I went to Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception.

I watch every episode of Seeking Sister Wife, but I still haven’t gotten around to watching Sister Wives.  My friend texted me this evening and told me she saw us on the Sister Wives episode that showed Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding, so I figured I should write about it.  One of these days I’ll probably sit down and watch the episode.

The invitation had a cool wax seal with the letter “T” on it (for Thompson).  I was interested to see that the bride’s name was “Aspyn Kristine Brown.”  I wonder what the story is behind the middle name.  I suppose her mom, Christine, wanted to name her daughter after herself, but without spelling it the same?

I was surprised to realize the reception was on Father’s Day; that seems like such a strange day for a wedding.  But later I was told that the venue they wanted to rent for the reception was booked solid except for Father’s Day, so they went with it.

My sister got married on her birthday.  That seems even stranger than getting married on Father’s Day.   But it’s a bummer for my sister now that she’s divorced.  C’est la vie.

Interestingly enough, a polygamous husband in one of the reality TV shows was married to one of his wives on her birthday, and they are also now divorced.  You’re not going to believe this, but not only were both my sister and my friend married on their birthday, but they also have their birthdays on the same day!  Weird!  Don’t get married on your birthday, especially if your birthday is June 19th!

We know the Browns as well as Mitch.  We also know all of Mitch’s siblings, including Vanessa Alldredge from Seeking Sister Wife (she actually stayed at our house when they were in town for the wedding).  Half of Mitch’s siblings are polygamists and half are not.  He’s the tie-breaker to tip the scale towards monogamy.

We have attended other events that were being filmed for reality TV.  One of them was an event for the Briney family from the first season of Seeking Sister Wife.  The event was a Meet ‘n’ Greet for Lenny, the newborn baby of Drew Briney’s third wife Angela.  We were required to meet TLC employees in a parking lot a mile away from the Brineys’ house, sign a contract, and get our photos taken, before being allowed in the car that would shuttle us to the actual site.  I don’t remember what the paperwork said, altho I did take a picture of it so I could go back and reread it if I ever wanted to.  I remember it was several pages and after I signed it I had to hold it in front of my body while the network took a photo of me, mug shot style.  (The Meet ‘n’ Greet never aired, presumably because the Briney family provided enough other drama that the footage wasn’t needed.  Angela told me she was disappointed that TLC focused so much on the bad stuff instead of showing one of the beautiful themes available to them: the miracle of Lenny’s conception; the footage of his birth; the visit of his namesake, Angela’s father; and his Meet ‘n’ Greet.)

One of the things I remember from Lenny’s Meet ‘n’ Greet was that we arrived, put our gifts in the designated spot, talked to people, went inside the house, used the bathroom, chatted with Drew’s mom, asked if any help was needed with the food, etc., all before any filming took place.  Then, when the film crew was finally ready, and more than an hour after the event was scheduled to begin, all the guests had to “leave” the party and then enter again, on camera this time, as if we had just arrived.  That part felt fake, for sure.  But most of the event felt normal, besides being surrounded by cameras, microphones, and film crew.  Joshua was asked to give the opening prayer.  We sat at the table with Jeff Alldredge’s daughter.  If I remember right, at that point TLC wasn’t open about the Alldredges knowing the Brineys, it was hush-hush, and Jeff’s daughter wasn’t allowed to show her face in the Alldredge scenes because she had been filmed in the Briney parts of the show.  In fact, the Alldredges weren’t even allowed to attend the Meet ‘n’ Greet, despite their being very close to Angela Briney.  (As an example of how good of friends they are, I’ll tell you, I went to visit Angela when Lenny was less than a week old.  As I pulled up to the house Angela shared with April Briney, the Alldredges came out and walked to their truck.  I asked them, “Oh, did you come to meet the new baby?” and they answered that this wasn’t their first visit, that they’d already been to visit Angela several times since Lenny was born.)  After Seeking Sister Wife aired for the first time, of course it came out that the Brineys and Alldredges know each other, and the control TLC tried to have over the families seemed extra ridiculous.

Anyway, back to the wedding reception.  I was expecting the same level of red tape at Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception that we had to go thru at the Lenny Briney’s Meet ‘n’ Greet, but I was disappointed.  I actually had intended to take pictures of the contract and compare it to the earlier one.  The invitation to the Briney event warned us that it was going to be filmed for reality TV; the invitation to the Brown event did the same.  But when we showed up to the wedding reception, we weren’t asked to sign any contracts, and I don’t remember seeing any signs posted, except for this small sign I noticed by the entrance as we were leaving:

sign posted
The only notice that the wedding reception was being filmed for TV.  (We didn’t have to sign a contract this time.)

When we arrived at the wedding reception, we paid $6 for the required valet parking and walked around the outside of the building.  There’s a vineyard, so since we’re interested in wine (we make our own sacramental wine, and we even teach wine-making classes) we took our time looking at the grape vines.

