It’s Getting Steamy Up In Here! (Or What do Yoni Steaming and Seances Have in Common?)

There are some episodes of SSW, that I simply have no comments for.  Words fail me.

Between yoni steaming and getting text messages from dead people (you can’t make this stuff up – fact is stranger than fiction!),  I am forced to bow in humility before TLC and confess that I am not worthy to be reality TV material.

yoni steam

Common Law Marriage in Georgia (or: Are the Snowdens Married? – Season II)

There are still questions about the validity of the Snowdens’ marriage.  I suppose this will probably come up every single season they are on the show.  So, I guess I’ll just plan on writing a blog post every single season about it (or not).

Lets talk about common law marriage in the Peach State since that is where they were living.  Of course they moved to California, so I’ll mention that as well, but first a little background.  GAA common law marriage is simply a marriage which is not officially documented by the state.  It is also often the case that common law marriages are not accompanied by any sort of ceremony (that is to say, a documented ceremony – by a church for example).  This of course does not mean that the people involved are not married.  It merely means that the state has not entered their union into the state’s archives.  Also of note is the fact that common law marriage is not the same thing as, “living together”, or even as, “living together for a long time (7 years or whatever)”.

If its not the same, then what is the difference? What is the main difference  between, “living together” and being married (whether documented or common law)?  Please don’t say, “a piece of paper”; you’ll make me both sad and nauseous at the same time.

I hope everyone would agree (at least everyone who is married, and therefore knows the difference) that the main difference is the commitment to the relationship.  hand heartThe main difference, and the thing that makes marriage different from “shacking up” (and better too), is the commitment to the other person and to the relationship.  This difference, this thing, this commitment, is something that the state cannot create nor control, and yet it is the key ingredient, the main ingredient, and is in fact the very core of the matter.  You could even say it was the heart of the matter.

How is this commitment demonstrated in the eyes of the law?  The requirements are essentially the same for both documented and common law marriages.  They are something like this:

  1. The parties must be eligible (age requirements, not too closely related, mentally sound, etc.).
  2. Both parties must be freely willing to enter this agreement i.e. they agree to be married.
  3. The parties present themselves to their acquaintances as married.
  4. They live to live together as man and wife.
  5. Must consummate the agreement.

There are several states which have laws explicitly recognizing common law marriage.  The details of the qualifications vary from state to state, but here they are: Colorado, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah (Utah has some interesting things to say about common law marriage and polygamy by the way – there’s another post there someday).

However, there is a snag in all of this given that, officially, common law marriage was “abolished” in the state of Georgia in 1997 – but it isn’t remotely so simple.  In the year 2010, the Supreme Court of Georgia actually decided to recognize a common law marriage anyway.  The link to the court’s decision is here if you are interested in the entire thing, but I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version.

The parties involved were Debbie Jean Ault and James A. Norman.  In 1986, Mr. Norman was newly divorced from his previous wife.  Three years later (1989), Ms. Ault began living in the same home as Mr. Norman (in Alabama), sharing a bedroom, and doing housework. They would both tell people that the other was their spouse, Mr. Norman had sexual relations only with Ms. Ault, and Ms. Ault would often call herself Mrs. Norman.  And, while they never actually had a marriage ceremony of any kind, Mr Norman would repeatedly tell Ms. Ault that, “in God’s eyes, you are my wife.”

A few years later (1998) they moved to the neighboring state, Georgia – together, of course.  By this time Georgia had abolished common law marriages; they were a thing of the past!  There they managed to live happily (or not) until 2008 when he filed a law suit against her demanding she pay him damages (for who knows what).  She responded that she would need money to do that, and that she didn’t want to be withgavel him any more.  So, she simply countered by filing for divorce, alimony, and an equitable division of assets. Ouch.

He said she couldn’t do that because, 1) they were never married to begin with and, 2) Georgia doesn’t recognize common law marriages.  The Supreme court of Georgia did not agree with Mr. Norman on either count.  Ms. Ault was awarded $54,000 as lump sum alimony.

Why did this happen?  Judges are usually very clever, and they will try to make decisions as narrowly as possible, so as to affect as little of the existing framework of laws as possible.  For them, the fact that Georgia had abolished common law marriage was inconsequential.  They did not even need to address this issue.  Rather, they looked to the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the U.S. Constitution (Article IV, Section 1) which says that all the states must respect “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.”

