Saturday, August 30, 2014

Why I Avoid "Christian" Businesses or What is Screwed up About a Home-Based Economy

As I have stated at NLQ and here, years ago I had a business making worship flags, the large banners that hang in churches, silk altar cloths, you name it. If it was something a sacristan would handle in the church, it was something I made.

When I first started making these things it seemed a perfect culmination of my years of sewing mixed with my college art commingled with my continuing artistic journey. It seemed like the natural outgrowth of my years doing art as a sideline, starting with the many fancy, fantastical and elaborate Mardi Gras costumes I churned out for customers starting back in my college days for extra money, right to the early days at my old church, when I made rather complex traditional style quilts to sell through the quilt shop in Williamsburg.

During those first months at our old church I was recovering from a spectacular bout of depression in the wake of the flood of July 1995. Jim and I owned and operated for over five years a small country store in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, a mere mile or so from the hiking trails of the Shenandoah National Park. We'd done pretty well financially with the store and Jim had recently taken on a full time job with the federal government, leaving me to pull the 90 hours that the store was open between myself and a few part time employees.

In late July it rained and wouldn't stop, rain coming down at something like an inch an hour for a long stretch till the mountains could contain no more and water, mud, houses and beasts rolled off the mountains and ripped through the valley our store stood in. I'd just gotten a delivery of horse feed and mulch from the local farmers coop and managed to sand bag the doors with the feed and mulch, meaning that tho the water rushed around the building at 18 inches deep we only had six inches inside the store.

We were never able to recover from the flood at the store and we sold the place a few months later after both Laura and I suffered through bouts of illness. First her with ITP and meningitis and later I suffered from PSTD and the onset of fibromyalgia. We joined our old church in the middle of these crisis's.

One of the things that the ladies kept trying to pound in my head during those early days, besides telling me that I should use "To Train Up A Child" to discipline my very ill child, was that if I was going to be a good Christian submissive wife I was going to have to not work outside of the home. Which was foreign to me, I'd always had some sort of job outside of the home, even if it was part time, and mostly tried to work at a time when Jim could take care of the kids so that they didn't have to go to daycare.

This was the first time I'd heard of the family economy. I did this for a year or two, did the quilting, to make some money while I was incapacitated by the fibro. But eventually I did go back to working outside of the home, to the disappointment and derision of the ladies of the church. I just kept telling myself that they didn't know any better, none of them had college educations and it seemed like a waste of my own education to not work.

But like any good cult, eventually the messages being replayed over and over again went into my head and I started seeking a way to do the home-based economy thing, find something I could do. When I started making flags it seemed like the perfect answer, most of what I made was either an air-brushed design, or something like a 9 foot long half round lame flag with an inset of glittery chiffon or a special shaped, painted, stoned, flag that was one of the kind. One of the most popular ones I sold was a half round flag with a flaming sword appliqued into place and bejeweled and stoned with a hand-worked sword hilt on the flag handle.

What I'm trying to say is that the flags were one of a kind, hand made, designs I'd come up with, more like art work than anything mass produced. I charged accordingly, because, none of those things I'm talking about are quick and easy. Sometimes I'd have close to sixty dollars in materials alone in the flags.

At first I sold quite a few, and I'd get contacted frequently to make something special, or perhaps an entire set of flags just for a church. Did so well and had enough orders that I quit my job as a systems admin at an insurance company. Home-based economy, honoring God, etc.

And I wasn't the only one. One family at church the hubby farmed and tuned pianos on the side while the wife did his books. The pastor's wife sold Pampered Chef products, others did Mary Kay, Tupperware, or other sales from their home. One lady made cheese, another one bought and sold vintage things online, another did bookkeeping out of her home. Many of the men farmed or mowed grass, landscaped, were roofers or were carpenters. Lots of businesses run out of the home.

This was odd for me because I'd mostly worked either in corporate America or for government agencies in social work, all frowned upon by our church. With the flags and large banners I ran into a snag after a few months, a snag I've seen played out again and again and again in the Christian home economies in many different divisions.

It would go something like this. I'd be at a teaching conference, or someone would see my now-defunct website and start asking questions about one of the items. Most of the time this was about the half round 9 foot long flags with a half round center of glitter bedecked chiffon, not an easy item to make, but one that I'd managed to come up with a nearly fool proof method to make. I had my own pattern I'd made, and my own special technique for appliqueing in the center, while cutting away the solid lame in the center. It wasn't easy, but it was my way to do it that worked every time.

The problem with this particular highly-coveted flag is that you needed a minimum of 5 yards of very expensive materials. It was usually about sixty dollars for fabric in that particular one. The ones that contacted me proclaiming what Good Christians (tm) they were also were the very ones that demanded either a) a big discount or b) to know exactly how I made that flag so they could make their own. Why? Because the $90 I was charging was thought to be too much for this item that took lots of expensive fabric and the expertise to make.

Many times I'd give in with a sigh, sketch out how to make one if I was at a conference, or explain via email. Usually what happened is that the person would get so far into the project, screw it up and then demand I fix their mess. For free. Most of the time when I looked at what they'd done I'd have to point out that they'd mangled the delicate fabric so badly that they'd have to start from scratch again. Would have been way cheaper just to buy from me in the first place

Eventually I'd sell the pattern, but people would still balk at spending ten bucks for a pattern and demand I explain for free.

And the people who were whining and demanding were also screaming out what Good Christians (tm) they were so I owed it to them because I was a Christian.

I got to see that Good Christian (tm) dynamic at work in just about every place, public secular business or Christian business, people saying that since they were doing the work of the God they deserved a discount or freebie, who would not let up until they got their way. Vyckie Garrison and I have had discussions about the Good Christian discount whine.