Actually, while I’m on the subject of wine-making, I will take another detour to the Brineys and Alldredges.  We like to take credit for Angela marrying Drew Briney because of the events surrounding how they met.  We were teaching a wine class at the Alldredges’ house and the Brineys and Angela were also in attendance, and that was how they met.  They were married soon afterwards.  I didn’t know they had gotten married because it happened so quickly.  (A few months later they had a wedding reception we attended.)  My close friend April Briney kept texting me, asking if she could come visit me.  I repeatedly turned her down because I was so morning sick that I couldn’t take any visitors.  At some point I ran into the Alldredges and asked about Angela.  They told me she had news and I should ask her myself, so I texted Angela, and that’s how I found out she had married Drew.  I feel terrible because April had wanted to tell me herself but I never gave her the opportunity.  I think in Angela’s Year of Polygamy podcast interview, she said she met Drew “at a fireside.”  Well, that “fireside” was our wine-making class.  😊

And while I’m on the subject of husbands meeting future wives, I will mention that Jeff Alldredge met Vanessa at an event at Kody Brown’s house in Utah, which is now my house.  Oh, those polygamists all seem to be connected somehow, don’t they?

Okay.  Back to Mitch and Aspyn’s party.  It’s always fun to go to a party where the polygamists outnumber the monogamists.  I don’t know if the wedding reception fit that description, but there were a lot of polygamists at Aspyn and Mitch’s wedding reception.  We visited with friends and had refreshments.

Once it was time to sit down for the program (dancing, cake-cutting, etc.), we sat pretty close to the front.  I suppose that’s why my friend was able to see us on the screen.  It’s probably the kind of thing where you don’t really notice anyone in the background unless you’re specifically looking for them.

I gotta say, the most disappointing thing of the night was that there wasn’t an open bar.  I figured since TLC was filming it, they were also paying for the wedding, and since it was at an expensive venue, the budget was generous.  Therefore, I optimistically hoped for an open bar.  Alas, there was a bar, but it was not open.  The three of us each had a single glass of wine (a wedding is a sacrament, after all) and the bill was $26.

credit card bill
Sadly, we had to pay for our own drinks.

However, what was lacking in the drinks category was made up for in the dessert category.  My sisterwife Melissa is known for her baking, and she said the cake served at Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception was the best cake she’s ever eaten.  Was there an earlier Sister Wives episode that showed a cake-tasting?  Whoever picked this one is the winner.  They had other refreshments besides the cake.  I’m not really into desserts so I couldn’t tell you, but both my baker-in-the-making daughter and my sisterwife Melissa could probably tell you lots of details if you cared to ask them.  They at least had s’mores, as shown in the photo below.

If you watch the episode closely I’m sure you’ll be able to see lots of familiar faces from Seeking Sister Wife.  Among the photos I took are some blurry photos of Jeff and Vanessa Alldredge, and here’s a not-quite-as-blurry photo I took of their son making s’mores over a candle:

Dane makes s'mores
Sister Wives meets Seeking Sister Wife: Dane Alldredge from SSW makes s’mores at his Uncle Mitch’s wedding.

Here are some of the photos I took from my front-row seat.  I suppose these are nothing new to those of you who have actually seen the episode.

waiting for the go-ahead from the film crew
Aspyn and Mitch wait for the film crew to give them the green light to walk on to the dance floor.
first dance
Mitch and Aspyn’s first dance
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Mitch dances with his mother and Aspyn dances with her father.

I was told that Mitch’s mom (shown in the photo above) made all the beautiful hats for the wedding.

cutting the cake

getting ready to throw the bouquet
Aspyn getting ready to throw the bouquet.

The morning after the wedding reception we left to go on our annual weeklong backpacking trip.  Good times.

Mitch is a great guy and Aspyn is a fantastic match for him.  I’m so glad they found each other and I think they make a beautiful couple.

Unfortunately, my brother isn’t a polygamist.

When we began telling people we were polygamists, we told them in the wrong order.  We should have told my parents last, rather than first; as it turns out, my father has a big mouth, and couldn’t respect my simple request to allow me to tell people my news myself.  I asked him not to tell anyone for a month, and he promised me that month, and yet within 48 hours he had called both my bishop and his own bishop, confided in his friends and employees, and saddest of all, had announced my news to my brother, whom I really wanted to tell personally.

To his credit, he did call me afterwards and insist, “You should tell your brother your news.”  When I asked him why he was going out of his way to suggest that, he would only repeat himself.

So, I called my brother on the phone.  He was on a road trip with his wife, driving across the desert with spotty cell service.  Between me wondering what my dad had already told him and the phone call frequently getting dropped, the conversation took place in less-than-ideal circumstances.

After I finished telling him, my brother’s immediate response was the following: “What’s going on?  What do you need?  Do you need money?  Do you need help getting out?  Tell me what you need from me; tell me how to react, and I will.”

I answered that I didn’t need money, I didn’t want out of the situation, that all I wanted was his acceptance.  After he was convinced that I was safe, that I was being taken care, and that I was content, he stated his intention to be supportive.

And he has been.

This experience was what I thought of when I saw S2E4 (“Unforeseen Circumstances”) of Seeking Sister Wife.  Sophie Winder has a conversation with her brother about her polygamy, and he says he doesn’t understand it and doesn’t agree with it.