Since the Normans lived together as man and wife in Alabama, and Alabama allowed common law marriages at the time (even tho their marriage was never recognized by Alabama), then it follows that the state of Georgia should honor the marital status which the Normans attained while living there. Tada!

Another obvious exception would be the case of couples who contracted a common law marriage in the state of Georgia prior to 1997.  These relationships would all be recognized as valid marriages if there were ever a similar challenge brought before the court.

Despite abolishing common law marriage, Georgia officially accepts them from other states, and accepts them in their own state prior to 1997.  So, what does this mean for a Georgia couple in 2019, that want to have a common law marriage?  It means that their marriage will also be accepted in Georgia, and it means the same thing in California, and in every other state in the union.justice

How could it be otherwise?  How could they have have equal treatment under the law otherwise? Equal treatment is protected by the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the equal protection clause). There is no way the state could defensibly accept a common law marriage (along with granting all the privileges that accompany that condition) entered into on the 31st of December 1996, and deny one entered into on the 1st of January 1997.  You cannot give different treatment to people who are similarly situated.  The Georgia law would amount to discrimination based upon age.

The current law essentially says, if you were born in the 80s or later, you cannot contract a common law marriage, even tho your parents did, and your older siblings (who were born in the 70s) did.  It is ludicrous to think that the state can abridge a fundamental right at all, and marriage is absolutely a fundamental right – which means it resides with the people and not the government.  There is no logical way around it. If it were challenged, the law abolishing common law marriage it would obviously fail.  The only reason it is still on the books is because it hasn’t been challenged.

Common law marriage is at the very heart of the idea of marriage.  Marriage is a contract; an agreement entered into by a man and a woman for the purpose of creating a family and propagating the species.  The very core of the matter is: who decides that two people can marry?  The people themselves, or the state?  You can’t get rid of common law marriage by any legislation without also getting rid of marriage itself (and this would only happen in a totalitarian, Orwellian nightmare of a world).  It is the foundation upon which all real marriages are built.

The piece of paper – the government documentation – is only a wrapper placed around the core.  All documented marriages are also fundamentally common law marriages at their center ( I say “all” in the sense that the vast majority of them are – there are always a few exceptions, but this is beyond this post.  maybe next season, haha.).  The center is a man and woman casting their lot together, promising to stay that way, and beginning a family.

For the sake of illustration, let me make a comparison to another fundamental right: life.  For most people in the U.S., when they were born they (actually, their parents) were issued a birth certificate by the state in which they were born.  What if the State of Georgia made a law saying they were no longer going to recognize births in the state?  I know this sounds ridiculous, but stay with me.  The new law said that there would no longer be state issued birth certificates.  Would this mean that a baby born in Georgia, after the passing of this law, was not really born, or not really alive because they didn’t have official recognition from the state (or from the church for that matter)?  Of course not!  That would be crazy, right?  The child would be born regardless of what the state said (or didn’t say) about it.  Furthermore, that child would have all the rights that any other natural born citizen would have.

It is true that not having a birth certificate can make life more difficult when it comes to legal matters (and I personally know of some people who have experienced this), but that is a separate issue entirely.

If Georgia stopped issuing birth certificates, it wouldn’t stop people from being born. The state has no say about that.  May it ever be so!  Similarly, the state has no say about marriages.  They may decide not to issue papers, but it would have no effect whatsoever on whether the person was born, or whether a man and woman were married.

Mama Donna (and Other Relatives)

Q:  You want to know what problem with polygamy is?

A:  Multiple Mother-in-Laws.

OK, joking aside (and I’m only partially joking), I feel the need to say a few words about the Snowdens’ most recent interaction with Ashley’s mother, Donna.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the Snowdens are doing great this time around!  But I did find something very disconcerting about the most recent episode of Seeking Sister Wife.

Let me also say, I am very happy that Dimitri’s surprise turned out so well.  It was a bold move for Dimitri, and, after all the extreme discomfort, Mama Donna was ultimately very graceful.  It was a gratifying moment, and a lot of the credit for this had to do with Vanessa’s heartfelt and touching words – she is a gem.  I think she won Mama Donna over.  I also have to give some applause to TLC and the producers of Seeking Sister Wife.  They are the masters of suspense and of the awkward situation.  The awkwardness was so thick it was palpable.  I’m sure there was so much editing and splicing in this scene, but it was entertaining nevertheless.

