December 20, 2015

The importance of respect

Don't worry, I won't spoil The Force Awakens, but one of my son's gymnastics teammates thought it would be a swell idea. The spoil-sport marched into practice yesterday morning, saying, "Who's seen The Force Awakens? Wasn't it cool when..." so my son immediately interrupted, saying, "No! I'm seeing it tomorrow morning! Please, please no spoilers!" and started to walk away, but his teammate followed him, spouting off some of the secrets of the movie. This isn't the first time this teammate has been disrespectful of my son's wishes. And this is a kid who is definitely old enough to know better. My son already tries to distance himself from this kid, and now he will doubly-so. Will he trust the spoil-sport? No way. Shame, because if the spoil-sport actually respected other people's wishes, then perhaps he'd have friends who would want to hang out with him. Instead, there are people trying to avoid him because of his bravado, hurtful words, and physical taunting. (My son was actually injured a few years ago because of this teammate.)

Meanwhile, I've had to deal with two separate companies recently who have difficult cancellation procedures on purpose. They want people to give up so that they will continue to be charged for an unwanted service. Companies like this erect barriers to customer service so that their customers are too worn down to cancel, rather than stay out of loyalty.

I am typically quite a loyal person once I find a brand I like. If the company is respectful of me and my needs, and allows me to take control of my own services, I am pleased. After all, I am the customer. I am the one paying for the service(s). There are some companies that have made mistakes, but have immediately corrected them and have been kind in the process. Those companies I will order from again, because --while they still may make mistakes since we're all human-- they deliver on their promises and make me feel valued as a customer. And, if it is a type of company that I find I no longer need (example: I don't need a diaper service now that my kids are long out of diapers) then I'll be vocal publicly of my support, and will recommend that company to others (example: I'd recommend a favorite diaper service to a pregnant friend.)

But then the opposite is true, too. If a company disprespects me and makes me jump through hoops, then I will be reluctant to ever use them again. (Why would I subject myself to such hassle again, even if I find I want their product?) If they make a mistake and blame me for it, or refuse to correct it, that shows I shouldn't risk ordering from them again. If they argue with me about why I say I no longer need a service (but obviously they think I do), then I most definitely won't use them again once I need that service again.

And shame. Well, if a company tries to shame me into keeping their service, then that shows a very deep level of disrespect. Sure, they are doing it for the money. But they are letting me know that they don't give a shit about me or my values. That means if I do need a service provider in that genre again in the future, I won't be coming back. If instead the company had processed my cancellation graciously, wished me well with a simple, "We hope to see you back someday!" then, yes, I may consider that company in the future! But if they tell me that I'll regret cancelling, or if they immediately start spamming me with emails and phone calls about how I should come back, then that's harassment. I will never, never hire a company that uses those tactics, and I will make sure my friends are aware not to use the company, either. (Using my example from above: it is incredibly insensitive for a diaper service to relentlessly hound someone to come back to their service when the reason the family cancelled was that their child passed away.)

People may not feel comfortable "revealing" their reasons for cancellation of a service because it may be deeply personal, so it would be favorable if a company allowed hassle-free cancellation of services which does not require uncomfortable disclosures.

As a customer, I should not be humiliated.

As a customer, I should not be shamed.

As a customer, I should not have to justify my reasons for wanting cancellation of a "recurring fee" service that I no longer need. (I should be respected for knowing my own needs rather than told by the company that I'll regret cancelling, or that by cancelling I've opened myself up to major problems, and so forth.)

When a company treats me poorly, they show that they do not respect their customers. They only want money. The sad thing is that if they took care of their customers, then they'd probably do much better, since word-of-mouth can be a very important thing.

Why not be kind to encourage repeat and word-of-mouth customers, rather than being condescending, disrespectful, and harassing to customers who want breathing room?

(And, for my son's gymnastics teammate: why not respect others, so that they will also respect you? Friendship is such a valuable thing. Being trustworthy is so important. Being sensitive to others' needs is vital.)

Continue reading "The importance of respect" »

October 2, 2015

In my jammies

My older son hasn't been feeling well the last few days. This morning, he asked for a Musinex, and some yogurt to keep his stomach from being too empty. By the time he was done with his last-minute breakfast, there wasn't enough time to walk to school.

Of course I jumped in the car with my PJs on to drive him.