To add insult to grievous injury every single freakin' time I'd come up with a new design, something I'd sketched out, made the pattern for and then made the sample and posted it on my website within a week I'd see a badly executed copy made from discount fabric of my original design up on Ebay for a cheaper price. To me that is what separates true artists from the artisans. Artists do it because it's inside of them, artisans are just looking to make a buck.

Not one of my flags, but one of the quilts I've made just to give you an idea of my mad sewing skillz and the way I put together colors and textures. Not my original pattern.

Even as sales were decent after awhile I got most burned out by the attitudes of entitlement, the begging, whining, demanding a discount and the general intellectual thievery. I stopped making flags for anyone but myself, or when someone who's seen one of mine and is willing to pay without whining. Just readied a big box of flags going on a missions trip to Cuba next month.

I am proud to say that there are some of my worship flags on every continent of the world, with the exception of Antarctica. Japan, Romania, Germany, Australia, Russia, Poland, the Bahamas and all over the USA. That is something I am proud of.

This is a air brushed flag I did make, it's five feet by 2 /1/2 feet gold lame. Not my original design. This was a custom order with the design from a photograph of a painting someone else did that the customer was requesting. Still one of my favorite simple rectangular flags.

One thing I started to notice during my years at good old Creek Church, the tendency of the Creekers and other Good Christians (tm) to take advantage of people, press every advantage and try to drum up business by means fair and foul. Example, just about everyone that sucked up to the Pastor's wife bought Pampered Chef merchandise and many ladies at the church signed up to sell beneath her every single time she started putting the pressure to people over being Good Christians (tm) helping out each other.

It was as if none of them thought hard work and conviction was enough, they had to press every advantage and try to game the system each and every time. Some of them still are, hence Mrs. 5 by 5 fleecing two different sets of the elderly she did the books for out of over 20K. Today I saw her with another new senior citizen that has a small business and I'm going to see if I can talk to her newest employer's relatives before she steals from this women.

I had originally intended to go on and on with stories of the complete fubared nature of most of the home-based economies that I got the chance to observe, but I'm running out of steam here. What got me started was that this morning I got a series of comments from another flag-maker that was upset that I'd used one of her photos in an old post I made discussing why I no longer made worship flags for the general public. A couple of months ago she requested I take down the photo I used, citing that I'd violated her copyright, even though her photos weren't marked as copyrighted or watermarked, and I meant no disrespect to her. The reason I used the photo is it was the only one even remotely close to some of the hand dyed and painted silk flags I'd made. I have almost no photos of my flags left as they were all on my old computer.

Long story short. I took down the photo from this blog and considered the issue closed. Too bad, because the photo was very pretty. Today she showed up again, still upset and still claiming I was linked to her photo or had the photo or something that I just didn't get. 

She behaved with typical Fundigelical whining and I exploded on her in a furious volley of obscene words. I've removed the flag post all together and purged that silly photo out of Blogspot photo archive I didn't even know existed til this morning. She's still sending me comments/demands, none of which I'm going to allow through to the blog here. I honored her request when she first made it.

Here's what I learned in the last twenty years plus years dealing with Fundigelicals and their businesses/home based economies.

1) If they can take some small advantage of you, then they will. If you call them on it they will claim it's their right as Christians to be entitled to more or they outright deny they've done it.
2) They believe if they can whine, beat you down, demand, threaten or haggle long enough you will give in to their sense of entitlement and give out something for free or deep discount. Why? Because Christian! Because Bible!
3) If you happen to not totally agree with their flavor of True Believer then they might refuse to serve you and/or jack up the charges.
4) They act like they have some sort of moral superiority over you all the while behaving badly.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Eating Pancakes and Riding The Boob-Mangler 3000

Last Thursday I spent the day with my BFF Joanie. Friday was her birthday and she wanted to go out to IHOP to eat.

I love IHOP, but IHOP doesn't love me. After eating there I always stagger out feeling like I just consumed a ten pound brick of solid lard studded with Xanax. After eating there I am completely incapable of rational thought or action, wanting just to lay down without having to employ my brain or body. Someone suggested it was a blood sugar reaction, but I'm not entirely sure it is considering I have the same reaction there even if I eat, like this time, a hefty chunk of protein too.

When I gave Joanie her gift I was surprised when she burst into tears. I'd wrapped the package with some gift wrap I had leftover from another birthday and did up a pretty bow with left over ribbon. She told me her tears was because no one had taken the time and care to do up a pretty package for her since she was a child.

I was pretty surprised at that because I always assumed that most folks wrap their presents and take some care to make sure it doesn't look like a crackhead wrapped it. It wasn't some super special effort on my part. I guess you just never know what will touch someone.

Joanie in my living room with her present

I had fun putting this gift together. Months before I'd spotted a huge wineglass at a animal rescue fundraiser and ended up buying it. I filled it with bottles of bath oil, bath salts, lotions and a couple of packets of frozen drink mix. A relaxation package on a budget.

Was so glad to be away from the house on Thursday since that's the usual day Jim works from home. The problem with him working from home is the fact that he curses and carries on when his computer acts up or he has other problems with technology, like dealing with the CMS platform he uses for work. I get to hear him say "Goddammit" so many times in a day that I fear that at any moment a bolt of lightning is going to pierce the ceiling and fry my beloved into a crispy critter. 

He's been in a quite a bad mood for a few days so I spent most of the weekend quilting behind closed doors, while he chewed the scenery, cursed and rode his motorcycle. One of the challenges of being married is not being impacted by someone else's foul mood. Particularly when the mood is due to something you personally consider not worth getting worked up about. 