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Sophie says it sucks that her brother disagrees with polygamy.

However, she also says, “Unfortunately, he hasn’t chosen to live this lifestyle.”

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This is where Sophie and I differ.

I honestly don’t care whether my brother is a polygamist or not.  I also don’t care whether my friends are polygamists or not.  Naturally, if someone is a polygamist, that’s something unusual we have in common, which makes a friendship more likely.  But all I need from a brother or a friend is for them to be a supportive person in my life as a whole; I don’t need them to live exactly as I do.

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I’m friends with plenty of monogamists, and I don’t think it’s “unfortunate” that they haven’t chosen to live polygamy.  I still consider them to be “there for me.”

I definitely don’t think everyone should live polygamy.  Among other reasons, polygamy is extremely difficult.  In fact, Sophie’s brother cites that as a reason for not being interested in it.

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After the episode aired, Sophie published a post on the Winder family blog called “Live and Let Live.”  You can read it here.  You can also read Joshua’s thoughts on the same conversation here.

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Double Facepalm

“No! Stop. No! No! I can’t believe it!” Joshua put both hands to his face, not believing what he was seeing.

Colton Winder, standing between his wives, was approaching the local farmers market. Joshua, sitting between his wives, was watching it on TV. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seem him laugh so much and for so long.

“Must be touching at all times!” he roared with laughter, slapping his leg at the hilarity of Colton, Tami, and Sophie awkwardly clasping each other’s hands, white-knucklingly squeezing out the blood, and slowly making their way down the sidewalk. The Winders were about to come out of hiding, but for real this time. I didn’t see a single duck, but I did see lots of intimidating humans.

“I just can’t believe this!” Joshua laughed again, shaking his head.

But what started with Joshua’s hysterical laughter ended with both of his wives in tears. Did that just happen? Did the Winders, in the most awkward way imaginable, just tell the cheese vendor they are a plural family?

Part of this scene was shown again and again in the episode previews. We keep seeing Sophie confess to a perfect stranger, “I’m actually my husband’s second wife,” while Colton and Tami stand there nodding like bobble head dolls, and the vendor stares at them, looking quite surprised at what was just revealed to him.

But then… There’s a plot twist that makes this my favorite SSW scene thus far, when the cheese vendor confesses that he, too, is a polygamist with two wives!!!

The shock of that moment dropped my jaw. I did not see that one coming. That was unexpected. That was… Wait. Did that just happen? All I can say is, that was a wonderful tender mercy.

The episode shows all-too-brief excerpts from the conversation, which I would pay money to see in entirety, between the polygamous Winders and the polygamist cheese vendor. I was so touched by it that I starting tearing up. I looked over at my sisterwife Melissa and her face was red with emotion as well. God is so good!

After the episode finished, my sisterwife, our husband, and I discussed it until midnight. Joshua used the word “charming” to describe the Winders and what happened at the farmers market. Melissa called it “endearing.” Words failed me.

The Winders imagined a market full of enemies throwing tomatoes at them, then handcuffing them and putting them in jail. Instead, they ended up making a new friend. It was truly amazing. I loved it.

What did you think? Did you laugh at the awkwardness of going into public and telling perfect strangers they’re polygamists? Were you disappointed there weren’t any ducks at the farmers market? Were you touched by their luck at meeting another polygamist? What’s been your favorite SSW moment so far? Leave your comments below.

Babysitters, Bedrooms, and Being in the present

I think this was the first episode my sisterwife, our husband, and I watched all together.  Sitting in Melissa’s living room in a row of recliners, laughing heartily, arguing, each of us noticing and pointing out different things, made the viewing of it a party.  Episode 2 of Seeking Sister Wife‘s second season (the one titled “Failure to Launch”) was extremely entertaining and definitely the funniest of either season.

Babysitters

The Alldredges left their 7 children at home for the first time and traveled to Niagara Falls.  They left them with some unnamed friends.  Here is a screenshot of the babysitters waving goodbye with all 7 children.

Waving goodbye
The Alldredges’ adult babysitters along with 6 of the 7 Alldredge children wave goodbye to Jeff, Vanessa, and Sharis.

Oh, wait.  I only count 6 children.  Where is their oldest child, 9-year-old Dain?  Maybe he had to go the bathroom or something.  *shrug*

TLC didn’t name the babysitters for you, but I will.  They are Taylor and Sara, some of our good friends.  They had their 4 children at the Alldredges’ house as well (who weren’t shown in the goodbye scene).  They actually have 5 children of their own now, since Sara just gave birth to a baby boy a few days ago!

Taylor and Sara were going to be one of the families in the first season of Seeking Sister Wife — they were under contract and everything — but as filming was getting closer they became uncomfortable with some of the things the network was planning and, although they’re still open to plural marriage, they felt inspired that it was not the right time/circumstances. They believe that (at least for them) such things are best left in God’s hands – not in the hands of TV producers. After everything was explained to the network, TLC terminated the contract, eventually replacing them with the Snowden family.

Taylor is one of the contributors to this blog.  His post called “Dateonomics” is one of my personal favorites.  In it, Taylor shows the mathematics of why polygamy being available is actually good for women.  I used his ideas just the other day to explain these concepts to a friend who wasn’t sure what she thought about polygamy.