As long as I was "out," I stopped by Jack-in-the-Box for a little breakfast of my own. The cashier dropped my credit card on the ground, so I had to exit my vehicle in the drive-through lane to retrieve it. I wasn't too happy to be showing off my minky PJ pants to those in back of me, but oh well.

As I drove back home, a woman suddenly swung her car in front of mine. It was shocking, but I was alert and braked HARD. My car stopped immediately, and amazingly I didn't collide with the other vehicle. As I drove back to my house, I was relieved that I didn't have to deal with filling out an accident report in my pajamas. Of course, I was more relieved that no collision occurred in the first place, but it was certainly a close call.

September 14, 2015


I witness examples of entitlement frequently, but don't bother to mention because that's the unfortunate "default" these days.

I interview kids for college: half of them are respectful, and then other half seem to believe they've already gotten in (and so wonder what I can provide them to get them to select my Ivy-League alma mater, rather than the other way around.) I see people cut in line because they "have to be somewhere" (or they provide no excuse at all.)

Yes, I notice entitlement on a daily basis. But this weekend, two events really angered me:

Saturday night, a group of teenagers revved up behind my car, nearly hitting it. They then backed off, and did it again a few more times to scare me. They flashed their lights over and over again. Of course I pulled over to let them pass. I was going well over the speed limit, so this wasn't a case of me driving too slowly under "normal" circumstances. Nope, these kids were definitely more important than me, and had to race off to wherever they were going. As such, I felt like a doormat as I sat on the side of the road waiting for an opening so I could merge back onto the road. (Huh, I wonder if I'll end up interviewing one of those kids? I'd never know, of course.)

I was delayed while the aggressive teens got to speed off to their destination. They got what they wanted at my expense. (If I had braked while they hovered at my bumper, I could have gotten into an accident. It could have been much worse.)

Sunday morning, my family had brunch at a restaurant where my parents and brother had once seen Sheryl Sandberg. They recalled her party had been extremely loud, but nobody bothered to ask them to quiet down, presumably because of who she is. (Why should that matter? Do we not expect decent behavior from everyone, regardless of their "status?")

Well, yesterday, a very large group of people (taking up three tables) abruptly left before their food had arrived. (One member of the party found a dead rat near her chair. This was in the outdoor seating area of an establishment in a wooded area, so the implication of a deceased rodent is quite different than if it were in an indoor urban joint.) As they left, one man yelled out to his mother that she was carrying his father's cane. Rather than approach her, he continued to yell. One person said something to the effect of you don't have to yell, and he responded, "I don't know these people! They don't know me!" Of course he then continued to bark instructions to his mother.

The implication: these people don't matter. I can disrupt their brunch by yelling because these people aren't going to benefit me. I don't need to impress them to get ahead.

Earlier in our brunch experience, this same man had bellowed across the restaurant, "We are ready to order!" to summons his waiter. I found the service at this place to be exceptionally quick (we actually had to turn away the waiter several times because we were still deciding on our food!), so it is unlikely that much time had passed at all between when this man was given his menu and when he determined he needed to be taken care of NOW.

It frustrates me that people like this man seem completely oblivious to whether their actions affect others. He didn't care that his loud voice might disrupt other diners. My experience was not any of his concern.

After his party left, there was some confusion with the meals, since all of a sudden many orders were no longer needed. As a result, my family's order didn't all come out at the same time. Thankfully, the restaurant fixed it rapidly, but they specifically cited the sudden departure of the large party as the reason for the mix-up.

My family's experience at brunch was affected by this man. He was free to behave as he pleased, at my family's expense.

Thankfully, being slightly delayed on the road or inconvenienced at brunch is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, but the culture of "I don't care about you" is scary.

Of course I know this, because nobody helped me when I was choking during Disney on Ice. When I think back on that experience, I shudder with fear. I could have died, and nobody cared. I worry for if something happens in the future while I am unconscious and therefore unable to help myself.

In fact, I passed out in a public bathroom while pregnant with my first son. I don't know how many people walked by me, probably just assuming I was drunk, rather than asking me if I needed assistance. (When I finally came-to, I trudged to my office, vomited in my boss' trash can, and thankfully recruited a co-worker to accompany me to the ER, where I was deemed severely dehydrated.) In the same vein, I once called an ambulance for a man who appeared to have had a stroke. Passersby seeing me attend to the man rolled their eyes and told me he was probably just intoxicated. Both of these incidents were in New York City: are there just so many drunk/drugged people there that the assumption is substance-abuse-by-default rather than someone needing acute medical attention?