But not for much longer, last night was his first fantasy football draft of the season. This weekend brings a few more. I'm about to be a fantasy football widow until after the Superbowl. This is why I get the majority of the quilting I do done during football season.

Which would be good because this has been a sort of raw nerves week of trying to catch our accountant in the office, having an anonymous neighbor leave a nasty note on your front door about another neighbor that you are in no way shape or form connected with just because you sit on the HOA board, dealing with Jim's mother being in and out of the hospital again, dealing with my mother having issues again, finishing up clearing out the storage room and today's awful chore - riding the Boob-Mangler 3000, a.k.a the dreaded mammogram!

It's been awhile since I've had one and last time was awful. I don't know if getting your teat run through the mangler on an old-fashioned washing machine would have hurt worse or not. I was left with bruises for weeks. Not to mention last year when I had an ultrasound of my gall bladder and liver, after the test I had big purple bruises on my torso.

But this time it wasn't so bad. I made sure to scream out that I had Von Willebrands and had been bruised up badly the last few times and they handled me far more gently than usual. I'm sore but it's not too bad.

Now if the rest of my week could go so gently I'd be grateful.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Antics of Former Church Members

Hard to believe this is still a thing in modern society
One of the few advantages of living in a small Southern town is when members of your former church do stupid things you get to hear about it in nauseating detail ad nauseum.

One of my friends from the old church I'm still friends with, Leanna, who was also harassed by those at Possum Creek till she left along with others. Last week she shot me an IM asking me to pray for her. She's my age and she's not worked outside of the home in a very long time. She was getting ready to work for a mutual acquaintance that had a small printing company and Leanna wanted prayer that she'd be able to work full time again and handle her house and animals without having any more problems with her arthritis and other physical ailments.

Leanna has prayed for my various ailments that make it hard for me to work full time outside of the home for a couple of years now. We still regularly pray together. Plus we're able to be real with each other. I was telling her today that I was so done with sermons, completely over hearing anyone else's interpretation of the Bible. I'll read and form my own opinions, thank you very much!

Leanna was feeling very inadequate going into this job and she ended up only working a total of four hours. Why? Because Mrs. 5 by 5, the former church secretary (I sometimes refer to her as Mrs. Bz Body) who's office was gossip central at the Creek, also was working for this printing company along with another Creek gossip queen. They'd been ground central in getting Leanna out of the church, gossiping, cursing her out, slandering her, you name it, till Leanna and the other half of the church left. Then the tables turned on Mrs. 5 by 5 and she was given the same treatment, her and her family driven from the Creek.

Turns out as soon as Mrs. 5 by 5 and her pal heard that Leanna was coming on board to take over all the admin duties and data entry starting that morning that both Mrs. 5 by 5 and her minion left, quitting without giving any reason. I know it was because they hate Leanna.

Mr. Peter, the owner of the printing company found out after they left that Mrs. 5 by 5, her son and her pal, had been stealing from him once he tried to get into the books to start training Leanna. Because now he was short handed in the printing room and Leanna's husband is going into a slow time in his job Mr Peter asked if Leanna's husband wanted to come to work to help out with the printer jobs. Mr. Peter called in his retired wife, Miss Nancy to help he and Leanna go through the books and receipts to see if they could make sense of it.

By the end of the four hours Mr. Peter ended up sending Leanna home because he was going to have to bring in the accountant to see what was happening. Mr. Peter told Leanna that he'd call her in a few days to let her know when she and her husband could show up for work.

Turns out the thievery was so bad and the books so bungled that now Mr. Peter and Miss Nancy are going to have to work for at least six months with taking no pay in order to get the business back on stable financial ground. He cannot afford to pay Leanna to work for him. So she's out of a job, courtesy of Mrs. 5 by 5.

The whole time that Leanna is relating this tale she's begging me not to hold it against Mrs. 5 by 5 or be bitter at all towards that woman. Besides, she said, Mr. Peter is not going to have her prosecuted, in fact, he's forgiven her.

I have to say it. Mr. Peter is a fool! Mrs. 5 by 5 has a long reputation of workplace shenanigans and gossiping. She should be prosecuted! She's just about killed his business!

What he needs most is a good forensic accountant to sort all of this out and expose what she's done this time.

None of this changes my initial impression of the lady. My inner warning bells started going off just about the time she joined the church and morphed into super control freak mode.

My own history with Mrs. 5 by 5 goes way back to when she first joined out old church and she started campaigning to be the church secretary. She also took on the responsibility of organizing the high school senior honors banquet and all sorts of other thankless volunteer tasks.

The first time I ran afoul of her was when Jim and I had taken our turn providing the post-church refreshments. After everyone left we scrubbed up and left platters and other church dishes drying on the drain board only to get an angry phone call from Mrs. 5 on Wednesday night demanding we come back down to church and 'clean up our mess' right now!!!!

We got to the church and yes, there were a lot of dirty dishes and plates, but I pointed out to Mrs. 5 that we'd not used those things and that all the stuff we did use was still drying. Mrs. 5 started screaming at me, all insults and demands and I walked off lest I say something to her that I would regret.

Weeks later she came to me to say how sorry she was. Turns out there was a teen meeting on Tuesday night and all the dirty dishes and food grime was left from that. But in my mind the damage was already done since she's loudly shared with many people that she thought I'd not cleaned up after refreshments and she made no move to spread the word that some other group had done it. After that I always had to deal with random church goers reminding me to make sure I cleared up after refreshments and not do what I'd done before, which I hadn't done.

One thing she did that I did have fun sitting back and watching the consequences of was that she tried to enroll her daughter Mini-5 in the local Jr. Junior League. She wanted Mini-5 to be a debutante here in this small Southern town.