One of the main ideas in the post is that if polygamy is allowed, then the women don’t have to compete with each other in order to get married, and they have a lot more men to choose from, so their chances of marrying a good man are much higher.  Instead of 10 men and 10 women in the dating pool resulting in every man getting a wife, polygamy allows the better men to score more women, potentially leaving some men unmarried.  This puts the pressure on men to step it up because they are the ones who have to compete for the women.  And in reality, there aren’t equal numbers of men and women in the dating pools: there are more women than men, due to various factors laid out in Taylor’s post.  And in a monogamous culture, even if the pool of men is decreased by a tiny number, that still means there will be females left single.  That makes dating analogous to a game of musical chairs: not everyone will get a spot, so you better play the game hard in order to not be left an old maid.  If I am not explaining this well, you should really check out Taylor’s article and see what you think.

Anyway, it was fun to see our friends on the show even tho they were just babysitters and not one of the featured families.

Bedrooms

The Alldredges’ flight to New York was Sharis’s first time on an airplane.  Once they arrived at their hotel, we find out that Vanessa and Sharis got separate hotel rooms, which gives the sisterwives privacy and allows them to keep up the same sleeping schedule they were already on.

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Sharis gets the hotel room key ready and Vanessa says, “I’ll just come check out your room first, and then I’ll go get settled afterwards.”
Alldredge sleeping arrangements
“When we travel, we get two rooms. That way, it’s just like home.  Tonight, I’m gonna be with Sharis, and tomorrow night, I’ll be with Vanessa.  And we’ll just keep on with our schedule.  It makes things real easy and gives the ladies some privacy, and it works.”  – Jeff Alldredge
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Vanessa tells Sharis she thinks her room is on the same floor, just down the hall*.

Normally my sisterwife Melissa and I drive separate cars, eat separate meals, and sleep in different rooms.  But when we’re camping or otherwise staying away from home, we do things differently: we typically get just one room or set up one tent for the whole family, including the children, we drive just one car all together, and we combine our meals, etc.  We like the closeness on occasion, and it simplifies things.  Yes, there’s not as much privacy, and yes, Joshua has to rearrange his sleeping schedule, but it’s not a big deal if it’s only every once in a while.

I know polygamous families who stay in one room or tent the way we do, and I know other polygamous families who require a room for each wife the way the Alldredges do.  I recognize different families have different preferences, and when the Alldredges stay with us, we give the wives separate bedrooms.  But next time we stay at your house, feel free to put us all in the same room.   😉

Being in the present

Vanessa Alldredge seems pretty excited to be in Niagara Falls and she’s looking forward to meeting her potential sisterwife in person. She says when they were courting Melina (as shown in Season 1 of SSW) her pregnancy made things difficult.

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“Last year, I was just in a different head space because of my pregnancy.  But this year, I’m feeling much more present in the relationship.” – Vanessa Alldredge

Vanessa is referring to the molar pregnancy she was going thru, which Jeff also mentioned in Episode 1.  The hormones of a molar pregnancy are many times higher than those in a normal pregnancy, so it makes sense that poor Vanessa was really sick.  She told me in detail about her experience and even shared ultrasound photos, which you can see in this blog post.

Bummer

Once again, I only had time to write up a fraction of what I wanted to share.  I made notes to write about the McGees’ synagogue kicking them out because of their belief in polygamy; their talking to their sons about Bernie’s “talking to another woman” and not only the sons’ reactions but also the reactions of the son’s friends; the McGee son mentioning again that a plural wife of his dad’s “wouldn’t be a mom per se“; Bernie being confident that when he has plural wives, the whole family will live altogether in one house; the Winders attempt to come out as polygamists in their community (Joshua wrote about it here); Sophie Winder calling herself Sadie’s second mom; whether a new wife needs to adapt to the family’s diet, the way the Snowdens expect; the Snowdens’ potential sisterwife being a Pisces; Ashley Snowden’s “Highly Meditated” tank top; and her inspirational quote “Anything in life worth having takes effort”, referring to her efforts to practice polygamy.

But alas, the 3rd episode has aired and I won’t let myself watch it until I publish this post, so I will go ahead and do that right now.  A recliner in my sisterwife’s living room is calling my name.

Oh, before I go, here are the numbers of the total amount of screentime each family had in episode 2.  The Snowdens’ screentime was double that of the Alldredges.  Playing favorites, I see:

Alldredges: 3 segments totaling 7 minutes, 9 seconds

Winders (2 segments): 8 minutes, 33 seconds

McGees (2 segments): 8 minutes, 37 seconds

Snowdens (3 segments): 14 minutes, 15 seconds

What do you think?  Did you notice a kid was missing in the Alldredge farewell scene?  Did you get a chance to read Taylor’s Dateonomics post yet?  If you were a polygamist, would you want to share a hotel room or get separate rooms when traveling?  What was your favorite part of this episode?  Is it obvious to you the Snowdens are TLC’s favorite family?

Thoughts on Seeking Sister Wife, season 2, episode 1: “It’s Time to Start Seeking Again!”

