Monday, April 28, 2014

Sex Education, Shelly Bleidermuth, and Me

Today I'm writing about something  relatively random as it pertains to me, though such is probably anything but random as it pertains to the person who is my topic. This person, Shelly Bleidermuth (obviously not her real name, though close enough that virtually anyone who knew both her and me would decode the message and know of whom I write), was on the periphery of my life and of the lives of those I considered my friends while growing up. Shelly was never really one of us, although I don't remember anyone actively excluding her. In the days before bullying was used as a verb, still I don't believe she was bullied. I don't think she even was picked on.

I don't remember seeing Shelly standing alone on the playground. She probably was at times -- hell, most of us probably stood alone at one time or another on that vast expanse of blacktop and grass collectively known as our middle school playground -- but I have no specific recollection of it having happened. I hope Shelly has no specific recall of it, either. I'm fairly sure she had friends. It's just that I wasn't exactly one of them. Neither was I her enemy. I'm reasonably certain there was initially no particular animosity between Shelly and anyone in my circle of friends.

I moved to the community where Shelly and I attended later elementary school, middle school, and high school in the summer when I was nine, which was just before my fifth-grade year of school. Shelly lived there before I did, though whether she moved there shortly before I did or whether she was born in the small city and spent her whole life there up to that point, I have no clue. My egocentric mindset caused me to consider anyone who was there before I was to be a lifer, and anyone who arrived after I did to be a newcomer. As far as I was concerned, Shelly was a lifer.

Our community, while seeming normal to those of us who lived there, was  in reality anything but normal. It was a small suburban university town with, what I learned much later, the second highest level of education among the adult population of any community in the United States. That such a high standard of education existed in a city in California was all the less common. The level of wealth wasn't especially beyond the norm; the level of education, however,  was. The community held its share of educated poor, with the  term poor being relative in that sense. Our educated poor were the town's assistant librarians and dental assistants.The educated portion of the designation, however, was not relative. Those adults in the community not in possession of  higher education stood out because of their lack of education.  Many who worked in non-skilled jobs commuted to and from our community to work. Shelly's mother did not. Shelly's mother was the on-again / off-again wife of a truck driver who maintained relationships with women besides Shelly's mother. He also maintained a apartment separate from the small and not-well-maintained rental home he shared with Shelly, her mother, and Shelly's younger brother. Shelly's mother supplemented her child-support payments by telling fortunes, providing day care from her own home, and working at other odd jobs that we children didn't really understand,and that were done at night. After the fact, I can only hope that Shelly's mother's late-night employment did not in any way involve Shelly.

Our town was not especially gossipy or judgmental. As young children, I doubt that many if any of us at all had any sort of idea that Shelly's life was significantly different than the lives of the rest of us. While her home was less luxurious even than the homes of the children whose parents were part-time employees and graduate students, it wasn't filthy or in such a state of disrepair as to cause idle chatter among Shelly's classmates or her parents. Shelly's father was  seldom present, but we wrote that off as being an occupational hazard. Shelly's mother , as we saw more of her at school and Girl Scout Functions, seemed maybe a millimeter or two off-center, but she wasn't the only mother who would have been classified as such. The children thought little or nothing of this; the other mothers probably wrote it off either to slightly greater-than-average alcohol consumption or to the emotional effects of having a husband whose time and affection were divided.

However one may have viewed the relative merits or demerits of  Shelly's home life, her family  would have been considered -- at least by the standards of our rather provincial little town -- while not quite the stuff of which the Seavers, the Huxtables, the Camdens, or Tanners were made,  neither would they compare unfavorably to The Simpsons, The Griffins, or the Bundys.  We all probably thought the offspring were slightly odd, and the parents slightly odder, though not so odd as the Ratzlaffs, a teacher family I discussed in greater detail a year or so go, but none of us lost any sleep over any of them.

Max, the son and younger of the two offspring,  had some degree of hearing loss, yet still was considered the male counterpart to Marilyn Munster -- the abnormally normal member of the family. While Max wasn't especially bright, which was in and of itself something of an anomaly among young people in our community, he lacked that single strand of peculiarity that should have distinguished himself from the other kids in the community and should have made him more like the rest of his family. Still, kids are kids, and are at least as accepting as any other facet of society.

Shelly, on the other hand . .  Where Max may have been lacking in unconventionality, Shelly more than compensated. At 4-H club meetings, for example, where Max may have been off in one corner with the boys, perhaps sharing slightly off-color jokes or competing to see who could produce the loudest belch at will, Shelly would have been accordion-folding a 48-inch-long by 2-millimeter wide strip of paper, stuffing it deep into the recesses of  her sinus cavities, then, when it was least expected, pulling it -- the accordion-folded papers -- out by the foot, the object of which was to make an unsuspecting observer toss his or her cookies. Shelly likewise amused herself by neglecting to flush the commode after she used it, thereby producing the very maximum gross-out effect for the next person who would enter the bathroom, at which point Shelly would laugh as though "In Living Color's" funniest joke of the week had just been aired. Another favored activity for Shelly was to blow her nose, then to proudly display the contents  of her used facial tissue for all to see. Shelly's fascination with bodily emissions and with putting things inside her nose continued, I should clarify, until she reached the age of approximately nine-and-one-half years of age, which was, probably not coincidentally, the age at which she discovered sex.

Shelly's first obvious interest in the opposite sex became apparent when she was frequently caught lurking outside the door of the boys' bathroom. The stool pigeons who ratted Shelly out to the principal were my parents. When my brother developed a bladder infection, the doctor learned through questioning Matthew that he was holding it all day, every day.  My parents demanded to know precisely why it was that Matthew should be holding it all day, every day. Matthew was afraid to talk, so I spilled the beans for him.  My parents walked two doors down the street to our school principal's home, and an at least  temporary moratorium on Shelly's voyeuristic tendencies took place

Following Shelly's unofficial and extracurricular sex education clinics that had taken place in the fifth grade girls bathroom  earlier in the year [and from which I had largely been summarily excluded  because I refused to fork over the tuition fee of twenty-five cents per session that Shelly demanded of each of her pupils], my first significant contact with Shelly Bleidersmuth had been during my fifth-grade year of school, when she - -carrying out her customary practice of perching atop the bathroom stall dividers in order to best observe her peers as they used the bathrooms, Shelly noticed a chain of round welts of about three millimeters in diameter across my backside. In before excitement, Shelly fell to the cement bathroom floor, bruising her bottom in the process. Injured butt an all, she hobbled to the bathroom , all the while screaming, "Alexis has the shingles! Alexis has the shingles!"

