Monday, September 25, 2017

Mormons should be fighting Graham-Cassidy

Bold title, I know. After all, we're not supposed to be political.

Except that's bull. For every time that they remind us over the pulpit that the church does not endorse any political candidate or party, we still end up with a lot of members who are sure that their political and religious beliefs are inextricably linked. Making a connection is not unreasonable.

So, if your faith in eternal families leads you to value children, and want to have children, you should be against Graham-Cassidy.

Under Graham-Cassidy, insurers can charge an additional $17000 in annual premiums. That's if they cover it, because they would not be required to offer pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was the first time insurers were required to cover maternity care. Insurers may cover more than required, but the balking at fairly basic requirements isn't assuring.

Maybe you can decide that following the Word of Wisdom will protect you from a lot of things. If you are not only not smoking but also eating lots of grains and fruits in season, that should decrease your risk of cancer, making you unlikely to be affected by $142650 premium increase for those with metastatic cancer.

It does help, but off the top of my head I'm remembering some really good members whose cancer did metastasize. Eventually it killed them, so I guess they didn't need coverage after that, but it took a while.

Maybe you can consider many afflictions to be God's will, and best borne patiently. Maybe you put a lot of stock in essential oils. Maybe you find it completely possible to ignore any problem that is not affecting you specifically, though that's a strange thing to pull from the scriptures.

Regardless, even if you can manage to not care about any other health issue, there is a good chance that you are going to have kids, or you have already and someday they will have kids, or that someone you care about will have kids; how many of them can afford an extra $17000 per year for the privilege?

Maybe you think that can be gotten around with midwives. That can work out, but a lot of these pregnancies are older, too. Isn't it better to have medical care available and affordable? Doesn't that make sense?

And if you are living in some of the more densely populated LDS areas, your calling now will mean more than anything I can do. My hippie-liberal senators and representative would not support Graham-Cassidy if I called them up and asked them too. Orrin Hatch, on the other hand, could benefit from having constituents call and ask him to vote against it.

For that segment of members who don't like that the ACA covers vaccinations, I'm sorry, please do this for the greater good.

For any who feel left out because you are not a Mormon, also sorry -- it just felt like something that needed to be said. For what it's worth, I believe similar reasoning should apply to many fundamentalist Christians as well.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Band Review: Mayhem & Me

Without at all intending it, for the second day in a row we have a band from Hobart, Tasmania.

Mayhem & Me self-describes as alternative/ dark folk.

There is a definite sense of unease working itself through the songs, especially on "Ribs". This darkness does not present as evil or aggressive, but more an acknowledgment of being besieged by a hostile world.

Music made in reaction to that can become elevating, almost purifying, like "Holy Moses". The guitar strongly forces its way forward, rising above. That same guitar can be a menacing current moving underneath on "Look Before You Leap", perhaps underscoring the importance of that look.

All of that is strongly accentuated by the eerie inflection given to the vocals. I think fans of Siouxsie Sioux could appreciate Mayhem & Me. Also, maybe fans of The Cult.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Band Review: The Silverbeets

The Silverbeets are a band from Hobart, Tasmania.

Working mainly in the genre of indie/alternative rock, I get a strong sense of nostalgia in listening. The title of "We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin' " indicates that it may be intentional.

I can't swear that there's a Theremin in the accompaniment for "Does Not Equal Ten"; it's more likely that there isn't. There is still a rather experimental sound to it, summoning up how we looked to the future in the past. I think The Byrds would like what The Silverbeets are doing.

I am interested in the kind of New Age elements of "Passenger Side". About half of the songs are more that way, with the other half being more groovy. There are some thoughtful lyrics.

The Silverbeets do not appear to have their own Youtube channel at this time, but you can find a couple of performances by searching on their name.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Farther along, but there are others

There was one other thing that helped me be okay with myself, body and spirit combined.

It was a gathering of people from high school. While there were multiple good interactions, the most important one was someone I was in love with through most of high school and my first year of college. I hadn't seen him for about twenty years. He was so happy to see me.