The funny of it was that Junior League here doesn't work at all like it does on Long Island, New York, where she's from. I heard through the grapevine that she made numerous attempts to join and didn't realize there wasn't one lady who is a part of that organization that was going to allow her entry. She doesn't have the correct pedigree, isn't part of the right social class, and as obnoxious as she is I could see that the local Old Guard would freeze her out for being in their view, a loud uncouth Yankee without manners.

The guardians of the Old South can be brutal.

They were to her, not actually banning her but making Mini and her so uncomfortable that they finally got the hint. She was upset and moaned about it quite a lot. It didn't help when she found out that Laura had been asked to join without me having to do or say a thing. I said no, because while proper manners are a good thing Laura already knew what fork to use and how to handle social situations without being part of the Cotillion.

Laura had no desire to do it, but one of her friends mother was the head of the local organization. That was the reason behind the invite, that and the fact that I'd been a member years ago. I absolutely hated it, but my mother forced me to go. In my day there was way too much snobbery and social class exclusionary hi-jinks going on. It was a giant drag in my mind. I hated wearing that stupid crinoline to learn how to waltz (which I understand they don't do any longer). I hated the over the top manners. I hated the tea dances. I hated the small talk. I just wanted to stay home and read or listen to music. To introverted me it was torture. Actually, no, I would have welcomed physical torture over Junior League shenanigans.

I'm glad Leanna shared with me what happened, because it means I must really avoid going to the local Starbucks now. Mini-5 has been bugging me to hire her to clean my house and do some painting of trim and I've waffled on it, saying maybe. The reason I haven't wanted to hire the girl, even if I like her, is that I don't want the mom anywhere near me or knowing anything about my family or me. If Mini starts pestering me I'm going to have to tell her I cannot hire her because of her loathsome mother.

This is why the unity of the body and forgiving someone that has wronged you doesn't mean you have to be in close fellowship with them. You're not called to martyr yourself for people that will hurt you again if they could. Forgive from a distance if you must, but do not allow these folks access into your life again.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Heck Of A Shitty Week

....  or women who poop their pants and the depressed men who love them on the next all new Maury show...

Haven't had the heart to post since the shocking news came out on Monday about the suicide of Robin Williams. I wasn't a huge fan of all of his movies, but there was just something about that guy that made you feel better knowing he was in this world.

I loved his turn on my old ex favorite television show "Homicide: Life on the Street". He played a grieving husband and father who's wife was gunned down right in front of him by a local thug. It was the first time I'd seen him play a dramatic part and it was impressive. It took him in my eyes from a one note guy, a comedian, to someone with depth and range, a whole canvas of different colors.

Hearing through the week the ignorant views of various folks in the world of Evangelical Christianity on suicide and depression put me on edge all week. It's a world I know way too much about considering Jim had bouts of major depression before it was discovered his depression was all because of a set of tumors on his parathyroid glands. Stones, bones, groans with psych overtones is how they teach it in medical school.

One day soon I'm going to sit down and detail all the different unhelpful nouthetics, criticisms, platitudes and judgement we dealt with in those years and how they made everything about the situation so much worse. But not today. I have too much on my plate to do that.

This week I've been dealing with doing a slight remodel/redecorate of my bedroom, dealing with some small plumbing issues and canning the massive amount of produce from the garden.

The fun part of all that was finding things like this photo of me from one of the Mardi Gras carnival balls dressed up as an angel fish to take part in the dance entertainment at the krewe ball. If that beehive hair do didn't cause it's own massive hole in the ozone layer I'd be surprised. The hair don't was the way my mother wore her hair in 1970 when this picture was taken and for every big event she'd drag my reluctant ass down to the hairdressers and have my long hair teased and tormented into this dreadful shape. I hated it then, I hate it now.

I took dance lessons for many years and this photo is, sadly enough, one of the few I have of my dance kid years. I tease my mother about my dance years, asking her why she didn't scream, yell and curse at the other mothers and the dance studio owner, telling her she was clearly 'not' a proper dance mom, like the ones shown on "Dance Moms" and then we both laugh.

This week has made me go into my 'dealing with stress' mode. Whenever I'm agitated I've always found that throwing myself into weeding, turning the soil, getting good and tired and dirty is better than any therapy or drug for me. And oh boy, have there been some stressers besides the death of Robin Williams. Yesterday was all sorts of crazy.

Jim has a cousin who's a member of the John Birch Society that makes the Tea Party people seem rational, loving and sane. He's recently decided to try and force me to see things his way on Facebook. He comments on many things I post in a hectoring, put-down, 'woman obey me' sort of way. It's been highly triggering because it's very much like the things that were done and said to me back when I first left my old church. Every single time he comments on something of mine I find myself grinding my teeth and sometimes deleting his comments. Last night he went into a crazy mode and I ended up telling him off and then unfriending/blocking him. I hated doing that to a relative, but... I do not tolerate abusive in the name of Christ any longer from anyone.

And while that was going on someone I worked with twenty five years ago started sending me very flirty private messages. I knew when I worked with him that he had a crush on me and that he was a dirty, low-down, cheating dog of a man. He's newly married and trying to score with me on the side. I haven't replied to any of his messages and yesterday evening I just went ahead and blocked him too.