It  had not occurred to the school office staff   to interrogate or even to casually inquire of the child as to her qualifications to diagnose herpes zoster in a human host when the same child had failed to demonstrate the ability either to  distinguish between the shell and yolk portions of a chicken egg or to differentiate between   the function of a decimal point to the extent that she could not  differentiate between $99,999.09 and $0.99, yet somehow that same child  possessed the ability to correctly diagnose the herpes zoster virus , otherwise known as shingles, nor precisely why the child, or, for that matter, any child,  should be allowed to be perched atop a restroom partition for the purpose of observing other children in a state of undress, or for that matter, to  perch atop any restroom partitions for any purpose whatsoever.his set into action a sequence of events that eventuated in Child Protective Services appearing at my doorstep and insisting upon examining my nude body for the purpose of determining whether or not I had been subjected to torture via any sort of device that might have left  series of unsightly welts upon the skin of my bottom. The marks were ultimately determined to he innocuous in nature.  No charges were brought against either of my parents, but not without first  thoroughly invading of my privacy and dignity.

Everything about sex, or at least everything that we knew that Shelly knew about sex, was utterly riveting to Shelly. At that age ( fifth grade; we were thin  girls of northern European descent, who tended not to physically mature at early ages) sanitary napkins, and what would be the relative function of each, wasn't even yet something to which we were privy. Shelly was holding clinics after lunch in the school restroom, demanding a cover charge for all in attendance -- including those who simply needed to use the facilities -- and requiring quarters from the observers so that she could procure the needed sanitary items from the restroom's vending machines, then using leftover ketchup packets from the day's lunch offerings to demonstrate how each item actually worked.  I never lasted long enough into the demonstration to discover whether Shelly's  tampon demonstration showed the item  inserted into the place into which it was anatomically designed to go, primarily because I never paid up with the cover charge and was thus kicked out before the action got interesting.

By sixth grade, feminine hygiene products had become passe. A few of the sixth grade girls had practical use for the feminine hygiene items by then. Shelly and the other girls had shifted their focus from feminine hygiene products to condoms and cucumbers in their various forms, spermicides, foams, gels, oral contraceptives, Norplants, and various and sundry other items. It's a pity that I was evicted from these sessions for non-payment as well, as my mother had purchased a complete set of  Life Cycle encyclopedias for me and had read them with me to ensure that I understood everything in detail. My presence at those backroom birth control sessions might possibly have prevented a pregnancy or two. God knows what misinformation was shared behind those closed restroom doors. I do recall hollering over the top of Shelly's voice, as I was being dragged by my arms from the restroom, that dissolving spermicide into Mountain Dew and then drinking it would NOT keep a girl from getting pregnant --but at least two girls who were present for the sessions became mothers before reaching ninth grade, and one of them after allegedly drinking spermicide-laced Mountain Dew. The very thought makes me gag.. Sadly, the girls who became pregnant before seventh grade, along with Shelly, who likewise had achieved that same status of motherhood in seventh  grade, were not the children of our community's more educated and affluent population, who would have been grated access to information concerning reliable methods of birth control . Those girls were in serious need of  bona fide pregnancy- and sexually-transmitted-disease-prevention education, and not of the variety that an interested but thoroughly ignorant sixth-grade girl could have provided. Sex education was a part of our standard curriculum, but not until seventh grade , which was too late for at least three of the candidates.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Alexis and the Prom

not the REAL prom portrait, obviously, but a reasonable facsimile instead

The Prom (whether any specific prom or the concept of "The Prom" as a whole) and I have something of a love-hate relationship. It all started with what was to have been my initial prom exposure  four years ago,  when my prom date broke our date after I was injured in a freak track and field accident and was confined to a wheelchair for the better part of three  months. The former prom date didn't just call me or pay me a visit in person to announce his change in plans, or even devise a reverse of one of those corny invitations, such as writing out the un-invite onto a blank puzzle and allowing me to put it together to discover that my prom invitation was null and void and that I was hereby uninvited to the prom. For that matter, he could have sent balloons with a rude note attached. Almost anything would have been better than what he did. Instead, the particularly germ-encrusted piece of pond scum  announced his decision to a cafeteria full of students and assumed the word would get back to me.

My former prom date's new prom date decided that it would  behoove the both of us if she would take matters one step further, and so she visited me in the hospital eight hours after I had undergone orthopedic surgery and was still heavily under the influence of God alone knows what mind-altering substances. I wasn't at that point even allowed visitors other than my parents. The only thing allowing the girl on the floor was her mother's position as a staff R.N. on that floor, which should not technically have granted the girl the right to be present on that floor or anywhere else in the hospital to which the general public is not privy, for that matter, except that what is technically allowed and what actually happens may be two very distinct things. Furthermore, she was not scrubbed, masked,  and in a sterile gown, which was a requirement of anyone who entered my room. Had I developed an infection, the burden of proof would have been upon her lawyer to establish that the bacteria attacking my body had not come from her.

In retrospect, her visit seems like little more than a drug-inspired hallucination except that she took pictures as proof that it really happened. The pictures appeared briefly on Internet social media until a hospital attorney visited and informed her mother, who was at that time a nurse on the floor of the hospital in which I was admitted, that the only way the nurse who was the mother of my visitor and photographer, would retain her job would be for the pictures to immediately be taken off the various social media on which they were posted and not to reappear.***

My next prom experience was not nearly so dramatic. The primary controversy surrounded whether or not the invitation was sincere and not a joke, out of which the original inviter would back out at the last minute, leaving me standing alone in  formal attire, holding the boutonniere intended for me date. Research conducted  by my brother's friends and by my around-the-corner neighbor, who was the head varsity football coach of my school, indicated that such was the plan. In the meantime, a more suitable offer was made, which I accepted. I attended, and while I can't say I had a perfect time, a few of my demons concerning prom attendance were slain in the process.

A week later in that same year, I attended my friend Jared's prom in Utah County. If a person has not attended a prom in Utah County, one may just as well conclude that he or she has never attended a prom, period.  It's an event that one really must experience at least once in his or her lifetime. My pink satin prom dress was strapless. The PTA committee positioned in the entryway for the purpose of scrutinizing the attire of all the attendees before grnating them admission to the event conducted hushed conversations (but not so hushed that I couldn't hear every word coming from their  mouths), examined my gown from every angle as they debated the merits versus drawbacks of allowing me into their apparently church-sponsored event. (The church wasn't bankrolling the function in any way, yet the term "church standards" was thrown about freely in relation to my attire as though the term were somehow relevant.)