I was just hoping he wouldn't be unhappy to see me. I have been this way with everyone, torn between thinking they wouldn't remember me, they would remember me being annoying, or they would find me annoying now. I have gotten through that many times, but because of my feelings for this one person, it was a lot more pressure. He was so happy to see me.

When people enjoy my company now I can sometimes think it's due to some of the growth and maturation that came over time. The last time he saw me, I was still that immature girl, fat and believing that it ruled out boys ever liking me, disowned by my father and in denial about how badly that was affecting me, sometimes prickly as I tried to shield myself emotionally from all of that, and rather socially awkward. Yes, I was also a kind and smart and supportive back then, but still a bit of a wreck, you know? That's the girl he knew, and he was delighted to see her. A lot of other work has gone into this level of self-acceptance, but that was a huge boost.

I am also pretty sure that it was having this positive experience with the first boy I loved that led me to look up the second.

I have searched at random times before, but this was the first time I had found anything recent; he had made some videos and posted them on Youtube. This was not surprising because he was always a creative person. It was disappointing.

The videos were poorly thought out and executed. That could have worked if they were playful. There was an underlying bitterness, and antipathy toward the audience. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. My heart used to leap when I saw him; here it just sunk.

If he were a stranger and I stumbled across the videos, I would have thought they were stupid and weird and moved on, but I remember when he was different. I remember him as someone goal-oriented and focused who would have put more thought into something he was filming. I remember that focus as also applying to people, where when you were talking to him you felt like there was no one else in the world, but he did that for everyone because he did care about people. I don't remember him ever being very funny, but he was definitely more pleasant. I remember him being charismatic.

It has been a long time for us too, but there were some signs of a growing bitterness back then. I guess the bitterness won, but I think it came from losing. It came from setbacks and trying to make things happen and them not working out. I'm really sorry about that. There is some relief in being sure I am over him, but it shouldn't be because of this.

Society tells women they have to be beautiful, and part of the insidiousness is that the standards keep moving, changing to something less attainable. There is a different pressure on men, but it is still destructive. That is more true as their targets keep moving, and at a time when even the old targets are becoming harder to meet.

We are going to spend more time on toxic masculinity. I don't know if it will be next week. I might have to spend some time on health care.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bucking the system

A recurrent theme has been how different books interact with my learning and thinking. We're going to have some more of that today.

I read The Zookeeper's Wife (by Diane Ackerman) because we went to see the movie. That happened because we saw a trailer for it before A United Kingdom and thought it looked good. We then heard nothing about the film until we remembered to look and found it was playing at the second-run theater, so saw it a bit later than we might have otherwise. Seeing there was a book, we requested it from the library, where there were many holds. This happens with books that inspire movies even when they seem to be flying under the radar. That is why I did not read it until the end of August.

I read it a month after reading The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, which meant that when I read that Antonina was orphaned during the early days of the Russian Revolution, I was familiar with the Bolsheviks killing the Poles resident in Russia. I can't tell you now whether that was actually in the book, or if it was something I encountered when trying to sort out the Intelligenzaktion when Nazis were killing the Polish elites and the Katyn massacre, when Soviets were killing Polish officers and intelligentsia. Nationalists and Communists are supposed to be opposite, but then when you are reading about them there are so many mass killings that it can be hard to keep them straight.

I read The Zookeeper's Wife not long before Hunger and not really that long after Beauty Sick, which may have made the part about the rations stand out more.

During the German occupation of Poland, there were daily calorie allotments. In 1941, that was 2613 for a German, 699 for a Pole, and 184 for Jews. That was in the book, but in other sources too. Ackerman phrased it as something like "The only thing required of you is to disappear."

As much worse as it was for the Jews, you can see the Poles weren't highly valued either. They would have eventually been intended for extermination too, but I suppose the difficulty is that you can't gas everyone at once or shoot everyone at once. Logistically you can't bury everyone that quickly, but if you transport some, and crowd some into bad conditions where some will die on their own until there is room in the camps for the rest, and then once all the Jews are gone you start on the Poles, and hey, there is a logic behind it. Incidentally, this is why it is reasonable to assume someone identifying with Nazis is a bad person.