Nobody helped me. And, people mocked me for trying to help someone else.

Sure, I've heard some nice heart-warming stories of strangers coming to the aid of other strangers. I know there are some good people in the world. (In fact, I have an amazing friend who just offered to give my son a ride tonight. Such a "simple" thing can mean quite a lot!) I also know there are a lot of people who don't necessarily go out of their way to help, but at least they don't try to hurt.

And then there are those who blatantly plow over others for their own gain. Why should they be so entitled?

I hate that I am powerless. I cannot reprimand them as I would a toddler, since no doubt they would "win" any sort of escalation since they don't care about what happens to me.

I hate that people are rewarded for "me-first" behavior, since by default, they benefit from pushing people around to get their way. There are no obstacles if you don't care who you hurt in the process. It is truly sickening.

September 11, 2015

Connecting on 9/11

Flag at Times Square

We come together and share our stories: where we were, who we knew, how we were affected. The stories bond us, which makes us feel positive emotions. But the topic is about negative emotions. There is loss: more loss than we can fully comprehend. There is fear: will this happen again?

Fourteen years ago I spoke to more people than I do in a typical day. People I hadn't heard from in years came out of the woodwork to connect: are you OK? Is your family OK? Did you know that she was right there, but is OK? Have you heard from him; he who works there? We wanted to gather information about mutual friends. We wanted to know just how bad it really was, just how far-reaching.

We are simultaneously comforted and shocked by all the "close calls."

Yeah, he decided to stop for coffee instead of going right upstairs for the meeting. That line for coffee was pretty long, but he decided it was worth the wait.

Her alarm didn't go off. Oh, but her boss was going to be so angry that she would arrive so late to work!

Each year, we retell these stories. We postpone some things ("No, we really can't do that on 9/11!") but technically this day is not a "holiday." People still go to work. People still go to school. We are expected to be present in some form of our lives, and yet the day will still revolve around remembrance. Will people be kinder to each other on this day? Just, because, all of us were affected in some way?

I'm glad today is not an official holiday. After all, people use Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Labor Day as opportunities to party or save a few bucks on a new refrigerator. The interesting "tributes" that show up on these days on my Facebook timeline illustrate how many people don't know what these holidays commemorate. (Yeah, not all the same thing, folks.) But pretty much everyone knows 9/11. (Of course, there is still confusion when people think the emergency number 911 was developed post 9/11.)

Today is a reminder that we are never completely safe. But it is also a reminder of so many people who really do care. After all, on a typical day, we are pretty isolated. But today we pour out our souls in varying degrees, and listen to others relay their thoughts.

There was joy in connecting with people I hadn't heard from in years. Yes it was in a time of disbelief, but I am so thankful to have "found" so many people fourteen years ago. I am lonely often. And so I am grateful when I can feel connected. It is too bad that these connections come in times of stress, but I'm thankful all the same.

- My 9/11 Story, written in 2011.
- Last year's 9/11 reflection

Top image: I took this photo in Times Square when we visited NYC in 2013. It was my son's first time back since his birth.

August 5, 2015

Behind the Scenes

I've been thinking quite a lot recently about how much of what I've accomplished in my life has been rather "invisible."

Sometimes that's fabulous: after all, I don't want to be hunted down for something that someone doesn't believe in. Although as a teenager I longed to be famous, I eventually figured out that it would actually be pretty scary. I like knowing that my family is relatively anonymous. I don't have people attempting to get my autograph or paparazzi trying to snap an unflattering shot when all I want is privacy. I have the freedom to get my mail in my pajamas, or ride on an airplane in peace.

Sometimes that's not fun: occasionally I'd like the "credit" that goes with a good idea. I've witnessed people given awards for my work, or thanked profusely for my efforts, or obtaining authorship for a publication that I wrote. (Of course all scientists have experienced that third thing: but even so, some are given at least a nod in the acknowledgements section. Still, I remember how a summer intern once wrote up a paper and was inexplicably given first-authorship on it.)