Alright, here is the issue I wanted to address: At 20 minutes and 24 seconds into the episode Dimitri says,

“If Mama Donna is not on board with Vanessa, you know, this could be the end of our relationship with Vanessa.”

the end of vanessa

As I mentioned earlier, I am very glad that things worked out for them, and I hope that this is not really what Dimitri meant to say; because, it is completely wrong to involve your parents, or your in-laws, in your marriage to the point of giving them veto power.  Yes, parents need to be respected and indeed honored, but they are also supposed to be left behind.

Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

They are supposed to be left behind in many ways.  They are no longer supposed to be relied upon for financial or emotional support.  And, while they may be consulted for advice, they are no longer to have any authority to make decisions for your life.  Adults, and especially married people, must live their own lives, be responsible for their own decisions, and responsible for their own support, independent of their parents and other relatives.  There is no closer relationship, and no bond tighter, than the one you have with your spouse(s).

This can be a very difficult thing for some people to do – difficult for both the parents and the children!  I remember making announcements to our own extended family members when we had become polygamous.  I had to remind so many of them that they could not make decisions for us, and to stop trying, and to stop fretting about it.  After all, it would not affect them any more than they allowed it to.

I liked so much what Sophie Winder had to say on this subject a little earlier in the episode when she was talking to her brother,

Sophie Tells it

“I feel like I’m living this lifestyle with Tami and Colton because I was called to it.  My marriage with Tami and Colton is what we build up, not what your opinion of it is.”

She goes on to say,

“The fact that my brother doesn’t necessarily agree with this lifestyle, you know, kind of sucks, but I firmly believe in my lifestyle, and I don’t feel like there’s any need to apologize, and so I’m going to choose what feels right for my life.”

Preach it Sophie!

Dimitri & Vanessa

My, my, my how things have changed with the Snowdens!  And much for the better, I think.  I love that they are giving it another chance despite what happened between Dimitri and Joselyn last season (and then what happened afterwards, when Joselyn was thrown under the bus).  There is forgiveness and a chance for redemption here, and I like that.  It is amazing actually, and really gratifying to see – so big kudos to them.  They are making me proud this season!

Dimitri seems to have his head in the right place this time (and all his other body parts are in the right place too); and no wonder, with the seemingly constant reminders from both Ashley and the producer.  I both laugh and cringe every time Dimitri is reminded of his poor behavior last season, but he seems to be handling the humiliation gracefully, and with the proper attitude.

I think he has realized that you can’t respect people and treat them as objects at the same time.  He respects Vanessa too much to sleep with her before there is a real commitment (a.k.a. marriage).

Dont cross this line

Remember that, ladies!  If you meet a man who wants to sleep with you, without being willing to marry you first, then just move on.  He doesn’t care about you.  He’s just using you.  He isn’t worth your time, and you are worth much more than that! 

I think Dimitri has realized that there is too much at stake, too much on the line, and that Vanessa is worth waiting for!  I thought it was funny at the restaurant, when Dimitri wouldn’t even touch her, and was drawing an imaginary line between them.  Some may have seen that as a little extreme (even Vanessa poked a little fun at it), but that is the way repentance works.  I know the Snowden’s are not Christian, but the concepts of repentance and forgiveness are universal.  Dimitri’s behavior with Vanessa reminds me of Jesus’ sayings about cutting off your hand if it offends you.  What would have been acceptable before, may need to be denied for the sake of avoiding temptation.

As for that Vanessa, wow, she is indeed a prize!  From everything we have seen of her, she is a priceless gem!  I do not think the Snowdens could possibly find a more perfect woman for their family.  She is thoughtful, bold, honest, caring, cautious, mature, loving, good with children, willing, devoted, and absolutely beautiful to boot. Vanessa is such a catch that it is incredible she hasn’t been scooped up and married by someone else long ago.

She has said repeatedly that she doesn’t want to mess things up, and she has been doing everything right.  She’s an amazing woman and she’s got everything you would want in a wife or a sisterwife.  I think they have hit the jackpot with her, and I am so impressed.  They had better not mess it up.  She’s a keeper!

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.”

screenshot 2019-01-28 17.21.27
“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!

screenshot 2019-01-28 18.12.40

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.