But that's not what I'm writing about today.

Today I writing about how many girls have put themselves on rations like the Nazis put on the Jews.

I know there is a sickness involved in taking on the level of self-infliction, but that sickness is in keeping with the demands of a society that doesn't value women. When the standard of beauty is always smaller -- more delicate, easier to look around, easier to push aside -- that is not a society that values women.

I tried to imagine a society where the beauty standards favored greater health and heartiness, and it just wouldn't happen. As long as we have a society where someone has to be on top and power is important and classifications like gender and color affect the balance of power, then having a beauty standard that is literally diminishing is completely logical.

Not everyone gets a diagnosable psychological disorder from it, but it creates a lot of unhappiness for the well, too. Frankly, under this kind of order the diagnostics become harder. That is how you end up with a diagnosis like EDNOS - eating disorder not otherwise specified - not specifically adhering to previously understood disorders, but still seriously ill. But that compulsion to be less would not run nearly so deep if there weren't already so many reminders, and so many people invested in maintaining that a woman is already less.

That is why our feminism needs to be intersectional. We will not resolve any of the bigotries until we quit needing to push down someone else to feel good about ourselves. There are probably going to be many, many posts revolving around that.

For today, just know that if a system requires you to be less, you need to buck that system.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fat and feminine

At last, we get to those final two books from the Long Reading List:

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

It was easier for me to agonize over my weight because I was a girl. Too much of my worth was caught up in being able to attract boys, and it was made very clear that I could not do that. It took decades to get over. There is more pressure on women to conform to beauty standards, and lots of obstacles to feeling like you have succeeded in meeting those standards. This fits into both patriarchy and kyriarchy, though I am not going into that now.

Instead I want to cover a some main points from both books, and then in the next two posts focus on how the system is harmful to women and how it is harmful to men.

Before reading The Feminine Mystique I had not realized that what happened after WWII was new. It's not that there hadn't been any type of sexism or chauvinism before, but great steps backward were forced as a reaction to the greater independence and leadership roles that women had gained during the war. Then there was a great effort to pretend that it had always been that way, and it was the natural, right, good way.

That is worth remembering now. People who feel that their spot on the top is threatened - no matter how illusory their supremacy is, and no matter how destructive their fight is - will fight. They will also pretend it is right and deserved. Hidden Figures as a movie focuses on three women, but that phrase can apply to many people who have been contributing all along and to whom credit is denied.

The Beauty Myth spent a lot of time on the advertising industry and how it contributes to that pressure to be attractive; we should constantly be looking at the effects of advertising.

I was recently reading about ways that advertisers appeal to children to nag their parents more effectively. Parents should be aware of those tricks and making conscious decisions about how to deal with it. Many, many products have ads trying to show you that your life is not good enough without them. Considerable thinking should go into what creates or disturbs the satisfaction in your life.

There was something else that I found in the criticisms of The Feminine Mystique, and that I kept in mind when I was reading The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir -- these are middle (or upper) class problems.

That is not that all issues of sexism are class-specific, but that vague feeling of things not being enough - "the problem with no name" - that was a result of empty time and no requirement for meaningful activity. Poor women had too many other things to do and worry about.

I am also not touting drudgery as a cure; that may be worse than the disease. But women are people, and want to be able to contribute. When their sole domain is the home, and labor-saving devices and hired help take all of the work out of that, it leaves a woman nothing to do but be an ornament. That wouldn't be satisfying even without all of the ads and comparisons reminding you that you just aren't beautiful enough as an ornament; even the most beautiful women age.

Friedan gave an example of women attending lectures on things like architecture and art, but those activities feeling empty because they weren't going to use that knowledge in any way. Initially I bristled, because I love learning about all kind of things, many of which I will never use. However, I do things. If your life is meaningful, these things are icing. If your life is empty, the frivolous may seem like a reproach.