I am glad that I've been able to change the world in many ways even if it is pretty unnoticed, but I would appreciate a pat on the back maybe every so often, just to know that I'm really not invisible. I matter.

July 31, 2015

Late July chips with dip in... late July!

Although August with the start of school is around the corner, I'm definitely not ready to give up on summer yet. After all, it has been above 100 degrees in my part of the world for the last several days. It is definitely a "hang around the pool, eating chips and dip" (and sipping margaritas, of course) type of time.

As you know, I'm a big fan of Stonyfield Organics. In fact just the other day, I told a fellow gym mom about OP Organic high-protein smoothies, a Stonyfield product that has been in high rotation in our household. (In other words, this is a product I absolutely use; even though I received some initially for free, I continue to use it on my own dime because we love it!)

So yes, Stonyfield and I are chums. And so when they asked me to concoct a dip recipe using their yogurt to pair with Late July Snacks. Late July chips are non-GMO Project Verified, gluten-free, and made with organic ingredients, I figured I'd give it a try.

People who have gotten dinners from me after they give birth or have surgery know my curry dip. Well, now I've modified it to become Curry Greek Vanilla Yogurt Dip!

Late July multigrain tortilla chips with Curry Greek Vanilla Yogurt Dip made from Stonyfield Organic yogurt

Late July Snacks provided a bag of their "Sea Salt by the Seashore" multi-grain tortilla chips for me to pair with my Stonyfield yogurt dip. Although the name of the chip has "sea salt" in it, these chips are not super-salty. Rather, they are a pleasant mix of organic whole grains like corn, quinoa, amaranth, millet and brown rice paired with chia and flax. These chips are absolutely not greasy, but nor are they super thick or tough. They are crispy, flavorful, and light enough to munch repeatedly. Their flavor is terrific as-is, but of course it is fun to pair with a dip!

Late July Snacks multigrain tortilla chips with Stonyfield Greek vanilla yogurt

Stonyfield provided me with a coupon for free yogurt. I selected vanilla Greek yogurt. I imagine "plain" would also work with the recipe if you want a bit of a "bite," but I wanted my dip to be a bit sweeter (and to balance the curry,) so I chose "vanilla."

Curry Greek Vanilla Yogurt Dip Recipe | Ingredients

Curry Greek Vanilla Yogurt Dip Recipe

8 oz Stonyfield Greek Vanilla Yogurt
1 jar Major Grey style chutney
1 tsp curry
a pinch of sliced, toasted, or slivered almonds (your preference!) for garnish

Curry Greek Vanilla Yogurt Dip Recipe | Mix it up!

All you have to do is put the first three ingredients in a food processor and let 'er whirl! Just combine until everything is mixed. If you want to thicken the mixture a bit, add some firm (not whipped) cream cheese to desired consistency and combine thoroughly. (I did not add cream cheese to this batch, so it was a bit thinner than a traditional dip!) Then, pour into your serving dish and garnish with almonds.

Curry Greek Vanilla Yogurt Dip Recipe

Of course this dip paired well with the Late July Snacks multigrain tortilla chips, but I also like using it for vegetables and as a spread on baguette slices. I can see it perhaps being a tasty sauce over chicken, too, although I've not yet tried that.

If you no longer want to do the old (but admittedly delicious!) "onion soup mix + sour cream" dip, give this Curry Greek Vanilla Yogurt Dip a try. Or, check out Stonyfield's own collection of tasty-sounding dip recipes using yogurt. And of course, check out Late July Snacks for some perfect chips to enjoy!

Thank you Stonyfield Organics and Late July Snacks for providing me with some delicious food in exchange for this post!

July 20, 2015

Ha, ha, surgery is so "last week"

Last Tuesday I had a minor laparoscopic procedure. I'm sure y'all remember my whole spinal surgery situation. That began with a left-side abdominal pain that eventually the doctors figured was "referred pain" from my back, hence the spinal fusion.

Shortly after back surgery, when I remarked the original pain was still there, they told me, "You've got to wait at least two years for your spine to fully fuse again." Well, I waited two years (that milestone was last summer) and then jumped into another round of "what is causing the pain?" It took another year of "let's try this!" before I insisted on the exploratory surgery. (They actually wanted to jump straight to a hysterectomy, despite no evidence that my uterus was actually causing the pain. "Let's just take a look," I told them, "If it is obvious the uterus is the problem, then we can discuss further measures.")