I’m excited that the next season of Seeking Sister Wife has premiered!  I was pretty surprised to learn that the Brineys weren’t going to be on this season.  I knew April was living in Utah again but I assumed that her leaving Oregon would end up being nice juicy gossip for the TV show to capitalize on.  Well, despite the Brineys not being on it looks like the show will have no shortage of interesting material.

I don’t have cable TV so on Sunday night I was trying to figure out how to watch.  Luckily Amazon video has it, altho Season 2 costs a lot more than Season 1 did.  I guess that’s how it goes when a show is more established.  Either that or it’s the 13 episodes we’re expecting versus the 7 episodes we got in Season 1.

This season has our familiar Snowdens and Alldredges and we also get to meet the McGees and the Winders.  I don’t personally know the Snowdens or the McGees at all.  I know the Winders from Facebook but we’ve never met in person.  I personally know the Alldredges as well as the Brineys.  Last season I thought knowing both those families would be an advantage when it came to writing my blog, but as it turned out, I always felt the need to censor myself for the sake of our friendships.  In fact, one time when Joshua wrote his opinion about a Briney situation, he ended up writing a follow-up apology post for the sake of his friendship with Drew.

This episode had plenty of interesting things to talk about.  I made 4 pages of notes while watching, and I only had time to turn a fraction of them into a blog post before the next episode aired.  Here are some of the thoughts I had about it while watching.

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The McGees call themselves “Hebrew” or “Messianic.”

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“We basically believe the Bible cover to cover.” – Bernie McGee

I find this interesting because we are somewhat in that category as well.  We are a unique blend of Messianic and Mormonism so I’ve taken to calling us “Messianic Mormons.”  We believe the Bible cover to cover, as Bernie McGee says they do, but we also believe the Mormon scriptures cover to cover.

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How sad that the McGees’ house burned!

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We once had a house fire, altho not nearly as devastating.  Ours was 100% my fault.  I left a batch of beef bones boiling on the stove while we went camping for several days!  Obviously the water boiled away long before our return, and the bones smoldered, causing what’s called a “protein fire.”  The professional from the disaster clean up company had been doing his job for decades and told me it was the worst protein fire he’d ever cleaned up after.

We came back from our camping trip and walked in the house and it smelled like a thousand burnt dinners.  I realized immediately what had happened and I ran over to the stove, carried the pot outside, and set it down on the cement pad in the backyard.  I removed the lid and what was left of the bones burst into flames!  The lid had fit so tightly on the pot that no oxygen was able to access the bones.  If we had been less fortunate, very likely our house could have burned to the ground while we were out of phone service.  I have always said my guardian angel was sitting on the lid, keeping it tight-fitting enough to keep any air from accessing the smoldering bones.

Some of the cleanup included cleaning everything (and I mean every single book and toy and other items), replacing the countertops, repainting the entire house, “ozoning” all of our clothes and every room, and replacing items that were too close to the stove or stubbornly refused to give up their stench.

I can scarcely begin to describe the smell that permeated our home and everything in it.  I used to hate the smell of smoke.  I would avoid campfire smoke, and the minute we arrived home from a camping trip, I kept everyone from relaxing on couches or beds (because they would contaminate them) and instead they had to strip down in the laundry room (without their clothes even being dropped on the carpet) and get right in the bath or shower.  But the smell of our protein fire was so much worse (not just stronger but much more terrible) that, I kid you not, campfire smoke now smells pleasant to me.

Not only did the protein fire smell awful, but it permeated everything like you wouldn’t believe.  When we got home, we were in the house for half an hour with the doors and windows open and fans turned on, imagining that the house would air out and the smell would eventually dissipate, but instead the smell only grew stronger in our nostrils.  We realized we couldn’t sleep there that night and we arranged to go to my parents’ house for the night.

When we arrived at my parents’ house, we learned that simply from being in the smelly house for a short while, we had picked up the offensive smell.  I had brought some unworn clothes from our closets, planning to launder them in my parents’ washing machine before wearing them, but the smell traveled from the laundry room up to the kitchen and I was asked to move the clothes outside until washing.

The smell that got transferred from our contaminated bodies to our car during the hour-long drive took weeks to disappear.  A rubber ball that had marinated in the fumes ended up getting taken to my parents’ house by one of our children.  It was kicked around my parents’ backyard for a year, never losing its disgusting odor, before someone gave up on it and finally threw it away.

The experience was educational and in many ways it could have been worse.  When we first bought the house, we had opted for a $10,000 deductible on our homeowners’ insurance, mostly out of habit, since we had liability-only car insurance and high-deductible health insurance.  Some time later, my parents’ bedroom ceiling caved in due to unseen water damage, and I realized that even tho we might use doctors and car insurance less than the average person, our chance of needing to make a homeowner’s insurance claim was not lower than average, and when the time came that we needed to use it, we would be sorry about having such a high deductible.  So, we called the insurance company and lowered our deductible to $1,000.  Not long afterwards, the protein fire happened, and the cleanup required 2 weeks’ professional help, hotel stays, and replacing personal items.  I don’t remember what the total bill was, but it was probably close to $10,000.  Luckily we were only responsible for the first $1000.