A great source of guilt would be that the husband and children should be enough; didn't they love their family? Family is a wonderful thing, but the man was getting a career and family, and no one looked down on him for having both. For a women, it meant there was something wrong with her, and right at the time when a new wave of psychologists had come to the United States with training that blamed everything on the mothers. Sadly, it was not readily understood that their training was deeply grounded in Freud trying to understand why women would imagine having been sexually abused because such abuse couldn't have been real.

That's not even ironic. That's just, "Of course it would go like that!"

I am doing better about this thing that hurt me, and I am grateful for that. I am also aware that the system is still in place, and currently hurting many others. As I go back and forth between the personal and social, I am always looking for ways to make it better. I haven't stopped believing better is possible.

That bright possibility is going to require us to want everyone to have it better. That means not worrying about whether that weakens our own position, not feeling like some people don't deserve it, and choosing love and uplift over their opposites. It is radical, it might even feel violent, but it has wonderful potential.

(Apologies to anyone who thought the title meant the post would be about fashion choices and beauty rituals. Titling isn't really my strong suit.)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Band Review: Marshall Crenshaw

I put Marshall Crenshaw on my review list quite a while ago, when Jesse Valenzuela of the Gin Blossoms praised him. (Crenshaw helped with the writing of "Till I Hear It From You".)

One reason I add recommendations from musicians to my review list is that often they know bands I have never heard of but really like when I get to them. I knew who Marshall Crenshaw was, but something about Jesse's tweet made me think - absolutely correctly - that I didn't know enough.

I did not know about the release of six EPs between 2013 and 2015, mixing new, original material with covers. That includes the affecting "Driving and Dreaming".

I knew nothing about Miracle of Science (1996), which stands out because while there are lots of good songs all over Crenshaw's catalog, I feel like Miracle of Science has really great cohesion as an album. (I am not just saying that because of the outstanding "Theme from Flaregun".)

Most important, I knew nothing about "Whenever You're On My Mind", which pierced me to my soul from the intro.

Crenshaw has a remarkably expressive guitar; it amazes me again and again. That's the kind of thing you find going deeper.

Of course I knew "Someday, Someway" and I have always liked it. His voice is good for expressing yearning and was a great match for Buddy Holly in La Bamba.

But that guitar practically forms words, and says more than words can say. It is fitting for that talent to have a career that spans decades and keeps finding something new.

That's why I am glad I did this. So thank you Marshall, and also thank you Jesse.

Marshall Crenshaw plays in Portland at Dante's tonight, September 15th:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Band Review: Zach Nelson

I am not sure that I can give Zach Nelson a complete review, because I am so distracted by the apparent use of Autotune.

A sense of artificiality pervades the tracks. I guess I find it difficult to believe that his singing is poor enough to make the enhancement necessary. And if it isn't that bad, then why? You can do a lot of synthesizing instrumentally without touching the voice.

There may be a hint on the two bonus tracks on 2014's Tell Me What It's Like to Fall. "I'll Always Love You" and "Just Let Me Know" are both really fun and energetic, while also being super digital.

Maybe some of the other tracks are going for that, but it feels like a waste. Technology can enhance music, but if it takes over to the extent that human feeling is lost those enhancements can backfire. I feel that's what happened here.

Some flat singers are really popular. Some musicians hire vocalists. I'm just saying there are other options.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


It is not surprising that the next round of realization came after reading a book. Maybe it should also not be surprising that it didn't go smoothly.

I have had many disappointments this year in terms of things that I wanted to do and hoped to do and just couldn't. One hard hitting one relates to this book. I saw that Roxane Gay was coming to Powells to promote her book Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. Money was tight, but I was going to splurge on a copy of the book so I could have her sign it after hearing her speak.

I was really looking forward to it. Not only am I a big fan of Gay, but I felt like the book would be important for me. That was the book that was going to enable me to finish blogging about the last two books on the Long Reading List and one of the last Problems.