Admittedly, the things they tried prior to surgery were rather interesting. I'm sure many people don't realize there is such a thing as a gynecologic physical therapist: she actually sticks her hands up the places were the sun don't shine to manipulate various things, much like a traditional physical therapist might do outside your body with your arm or leg. Although this was an interesting approach, it caused a ton of lasting discomfort (manipulation could target the pain) but didn't solve the issue.

I won't post a huge spoiler alert, because it may not be true, but for now, the left-side pain is gone. (I'll whisper it again to not jinx it, the original pain is not currently happening, whereas right after spinal surgery it was happening.)

Plush ovary toy

During the surgery, they took pretty color photos of my insides. Sorry, I didn't post a pic of my gallbladder or liver on Instagram, although I was tempted. There was some endometriosis on my right ovary. It looked like mold. They removed it. But, it wasn't my right side that was hurting, so that isn't an obvious source of the original pain.

So why is my left side (temporarily? permanently?) no longer hurting? Well, maybe because they shifted some things around during surgery. Maybe because my body "re-taught" itself some pain signals because it wanted to direct pain to the actual areas of the incisions (which were belly-button and right-side, not left side.) Maybe my left side pain is actually GI tract pain, and my post-surgery diet hasn't yet caught up to my typical eating schedule and composition. Maybe it is because I'm sleeping in a different position to help heal my tummy, so am actually repositioning everything better to avoid pain. Of course, maybe my post-surgery pain killers are taking care of that particular sensation, although that would be a trick, since that didn't happen with much stronger pain killers after spinal surgery.

I don't know.

I can give a bazillion reasons for what might be going on, but for now I'm just going to focus on healing. If the original pain comes back once I'm fully healed, that's a bummer. But, for now I'm trying to rest up and trying to be optimistic!

And so, enjoy little snippets of excitement from my surgical adventure thus far:

- At my pre-surgical appointment, my surgeon remarked, "Well, since you tend to bleed more than most people..." (Me: "LALALALALA! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!")

- The medical assistant put my bedside TV on the "C.A.R.E." channel. The music was annoyingly new age, but it was pictures of water buffalo and the like that had my husband rolling his eyes.

- The nurse who started my IV ended up splattering blood on the side of my bed, remarking, "OMG, it looks like a murder scene in here!" (Me: "LALALALALA! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!")

- As I spoke to the anesthesiologist and his assistant, we had the following conversation:

her: As you enter the operating room, I'll give you "I don't care" medicine.

me: What kind of medicine?

her: "I don't care"


(what am I, three?)

- The anesthesiologist, talking to his assistant, "Well, this patient has a really wacky throat which can potentially cause complications, so we're going to use this really swag device with an awesome camera on it to successfully navigate the dangerous parts..." (Me: "LALALALALA! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!")

- As my husband left for a meeting, he asked my sons if there was anything else that needed to be done, since Mommy is recovering from surgery so can't do anything. His car was only half-way out of the driveway when my eldest son approached me with a moan, "HUNGRY!"

- Although I told my clients I'd be out on Tuesday, and would be at limited capacity for awhile until I healed, three of them emailed me on Tuesday with requests, and continued to email me throughout the week with "Oh, just one simple thing I need you to do! You can go to bed right after, hahaha!" Last night and this morning, I was bombarded with requests. Seems that surgery is so "last week" and that the expectation is that I'm at 100%. I'm not.

Fingers crossed that I continue to heal, and that the original pain will not return.

July 8, 2015

Boxes: Free Advice to Moving Companies

I'm really sensitive about keeping things around that might be reused. As a result, I have a lot of things in storage. And, my home is much more cluttered than I'd like. I don't want to be wasteful.

Each of my moves from home to college to first job to grad school I kept the boxes, knowing I'd need them for the next move. When I moved from graduate school across the country with my husband and brand-new son, the moving company required specific-sized boxes. They allowed us to "borrow" some large closet boxes, but we had to purchase all the smaller boxes so that they were uniform. And so, I had to recycle all the boxes I had kept previously. (Had I recycled them earlier, I would have had so much storage space!)