Everything from my real or supposed age, my state of physical development (or lack thereof), my parentage and pedigree, the degree to which my prom gown would have been deemed acceptable at a church-sponsored function, the advisability of forcing me to wear a non-matching shawl with my dress for the entire evening, and even my shoe size was discussed in detail in mock hushed tones.  the initial criticism was of my age. The PTA president (or at least she looked the part; PTA presidents often have an air about them that distinguishes them from their less esteemed counterparts, but the the Young Women's organization presidents often have that same look, so who the hell knows from where she derived her authority?) did not believe the dates on my passport. (I didn't yet possess a driver's license, ans so I brought my passport in the event that some sort of official ID might be required. i also brought my California high school student body card, but I had a hunch it would be viewed with suspicion.)  "If this girl is fifteen," the PTA President/Young Women's President huffed, "My eight-year-old daughter who was baptized earlier this evening is also fifteen. I'm not buying it. People from California are known for having fake IDs. It's supposedly just about as easy in California to get a fake ID as it is to get a real one.  If we went through the little hussy's purse, we'd probably find another fake ID with an age that  would get her into bars and nightclubs, though we'd have to dig through all her cigarette packages to find it. I have a cousin who lives in California, so I know."

The woman seemed first surprised, then taken aback,  when I opened my purse and emptied the contents onto the small table holding a guest book for attendees to sign. I wasn't sure whether she was more taken aback that I had called her bluff or that she was irked that my lipstick, small wallet, and small bottle of hand lotion had sullied her perfectly arranged guest book table. She turned to another female in the Gestapo screening panel and said, "She obviously left her contraband in the car."

"Would you like to come check our car?" I asked her. Jared was, by this time, kicking me while trying to be sly about it. I learned later that he had a bottle of Jim Beam in the car. I knew nothing about it, though.

One of the men on the panel - either the principal or some ecclesiastical authority - a bishop or stake president -- who should have claimed no more power than anyone else, though in Mormon circles, things work differently than they do elsewhere, tried to smooth things over and suggest that Jared and I simply be admitted to the prom.

"But her dress!" exclaimed a female doorkeeper.

"Her dress?" asked in of the men.

"It has no straps!" said the female doorkeeper who had initially expressed dismay at my dress.

The stake president type picked up a prom brochure lying on the guest book table. He thumbed through it briefly, then stated calmly, "I don't see anywhere that it states prom dresses must have straps."

"Church standards, President," she scolded him. "We don't ignore church standards simply because it's not a church-sponsored event."

Another man spoke up. "I'm not saying we ignore them. But we need a distinction between church and state even in Utah. This is a school function. While the dress standards need to address the mores of the community, neither to we have any right to push LDS standards of dress or anything else on those attending this event."

The original PTA President/Young Women's President burst into tears. "So that's where we'e going to let this go! We will let our little local prom turn into some sort of  Sodom and Gomorrah-like event because we lack the strength to stand for out principles. It may look like a small thing, but years from know, we'll look back on this day and remember that it all started right here and now."

"Sister, you're giving way too much importance to this," another man who was probably the president of the district's school board opined. "One little girl is wearing a dress without straps to an event for which strapless dresses were never forbidden."

"She's not exactly bursting out of the dress," another man added.

"That's another matter entirely," another female added." My sixth-grader would fill that dress out more fully than she does. She 's advertising what she does not have, and should be embarrassed to be seen in that dress."

"She's well-covered in the dress and is not showing anything she shouldn't be showing. As for those of you who are taking shots at her lack of measurements, you should be ashamed of yourselves, " the Stake President added. "And you know he's heard everything you've said. Are you proud of yourselves?"

"Right is still right," said one of the female teachers who sided with those who took offense to the dress.

"And right is not on the side of the Saducess, Pharisees, and others who would take offense at a simple dress worn by a child," added a female counselor who had remained silent to that point but had grown weary of the Utah County brand of judgment.

"And there's still the matter of the girl's age. Do we have any reason to believe that this girl is anywhere near old enough to attend this event?" asked a mother who had joined the panel of chaperons.

The district superintendent spoke up. "We have her passport. We have her high school student body card. We have the word of Dr. Christensen, her date's father, who had to endorse the application in order for her to be allowed to attend. Do we have any reason to believe Dr. Christensen would perjure himself so that his son could take an underage girl to the prom?

"On the other hand, we have three mothers whose daughters would have liked to attend the prom with Doctor Christensen's son. Why they would have wanted to go with him is anyone's guess/  I personally think he's a bit of a squirrel. But that's neither here nor there.

"If anyone else has any new evidence as to why this kid should not be allowed into the prom, say it now! Otherwise, I'm letting her in, and that's the end of the discussion"

I was allowed to enter. The rest was history, with McDonald's cheeseburgers, orange Hi C, and apple pies as the gourmet faire. I endured such indignities as, "Where did you get your dress from? Victoria's Secret?"  As though Victoria's Secret would carry any garment that looked like it might have been worn by a Disney Princess.

After my initial prom difficulties, I made a vow to myself that if there was something I could do to help another person through prom difficulties with no strings attached, I would do so.  This year is going to be one of those years. Someone my aunt used to tutor was dumped by his prom date in favor of someone she considered a better date. My aunt has him on his word that he will take no liberties with me. I'm using a re-made prom gown that my auntie used when she was in high school, so it won't cost me a thing. It's a beautiful dress, and I think I'll look just nice enough in it that no one will make fun of the guy because of the appearance of  his date.The experience may be  bit awkward, but in the grand scheme of things, it will make a guy's high school memories substantially less painful. I probably would have preferred to have spent the night at home in front of the TV, but we all must make small sacrifices for the good of others. Furthermore, eventually I'm going to outgrow the appearance of a prom date and will therefore be exempt from this obligation.

Friday, April 25, 2014

the gift that keeps on giving

This is not my actual eye, as I lack the energy to photograph it. It is, however, a remarkable likeness.

I've been substitute teaching this week. I have no intention of making a career of it. In high school I had taken  a basic test (CBEST), and filed the little card away. I haven/t technically graduated from college, but because I have fulfilled my graduation requirements and am merely waiting around for the formality of a graduation date, presentation of the documentation of such, along with a TB skin test certification,  entitles me to a 30-day subject teaching credential. This provisional credential authorizes me to substitute for a given teacher for a more thirty school days per school year, In a situation of extreme need, a school district may fill out a waiver for me to teach for longer than the thirty days. (There's not much of a chance of that happening, as someone would have to hogtie me into a classroom in order to keep me there for more than five days , much less thirty days.) Realistically, a waiver would be likely granted in the area of one of my majors, but not necessarily in physical education.My day as a substitute teacher begins with my explaining to the students that, no, I'm not in middle school or high school anymore.  I've begun bringing my high school yearbook from three years ago with me, which I produce at this point. The students remain skeptical. I offer to answer any legitimate academic question they can come up with, either off the top of my head, or if necessary with the use of a computer in fewer than thirty seconds. They're then somewhat convinced of my legitimacy, but not totally so. 

Anyway, it seemed like  relatively painless way to pick up $140.00 a day. It's been relatively painless in that the students are not allowed to kick, hit, strike, or spit upon me. Psychological abuse, on the other hand , is not off limits. I've gotten to hear all week about how my students all have brothers who are thirteen or fourteen who would most likely think I'm really hot and could probably be persuaded to date me. Note that there's no certainty that these phantom boys will date me, but merely a probability according to the little brothers and sisters. And this is just in the first grade classes. God only knows to what form of harassment I would probably be subjected in a middle school class.  The girls would probably be boasting to me that their breast sizes are larger than mine, and they would probably be right.

