the changes and invoice.

Wednesday morning I'm sitting at the computer working on NLQ when Jim calls up and instead of asking me about the documents immediately starts yelling at me that I failed to sign the documentation the night before. I look in my email box and lo and behold, there are NEW documents requiring our signature just emailed to me minutes before requiring more signatures.  We'd already been warned that all the documents had to be signed and in by 7 pm the night before so I end up having a conversation with the young man at the travel agency where I'm hissing and threatening to have Am Ex cancel the transaction if he tries to raise the ticket price due to the fact that we're late getting all the paperwork in. Not my problem, he screwed up the names repeatedly on the travel documents more than once well after I'd provided the correct information.

To top it all off while I was dusting minutes after the phone calls I accidentally dropped one of Jim's fantasy football trophies and watched in horror as it shattered into a zillion pieces. He treasures those things and I wasn't relishing having to tell him I'd dropped it. Ordered a replacement minutes later online, but still he wasn't going to be exactly tap dancing with joy over the destruction of the original no matter how accidental it was.

So I'm still steaming from that and from the angry phone call with Jim, so pissed that during my interaction with my husband at one point I'd shouted out my reply to him with a hearty F word between each and every word and she can hear it in my voice what type of a day it's already been even though noon is several hours away..

This little lady, this widow listens calmly as I complain about incompetent travel agency workers and husbands that do not understand I cannot control what the said incompetent travel agency guy is doing plus my butter fingered trophy smashing. Her response sort of floored me. She said that I should put on my prettiest dress, do my hair and makeup and then fix Jim's favorite meal and dessert and fawn all over him, wait on him hand and foot. Plus I shouldn't say a thing about the trophy, simply replace it without a word. Keeping hubby happy was the way to go.

I have a jaw drop moment upon hearing this advice. No way, no freakin' way would I ever been that disingenuous in my relationship with my husband. He might yell at me for the travel agent screw up and I might shout f*ck at him but at least it's honest, more honest than hiding what happened and my emotions.

This is really confusing to me at first because I know this lady isn't religious, yet what she's advocating doing is like something straight out of a Debi Pearl book on being a good Christian woman with the properly submissive attitude.

Once years ago during my old church days I'd been asking my prayer partner, a nice Mennonite lady, what to do about my (then) lack of feelings towards my husband and she gave me the advice to go home, get naked and being waiting in bed for him because in her logic 'No man ever threw a naked lady out of his bed.' Totally did not address the disconnect I was feeling towards Jim in those long ago days and seemed bizarrely out of place, just like this advice.

But the more I thought it, the more I realized this is generational. This woman would have been a teenager/young woman in the 1950s when this sort of behavior was expected and preached from society in general, not just the Quiverfull Fundamentalist Evangelical CPM.

I didn't take her advice, even if I did bake a pie. I like pie and I was in the mood for pie. Yeah, seeking to control someone by constantly placating them with things like favorite foods and making their lives as falsely smooth as possible is still trying to control them. Not for me.

Jim took the news of the trophy breaking in stride and was just happy I thought to order another one. I never did get around to cooking dinner. We watched 'Midnight Cowboy' and have popcorn for dinner. I'm sure my friend would have been properly horrified.