These things didn't make what happened yesterday any more fun. My colitis is back, in the worst way. After I'd picked a five gallon bucket of grapes and did some major scrubbing of our deck and gazebo I decided to make a run to the local McDonalds for one of their frozen yogurt cones. Picture this, if you will, I'm sitting in the drivers seat of my older old lady big sedan, Grandma's Bitchin' Buick Burnout, dressed in a cute sundress and sandals, hair nice, slight makeup, pretty sandals, waiting to pay in the drivethru line.... when suddenly I shart myself! So I'm sitting there, in what feels like a full diaper, trying to keep a straight face while I'm paying the kid I know in the drivethru cash stand and pulling up to the pickup window fervently praying that the smell isn't seeping out to smack these kids in the face. I drove home, almost wrecking twice, thinking how horrible it would be if I did or I got pulled over because it would be obvious to everyone.. when I got home I did something I almost never do, pulled the car into the garage, furiously punching the button on the garage door remote to lower the garage door completely before I jumped out screaming, throwing aside my froyo to run into the laundry room from the garage to strip my clothes off and put them into the washer to soak and running down the hall to the downstairs bath.

One shower later and scrubbing the seat of the car both of these guys decided to mess with me, not knowing I was already pretty messed up.

Remember all those commercials for Colitis meds where the guy is keeping track of where the restrooms are? That's my life.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Evangelical Good Christian Men Are So Fragile They Cannot Handle Pushback Of Any Kind?

Homemade Mojito Jelly from mint in the garden

Over at NLQ in the past few weeks it seems like many of the pieces I'm publishing have to do with not asking for your needs to be met, not disagreeing with your husband's financial decisions or anything else or they will cease to love you or fall victim to the devil.

I really don't get that. Especially when it comes to spending money, major and minor purchases. Debi Pearl has stated in her book "Created To Be His Help Meet" that you should never ever under any circumstance voice an opinion on the spending of family funds. According to her the question below is one no wife should ever ask her husband....
1. Do you feel comfortable spending that much money buying that ____?He begins to doubt his ability to make wise decisions.
What? Are all the males she knows so emotionally delicate that the mere act of asking a simple question destroys their ability to make decisions?

And from the same book a question from a reader and Debi's response. First the question:
 Last week my husband went to buy a new stove that we badly needed. He picked out a top-of-the-line stove and was willing to spend too much money in order to have the best. He called and asked me to go look at it and let him know what I thought. I shared my deep concern that it was simply too expensive. We do have the money, but I saw no need to buy the best, when the next scale down would do just as well. He called and told me that he had canceled the order and bought the one I recommended. We both felt better with what I picked out. Should I have kept my mouth shut? I didn’t tell him NOT to get it. I just thought it unwise to spend money unnecessarily. Do wives have to submit in everything? For example, what color to point the walls or what kind of furniture to have? Are we to be just mindless robots?
And now Debi's answer:
Your husband’s choice of stoves is a statement that he is trying to express his great appreciation of you and to please and delight you. Your countermanding his choice, even if it were a better choice, speaks to him about how little you value him, more than it does about how you value the dollar.
This speaks more to the fractured and sick relationship Debi and Michael Pearl have, not to the day to day realities of living in a partnership with another human being. In healthy marriages there are discussions, moments of disagreement and compromise, not slavish bowing down to another while burying your resentments and later taking out your frustrations on others who don't deserve it. Debi takes out her frustrations that come from bowing to the petty unwise tin-plated dictator of her husband on all her readers. Her advice is like toxic waste and will destroy everything it touches.

I thought about her advice this weekend when Jim and I went to do our monthly Costco run together. Before we got to Costco Jim wanted to stop at Best Buy to look at a few things. When we got there he decided he wanted the auto stereo guys to take a look at the ancient stereo in my car. It could not be fixed and they quoted him a price of about $200 dollars to replace it with an upgraded model.

Jim wanted to immediately replace my stereo but I told him first of all I'm not that concerned with having a working CD player in my car since I listen to the local classical music radio station in the car and would likely would still spend 90% of my time listening to the same station even if I had a working CD player. Plus I didn't think spending $200 dollars right now was a wise decision since we're just now recovering from the tight financial circumstances of paying two children's way through college. Last month was the first month that my entire paycheck didn't go to pay living expenses for our daughter. I'd rather use that $200 towards getting our new dishwasher installed by the plumber. I did tell him that when a birthday or Christmas rolled around and he was stuck not knowing what to get me that the stereo might be a good gift.

I know he really wants it in my car. He mentioned it a couple of times on our trip. I'm indifferent. I'd just as soon listen to WETA on my radio.

I didn't say no, I just pointed out that it wasn't a very wise use of funds right now. According to Debi Pearl I was all disrespectful and rebellious. Nope, I was practical. Just like I'm practical and thrifty when I grow the big garden and can every summer or this week when I took care of three small plumbing situations that would have cost around $150 each to get an plumber out to fix.

Jim is usually much more tight with a buck than I am, so this offering to spend some dollars to put in a new stereo system was a big thing. But he did realize that I have our combined financial health in mind. That's healthy, that's not disrespecting your husband.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Fear Looks Very Different With Time and Tide

When I was a small child growing up in South Louisiana I was terrified that Madame Lalaurie was going to get me. I had nightmares for months and whenever I would misbehave my parents would tell me that they were taking me to Madame Lalaurie's home on Royal St. in New Orleans.

Who is Madame Lalaurie and how did I develop an insane fear of her and her home?

Someone, possibly one of my more inebriated relatives, decided to take me at a young impressionable early grade school age to take me to the New Orleans Wax Museum located in the Musee Conti. Wonderful parenting decision as usual. It scared the crap out of me.

Look at this stuff and tell me you wouldn't be having nightmares as a six or seven year old.

The Battle of New Orleans scene frightened me because one of the wounded soldier wax figures was rigged with a cloth shirt front and device to make it go up and down like he was gasping for breath with recorded sound of gasping. Many nightmares. And I was pretty sheltered as a child and was sensitive so this was pretty much one of the most 'Do Not Want' places I could have been taken in the city. 