Today I woke up with a slightly crusty eye but thought little of it. When I went into the staff room at lunchtime,  I was promptly kicked out. The health aide asked if I had health insurance. (They were at least going to pay my bill if I had no insurance, which was nice.) I drove to the university health center to receive the official diagnosis of pink eye, and drove home with tubes and vials of medication. My dad immediately slapped a "Quarantine " sign on our front door. (He thinks he's funny.) When I walked into the front door of my home, my mom took one look at me and said, "Don't you dare touch my piano!" She didn't offer any sympathy.

My day as a substitute teacher begins with my explaining to the students that, no, I'm not in middle school or high school anymore.  I've begun bringing my high school yearbook from three years ago with me, which I produce at this point. The students remain skeptical. I offer to answer any legitimate academic question they can come up with, either off the top of my head, or if necessary with the use of a computer in fewer than thirty seconds. They're then somewhat convinced of my legitimacy, but not totally so. 

The  attempted match-making usually starts around math time -- usually right at the point when I think I'm successfully driving home a difficult concept. Someone will raise his or her hand. I'll call on the child, expecting an answer at least even if not the right one. Instead, I'll here, "My brother is perfect for you!" Then some other child will counter that his or her brother is even more perfect for me than in the previous child's brother. It's gone this way for a week.

I may have done the very last of my substitute teaching. Pink eye is bad enough. God forbid that I should contract head lice.

Monday, April 21, 2014

An Irreverent Catholic's Take on a Sunday Spent in a Mormon church: A Modified Re-Post

Nothing very charismatic happens in Sacrament meeting. Remaining awake for the duration can be a challenge.

The first thing you will see after driving into the parking lot of a meetinghouse for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the back door to the church. You will probably enter the church through the back door. In Catholic churches and just about every other church I know of, worshipers enter through a front door into a foyer or vestibule, leading into a sanctuary. Mormon churches have front doors leading to foyers or vestibules, but no one, and I mean no one enters through those doors. Once I left my sweater in my aunt's car and had to go back to get it. Just for the novelty of the experience, I walked around the building to enter through the supposed front door. It was locked. I knocked. No one heard me. This was roughly ten minutes before the service was scheduled to begin, so it's not as though whoever was in charge of opening the buildings shouldn't have been expecting people to show up at that hour.

Another thing I soon learned is that if you arrive at the scheduled starting time of an LDS service, you're early. In Catholic masses, it's rare for a priest to begin his procession down the aisle even as late as 8:31 for a mass scheduled for 8:30. The Mormons admittedly operate on a different time frame, which they call Mormon standard time. It's ten to fifteen minutes later than the standard time within the zone. Even allowing for the later-than-scheduled starting time, about one-fourth of the members will walk in after the service has begun. It would be disconcerting to Mormons if this were not the case: they would wonder if something unusual was happening, as if maybe the Powers That Be had issued some special decree that Jesus himself was to conduct the meeting that day.

Once you've entered the church through the back door and have walked across a wooden floor that seems suspiciously like a basketball court, especially because of the hoops with nets at either end and the painted-on three-point and free-throw lanes and lines, you'll hear the strains of organ music. It probably won't be the best organ music you've ever heard. In other churches with which I've been associated, if an organist is needed, an application process of some sort, usually with auditions, takes place. At some point, payment is discussed, because church organists often are paid for their services. In a Mormon church, the bishop picks whomever he feels inspired to pick to be the organist, and if the person chosen wishes to remain a Mormon in good standing, he or she agrees to take on the (non-paying) job. Usually the Mormon chosen to be organist isn't brand new to the organ or at least the piano, but often the person lacks the experience or talent to perform in front of a group of people, much less to play fluently so that the congregation can sing along with the playing. I've heard terrible organists at Mormon churches, and I've heard some who were modestly skilled. The ones you see on TV appearing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir are typically among the most skilled and talented the church has to offer, although I've yet to hear one of them whose skills rival those of my mom. She could never play at a Mormon church even if she were visiting, though; she's the incubus: a Catholic whose in-laws think she seduced their son into being a Catholic.

Next, a man will approach the pulpit, which Mormons call a podium, and will speak a few words before announcing the opening hymn. The hymn will be sung with members seated. It took me a long time to figure this out, but Mormons have so many children at these services that they don't want to risk letting them stand up for fear they'd run all over the building and hijack the meeting. Unless it's a really popular hymn, the Mormons will only half-sing it. Someone will be standing next to the organist waving a music director's baton around. This person is termed the "chorister." Theoretically the chorister is setting the tempo and leading the congregation. Such is not really the case. The organist plays the hymn at whatever the hell speed he or she wants, and the congregation only looks at the person waving the stick to see if he or she (usually she) has gotten off-beat or is doing anything really weird.

Then they'll have a prayer, followed by any church business. This includes announcing new members, announcing people who are starting or leaving church jobs, announcing anyone who has been excommunicated [I think] and blessing babies.

Next comes preparation for The Sacrament [translation: communion], beginning with  the Sacrament hymn. The hymn usually contains graphic descriptions of the crucifixion and of Jesus' time alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. As the Sacrament hymn begins, members of the priesthood secure the doors and stand guard as though some covert CIA operation is about to take place. One is not supposed to enter or leave the chapel during this time. I've always wanted to announce that I was going to barf immediately just to see if they'd let me out during this apparently secretive phase of their worship. Then the Sacrament (communion to everyone else) prayer is said over the bread. Little twelve-year-old boys pass it out in trays. Sometimes they screw up, and then they all giggle. Sometimes they giggle even when they don't screw up. Don't expect anything special by way of bread. It's Wonder Bread or the store-brand equivalent. (Once it was my cousin's job to bring the bread, and his mom gave him whole wheat bread to take. One would have thought from the reaction of the members that rock cocaine was being passed out in place of white bread.) The most important person in the building is given the Sacrament first. If one of the twelve-year-old boys screws up and hands it out to someone else first, there will be hell to pay later.

Then the same thing happens with "water," which represents the blood of Jesus. Grape juice is apparently too expensive. I understand the reluctance to use actual wine, but it seems a church of such wealth could spring for a couple of bottles of Costco grape juice each week.

Then the CIA covert operation ends, and the doors open up. On a normal Sunday, speakers are announced. Mormons don't have paid clergy at the local level. (My grandfather, who is far above the local level, is living off the membership's dollar, but local bishops and the like slave away for the pure privilege of doing so.) Often there's a youth speaker, who very rarely has anything of intelligence to say, and is very rarely interesting enough to hold the attention of even his own parents.