Once we got to home #1, I kept a bunch of boxes, but not all of them, because I expected we might stay for awhile. Nope! Just two years later, we went to home #2, and then two years later, home #3! We've now been in home #4 for eight years, and yet I'm willing to bet that there are flattened boxes in one of our storage sheds, "just in case." (And let's be real: those boxes are probably moldy, no longer stable, and/or covered in spiders.)

It occurred to me how amazing it would be if moving companies had mid-sized reusable bins that could be rented for a move. If the mover doesn't return all the bins, or damages some, then the mover is charged appropriately. But, if the movers return the bins within 30 (maybe 60?) days of the move, then only the rental fee applies. (And hey, with a specific date by which the mover must return the bins, it would be a kick in the pants to actually move in instead of slowly unpacking.) I'd even propose that rental of reusable bins reduce the moving charge by a particular percentage to discourage the use of disposable boxes.

Frankly, I'd select even a slightly more expensive moving company if they offered a box-free move. I really hate cluttering up my home with flattened boxes to keep "just in case," but it pains me to recycle them, too, because I know recycling isn't as efficient as I wish it were.

So there you have it moving companies, free advice! I'm not planning a move anytime soon, but perhaps by the time I'm ready, there will be an environmentally-friendly way to do so!

P.S. Refrigerator manufacturers: I'm still awaiting a Lazy-Susan style fridge. Don't you think that would reduce food waste?

June 3, 2015

The Season of Many Endings

Last night I watched my older son perform in his final middle-school orchestra concert. I was able to maintain a calm face when the Music Director prompted the 8th graders to take their final bow, but as the parents and students started putting the music stands away, my eyes quickly became wet. Away from the crowd, my husband asked if someone had died. Nope, I'm just freakishly emotional.

Today I watched my final "Spirit Wednesday" presentation at the elementary school. To rub in the nostalgia, the kindergartners led the Pledge of Allegiance. I saw my son's former teacher readying her students, and felt my eyes moisten. That was my son not so long ago. Was he really that small? The custodian of 25 years is retiring after this school year. In gratitude, the parents, students, and staff did a series of presentations to honor him: speeches, songs, a dedicated garden on the campus, and a big check! As I walked back to the car, I caught the eye of another parent with wet cheeks. "There are many endings." she said simply. (She has adult children as well as some still in school. Her twins are fifth-graders like my son. And, for both of us, these are our final days of being parents to elementary-school-aged kids.)

Tomorrow, I'll watch my younger son in his final concert of elementary school.

Next Thursday, I'll be a puddle from sun-up to sun-down, as both my boys spend the final (half) day at their respective schools. That evening, I'll attend my older son's 8th grade promotion ceremony.

Of course the good thing about these particular special endings is the fantastic beginnings to come: My younger son will enter middle school and experience the same strings program that trained my older son. My older son will enter high school with its exciting electives, myriad of challenges, and an award-winning Orchestra. This autumn, I'll be excited for the rhythm of the new routines and to witness my sons continue to become more independent. Of course, I'll then blink and those things will end, with new opportunities to commence.

But for now, if you see my eyes red and my face puffy, just know that I'm not sad per se, it is just that it is a bittersweet season of many endings.

May 26, 2015

Beyond Josh Duggar

A friend wondered why many are so obsessed with the whole Josh Duggar situation.

I replied that it is deeply personal for so many people, but for varied reasons. This includes, but is not limited to: people who have been affected by religion, for the positive or for the negative; people who have been abused, whether sexually, emotionally, or other; and people who have been restricted in some way, whether by a narrow-minded religion, helicopter parents, or controlling spouse (or other!)

A seemingly simple story about a reality-TV family affects people in so many ways, and is a scary indication of some of the challenges we may have to face in the future. The news of late has shown us all sorts of injustice and restrictive or prejudiced ways of thought. We aren't as free as we think; and that realization hits us... hard.

Duggar Family in 2007

There is a mix of feelings involved because of the many different angles the story takes. For me, I'm angry at those who have done harm and feel sympathy for those who have been victimized. I defend the concept of religion, but distance myself from fundamentalism. I understand how and why those involved believe what they do, but wish they could open their eyes to the destruction involved.

