"Beauty is whatever gives joy." ~~Edna St. Vincent Millay

Hi all,

So my epic cleaning and reorganizing project is ongoing.  If anything, it's picking up steam because next month marks a year since the first mouse got into my garage and they moved in from there.  Eeek.  So...  Things will be very random with these newsletters for a while.  Below I answer some questions based both on feedback I've received but also stuff I've found myself wondering about when I re-read a story and try to imagine what I'd take from it if I didn't know the whole backstory.  And then...

After several years, I have a good bye to make.  Don't worry!  It's silly.  But also kinda made me a little nostalgic and emotional.  So... more on that later.

For now, I hope you're all staying safe and well!

God bless,

Ask a JABB Co-Founder: Morals and Miscellany in Dyeland Stories

How strict are Andrew and JenniAnn going to be when their kids are older?  

Not very.  I think they'll just want to do their best to ensure their kids are as emotionally healthy as possible.  I think they'll take great care to not utilize shame.  They saw what happened with Joccy so they would absolutely not want their kids viewing out of wedlock sex as a devaluing sin.  But they're also going to be honest about how sex and even intimacy in general can foster a sort of dependency that can be very hard to deal with should there be a separation.  Andrew and JenniAnn know from personal experience that since they started sharing a bed, sleeping alone became much harder.  I think that's the only reason they've asked Takoda and Joccy to be discreet.  They don't actually care what the two do.  But they don't want Belle seeing them sharing a bed and thinking that's just some casual thing to do.  Of course, I'm sure they're drilling into Belle about boundaries and not just bursting into people's bedrooms but... sometimes a kid's just gonna do what they're gonna do.

All that being said...  That doesn't mean it'll be easy.  It's already been hinted that JenniAnn, especially, struggles with an older Avi's announcement that he and Evie intend to marry while still quite young.  But I think lots of parents face that kind of stuff.

So what exactly is going on with Andrew and JenniAnn?  They'll "canoodle" and then the scene cuts away like something else is happening.

They're definitely not having sex.  And, no, I'm not being Clintonian here.  They're not having sex of any kind.  They don't even sext... although I'm sure some of their texts are mushy and probably not something they'd want their kids to see.  The scenes cut away because I assume they canoodle for potentially hours at a time and I'm not really interested in writing more than 2-3 minutes worth of that at any given time.  I also think it's possible that they delve into assorted philosophical and theological issues during their alone time and I don't have the knowledge to write those discussions out.

That's not to say that either of them is anti-sex.  They absolutely are not.  It's just that Andrew is completely asexual by nature of his species and JenniAnn is asexual with no libido.  So they're not personally interested.  

So is Joshua ugly or not?  There are some contradictions in the stories.

Joshua is plain-looking.  He's not ugly.  That being said, there's no accounting for taste.  Violeta thinks he's very handsome but he's also the first man she ever saw.  Also, she's more than a little bit biased.  JenniAnn also loves Joshua dearly but can admit that he's not that physically attractive.  The only people to actually call him ugly are jerks or a distraught Emma who was just lashing out.  All that being said, he has an amazing personality, beautiful eyes, can sing and play guitar, and has a well-built physique so I don't think it's hard to imagine various people having crushes on him.  Also, some people are just really drawn to particular traits.  If someone has a thing for dark, curly, shaggy hair then they might find Joshua to be attractive on the basis of that alone.  And then someone has to run interference for him.  :-)

You used to make a yearly donation in honor of JABB, usually referenced in the annual Christmas story.  Does that still happen?

Yes and no.  When I write a story about a topic, I typically donate to a related cause.  But I've stopped referencing it because even though I try my best to investigate charities before donating to them, there's just been too many stories of charities doing not great things.  So if one of the charities I choose ends up being bad, I'd just as soon not have JABB involved.  It'll just be a personal mistake.  And, to be clear, the charities I have referenced in the past are still okay as far as I know.  This decision wasn't made based on a particular charity featured or referenced in JABB.  It's just that my neck of the woods has had some issues with local charities being not very up front about administrative costs, executive pay, etc. that I decided to move away from the public references.  I will still reference charities, though, when I used references on their web sites as aids in writing.

What are some misconceptions you think people could have about you based on your writing?

I suppose because theology interests me, the first two that come to mind are related to that.  First, I do think someone could fairly easily assume I have some tie to the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) faith because the whole anam cara thing can seem reminiscent of sealed marriages and some sort of premortality has been referenced in the stories.  But I don't actually have any ties.  At least not directly.  The community I grew up in is largely Catholic (the faith into which I was baptized and still feel tied to if not entirely a part of) but we do have a LDS temple and information center just a few blocks from where I grew up.  So possibly I picked up some things via cultural osmosis.  I could believe that knowing about sealed marriages did inform the idea of anam caras even though there are major differences.

However, I think my beliefs on premortality are completed distinct and grew up independent from the LDS.  For one, I didn't realize the LDS had that belief until I was in high school.  And I'd already believed in premortality for a while before that.  In fact, TBAA itself contains a reference to it in the episode "Birthmarks" so possibly I got the idea from there but I actually think the source was the following or some combination:

1.  The Shirley Temple movie The Blue Bird.  I adored that movie as a kid and it has a pre-birth scene in it.

2.  The movie Made in Heaven which I recall my mom watching.  It also revolves around the idea that we're in Heaven before we're born.

3.  I did go through a stage where I read bunches of near death experience memoirs and some of those people referenced being told that we existed before our earthly life.