Sometimes a musical selection follows. It very often sucks. Mormons seem to have the attitude that it is acceptable to throw any song together at the last minute and then perform it in church, and this lack of preparation is evident. Usually this is a vocal solo or ensemble. If you're lucky enough to have an instrumental selection, the quality may [but not necessarily] be higher.

Then comes the featured speaker or speakers. Once a month someone from the "Stake," which is the rough equivalent to a diocese, comes to deliver a message on a specific topic. This person may be a very interesting speaker, or he may be the most boring, unprepared, and incoherent speaker on the planet. (It's always a "he." The Mormon church is run by males.) the more important in the church the person is, the more boring his voice will be. On two other Sundays in a month, the bishop and his counselors assign speakers. In most cases, these people would rather be sitting in the inner sanctum of hell, within striking distance of Satan himself and surrounded by flames, than be speaking before the congregation. Nonetheless, they speak when asked to do so because Mormons are accustomed to doing as they are told. What these speakers say is rarely thoughtful, organized, relevant, or remotely interesting. I know this, because I've actually paid attention a couple of times. I was, however, the only person in the building paying any attention, except for my parents and brother if they were present. For the most part, the speaker could be reciting from the Koran, telling about his hemmorrhoidectomy, or speaking in tongues, and no one would notice, because Mormons pay little to no attention to speakers. They don't look in the direction of the speakers as they're speaking, and they don't listen to what any of the speakers have to say. Some Mormons have the ready-made excuse of having small children to corral. Others are just blatantly rude. They rest their elbows on their knees and hold their heads in their hands, looking down, quite possibly napping. They thumb through hymnals or other books in their possession. They use their iphones if they can do so discreetly. They do anything but pay attention to the speaker.

My mom says Mormons think they've done such a great thing by just showing up for three hours each Sunday that they have God's blessing to be as rude as they want while there. My father doesn't disagree. On the rare occasion my family attends a Mormon service together out of some family obligation, my parents look directly at whomever is speaking the entire time he or she (usually he) is speaking, and they demand that my brother and I do the same. It seems somewhat disconcerting to the speakers to actually have someone looking at them while they give their "talks." Boring as it can be, I've come to rather enjoy the aspect of making the speaker uncomfortable merely by paying attention.

Then there's a closing hymn and a closing prayer, followed by a short break before the Mormons divide up by age for Sunday School, to be followed by Priesthood Meeting and Relief Society for the adults, and Primary, for the kids. I won't talk in great detail about Primary except to say that women have the unenviable job of holding children's attention after the children have already sat through two hours of church. Such cannot be easy. I also will shate that the songs sung by Mormon children are intended to indoctrinate them from a very early age to the principles of the faith. If a little kid grows up from the age of three singing about golden plates that were buried in New York until a young boy was shown where to find them, that child will grow into an adolescent who will take it for granted that such is the truth rather than questioning it, as my father did. If my father had started attending the LDS church early enough to sing those songs at an young age, skepticism may never have hit him. Also, some of the songs are insulting to the intelligence of the least intelligent kid present. I got into big trouble with an aunt once for refusing to sing along on a special song they were practicing for a program. The song was something about  "When I grow up, I want to have a family, four little, five little, six little babies of my own." If at that age (probably seven) I had spoken of such in my own home, I would have been forced to endure a lecture about overpopulation and the earth's dwindling resources.

The first Sunday each month offers a slightly different routine in LDS churches. In place of speakers, the Mormons have an open microphone. They don't call it that, of course. They call it "Fast and Testimony Meeting." They customarily fast for about twenty-four hours prior to their meeting. Then whomever is inspired to say something goes up to the microphone and speaks his piece. Usually it's boring sameness. "I know the Church is True. I know Jesus is the Christ. i know Joseph Smith was a prophet." Etc. Many try to relate brief faith-promoting stories. Some relate long, convoluted stories that they may find to be faith-promoting but that no ones else does. The most exciting possibility occurs when a truly crazed person makes it to the microphone, in which case all bets are off, and anything and everything may happen.

I've only been to five testimony meetings. I slept through one of them because I was two years old and had tired myself out by screaming and fighting to escape as my grandfather and uncles blessed me in front of the congregation. In the other four "Fast and Testimony Meetings," I've heard: a woman say that Satan had appeared in her bedroom two nights earlier  and had tried to take her life because she had gone to bed without wearing her sacred undergarments; a man confessing to his wife and the entire congregation that he had committed the sin of adultery, pointing out his alleged adultress who was present in the congregation; a man declaring that he knew for a fact that Jesus Christ wore a crew cut and had no facial hair; and a woman declaring that the death of Martin Luther King had been accomplished by the priesthood in order to do the Lord's work of ridding the world of evil. These are just a few of the highlights. Many other less remarkable but funny things have been said in these meetings. I should have kept a list.

I've taken care to be tasteful here. My father has been through the temple, where secret covenants are made, and those present at the temple ceremony are told under severe penalty not to ever reveal them. While my dad never sat me down and told me, "Here's exactly what goes on in the temple ceremony," he's answered any questions I've asked. I could have provided information here that would have, not at all in fun, placed the church in a very bad light. I've tried not to poke fun at the things Mormons hold most sacred and dear. The things I've discussed are matters I'd like to think Mormons themselves could either laugh about or look at and ponder as to whether change is in order. Whether certain readers will take what I've written in the spirit it was intended remains to be seen.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Celestial Rooms, Categories of LDS Membership, and Other Oddities

reprint from an earlier posting

 This picture is of the Celestial Room of the Vancouver Temple, not of the lobby of the Pink Cloud Motel. I thought it essential to make the clarification, as confusing the two is a  mistake that could easily be made. Families pray together in these rooms when they're inside their homes. As far as what else might happen in these rooms, I'd rather not even think about it. Celestial Rooms In Homes make is clear to others that the family who lives here is just half-a-stride and a slightly quicker pace or so closer to the Grand Celestial Kingdom than are the rest of the Mormons -- even the uber-Nazis.

My mom was on the phone with a relative from my dad's side of the family for almost an hour this afternoon.  This particular relative can only speak for about fifteen seconds without something about her church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, creeping into the conversation. Such is the case with several of my paternal relatives.

Many people have been born into or have struck up affiliations with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints but do not practice the faith to any serious degree. Some no longer believe. Some profess to believe but claim they just can't follow the rules. Mormons are not unique in this regard. The same sort of church/self relationships  exist in many faiths, particularly in those religious denominations with comparatively demanding rules for members to follow.  The following comments do not pertain to non-practicing, lukewarm, or on again/off again Mormons.

I've decided that practicing Mormons fall into three categories: Mormons, uber-nazi Mormons, and Mormons With Celestial Rooms In Their Homes.  (My LDS relatives would  probably name the categories celestial, terrestrial, and telestial, but that is a subject for another day's blog.) I have one nuclear family of relatives who fall under category one. The remainder are solid twos and threes.