But the worst of it was the tableaux of Madame Lalaurie torturing her slaves.

Let's look a little closer at this scene.

Yeah, the stuff of many nightmares. Of all the displays there this is the one that struck fear in my six year old heart. 

Madame Lalaurie was a wealthy society lady in New Orleans whose home on Royal St. in the French Quarter caught on fire in 1834 (I think) and once the fire department arrived they found a gruesome display of slaves being tortured and starved to death in a secret attic garret. Locals gathered and the crowd got ugly, tearing apart the house, smashing windows and wrecking the entire joint. Lalaurie escaped to Paris and lived in Gay Paree to a ripe old age before being brought back to New Orleans and buried. 

Local legend holds that the house is haunted with the screams of tormented slaves and the laughter of children and the tale of what happened has been heavily exagerrated through the years to say Lalaurie did things such as loop their own intestines around the necks and waists of the slaves and other more gruesome things. No proof at all to most of what's been said about Madame Lalaurie.

But as a kid all it took to make me behave was being told I would be taken to Madame Lalauries home and left with all the dead slaves and children. Fortunately no one ever followed through.

On our honeymoon Jim insisted we visit the wax museum and I was surprised to see that stuff of my childhood dreads and nightmares was merely cheesy, worn and pathetic, holding not one shred of horror any longer. I came out saying, "I was afraid of THAT?" shaking my head and laughing at how silly this all was, how I'd built it up in my mind.

Just like my revisiting Musee Conti and discovering that my worst fears were peeling paint and fading fabric, not flesh and blood, so this week I discovered that stepping away from bad situations and toxic people reduces your fears to something laughable. This week I've watched a toxic relation I've had to step away from get their comeuppance for their own behavior and I've had no part of it. Why did I ever allow them to manipulate me and drive me into a state of fear in the first place?

Friday, August 08, 2014

The Third Person in the Hotel Room With Us

A friend of mine with interest in the paranormal asked me to go into greater detail about my ghostly encounter on our trip. Here it is. I have researched the name I got and found the person. They died about a year ago and were buried next door to the hotel.

My experiences with the paranormal are the main thing that keep me from going full-bore atheist. I've just seen and experienced too much from the other side not to believe there is ultimate good and ultimate evil out there.


We'd spent the night in a pretty average hotel in Bluefield, Virginia, a town crammed in that southwest part of Virginia that touches coal country in West Virginia and is a stone's throw from Kentucky. A Comfort Inn, newly remodeled, and crammed to the gills with people.

Instead of going out for dinner Jim and I went for a brief swim in the pool behind the hotel. Lots of people, kids, noise, splashing and booze. Not my kind of scene so I went right back to the room after a few minutes in the tiny pool. On the looming mountainside behind the hotel I saw a herd of deer as I walked back to my room. Took a shower, checked emails and went to bed.

Didn't realize at that time that our room was a mere 40 feet from a large cemetery dating back to Civil War times. Saw this the next morning.

Let me preface my story by telling you that I've always seen and heard from dead people, ever since I was three years old and saw a Civil War soldier brandishing a sword in front of our house in Birmingham, Alabama. My dad worked for a year in the early sixties for a finance company in Birmingham. My parents did not believe me, they were quick to tell me I'd been dreaming. But I hadn't. I remember that man still very clearly over fifty years later.

And it didn't stop there. The dead will appear to me at the oddest times. I never go looking for them, but I've been in a local Civil War museum and had Colonel Hooker appear and tell me that he's hopping mad his name is used as slang for prostitutes. I've seen/heard/talked to dead folks for a long time. Most of the time they seem merely determined for someone, anyone to acknowledge their presence.

I think my son sees the dead too but he has started to deny it and turn a blind eye to it. One night we were out driving home from a bigger city after midnight and both saw the same thing, a small squad of men in Civil War uniforms emerging from the woods in the light of our car headlights and we both said, “Did you see that!” and talked about it all night. Now his mind is closed to it because he believes only in rationality and intellect. He has chosen to tune out.

I envy him the ability to tune it out because I can't always do that. A weekend in Galveston, Texas was horrifying because I could not tune it out and hundreds of the dead appeared to me that weekend in my early twenties. I had no knowledge at the time that a hurricane had roared through Galveston back in 1905 and killed over ten thousand people on the island. I kept seeing them everywhere. Now I know why and avoid places with high death counts from traumatic events.

Back to the night of Saturday, July 26, 2014. I felt nothing in that bland hotel room and since I've left the world of Christian Evangelicalism Mysticism I did not do my old ritual, anoint the room with oil and tell anything spiritual not good and not straight from God to scram. I did nothing like that, I didn't open my Bible, I didn't pray a prayer of protection. Plugged in both lap tops and cell phones into the desk at the foot of my bed.

Because the reservation had been for double beds since their rooms with a king sized bed were booked my husband Jim and I did like we always do when traveling and confronted with double beds. I took the bed on the left and he took the bed on the right, the same sides we always sleep on. I climbed into bed around 10 pm and immediately fell asleep. Long day and I was tired.

Around midnight I awoke with a start, I'd heard a voice and someone had sat down on my bed. I lay perfectly still but whoever was on the bed would move occasionally and started tugging the covers over my leg or tapping my leg.

I'd awoken with the same physical symptoms I always get in the presence of the paranormal, sick to my stomach with pounding head and belly pains. I get that way whenever I'm in a high EMF (electrical) field.

Have to admit I was sort of pissed off. Here I am, on vacation, and some dead person is bugging me. I turned over, determined to do like Andy my son and turn it off. Didn't happen. The more I tried to ignore this being the more it was determined to attract my attention. It increased tapping my leg, pulling on the covers and moving around the bed.