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I don’t think Paige is emotionally ready for the challenge of plural marriage.  I wish I had time to elaborate, but Joshua already wrote a post about it called “Polygamy’s Jealousies and the McGees”.

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However, I am quite impressed that she is willing to live in a camper while looking for a sisterwife, for the benefit of being flexible enough to move if that’s what the potential wife wants.  In the cases of polygamy I have seen, the new wife joins the family and in doing so chooses to join the family culture and whatever setup the family has.  When Enoch Foster married Lydia (a little of their courtship was shown on Three Wives, One Husband), she got to become a part of an amazing family with organization and resources that had been in the process of being set up for 2 decades.  In her case I could see the real benefits of being the 3rd wife!  I’ve never heard of an established family being willing to join the new wife, rather than the other way around.  That part of this episode was pretty interesting to me.

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I loved hearing the story of Paige’s conversion to polygamy.  I want conversions to come from something inside or from God, not from another person using logic or scriptures to convince us.

Paige McGee's conversion
“One day I was just reading some verses in scriptures that talked about a man having multiple wives, and something just touched me, and I knew that was something we were being called to do: to live a polygamist lifestyle.” – Paige McGee

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The McGee boys are extremely charming.  I love the conversation they have where younger brother Kyle says he’s looking forward to having another mom, and older brother John tries to figure out what that role is called.

Kyle and John discuss having another mom
“I don’t know what I would… What would that class — that role be called? Like a… a mom… I don’t know what that would be called.” – John McGee

Hey, boys, how about the word maunt?

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Very often we hear about wives’ jealousy over their husbands.  Much less talked about is the jealousy over their children.  Paige McGee says it could possibly be hard for her to see her sons develop that relationship with her sisterwife.

Paige McGee discusses watching her sons get close to another mother
“Watching my children get close to another woman in a motherly way could possibly be very hard for me to do.” – Paige McGee

In a country where so many children are raised by only one parent, I think it’s beautiful and extraordinary for a child to actually have more than two parental figures that love them and are invested in them and help raise them.  I believe this has the potential to be a powerful advantage in the children’s lives.  I would hope any jealousy over that issue wouldn’t keep a wife from pursuing polygamy.  Moms ideally do what’s best for their children, consistently, whether they enjoy it or not.

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Vanessa’s molar pregnancy is mentioned.  I wrote about it in this post, which includes ultrasound images and details about Vanessa’s experience.  If you’re interested in what happened, go ahead and read it over there.

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The Alldredges discuss their “dream” home and the lodge they’re finishing.

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They ideally want each wife to have their own bedroom wing (to “provide for some privacy”) but to share the main living spaces.

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This is one example of many possible housing situations.  The Winders have another housing situation of living in completely different towns.  Our current house has separate living spaces but they’re connected on the inside, so family members can freely move about and be where they want to be, but the wives still get to be queens of their own castles.  Personally, I prefer this and so do Melissa and Joshua.  (We lived in different counties for 5 years before moving in together last year.)  Joshua discusses housing arrangements in this post about the Brineys’ living situation in Season 1.

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The Winders call themselves “Independent Mormon Fundamentalists.”

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We don’t entirely fit into that category (for several reasons, but partly because of the whole “Messianic” thing mentioned above), but we have enough in common with Independent Mormon Fundamentalists (IMFs) to have some close friendships with people who consider themselves IMFs.  “Mormon Fundamentalists” describes the belief system and “Independent” simply means they’re not a member of any organized group.

I find Colton’s story interesting — I’m paraphrasing but he basically said that since the early LDS Church believed in polygamy, it didn’t make sense to change that belief, so he had to either give up on the Church or really embrace the fundamentals. Colton goes into more detail about the different flavors of Mormonism and his family’s beliefs on the Winder family blog in this post and this post, the second of which includes some nice Winder family photos (including Colton with a beard).

Tami believed in plural marriage before marrying Colton
“Living plural marriage was something that I wanted to do, but … if I’m being honest, it was something I didn’t think would happen until we died and went to heaven.” – Tami Winder

Tami’s story is interesting as well, how she believed in plural marriage but thought it was something she wouldn’t get to practice until heaven.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story of a couple who found out after marriage that they both believed in polygamy, were pleasantly surprised, and then started living it.

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In the episode, as Colton’s second wife Sophie approaches, Colton says to his daughter Sadie, “Is that Aunt Sophie?”

Aunt Sophie
Colton Winder asks his daughter Sadie, “Is that Aunt Sophie?”

The title “Aunt” is also what the Alldredge children use when addressing their “other mother”.  I don’t think the title aunt or mom fits when referring to your mom’s sisterwife.  There is definitely a word missing from the vocabulary of the polygamy world.  My best idea is the word “maunt” — a cross between “mom” and “aunt.”

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The Snowdens have a conversation about what happened “last time.”  Joshua wrote a post about it.