Regular Mormons attend church on a consistent basis, although they don't seem to feel the need to drag a sick child to church because both parents have classes to teach on a given Sunday.  They probably pay a full ten per cent tithing (probably even on their gross income), as they do attend temple session on occasion, and paying one's tithing is supposedly a requirement for a temple recommend. They don't consume alcohol, coffee, or tea, and probably don't drink many caffeinated soft drinks, but they don't make a habit of pointing out distinctions between what they drink and what others drink. They typically do family things on Sundays. On an occasional Sunday, this may be expanded to  include extended family, and sometimes the Sunday activities may even include water, as in swimming in a pool or going to a beach.  In other words, they're sane.

Uber-Nazi Mormons would never swim or go to a beach on a Sunday. Satan owns the water. This is also a reason given for why young men and women on full-time missions may not swim. (I never understood why, if Satan owns the water, it would be safe for non-missionaries to swim any other day of the week, either. If anything, wouldn't God be all the more vigilant in protecting His Chosen People on His Holy Sabbath Day?)  Uber-Nazi Mormons' sons serve missions whether or not the young men personally feel the call. It's an obligation and an expectation. Sometimes high-priced carrots, as in new cars or paid college educations, are held over the prospective missionaries'  heads. At other times, the pressure is more psychological: 100%  of Grandma's sons, sons-in-law, and grandsons have served honorable missions. Do you really want to be the one to change that?  Uber-Nazi Mormons pay tithing rather than the mortgage if there isn't enough money for both.

If one were to  consider that Mormons of this category usually have two or three boxcars  full of children,  it would, in most of these cases, seem more prudent to devote the extra square home footage to additional sleeping quarters so that the offspring aren't sleeping in such close proximity that the lice can crawl from one head to the next one without taking a single step on non-human-head  territory, and the virus germs can travel from one host to another without going airborne.  That's just Alexis being OCD again, my Mormon relatives With Celestial Rooms In Their Homes  would say.

Some Mormons With Celestial Rooms In their Homes have sufficient funds that the space availability for sleeping quarters is a non-issue.  For them, it's both a function and a statement. Function: We have a special room to pray because we apparently believe God won't hear our prayers unless we're in our Celestial Room. Statement: We can afford a Celestial Room.  Unfortunately, none of my relatives With Celestial Rooms fall into this sub-category.

*** Not all Celestial Rooms are maintained to perfection. I've been in one (in a home rather than in a temple; I'm usually not allowed inside either kind of celestial room, and this is one I wish I had not been allowed inside) that would make a hoarder cringe either in self-recognition or because the standards of cleanliness and order were beneath even those of the hoarder.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Truly Stupid Childhood Misconceptions

Note: This is a reprint of an earlier blog.

Most of us, if we think hard enough, can come up with a few truly stupid things we believed as young children. My brother believed more stupid things than I did, though he doesn't remember most of them. I'll help him to remember. Matthew believed that all cats were female and all dogs were male. I'm not sure if he figured the truth to that one out on his own or if he had to wait until high school biology to learn the scoop. My brother also believed that the only parent who was a child's biological relative was the mother. (I should note that my brother does and always did bear an incredible physical resemblance to my father. He must've thought it strange when people commented on it.) My brother also thought the 4-1-1 operator could come through the telephone and attack you. He totally freaked out anytime he knew someone was calling directory assistance. My brother also believed that if a toilet were flushed when a person was sitting on it, the person would be sucked down through the pipes and into the sewer. I terrorized my brother with this irrational belief for the better part of two years until my mother finally put an end to it by sitting me on the toilet fully clothed, and flushing, so Matthew could see that his fear was without foundation. I was a bit irritated at my mom for ending it all so abruptly. I might have had another year or two to torment Matthew had she not intervened.

I carried around a couple of strange beliefs myself. I thought that when a couple divorced, the divorce occurred in a church ceremony, just like a wedding -- with music, flowers, and maybe even a reception -- except instead of vowing to love and honor, etc, the divorcees aired their grievances about the spouses they were divorcing. I imagined songs such as "All my Exes Live in Texas," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers, or maybe "She's Out of My Life." Both my parents frequently performed at weddings. I asked my mom once if she'd ever played or sung at a divorce. She just laughed. I think she thought I was trying to be funny. One day I saw an earlier incarnation of the TV show "Divorce Court" and realized that I had it all wrong. (When I made this discovery, my brother was still fearing the directory assistance operator and thoroughly entrenched in the belief that all cats were female and all dogs were male. I share this with you merely to give you perspective.)

I also believed that one of my uncles-by-marriage on my dad's side was Lee Harvey Oswald. My mother went through a major Kennedy obsession as a child, and her library still features hundreds of books on the Kennedy family. When I was in timeout, I was usually sent to my parents' den. The most interesting thing to read was the books about the Kennedys. I noticed a striking resemblance between the late Lee Harvey Oswald and my uncle. At first I thought maybe the two were brothers, but my uncle's name was Lee. Why would a family name two sons Lee? (This was before I knew about George Foreman and his habit of naming his sons after him.) In my little mind, I realized that Uncle Lee WAS Lee Harvey Oswald -- that the televised shooting of him by Jack Ruby was either a fake or he had miraculously survived it, and rather than filling the public in on what really happened to him, and possibly having a trial for the shooting of President Kennedy, they essentially put him in the "Criminal's Protection Program" or something like that. I always thought it rather strange that they didn't bother to change his first name.

For obvious reasons, I avoided this uncle in the way I would avoid snakes or outhouses. (Note: I have never in my life been inside an outhouse and don't intend to change that status anytime soon.) I made my stupid belief known to the family and endured years of humiliation when, at a family gathering during which I was about five years of age, for some reason the adults were discussing Russia. They were arguing about Russian currency. I don't remember the specifics. I finally had enough of what I saw as a rather silly argument when we had an expert sitting right in our midst. I pointed my finger at the man and blurted out, "Why don't we just ask him? He lived  in Russia."

"I did?" my Uncle Lee replied in a quizzical manner.

"Yes, you did," I declared. "It was before you shot President Kennedy. I know who you really are."

It seemed that the resemblance hadn't been lost on the rest of the family, because the entire group burst into loud laughter at my proclamation. I immediately ran from the room in humiliation, but not before hearing my Uncle Lee accuse my dad of telling me that he, Uncle Lee, was Lee Harvey Oswald. My dad replied something to the effect that he's never once discussed President Kennedy, Oswald, or Uncle Lee's resemblance to the alleged assassin with me.

