suburb (noun): a district lying immediately outside a city or town
bint (noun): a girl or woman (British slang)
wasteland (noun): an area that is devastated, as by a flood, storm, or war; something that is spiritually or intellectually barren.

11 February 2014

Terrifying Tuesdays

Now that I have a new iPad instead of my dismally messed up old one, I can finally start blogging again. Yes, I am of the cult of Apple. Don't judge.

Writing makes me happy. It has for as long as I can remember and I spend most days with a running monologue/narration in my head. My fibromyalgia and brain surgeries have created a phenomenon in my mind/body connection where I am sometimes literally in capable of speaking the words in my mind, although I can visualize them in text. Writing allows me to release the backed up verbiage in my brain. However many episodes of, "Bring me the thing that goes with the thing and then you do stuff with it.  It isn't blue," I may have during the day, if I can take a few minutes and actually produce coherent sentences, I am a calmer, more contented animal.

In aid of this self-prescribed therapy, I am going to make a concerted effort to blog at least three days a week. I have so many thoughts for blog topics, and I tend to forget things if I don't write them down, so I have decided to do the them thing. They are my own themes, and I may follow them or I may scrap them. I write for myself, first and foremost, and if I want to break my own rules then that is what I shall do.

My first "Terrifying Tuesday" is to admit that I have started a weight loss blog at I am ludicrously proud of that blog name; it makes me feel ever so punny. I started this particular blog because, well...

Yes, Mr. Gumb, I am a great big fat person. 

In the interest of transparency I am posting my weight loss experience on line. The highs, the lows, the gains, the losses.  I am fortunate enough to have a support system of very close friends, several of whom take physical fitness quite seriously, and I know I can count on them to provide accountability without condemnation, as well as being my very own cheerleading squad. MisterBint and SnarkyBint  will also be supportive (although SnarkyBint is skeptical of the Nutrisystem food.)

I am looking forward to exploring the things that frighten me, both in a monster-under-the-bed sort of way, and in a what-will-people-think sort of way.  Join me in raising a glass (or in my case, a 16oz bottle of water) to my consistent blogging endeavors. Slàinte mhath!

10 February 2014

Desultorily... Raising Them Right

Buzz Lightyear (on TV): I'll never give in! You killed my father!

Evil Emperor Zurg (on TV): No, Buzz. I am your father.

SassyBint (on my lap): Mommy! It's just like Star Wars!

Me: *contented sigh*

04 October 2013

Where's All My Soul Sisters?

Happy Nameday to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Weave!

Jersey Shore, KM, thunder poaching, Real Housewives, "My Treasure," Miami, DSM, Spidey shoes, "Ain't nobody got time for that!", knee surgery, Dubz, Soup for Sluts, over 20,000 emails, the well-hung bee, hugs from Coolio, comment wars, PHX, Big Brother, fricativesCrossFitShelliDOT, "Shock the Monkey",  DopeDoctorD, smoky topaz, Raul the internet stalkerOMG Janice!!!, strut dat ass, ATL, twerking by the ______, new vocabulary words, JFK, Bad Girls Club, Miss Minx, Heffah, MSP, Harry Potter in Portuguese, Gasmii, TrashTalkTV, shoe porn, sprained ankle, the Biting Brit, fashion shoots, quoting Tarantino, SopheyFatalle,  ratchet, Orange is the New Black, BOS, #oreotwinz, Nada,  "That creep can roll, man,"  drunken emails from the state fair, and so much more.

Hey sisters, soul sisters, flow sisters, go sisters

25 September 2013

Some Thoughts on Parenting

This post contains several links to interviews and news reports that are hard to watch. Please be aware that following any of the links included here will likely make you angry, sorrowful, and perhaps even nauseous. This post and the links contained herein contain triggers for child abuse victims.

When SnarkyBint was quite wee, my mother handed me a book called To Train Up a Child as (I can only assume) a "helpful" tool in my disciplinary arsenal as a parent. I read it from start to finish in one sitting, and thought that it was too extreme in the methods that it advocated.

Homeschoolers Anonymous recently had a series of posts from children and parents who have experienced the form of child training that this book espouses, and reading those posts broke my heart. Although the book came out after my corporal punishment years while growing up were over, the experiences that these writers shared were so painfully familiar to me. I was raised in a household where spankings were a matter of routine, and often administered for ludicrous and arbitrary reasons. The last spanking that I received from my father was when I was thirteen years old; my offense was spending my carefully saved up babysitting money on a Nintendo GameBoy (after playing Tetris on it, he immediately went out and bought one for himself.)