Then I couldn't get in the room.

I am not her only big fan. I left as soon as I could, but I did have to wait for someone else to be home with my mother before I could leave. By the time I got there the room had already filled up and started a long line snaking down the stairs and around the next floor. If I stayed in line I would still be able to get a book signed, but I wasn't going to hear her speak, and I was going to be waiting a long time.

The disappointment was pretty crushing. I don't even allow myself to hope for too much in terms of recreation any more. My sisters are reasonably good about sometimes taking my mother somewhere so I have the house to myself, and that's good, but going out and doing something fun is much more complicated. It takes something to do, and a way of getting there, and usually money. I have still hoped for three things this summer, and none of them worked. This was actually only the first letdown, but I still felt it.

I just wanted out of there, so I did not buy the book. Still, losing out on the recreation part was bad, but it wasn't a reason not to read the book, which I had still expected to be helpful. I requested it through the library.

Roxane Gay is popular there too. I missed her on June 30th and requested the book then; it just came in a few days ago. It was after reading Hunger that I realized I am okay with my body.

The book was helpful by itself. There are parts of her story I recognize as my own, with others that are very different. Her writing style referenced the contradictions beautifully, where you might understand something on one level but not really know, or want something and not want it at the same time. I relate to that.

I know the biggest objections my readers could have will be my health, though I think I have been clear that I am not abandoning that. She helped here too. She does mention health issues, but when I was reading about her exercise efforts I had a flashback to back when I was working at Amber Glen. There was a conveniently located gym there. It changed names three times, but I still went consistently.

The number on the scale never moved, but I remember feeling strong. Perhaps it was delusional, but I felt like I was glowing with power after a workout.

If I chain my perception of my health to my weight, it is too easy to devalue everything that is good for me. Things that make me feel more energetic, or happy, or that result in good blood pressure and cholesterol readings will always be insufficient if success has to feature weight loss. I will not do that to myself.

Possibly what got me most were her ruminations on the life that might have been, because I have seen that life. My current life was never part of any plan, I assure you. I can still see many good things about this current life now. It's not that the other life might not have been good too, but I only really know this one, and I accept it.

That probably helped, but also the delay might have helped. I said earlier that it takes time to emotionally assimilate what you have figured out intellectually. June 30th might have been too soon to realize that yes, I am at peace with my body. By early September I was ready.

Missing her speaking still stings a little, but it's comforting that things still work out. I am still on my path.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How did that happen?

I think The Obesity Myth helped the most.

The Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health, by Paul Campos.

It wasn't even that it was completely new information. I read about it on blogs where I was already getting similar information anecdotally. It was helpful to have someone but it all together and correlate with studies.

Three things stand out as notable now. One is that obesity only becomes a health risk when it affects mobility. That helped the things that are good about my health make sense, and gave me a motivation to maintain mobility. I mean, I like my mobility anyway, but it is important enough that it should be emphasized, and Campos did a good job of that.

The story about Susan Estrich may have been even more helpful. A very accomplished woman at size 12, her proudest accomplishment came when she went down to a size 6, though it meant not having any other notable achievements because losing those sizes in between took everything she had. Enjoying food and exercise and work -- life, I guess -- could not coexist. Given the things that I have tried that haven't worked, I can't want thinness enough. It would not be a good choice for me.

The other thing The Obesity Myth did was send me off to some other books: The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear by Seth Mnookin; Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch, and Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences by John Allen Paulos.

None of those books had anything to do with fat or body image, but they had a lot to do with how wrong people can be about all sorts of things. I don't know that this specifically helped me get over caring what other people think, but at least it didn't hurt.

Still, I was done with all of those books in March and April. I may have felt better about my body then, but it was not where I am today.

I know Beauty Sick helped a lot:

Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women by Renee Engeln.

That was in July. Originally I would have thought it was not going to make much of a difference. I have been considering myself not even in the running for beautiful for so long that my reactions were more about feeling terrible for other women. That worked out though, in two ways.