Finally after an hour of trying to ignore this thing and sleep, switching positions, moving into the bathroom and an attempt to get into the bed with Jim I gave up. Started talking to the being.

He gave me his name, first name Shawn, very insistent that it was Shawn, spelled that way. I got a last name too. In his 30s-40s, middle aged, open honest looking face but in terrible pain to the left hip and ribs. I saw that he'd been stabbed or shot in a fight in the parking lot of a local bar. No witnesses and no one had been arrested for his murder. I saw him, I saw the man that stabbed.shot him very clearly.

I asked him a couple of times what he wanted, did he know he was dead, why was he telling me this. He seemed to only want me to hear him, acknowledge his presence, his life and death. It mattered to him that someone know the truth. After that he faded, left the room and my headache, stomach ache and nausea stopped cold.

It took me quite some time after he left to get to sleep. Checking the lap tops and cells at the foot of the bed even if they'd been charging about three hours at that point the batteries had been completely drained. That explained to me how he managed to get enough energy together to manifest so fully and wake me up.

The next morning during breakfast I saw the graveyard. Went out and walked around but I didn't have time to look at every grave. Didn't see a grave for a Shawn. I also asked the hotel clerks if there had been any reports of the paranormal in our room 209. She said no.

When we got home I did some searching in crime reports, newspapers in that area with the names he'd given me and found him. He'd been stabbed and died a few days later at the local hospital without gaining consciousness while surrounded by his family. I saw a photo of him in his obituary and it's the same guy I saw.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with the information because I don't want to be contacting the cops in that town and be treated like a flaming crackpot. What I'm considering doing is contacting the family. The family names were listed in the obit and I looked them up, finding a mailing address. I'm thinking about writing them and letting them know what he said about his killer and they can pass it on to the police or not.

After that I've gone back to blessing and anointing my hotel rooms again. I hate functioning on that little sleep for any reason.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Appearances Can Be Deceiving or Revealing (or Loony Altoony)

After leaving Lansing, Michigan and Big Joe we moved to the home of Jim's best friend since elementary school, Jerry and Jerry's second wife Mary. They live in a beautiful house nearby the GM Proving Grounds. Set on multiple acres, four levels, many bedrooms and bathrooms. We really enjoyed our hours sitting on the deck that wraps around the house sunning, relaxing and reading. But I have to admit I was also uncomfortable with it too, because of what it represents.

It represents to me Veneered Poverty, something I witnessed more than a few times in my old church. It's like slapping a layer of burled oak veneer on top of cruddy knotty old wood. Looks nice, till you get up close and realize what lays beneath.

I've known both of them for thirty years and I know that their big fancy house is deceiving. In my eyes the way that Jerry and Mary have lived their lives just rubs me the wrong way. No, not rubs the wrong way, it horrifies me.

 As long as I've known them this couple has spent down to the last dime with no thought of tomorrow. Refinanced their original home many times, ran up the credit cards and each worked two jobs to be able to afford the trappings of a successful life, lavish vacations, redecorating the house every few years, new cars, all of the keeping up with the Jones accouterments of The Good Life.

Three years ago everything came crashing down. They lost the house, they declared bankruptcy and started working more hours. This house they are in is a rental, renting at well, well, WELL below market value because the owners are good friends and could not sell the place when the husband was transferred to another area. The owners paid it off years ago, so whatever rental they can get is gravy, plus they are helping out friends and fellow church members.

I'm glad they have a nice place to stay but I don't envy Mary having to clean a house twice as big as mine with four floors. When Mary and I had lunch together one day she started telling me about how she wants a small condo, that's what she wants to buy, and to stop working two jobs, live within their means very simply, so that she can enjoy the rest of her life. Her mother and four sisters died around the same age, about ten years old than she is now and I could see what Mary is thinking, that she doesn't have much time left and is determined to enjoy it.

The problem is that I see no change in how they spend money and in the two jobs/long hours. Plus, their youngest daughter, 25 years old who acts like a 12 year old spoiled brat, moved in with them. Looks like more the same old that got them in trouble in the first place. Mary, seems to 'get' it, but doesn't seem to be able to make the necessary changes to climb out of the hole.

I cannot imagine because that close to sixty and having to scrabble so hard with no idea how you were going to pay for retirement. Sad situation.

The last night of our trip was Jim's high school unofficial reunion. I was curious as to how this was going to turn out considering the last eight weeks before the reunion Jim and the other reunion committee members were fighting with the lady in charge. She booked the Marriott for the reunion without asking anyone on the committee's opinion and then telling them tough titty if they didn't like it. She set it up as open bar and steaks at a hundred bucks a head. Jim went around behind her back and convinced just about everyone to boycott the dinner. The reunion ended up ala carte at a local sports bar, much less nice, but much more budget friendly.

I had a good time, with one exception. Jim has an old friend named T-Bone. T-Bone is sort of one of those guys that was extremely 'uncool' in high school and the years haven't improved him much. I've always felt sort of sorry for T-Bone, because he wasn't Mr. Personality or much to look at, so many of the women he attracted seemed to be more interested in his wallet than anything else. The last reunion I attended he brought this lady from his work (he works at the Sara Lee pie factory). His date, Delores, wasted no time telling us how she'd left her no count husband for T-Bone, all the while hammering down the booze and smoking. Between the things she said, did, wore and the way she looked I didn't want anything to do with her.

Delores still lives with him, but in his basement. T-Bone didn't bring her to the reunion, he brought his new fiancee, who is my age and on disability for arthritis. Her name is Ethel. Shortly after introducing us to Ethel T-Bone invited us to his wedding in two weeks up in Altoona, Pa. He told us he really didn't want to get married for a third time but Ethel was insisting on it, so he decided she was okay enough for now, at least until something better came along.