Michael Pearl, the author of To Train Up a Child, and his wife Debi are considered parenting and marriage experts in the conservative, evangelical, homeschooling community. Their Help Meet books (Created to be His/Created to Need a/Preparing to be a) take their names from the Biblical account of creation, when God says that it is not good for the man he created to be alone, and thus he creates the woman (Genesis 2:18-22.) They combine the idea of women existing solely for the purpose of being a suitable help to their husbands with the passages in the New Testament about wifely submission (Ephesians 5:22-24) and women being "the weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7) and just go nuts with them. According to the Pearls, being a godly wife means discarding every aspect of your own identity that doesn't complement your husband's personality and preferences. If the marriage has problems, 99.9% of the time it is due to the wife's refusal to submit and be the adoring doormat that she should be. Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism is doing a great series analyzing Debi Pearl's Created to be His Help Meet and Aletha is dissecting Michael Pearl's Created to Need a Help Meet over at Yllom Mormon.

To Train Up a Child takes its name from Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." They are also big fans of Proverbs 13:24, the verse that spawned the saying "spare the rod, spoil the child," Putting these verses into practice in the Pearlverse  is a special kind of twisted. According to Michael Pearl, training a child is no different from training a dog or a horse; they should come when you say come, sit when you say sit, and anything less than first time obedience is rebellion. Training consists of issuing commands, and if those commands are not immediately and cheerfully obeyed then the child is to be spanked until she performs according to the parents' standards. Mr. Pearl is very insistent that spankings should be administered with a flexible implement, like a switch from a tree or (his personal favorite) a length of plumbing line; according to him, spanking with one's hand is not spanking, it is a "karate chop" and clearly inappropriate in a loving parent/child relationship. Seriously.

This training can and should (according to Michael Pearl) begin in infancy. He encourages parents to place an interesting, desirable object in front of their 6 month old baby, say "No" when the baby reaches for the object, and if the child does not immediately withdraw his hand the parent is to switch said hand. He takes great pride in his admonition that rather than childproofing one's home, one should homeproof one's child. The parent's job is to break her child's will and the promised result is a child who will obey every command instantaneously, with a cheerful spirit, and joy and harmony will reign in the household.

There are so many things wrong with this philosophy that I could go on and on, but other bloggers have already done so for me, and quite well. But the one thing that I do want to address is the way in which Mr. Pearl blithely passes over the fact that children are (gasp!) human beings, with differing personalities, interests, abilities, etc. His one-size-fits-all parenting method generally produces three types of adults. The first group are those like his own children, who somehow end up as seemingly normal and well-adjusted people, and who buy into this lifestyle for themselves, their marriages, and their children. The second are like my younger sister, who at a very early age gave up on being her own person and outwardly was the perfect child. However, once she went away to college and began living her own life, she shut our family out completely; her visits home were perfunctory, and she flat out admitted that she only came back because she felt that she was obligated to do so. It is impossible for my mother or me to have a meaningful conversation with her about anything, because she guards every aspect of her real identity from us, and I cannot blame her for acting that way -- it is what she was programmed to do. The third type are people like myself; the rebels. For as long as I can remember, I fought against the system. I generally performed as every good little trained monkey ought, obeying quickly, thoroughly, and with a smile on my face, but it was primarily in order to lull my parents into a false sense of successful parenting so that I could do what I wanted to. When I got caught (and I did get caught, a few times) I did what I needed to do and said what I needed to say, but all getting caught really accomplished was to teach me how to be more careful. Like my sister, I keep much about myself hidden from my mother. It is something that I don't particularly like about myself, but part of me feels like she lost the right to the real me when she decided that her job was to erase that person and build a new one.

There is a fourth type of person that the "Pearl method" produces, but tragically these individuals never reach adulthood. They are children like Lydia Schatz and Hana Williams, both of whom died due to extreme discipline on the parts of their (adopted) parents -- parents who owned, copies of To Train Up a Child and who used a plumbing line to beat, er, spank their children. Hana Williams' adopted mother seems to have been straight up abusive, as her court testimony and statements to the police show that she did far more than just spank her children in the way that the Pearls espouse. Lydia Schatz's parents, however, simply followed the Pearl party line of spanking until the child submits to the parent's will. Seven year-old Lydia Schatz's choice to exert her own autonomy cost her her life, as her parents faithfully swatted away with a plumbing line until her muscle tissue was so damaged that it began breaking down, entering her bloodstream and ultimately clogging the blood vessels in her kidneys, resulting in renal failure and death. Her older sister Zariah was admitted to the hospital in critical condition due to the same muscle damage and kidney failure. So much for Michael Pearl's claim that spanking with a thin, flexible instrument only hurts the skin, and that only for a little while.