Some of the exercises they use to get women out of these patterns involve role-playing explaining the destructive patterns to others. After you have told someone that they don't need this and should not be hurting themselves, it is harder for you to stick with that behavior. They harness the cognitive dissonance of it all.

Now, I know women have a long tradition of thinking everyone else is beautiful, and reassuring other women of their beauty while holding on to a deep knowledge of personal flaws, and are rarely bothered by cognitive dissonance there. Focusing on the behavior, though, is different. It appears that I can tell you that you are beautiful without believing I am beautiful, but I can't talk to you about the dangers of purging and still feel right doing it myself. Perhaps actions do matter more than appearance, but my empathy having been activated by everyone else's stories seems to have mattered.

That wasn't even one of the exercises that I was able to replicate, but I did try a few, and they were very affirming. I realized some good things about myself, and it was a boost. Once there is a focus on substance instead of appearance, I come off a lot better. There is another tradition for women where we are not supposed to know good things about ourselves, because that's conceited, but I may be past that too.

I felt better, and yet I still wasn't where I am now. I was on the way. Some of that may just be that even after you have intellectually realized something it still takes time to assimilate it emotionally. I have had some time.

There were other points along the way, and things that made the realizations more clear, and that will be something to post about tomorrow.

Related posts:

Monday, September 11, 2017


I have had a strange realization lately; I don't seem to care that I'm fat anymore.

I have been working on accepting my body, but even in May I wrote that no matter how good I was getting about accepting myself, I still had that desire to be pretty, which meant thin. Now, only a few months later, I don't feel that in me anymore.

I am still aware that I am fat, and that this is not considered conventionally attractive. It is an issue for where I can buy clothes and how strangers may react to me and even how some chairs feel. I know all that, and I don't care. Two people I care about have started another attempt to lose weight, and I feel sorry for them.

I feel sorry because there will be so much deprivation and frustration, and even if they end up making some progress, it will probably come back a bit later plus a few extra pounds; they already hate their current extra. That's exhausting. They are already too tired.

My level of acceptance could relate to being tired. There are so many other things going on that I don't think I have the energy to worry about my size. It is seriously less important than so many other things.

It is not from a surge in confidence. Between the job thing and everything else, I am not feeling on top of the world now. I was feeling that pretty deeply last week, but then I remembered that a lot of this is temporary, and not a reflection on who I am. It's not that this isn't hard - it is still really hard - but I am a good person, and I like myself.

My weight doesn't matter.

There is more to say about that, because I have cared, and there are people that will care, and naturally there are books that have helped me get here. There are probably also things that I will still need to do.

It is nonetheless nice to be able to take a moment and realize that something else that really hurt me has stopped, and to feel amazed and at peace about that.

Related posts:

Friday, September 08, 2017

Band Review: Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors

I actually was not followed by Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors, but by their street team. However, I think that means Shanna, and I support Shanna, so they get a review.

Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors are currently based in Fort Worth, Texas, but have roots in the UK as well. The Texas connection may be more obvious, as there is a sort of country flair rollicking under the music. It is still absolutely more correct to call them rock than country, but country fans could enjoy it.

(Also, if you remember Rakunk - a Chicago-band reviewed last year - I think the two bands could share fans pretty comfortably:

Good songs to check out include "We Never Should Have Moved to L A" and "The Gulf of Mexico". No, not all titles are place-centric, but those two stood out. I also really liked a live number they did, "Freak Flag".

The band should be a good time, whether recorded or live.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Band Review: The Merry Jaynz

I admit when I saw "underground swamp rock" I thought that meant zydeco, but The Merry Jaynz are not zydeco. Maybe that is only for Louisiana. The Merry Jaynz are from South Knoxville, Tennessee.

Their red, yellow, and green, along with the name, made me think they might be a little more reggae in nature, or at least hippie. That isn't exactly right either.

As it is, in addition to there being room for different misguided ideas about the band, there is also room for more than one kind of band.