 He said this IN FRONT OF ETHEL!?!?!... and then went on to say lots of other ugly things in front of Ethel. Ethel spent the evening downing beers like prohibition was looming and trying not to cry. By the end of the evening she was falling down drunk. Sadly enough, so were several others from the Class of 1969,

Both Jim and I were shocked by T-Bones words and behavior and have agreed we're not going to the wedding because neither of us wants to give any appearance of approval. That's without taking into account the couple met online in late April, met face to face Memorial Day weekend and immediately moved in together and got engaged. It just seems like they're rushing it a bit. I'm afraid for Ethel because it's pretty obvious she's decided to ignore every red flag and rush in, while T-Bone is saying things that indicate this union is doomed from the start. Someone is going to get hurt.

It's made me realize that T-Bone isn't the hapless victim I always thought he was. He uses his money (and he has quite a bit of inherited money) to manipulate and control the ladies in his life. Many guys with money use it to control their partners, that's a lesson I learned with the guy I dated before Jim. He was a millionaire owner of a oil field supply company, and he saw nothing wrong with attempting to control every aspect of my life. I dumped him quickly, to my mother's horror, because I wasn't prepared to be criticized by and have to kowcow to any man.

Why do male-female relationships have to be so complex? It makes me happy that these aren't problems Jim and I have, even if our relationship isn't perfect by any long shot. Money can really gum things up.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Christ-Tee on a Cracker!

Second episode of the second half of season four "Dance Moms" - Christ-Tee Watch!

Evangelical Christian Christ-Tee was on a roll tonight. She repeated insulted Dance Dad Mark?Mack?Mike?, father of the kid that was the male half of Maddie's duo this week. The Pope Pompous The First, Christ-Tee, said that he was 'charming' and that being charming was the same thing as being a deceitful liar. Then she spouted Bible verses. Plus she immediately tattled to Abby with great exaggeration what the other moms said in the viewing booth. False witness much?

Lots of hate and scorn came bubbling out of those over-stuffed lips but the capper in her UnChrist-Like Christ-Tee behavior was when she clearly took pleasure in the fact that Maddie and her male escort came in second place during the judging of their duo. Yes, a grown woman claiming loudly over and over what a great Christian she is rejoiced that another kid didn't win. She doesn't want Dance Dad or his offspring on the regular competition team. She mistakenly thinks because Abby allowed her daughter to dance with the regulars that means her daughter is going to be a team member.

Next week the previews are making it seem like Christ-Tee calls Abby 'trash'. The question is will Abby tolerate it like she tolerated the fist fight/screaming/hair pulling battle Christ-Tee had with another mom on last week's show?

Friday, August 01, 2014

Fifty (Sits in the) Shades

We're still out of town. Right now we're staying with my husband's best friend and his family, Jerry and Mary, in their beautiful rental house in rural/suburban Michigan. It's a stones throw from the GM Proving Grounds. I keep trying to twist Jim's arm into going and peeking over the fence but nothing doting.

Most of what we've been up to yesterday and today is sitting out in the sunshine and under the shaded porch reading. I'm on the last book of "Game of Thrones", it's the one of the series I've never read and Jim is reading his brand new pile of Fantasy Football magazines.

What we're not reading is that series of books in the news yet again, "Fifty Shades of Grey". I've only seen bits and pieces of the books and quite frankly, I'm bored with them. Bad belabored writing liberally laced with fan fiction porn hasn't interested me in many years. I'm glad someone finally made some money from fan fiction at least. This just isn't my kind of book.

And it's not because the book deals with sex. I have written and read erotica in the past and have no problem with other people's sexuality. Look, I'm reading the "Game of Thrones" series, which, like the medieval times, is chockablock full of rape and sex. It fits with the action and flow of the story, it's not there just for sex's sake like "Fifty Shades"

Not because all that sex is 'Not Christian' Sex and sexuality is a part of every life, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, whatever, and really each person's own business. It's a normal part of life and the most fun you can have without giggling or having to buy accessories, though you can buy accessories if you like.

Some of the Christian writers online have been losing their minds over the idea that everyone is reading "Fifty Shades" and may be going to see the upcoming movie. But none of their objections mentions the real reason to not read or see the movie, that it's pure dreck, poorly done lady porn. If you plan on reading lady porn at least pick something well written, interesting, different, not this silly wish-fulfillment written by Ms. James.

Again, porn is one of those things each person has to decide for themselves where they line up. I find that religious people tend to be more likely to engage in porn, if the statistics on which states and areas order the most porn are correct.Utah, very straight-laced Mormon Utah, tops the 2009 list but a recent survey by Pornhub shows some differences

Now I read that some crazy Christian crackpot indie film that is a Christian counterculture response to "Fifty Shades" is opening the exact same day. It's clean, it's religious and seems to have about as much in common with "Fifty Shades" as marshmallow fluff does with mayonnaise. It's called 'Old Fashioned'

I suspect it's going to suck and suck hard. Most Christian films I've seen are just sheerly awful, embarrassing, substandard, banal and trite. It's likely to be as awful as the film it's seeking to divert attention and customers from.

 Those Christian pundits have it all wrong. Dreck is dreck and we don't need to be celebrating what is substandard or banal. It's not the sex, it's the awful.

Evangelical Christians want to impact the culture, bring moral standards back and change their worlds? I think the first step has to be better entertainment, not this mushy, gooey, mindless, preachy pap that they produce. Step up to the plate and deliver a movie that doesn't have a heavy handed message, but something more subtle, that you can't look away from. It's time.