The Pearls are dangerous people. They use scripture to prooftext their own version of what a Christian family ought to look like, and people eat it up. They provide formulas that they guarantee will work for anybody, any marriage, any family, and if it isn't working then you, their reader, must be doing something wrong. Their CNN interview following the death of Lydia Schatz (here and here) shows a degree of cheery complacency from the Pearls that is nothing short of disgusting. They accept no responsibility, no shadow of a concern that their teachings are directly to blame for the nine hour ordeal that killed Lydia Schatz. If Michael Pearl had told the Schatzs in person or even over the telephone to switch their children until they showed true repentance (how subjective is that?) he could have been charged as an accessory to child abuse and murder. Since his instructions were contained in a book, legally he has done nothing more than exercise his first amendment rights, and is therefore not prosecutable.

There is no formula for raising perfect children; there is no formula for having a perfect marriage. People are extremely complicated, multidimensional beings, and life is messy. The only formula worth following, regardless of one's spiritual beliefs or religion, is Jesus's commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Even the Wiccans, whom many Christians absolutely abhor, are supposed to live by the rede, "An it harm none, do as ye will." In the world of conservative Christianity that I was raised in, as well as in the Pearlverse, children aren't considered as neighbors. They are possessions, arrows to fill your quiver with, things to make you, the parent, look like you have it all together. Physical punishment isn't considered harmful, largely due to misunderstanding what the original Hebrew in the verses about rods and children actually mean.

I have four children. I know that parenting can be extremely trying at times, generally because children are being the people that they are and are displaying their own autonomy, opinions, sense of humor, etc. I agree that children need rules and boundaries, so that they can experience life and the world in safe dosages which increase as they grow up. I agree that there should be consequences for misbehavior, because adult life is full of consequences for misbehavior and bad choices, and children need to understand that making bad choices is going to make their lives unpleasant. 

However: I also believe in trying to understand where my children are coming from when they break a rule or mistreat a sibling. It is important for me to understand that SassyBint threw a My Little Pony at her brother's head primarily because she is in desperate need of a nap, so that I can teach her that being tired isn't an excuse for hurting another person, no matter what he might have said about Rainbow Dash. Michael Pearl would have me switch her chubby little thighs until it elicited a cry of "real remorse" for this infraction, but I have found that an explanation, an apology to her brother, and a nap are what works for us in this situation. I try to treat my children like human beings, and hope that as a result they will extend the same consideration to everyone they encounter. I'm far from perfect, and I yell a lot more than I should, but I am careful to apologize for my overreactions and I like to think that I am improving.

What child rearing, and really every human interaction, comes down to is loving your neighbor. Or, as Terry Pratchett says, not treating people like things. Following a child-rearing philosophy that treats children as livestock and advocates "training" that would make any horse skittish and turn any dog into a cowering, pathetic mess should be obviously wrong to any rational adult. The Pearl method creates a disconnect in parental minds -- or at least in those parents who don't already have an abusive bent -- by promising their readers ideal families as long as they are willing to systematically whip their children for often no other crime than being children. That isn't love. It isn't training. It is abuse.

16 September 2013

Desultorily... I'm Also Team Bruford

Seventeen years ago, I could recite for you in excruciating detail the entire rotating cast of Yes, including dates, the bands they left for, the bands they left from, their solo projects, etc., etc. This video makes me feel that this knowledge, while useless in a practical sense, makes me a part of something special.

09 September 2013

Desultorily... Amest I Bovveréd?

I would imagine that most Americans who are familiar with Catherine Tate know her from her appearance in the last two seasons of The Office, or as the 10th Doctor's companion in season four of the newer Doctor Who series. She is also a brilliant sketch comedian, somewhat along the lines of French & Saunders, and if you have the opportunity to watch any of The Catherine Tate Show, I encourage you heartily with word and gesture to get to it already! As far as I know, it is currently available on Netflix Instant.

Even if you aren't familiar with Tate's character Lauren Cooper, if you loved Donna Noble and the Doctor together, or if you know your Shakespeare, or if you have ever had experience in trying to control an unruly student, then this sketch is for you.