And yet, I recognize that by my own desire for tolerance, I must respect at some level that they are staying true to their beliefs. They cannot understand how doing things another way might actually be kinder and more Jesus-like because of the extreme fear of the outside world and assumption that someone like me (who loves God, but doesn't take The Bible literally; who respects many other religions' teachings -- and knows amazing atheists -- for their morality and love, so does not believe Christianity is the only way to live a meaningful, helpful, generous, spiritual life) might be "tempting" them towards something they feel is wrong.

That said, there is a line, and they -- like other extremists in other religions -- have crossed it. Of course for some in this particular brand of fundamentalism, the idea is not a pure and faithful way of worship, but indeed a carefully-crafted way of exerting control over others knowingly. That's the scary part: someone can gain power by using "faithfulness" and "religion" as their motivations, and yet they definitely do not "practice what they preach," and in fact are more harmful than the Devil that their way of life is supposed to shun. Some people involved in extremist religions or cults are naively earnest and others are deviously "pious."

Some of the Duggars understand the hypocrisy in their actions. Others may not; or, believe they are somehow exempt. In the past, I've seen evidence of questioning from some of the Duggar girls. Will one or more of them break free? Or, is it too great a risk for them?

I understand how people can become "same" and complaint with those who they are around. My beliefs have definitely changed based on my environment. Things that seem reasonable in one situation suddenly don't feel right in another. I've witnessed how those who are very sheltered will believe things that make sense in their bubble of the universe. It isn't that they are "stupid," but rather, that they are uneducated. They haven't been shown the world outside their particular environment. These people can't understand the value of different perspectives. They don't understand that the "right" answer for one person may be wrong for another. Given the opportunity to be open-minded, such people may truly flourish. But, all too often, they are kept in their bubble and are afraid to come out. This is not an intelligence problem, it is a survival problem. (They don't want to lose the respect of those they love, even if those relationships are built on control. Add to this financial and basic needs that may not be met if they leave, and it is "smarter" to stay.) Outside of restrictive environments, these people might contribute to society in sophisticated ways that they cannot even fathom while under the control of their religious captors (and, in ways that those who think of themselves as educated may not appreciate until it happens.)

When I say "uneducated" I don't necessarily mean "ignorant," since the latter implies some sort of choice in the matter, whereas the former is a result of circumstance. (I freely admit that I have huge holes in my understanding of different cultures and experiences. But, I'm aware of this, and will listen to other perspectives in an effort to understand.) When I think of people like the Duggars, I sincerely believe that some of those kids are probably quite intelligent, but they haven't been given the opportunity to develop their potential. And then, some may be using their particular position strategically. I'm looking at the male-types in particular, who know how to manipulate the controlling environment to their advantage, even if they don't actually believe in the righteousness in what they are doing. After all, if I was told at a young age that the holy thing to do would be to grow up to become the unquestioned head of something where I could force a bunch of people to do my bidding, then... hey, that sounds like a good deal, why would I fight that hierarchy?

But the young ladies? Well, they could be amazing people if they could be valued. (And, while I'm not in a religious cult, I can empathize with the idea that I wish I were valued, since I've been discounted many times for being female. And I won't even start to list the ways in which I've been shamed for my body parts or otherwise harassed in public because I happen to be female.)

Yes, the way Josh Duggar's molestation of his sisters (and other victims) has been handled is indeed a situation that hits many of us in negative ways. This news has been a trigger for people who were trapped in religious cults. It has been a reminder for those abused that "justice" is frequently not served. It has been a criticism of religion in general, which hurts those who care deeply for their particular beliefs.

And then... this evidence of unfair justice also brings to mind other situations in which there is a tremendous amount of hypocrisy and/or unfairness in how people are treated. I have been shocked at the various pieces in the news, and outright cried when I saw a video in which a Black man is assumed to be disobedient when he was actually suffering a stroke. This in particular caught me because it highlights one of my big fears: that I will be assumed to be in the wrong when I actually need help. (This is relevant to the Duggar situation because of the ways in which their teachings emphasize that the female is always at fault, that they bring upon their own abuse.)

The Josh Duggar situation is scary because it preys upon people in so many ways, whether it is anger, defensiveness, or reopening a very painful wound. There are so many inappropriate ways that power is wielded and religion (and politics) is protecting evil-doers while punishing those who are just trying to survive. The Josh Duggar story highlights this, and so is an example that people want to share and discuss, in the hope that something can change for the better.

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