When the songs are instrumental, they are really catchy bass-driven funk. "A Thing" and "Soulmate" have completely different moods and are both excellent.

When voices come in, the instrumentation is the same but the sound is not.

The messages are often on point; "Most of Us (Dead)" sounds horrifyingly accurate. However, the voices are kind of distorted, giving the music an almost psychedelic feel. It reminds me of the music of a lot of my more counterculture friends.

That gives me some guilt about liking the instrumental tracks better, but taste is subjective. I can give The Merry Jaynz credit for filling two very different needs.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

To Do: Complete contacting singles

I have finally been released from the Single Adult committee. At least, they have someone else doing it, and I am gone.

It was never horrible, but it started to feel like too much. When I was missing meetings because no one else was free to stay with my mother, it became another source of guilt. I don't need that.

I do need to take another look at one of the To Do items on the list: Complete contacting singles.

The thing about the To Do list is that while some of them (like creating a vision board and posting a year of selfies) were definitely there because they related to my goals for growth, others were there only because they were things that I was working on at the time. Contacting single adults fell into that category, but there may still be things we can learn from it.

Just to bring everyone up to speed, the single adults committee organizes different activities and invites single adults to them. It's not about dating; it's giving people a place to have fun and feel fellowship and be nurtured by the spirit in a very family-oriented church, which is completely reasonable and valuable. I had nothing against that. Helping with the planning and putting on of these activities was okay when my life felt like less of a train wreck.

However, I also felt it was important to be aware of the single adults actually in my ward, and there were two big obstacles there: the majority of them didn't come to church anyway and the ones who did wanted nothing to do with singles' activities.

I believe some of that was a perceived stigma on singles - me showing up with an invitation was a reminder that I saw them as single, regardless of how accurate that was. It was discouraging.

My goal was to at least talk with everyone once, and find out what they needed. Is there a type of activity they would like to attend? Is there something they hate? Except the people who were at church were trying to ward me off like I was contagious and that left the people who do not go to church, who might understandably not be interested in church-related activities.

There were still a lot of good conversations. Also some slightly hostile ones. A lot of people had gotten married or moved, and I could update that information. It did feel like if the home and visiting teaching programs were working well, more of that should have been known. I was disappointed by how many people had been written off as "lost sheep". I mean, if they don't want contact you probably shouldn't keep pestering them, but was there a level of contact that could have worked and just wasn't done? Because there were people that I got to know a little, and while they were still not likely to not come out to activities, that was also true of people who were attending.

I tried a lot of different things, with phone calls, e-mail messaging, and some social media, as well as asking others who might know. I worked my way through the list three times using those methods, and was thinking about mailing post cards, but I had never considered it completed. Now it no longer makes sense to work on, by default.

This is where it becomes interesting to me for a second time, as I have to consider what counts as done. So much of this ends up being cyclical. I may research something, and give myself an assignment, complete it, and write about it, but then am I done? Have I grown enough? Have I learned enough?

There are things that I have looked at and decided that it's as far as I am going to get for now, but it may come up again, and that can be okay. I like clear delineations, but you don't always get them. Maybe you can only ask if it is enough for now.

Single adults was the first time I ever remember asking to be released from a calling. I did not feel good about that. Actually, I felt on the verge of hysteria asking for the release. I did keep doing things for the nine months or so it took for them to get someone else. Enough?

I did not complete working on the list. I don't believe I could have had actual contact with many more people, maybe one or two at most. Enough? Probably, I hope.

For myself, I am deciding that it is done, and I believe it is reasonable.

Related posts:

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Au revoir les enfants

Today I called and ended my Plan sponsorships. It smarts.

I can acknowledge that it was amazing that I kept them up as long as I did. Being able to put some money in the bank for before last month's withdrawal was practically miraculous as it was. I don't have any miracles on the horizon.

I can see reasons why I should have done this a long time ago. It's not that the amount would cover any individual bill for one month (except the cell phone), but a few months adding up would have. Anyway, I don't see a way of making it work anymore.