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There were many other things I wanted to comment on, such as Vanessa propping her phone up to take a family photo, even tho they were surrounded by professional cameramen.  And the charming comment Tami Winder gave about how she was initially attracted to Colton for “his looks, obviously.”  And the sad fact that our friends the Alldredges ditched us and moved to South Dakota.  :’-(  And Bernie’s overly optimistic statement that he doesn’t want to see hurt in his wife’s eyes again.  And how I love that Ashley Snowden was nursing uncovered and then was wearing her baby on her back.  I was also planning to give some observations about the obvious video editing that ended up making things awkward and unrealistic.

Well, I only had time to write up about a tenth of what I planned to.  Such is life, but I want to move on to the next episode, so I’m going to go ahead and publish this post, incomplete as it is.  See you in the next one.

Out of interest, here is the total amount of screentime each family had in this first episode (not counting the teasers like “Coming Up”).

Snowdens: 3 segments totaling 10 minutes, 43 seconds

Winders (2 segments): 10 minutes, 2 seconds

Alldredges (2 segments): 9 minutes, 36 seconds

McGees (2 segments): 7 minutes, 27 seconds

plus 4 minutes, 45 seconds of “Last season on,” “Coming Up,” and “And Later,” and the closing credits after the last scene faded out to total 42 minutes, 33 seconds in the episode.

What did you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Leave your comments below.

What happened after my sisterwife’s friend asked if Joshua and I are siblings

Everyone at the party stopped talking and watched to see what would happen next. They all knew Joshua and I are not siblings, and they were curious to see how our new acquaintance would take the shocking news of real-life, in-your-face polygamy.

Just minutes earlier Joshua and I had met Sophie* for the first time and were getting to know her and her family. Melissa was supposed to have been there to make introductions, but a phone call had unexpectedly pulled her away from our Chanukah party before Sophie arrived. Melissa had texted Sophie telling her she would be gone and to “look for Joshua and Charlotte”.

So there we were, just chatting away. Joshua and Sophie made the connection that they both used to live in the south. She and I talked about Jewish feasts, home childbirth, and extended breastfeeding. Sophie said to Joshua, “This is a nice area! How long have you lived here?” He wasn’t sure how to answer because Melissa and I currently live in the same house, but we moved in 2 years apart. So which date should be given as his answer? I think he said, “Well, Melissa moved here in June, but we’ve owned the house for 2 years.” Sophie followed up, “So, were you renting it out in the meantime or something?” Awkward.

I started to realize that Sophie didn’t know that her friend Melissa was a plural wife, and that it wasn’t going to be Melissa that broke the news to her. At the same time, Sophie was trying to sort out what exactly my connection to Melissa was.

She gestured to Joshua and me, “So, are you two brother and sister?” That was the moment when our conversation got interesting to the rest of our party guests. All faces in the room turned to us as I tried to decide how to answer.

Our polygamy is not a secret (anymore), and we don’t lie about it, but we also don’t announce it everywhere we go. We like to tell people when it comes up naturally (altho, for various reasons, we occasionally make a point of going out of our way to tell someone). The awkwardness was simply the fact that it was Melissa’s friend, not my own, who asked the question.

I looked at Joshua and said, “She doesn’t know!” He gave me a knowing nod and I said, “And it’s up to me to tell her?” He laughed and said, “I guess so!”

I turned back to Sophie and said with a smile, “No.”

She said, “Oh, I noticed from the Facebook event invitation that you all have the same last name. Are you Melissa’s sister?”

The confusion was setting in. It was time for the truth to be told. I simply said, “No. Melissa and I are both married to Joshua.”

Then we all waited. We have had so many different reactions when people learn we are polygamists; we never know what we’re going to get.

telling someone you're a polygamist final

I was pretty surprised when Sophie got excited and spoke with a voice punctuated by exclamation points. “Oh! I had no idea Melissa was a polygamist! I love polygamy! That’s great! Are you guys Mormon? I wish the LDS Church still practiced polygamy!”

Our long-time friend Hugh* butted in on the conversation and teasingly said to Sophie, “Stop encouraging them!” I bantered back by telling Joshua to spit in his food.

“I have so many questions for you!” Sophie went on. And she really did. She was interested and positive and was a good listener. Her response was amazingly supportive.

That moment of truth, that moment when an acquaintance learns about the polygamy, is bound to make or break a budding relationship. Some of my friendships have ended over the issue of polygamy; other potential friendships have never really gotten off the ground. Quite frankly, it could just as easily be a non-issue: I’m happy to be friends with people who are single, monogamous, or polygamous — why do so many people care which I am? There’s a lot more to me than the fact that my husband has another wife. I am grateful for those people in my life who haven’t let my polygamy get in the way of knowing me personally.

*name changed
What do you think?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

When Men Become Gods (book review)

I just finished reading the book When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Women Who Fought Back, by Stephen Singular.