As you can see, my brother's stupid misconceptions far outnumbered mine, though we both were guilty of major imbecility. I suspect that other kids I knew believed dumb things as well, but I never learned of the specifics.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pleasant Grove Strikes Again

Megan Huntsman

After almost having gotten past the idea of having slept for several nights in a home that was within easy shouting distance of Martin MacNeill (of forcing his wife into cosmetic surgery, drugging her with the excessive medications he insisted on being prescribed to her, and then drowning her in the bathtub fame), it seems that the cosmopolitan city [note:sarcasm font] is once again in the news. This time, it is because one of Pleasant grove's residents has been arrested and charged with killing seven newborn babies. Megan Hunstman, 39 years old, allegedly gave birth to the babies, killed them, then kept them in her home in cardboard boxes. Hunstman supposedly lived with her three daughters, who are now between the ages of  eleven and eighteen.

I've read conflicting stories on her husband or husbands. One account has her being married at different times to seven different men. Another story says that her sole husband was away in prison during the interval in which the babies would have been born and killed.

Hunstman is a relatively common surname in Utah. the most prominent bearers of the surname would be Jon Hunstman, Jr, former governor of Utah.  No clarification regarding any familial relationship or lack thereof between the prominent Huntsmans and Megan Huntsman has been provided to date.

I spent a summer in an apartment roughly two blocks from where this all went down. the most recent murdered baby was allegedly murdered in the year 2006. It was in 2008 when I spent a month in that apartment. At least no baby was killed [of which the authorities are aware], but the lady and her daughters lived in the house during that first summer when I was in the apartment two blocks away. I'm pretty sure I walked by the house. It gives me the willies. I'm going to need pharmaceutical assistance in order to sleep tonight.

If the idea of eerie events happening near you  keeps you awake at night, you would do well to avoid Utah.  At the rate things are going, Utah will soon catch up to central Florida in terms of weird murders.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rest in Peace, George Donaldson

I should have taken the time to post this earlier, but I've procrastinated as I often do.

The Earth has lost a consummate musician and an even better human being. George Donaldson, the stately anchor singer of  Celtic Thunder, succumbed to a massive heart attack in his sleep on March 12. He looked healthy enough to me, although, perhaps because of his baldness, I would have guessed his age as older than the actual number of forty-five that it was.

I've seen him with Celtic Thunder in concert three times and have seen him on TV numerous times. I met him after two concerts. My parents knew him better than I did because they've worked with him on occasion.  He was a very kind person.  The world is an infinitely poorer place with his loss. Rest in peace, George Donaldson.

George Donaldson, February 1, 1968 - March 12, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Judge Alex, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and Marigolds

Judge Alex, who stands for truth, justice, and the American way, will be leaving us soon.

My dad brought flowers to me today when he came home from work. It was a cheap bouquet, of course. He's not going to spring for two dozen long-stemmed roses for me unless I die or do something similarly grave. for that matter, they looked a bit old. He probably either took them off the hands of some patient exiting the hospital who had too many flowers to carry, or perhaps he got them really cheap from the hospital gift shop because they were getting almost too old to sell. In any event, I could speculate for the rest of the night and possibly never arrive at the actual means by which he came in possession of the flowers.

The bouquet contained carnations, a single rose, and, I think, a few marigolds. The marigolds were timely in light of a recent sermon at the LDS general Conference in which Elder Jeffrey R. Holland made some reference to the masses preferring a god who patted them on the head, made them giggle, and then sent them on their merry way to pick marigolds. It was possibly a literary reference. Then again, it may have been merely a jab at those who do not see God as the vengeful and wrath-filled he-man as portrayed in Mormon doctrine.

I'm told I should like Elder Jeffrey R. Holland because he did a big favor for a close member of my family -- a member of the family whom I actually like. I, on the other hand, do not blindly follow instructions of anyone. For me, the verdict is still out regarding Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.  While he's less overtly hostile than some of the LDS general authorities, I found that remark condescending and unnecessary. Why can he not speak his own truths quietly and clearly without denigrating the beliefs of others?

I digress. Allow me to return to my original topic, which is the flowers that my father brought home to me today, and the reason for those flowers. My dad just heard the news from God knows how long ago that "Judge Alex" will end as soon as the last season that has been filmed is aired.  He thought I might be in deep mourning. While I'm sorry to see the program end, "deep mourning" is just a bit extreme in description of how I'm feeling about the situation. My life will go on, as will Judge Alex's.  judge Alex will probably have continued life on TV, for that matter. Perhaps he'll become a Fox News pundit. Then my dad and I can watch and shoot the TV with foam darts together.  I can hit Megyn Kelly's forehead from a distance of twenty-five feet.  Judge Alex's forehead is even bigger.

It seems to me that the floral arrangement should have at least a token marigold.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Break Rears Its Ugly Head

unrest in Isla Vista created by non-UC-Santa Barbara students

A social media-promoted spring break gathering turned violent when a sheriff's deputy was hit in the head with a backpack filled with beer bottles in the UC-Santa Barbara off-campus residential area of Isla Vista. When an ensuing arrest was attempted, a riot erupted in which fires were started, traffic signs were removed, and projectiles were thrown at law enforcement officials. Law enforcement from neighboring Venture County was called in for reinforcement.  Hours later order was restored. Over one hundred arrests were made, and at least forty-four people were taken to a local hospital.

I'm quite familiar with the neighborhood, community, or whatever you'd care to call it, of Isla Vista. While I wouldn't willingly take my grandmother there, seedier places than Isla Vista exist within a ten-minute drive of my previous hometown, which is considered one of the safest communities in the U.S.

The spring break event -- what has become an annual street party dubbed "Deltopia," which allegedly morphed from the "Floatopia" spring break event of several years ago -- was attended primarily by high school students and students on spring break from institutions other than UCSB.  I'm sure there were UCSB student in attendance, but the majority have left the area for spring break. In this particular case, the reputation of UCSB students has been sullied by outsiders.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bobby Flay Made My Cousin Gay

My cousin sees something in Bobby Flay that I don't.

Note: Thanks to Donna for the inspiration.

I have a cousin who shall be referred to in this blog as Nathan. His mother, who is my father's sister and therefore my aunt, shall be called Therese. The names have been changed in this blog to protect both the innocent and guilty. I'll leave it to the reader to determine exactly whom falls into which category.

Nathan, bless is soul, has been gay probably since before his forced exit from the womb. (He was twelve days overdue, and labor induction was unsuccessful, so he was delivered via Caesarean section. I don't think that's particularly relevant, though my Aunt Celeste -- strongly devoted both to anti-Caesarean and anti-gay movements --would tell you otherwise.) I've known Nathan was gay since long before I even knew there was such a thing as gay. When I first heard of the concept of homosexuality, Nathan was my personification for the condition, as in, "Oh! Like Nathan!"