I was sure yesterday that it was the right thing to do, and that I would need to call today. Getting it done required logging in, and brought up photos of all their faces. I wavered then, I tell you. Except, it's not a matter of using money I have for something else. It's a matter of the money not being there, and attempts to get it out resulting in three overdraft charges.

It's done, and I feel just about as useless and worthless as I have in a while.

Anyway, that's weighing pretty heavily on me today.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Happy Labor Day

If you have a job that gives you this holiday, I hope you are having a great day off. I do have some thoughts.

I remember the last time minimum wage was being discussed. Many small business owners were complaining about how their employees had it so good while the owners couldn't even do... followed by some thing that they wanted to do.

I get the frustration of not having enough money for the things you want. I will even grant some understanding for frustration that your employees are doing better than you, assuming that's true. I do question whether it's true.

No one lives really high on the hog on minimum wage. That's why there are all of these discussions about raising the minimum wage, and a living wage, and how even the new minimum wage they talk about may not be a living wage.

It is certainly possible that the employee has fewer expenses, which could look like a more comfortable life. Many of the employers I have seen complaining have homes and children, and that takes money. As we are not talking about basing wages on how many people you support (and as doing so would certainly lead to a hiring bias against family people), we should not take that greater need into consideration.

It is also possible that the employee is making more. If you are living out of the profits while they get an actual wage, they could be doing better. That would be frustrating.

Here's my problem: if you can't afford to support yourself and the labor you require to keep your business going, maybe it's not a viable business.

If it is something where there are customers, so you know there is a demand, but you can't clear enough profit while still adequately compensating for labor, maybe you are not the best person to run that business.

Maybe it's not you. Maybe there is something set up in the system where the big guys are able to get price breaks or skip certain expenses, and it can be very hard to compete with them -- that would be very frustrating. That doesn't give you a right to send it rolling downhill, where devaluing another person becomes the answer.

And they do devalue the other person -- that becomes so clear as the arguments go on. "That's for an entry-level job. If they don't move on, it's their own fault."  Nope, not as much as you might think. Most companies pay as low as they can legally manage, and they like it that way. A high demand for employees can raise that, but with increasing automation, that is unlikely. (Though more spending power for the low-paid could help.)

It's not even anything new. Yes, much of what happened with U.S. slavery was a response to servants of different races uniting for Bacon's Rebellion, but the inhumanity of that response had a strong foundation in the already present dehumanization of the indentured servants. It was already common to add years to the contract, or to overwork or to starve the servants. Do they really need time to grow and cook food for themselves when it takes away from their duties?

Greed does that. It doesn't even require particularly bad people starting out to do that. Little by little, it is so easy to think about what should be yours and resent anything that you don't get to keep, no matter how much you need employees to keep things running.

That's not even talking about corporations. They are bigger and able to do a lot more damage, and most efforts for equality and environmentalism probably do need to be directed at them. But still, when the small businesses take the corporate attitude, when that small step up they have becomes a reason to step on someone else, that keeps us all down.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Band Review: Giles Lamb

This review of Giles Lamb is serendipity. I was trying to track down a video of a comedy sketch using Earth, Wind, and Fire's "September". In the process I came across "September" by Giles Lamb and liked it.

Film composers have different goals than rock bands, often needing to focus more on making a good background than standing out. A week of listening can be great, but it may be hard to point to specific songs.

As it is, I still really like "September". I also especially enjoyed the tracks under Timeless/Visit Scotland.

I could also point to tracks I like less. Transform sounds a bit more technological, and is not as relaxing. Even knowing it is not my favorite, I suspect everything on Transform works for its intended purpose, which is important. The ability to meet the needs of various projects should keep Lamb employed, but it is still nice that the music can be enjoyed outside of that context. It is still good that many of the pieces are independently beautiful.

My favorite is Before the Birds. That is where "September" comes from, so it makes sense. I wouldn't have found it without a random search.

Sometimes things work out.