The book moves from the narrative of Joseph Smith in 1820 and walks the reader through the roots and evolution of the FLDS Church. Since I have not spent much time studying the FLDS Church (or the history of other fundamentalist Mormon sects, for that matter), the book filled in several gaps in my knowledge of the history and connections between the groups and the families involved, as well as the context of the infamous 1953 Short Creek raid and some understanding of how Warren Jeffs ended up in charge of the FLDS Church. My husband Joshua is pretty much an expert on the different Mormon groups, both “fundamentalist” and otherwise, so I am always the weak link in our discussions on those topics. I’m glad I read this book and I hope I can find others to read that are just as interesting and informative. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Warren Jeffs was arrested in 2006 and convicted (the first time) in 2007. The book was published just a few weeks after Jeffs’s sentencing, so the narrative ends rather abruptly with a courtroom scene; it doesn’t go into any of the FLDS drama that has happened in the last 10 or 11 years.

I felt like the (obviously non-Mormon) author was fair in his treatment of the doctrines and the stories. He helps the reader understand what the terrible problems were in Short Creek. Polygamy itself is not actually on that list.

The book says that in 1953, when Governor Pyle organized the raid,

The governor had made several miscalculations — but one was huge. The press had known of the coming raid but held off reporting on it until it took place. Now the media repeatedly showed heartrending images of families torn apart by law enforcement, with FLDS men being hauled off to jail as their wives cried and reached out for the children they’d just been separated from. Photos from that time show the adult males of Short Creek being treated no differently from thieves or murderers. Confronted with these pictures, the public confounded the governor and began to feel sympathy for the people of Short Creek. What right did Arizona have to tell these folks how to live? They weren’t harming anyone, so why not just leave them alone? Neither polygamy itself nor the problems surrounding it were as black and white as the governor had imagined (both then and now, some women much prefer plural marriage to conventional matrimony). There was more to life in The Crick than sexual license.

When I first picked up the book, I assumed that the author would demonize polygamy the way so many people in my life have done. I was pleasantly surprised at the neutral writing and I appreciate that the book was sprinkled with notes like the one above.

The trial itself was also amazingly neutral about polygamy and religion. It sounded like the judge did a fantastic job of making sure the jury understood and focused on the crime at hand: accomplice-to-rape for Jeffs’s role in a 14-year-old’s monogamous marriage to her 19-year-old first cousin. Polygamy actually had nothing to do with that marriage, nor with Warren Jeffs’s conviction, nor was it a factor in many of the other FLDS marriages with problems that were described in the book.

If I could change one thing about the book, I would have it emphasize the monogamy of those marriages. I recognize that some people, FLDS included, call themselves polygamists even if they are unmarried or monogamous. So in one sense, the term “polygamist” can simply mean a person who believes in polygamy or desires to be a polygamist.

On the other hand, consider this: When a crime is committed by a polygamist, the news headline never fails to highlight it, but when a crime is committed by a monogamist, that fact is always left out. The number of wives a man has isn’t what makes him violent or non-violent. Polygamous men, monogamous men, and single men alike can all be violent criminals and child molesters. In fact, being a polygamist might be evidence that a man isn’t a creep.

I like the following excerpt from When Men Become Gods. The part in bold reminds me of Tianna Foster’s answer to the question of why she wants to practice polygamy someday.

A group of plural wives in Centennial Park took the attorneys general of both Utah and Arizona on a tour of their community, explaining why they’d freely entered into this way of life and how no one was being harmed by it.

These women and others spoke out in favor of polygamy to CNN and ABC, citing various reasons. They liked knowing where their husbands were at night; sharing their sexual duties with other women; having several mothers around to help take care of all the children; and a stable environment that provided them with the financial, emotional, family, and spiritual resources to assist them in every phase of living. They enjoyed belonging to a culture and a faith that offered them religious absolutes, moral clarity, and protection from the external world. They didn’t approve of what America had become — particularly its political leadership and emphasis on consumerism — seeking instead to separate from mainstream values and beliefs. Sex was far less important in their lifestyle than outsiders believed: they simply didn’t place that much emphasis on it. Like Warren Jeffs himself, they felt they were answering to a calling higher than secular law, and any sacrifices or hardships endured were for the glory of God and their own salvation.

Some of the women mentioned the specific psychological benefits of polygamy. Plural marriage had helped them come to terms with difficult feelings like jealousy, insecurity, competition, and thinking that they “owned” their spouse. Instead of denying these complex emotions, they’d been forced to confront them in order to make their marriages work. They saw all this as a growth experience — a lifestyle that was not only tolerable, but preferable.

The most visible supporter of plural marriage was LeAnne Timpson, the administrator of the Masada Charter School in Centennial Park. Timpson, who described herself as a polygamist and a feminist, had attended Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and was outspoken about her legal right to be a plural wife and the virtues of her choice. She considered her activism civil disobedience and eventually hoped to go all the way to the U>S> Supreme Court to have plural marriage decriminalized. Within her community, she often appeared before civic groups and the media to show that a woman with her educational background could embrace plural marriage. One of her patented replies to the charge that polygamists were abusing polygamists was that “monogamists are abusing monogamists.” …

After Utah and Arizona officials ended their tour of Centennial Park, they restated their point of view: they weren’t against polygamy among consenting adults and weren’t going to investigate or prosecute that. They were only interested in pursuing cases involved sexual abuse, forced marriages, and crimes against minors.

What do you think?  Have you read this book, or do you know much about Warren Jeffs?  Leave your comments below.