So those all planted the idea but it was this passage from the Bible that made me believe this was, perhaps, a legitimate thing:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”  (Jeremiah 1:5)

So I refer to the pre-existence as the Knowing.  I don't believe souls were entirely active during the Knowing... but they had a sense of love and belonging.  I hope something like what a baby feels in the womb.  

The most blatant reference to the Knowing in a Dyeland story is this passage from "The King" in which Joshua recalls pre-birth Andrew and JenniAnn:

"He remembered what they could not.  He saw again the vast galaxy of spirits yet to be born.  He had known each by name even though they were nameless to themselves and to each other.  Joshua's mind focused on the memory of two spirits in particular.  He recalled the one reaching out to the other.  Knowing little else, they had a sense of him and his love for them and they had felt the warmth and the potential of the other.  They had clung to each other until he had called one forth into existence."

I just really like that idea.  And if God is all-knowing and has existed without beginning or end (as I believe), it makes sense that the concept of us would be eternal since He would have always known of us.

The second possible misconception is that I believe in some form of "biblical womanhood."  I mean I believe in being a woman whose life and choices are informed by my understanding of the Bible.  But I don't believe the traditional family structure is the only moral way to raise children.  (Nor do I believe everyone should even have children.)  Modesty is not something I care much about.  I definitely don't think it's something men should be advising women on.  I mean Jesus said it best:

"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell."

So if a dude can't see a woman in a tank top without sinning... well, I'm not gonna say he should gouge his eye out but maybe invest in a blindfold? 

And probably this isn't surprising to anyone who has read several of the Dyeland stories.  But I think a very surface reading of a handful of stories could potentially make someone think I'm a traditionalist because Andrew's and JenniAnn's home life can seem very stereotypically 1950s breadwinner/housewife with Christianity thrown in.  And the thing is... Andrew is the breadwinner and JenniAnn does mostly stay home.  Even before COVID, JenniAnn's life was pretty insular.  Her only jobs have been with her high school, working with her cousin, Catherine, and then teaching with Vincent.  And I think that's fine.  I'm a homebody.  It's fine to be a homebody.  It's fine to be in a relationship where someone's focus is more on financial stability and the other's is more on domestic harmony.  It's all fine so long as it's chosen by each partner.  It shouldn't be an across the board expectation, though.  JenniAnn knows Andrew would support her if she wanted to, I dunno, become a bookseller.  But she likes her life as is (minus the COVID situation, of course) and Andrew does, as well.

And, for the record, I have no problem with folks living traditional lifestyles if that's what feels right to them.  Where I begin to have issues is when people try to push it onto others as the only way to be a true Christian or truly moral or whatever.  I also am strongly opposed to it when it's used to excuse crimes like spousal or child abuse.  Not only is it just plain sinful to abuse someone else but I'd go so far as to say that when God is used to justify abuse, the person saying that is also abusing God as such behavior can cause people to feel alienated from God.  And God doesn't want that.  It hurts Him.

Anyway, I'd say the other misconception that sometimes concerns me is the relationship between JenniAnn and myself.  I do sometimes lend her some of my biography.  But there are also very significant things where she's very different.  I have siblings, she doesn't.  She has children, I have pets and even sometimes they seem overwhelming so the idea of me with kids... eek.  The thing is there are bits of me scattered across so many characters.  So it's pretty much impossible to tell what is genuine and what's just me being creative.  People are always welcome to ask, though.  I know sometimes when one reads a story and feels kinship to a character, it's tempting to think the author must feel the same as you.  Sometimes I do.  Sometimes I might feel the same but not have the lived experience behind that feeling whereas JenniAnn does.  Sometimes I might be in disagreement.  Sometimes I might be unsure.

Farewell to the John/Andrew Craft Cabinets

After over a decade, this morning I made the decision to remove the photos of John Dye and Andrew and Doc Hock, etc. from my craft cabinets.  Some of the photos once graced my high school locker.  Then they moved to my bedroom door at my parents' house.  And when I moved into this house, I stuck them up on the inside of the doors of my craft cabinets.  Since a lot of the crafting I was doing was related to JABB, it seemed appropriate.

Unfortunately, after all that time, some of the photos fell.  Some got beaten up just by opening and closing the doors.  And then the mice got into the cabinets...  And, alas, it was time to say good bye because there wasn't a way for me to wipe down the doors with the photos stuck on them.  Plus, some of the stick tack I'd used had become rock solid and was barely keeping the photos in place.  But I'll always have my memories like...

- The fun I had putting the photos in place, relishing my new home. 

- The satisfaction of replacing some of the old photos when all the TBAA DVDs came out and I was able to get better snaps.

- Spending time in my basement crafting John/Andrew-themed charm bracelets, ornaments for the Dyeland Christmas tree, drool buckets, and more.

- The time I had to call a plumber and he had to find the water shut-off and I'm quite convinced he opened the craft cabinets thinking the shut-off was in there.  It was not.  But I probably looked like a stalker.

- Just this past winter when a pest control guy came out and looked for potential entrance points.  Yup.  Pretty sure he also saw the array of John Dye photos.

- As I cleaned the inside of the cabinets post-mice, it was soothing to see my favorite John/Andrew images.

Even though the photos are no longer on the doors (I couldn't bring myself to throw them away so they remain in a box), I look forward to a time when I can once again go to those cabinets and think of all the John Dye-related crafting fun I had over the years... and will probably still have. 

So thank you, John Dye-themed craft cabinets.  I'm sorry the mice ultimately forced us to part.  But I will remember you.

Appropriately enough, this newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for making my crafting cabinets quite attractive for so many years.

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(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from Touched by an Angel and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions.  They are not being used to seek profit.)