In the unenlightened 1990's when he was growing up, a great deal of murmuring was heard among family members regarding Nathan's rather effeminate nature. Even in the dark ages, my own parents were relatively open to the idea of one's sexuality not being a matter of choice. Still, the degree to which Nathan pinged bothered my dad a bit.  "It's not so much that he carries a purse,"  my dad would say. (Several of my mom's cast-off purses were in my stash of dress-up clothing.) "It's how he carries the purse."  My dad said he didn't really care about anyone's sexuality as long as whatever happened did so behind closed doors. Still, Nathan's overly effeminate demeanor made him a bit uncomfortable, or at least pretending not to notice it bothered my dad. He said numerous times that being around Nathan with the rest of the family and pretending there was nothing about Nathan to bother the LDS segment of the family  My dad described witnessing the young Nathan dressing in drag and painting his nails in front of the family as like being in a room with a giant flamingo and pretending not to notice it.

Nathan loved trying on the formal gowns from my mom's high school years, and only wore heels that matched, usually consulting with my mom to ensure he'd made the best choice. He was quick to criticize my shoe selection in my dress-up kit, and complained that his mommy's shoes were much prettier. (In retrospect, that's probably where all the family's money went. Nathan's father was an MD and presumably brought in a decent salary, but  parents have hit my parents up for help with mortgage payments or other expenses several time throughout the year.) Nathan likewise disparaged  my nail polish and lipstick selections as well selection. All I ever had as a kid had was what my mom threw out.  She's never been into upscale beauty products, probably because she doesn't need all that much in order to look nice. She's naturally pretty. She probably buys her makeup from Walgreen's.

Anyway, Nathan's interests were never typical for a boy his age, not that there's anything wrong with a boy not being interested in sports, outdoor pursuits, model airplanes, chemistry or anything else along those lines. My earliest recollection of Nathan would have been when I was two and he was five. He and I were both in attendance at a family reunion in some LDS-owned luxury cabin somewhere in Utah.
He brought with him in a duffel bag his rather extensive collection of Beanie Babies, and warned all the other children not to touch them.  I was a rather oppositional child, and took his warning as an invitation to grab the elephant Beanie Baby and run as fast as I could with it. Instead of chasing me, Nathan let loose with a high-pitched shriek that got the attention of everyone, including the security personnel who patrolled the property 24/7. My dad chased me down, which was a good thing, as once he finished his shriek, Nathan took a deep gulp of air, then held his breath until Peanut the Elephant was returned to him.  Therese gave me a look that would have sent me six feet under if looks could actually accomplish such a thing. She still hates me to this day, and I suspect my theft of Peanut the Elephant is the main reason, as the two of us have had little direct contact since that time.

Anyway, at some point right after he returned home from his LDS mission a year or so ago, Nathan became interested in food, or at least in the Food Network. He had finished his mission mid-semester so was not enrolled in any college courses. He essentially commandeered the family room television and watched Food Network programming nonstop during all of his waking hours. He periodically attempted to recreate a culinary masterpiece he saw while watching, but mostly he just watched. And drooled.  Bobby flay became a particular favorite, though he also watched anything he could find with either Tyler Florence or Giada de Lorentis.

Aunt Therese eventually noticed her son's fixation with the Food Network and, through some epiphany, noticed for the first time her son's effeminacy.  Therese considered it very much a cause/effect scenario. Watching Food Network programming had made her son effeminate, Therese said, ignoring twenty-one years of feminine behavior on Nathan's part. Therese immediately called my mother, who is a licensed clinical psychologist. That faction of the family seriously believes that if a person shows homosexual tendencies, consultation with a psychiatrist is in order.

My mother said she tried to be gentle in speaking with my aunt. She told my aunt that Nathan is who he is and that watching the Food network would not cause him to be a homosexual if he were not already one. This came as a relief to Therese, who assumed my mother meant Nathan couldn't possibly be gay, which she never said and certainly didn't mean to imply. My mom told Therese that it seemed as though Nathan was replacing one addiction -- his mission (or something or someone from his mission, though my mother didn't specify this) -- with another addiction, which was the Food Network. My mother's concern was not that Nathan was watching the Food Network, but that he had so much time on his hands that he could spend every waking hour watching the Food Network. My mom recommended to Therese that she insist that Nathan either get a job or do volunteer work.

Therese didn't follow my mom's advice. Instead, she called her cable provider and had all cooking channels blocked. Nathan still watches on his computer, but his mother doesn't know about it, which is a good thing, as Therese probably considers it pornography. Nathan is now carrying fifteen units at BYU, but he still finds time to feed his Bobby Flay addiction.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Les Haute Couture et Coiffure de Polygamie (otherwise known as polygamy)

I spent a large part of the previous weekend lounging around and doing next to nothing, as I somehow developed a nasty case of bronchitis that may have crossed the line into the dreaded territory of croup. I drugged myself with codeine cough syrup, AKA purple sludge, for long enough to stop hacking excessively in order to get through accompanying  a senior recital on Sunday afternoon, but that was the extent of my productivity. In truth, I did cough all over the piano keyboard during the final two songs, but I kept playing, which was all that really mattered. The violinist passed her recitalwith flying colors, and I was playing the gig for free, so she couldn't really complain about my coughing. The remainder of my time last weekend,  or what little of it I was actually conscious, I spent ogling  photographs at

If you've never been to, you should seriously give it a look. It does not feature standard LDS hair per se, but rather the hairstyles popularized by the fundamentalist Mormons, and especially Warren Jeffs' FLDS branch. The females there are known for really poofy hair above their foreheads. It's an odd look -- I'm not quite sure who in the world thought it would be flattering,  who agreed, and generally how the trend ever got off the ground.  Some of the braids used are elaborate and attractive . . . from the back. From the front, the women have that  otherworldly-appearing poof that makes even the comparatively few passably pretty females among the flock look like space aliens. Sadly, not many of the flock could be classified as anything resembling passably pretty, at least in my opinion. (Most of us need at least a touch of cosmetic assistance to look our best, and FLDS women are forbiden from wearing makeup. The inbreeding that has occurred among the FLDS over the past century hasn't exactly helped the overall look, either.  Then again, I'm not exactly a supermodel myself, although I at least don't make every effort to look even more ridiculous than I do in my natural state.  those poor ladies haven't consciously chosen to do so, either; it's the fault of Warren Jeffs, his predecessors, and his higher-level underlings. Tpoor women aren't even allowed to pluck their eyebrows.

I've posted a few pictures for your viewing pleasure. I highly recommend that you check out the site.

The lady with the cell phone is Annette Jeffs, first wife (and only legal wife) of Warren Jeffs.(source Aftonbladet)

source politicsrusprinciple
I included this one primarily because the little girl, whom I think is flawlessly beautiful (for that matter, with a more flattering hairstyle and a little makeup, the lady would possibly be pretty as well), doesn't appear (by hair or clothing) to be a member of Warren's flock, although perhaps the picture was taken when she was in state custody after the YFZ raid.
(source: politicsrusprinciple)