Stephanie Aurora Clark Nielson returns from an almost fatal plane crash.
August 16, 2009 7:16 PM   Subscribe

On August 16, 2008, a small plane carrying a young married couple and their flight instructor crashed in the Arizona desert. Doug Kinneard, the instructor, was killed in the crash; Stephanie and Christian Nielson survived, both severely burned. Prior to the crash, Stephanie's weblog, the NieNie Dialogues, "had attracted a small but ardent following, thanks to its upbeat dispatches about marriage, home décor, entertaining and the art of raising four children ages 6 and younger." After the crash, with burns on over 80% of her body, she spent two months in a medically induced coma. One month later, she was released from the hospital (link to Stephanie's sister's blog); one month after that, she began blogging again. Stephanie's posts since then have chronicled her gradual recovery, her re-integration into her family, her love and gratitude for her husband, and, finally, on the one-year anniversary of the plane crash, herself.

A note that Stephanie's Mormon faith is a prominent and recurring theme throughout her writing, so if that sort of thing bothers you...then you are going to be bothered.
posted by granted (59 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Oops, basic arithmetic fail. Three months in a medically induced coma.
posted by granted at 7:22 PM on August 16, 2009

Thanks for sharing, I hadn't heard of this blog.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:52 PM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dude, Mayor Curley, really?

I didn't read this blog until well *after* the crash - there was an Etsy sale to raise money for the family and that led me to this story. Stephanie posted that she was going to hike a mountain to commemorate the anniversary of the crash, and I had this weird feeling that we'd see a picture of her - her blog is pretty picture heavy but she hasn't posted any pictures of herself since the crash. I did not anticipate how I would feel when I saw the picture. Powerful stuff.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:56 PM on August 16, 2009

(is this emotional blowback from the healthcare bill news?)

In any case, thanks for the post. I can't imagine what the couple must be going through; if the optimism in her words are any indication, they seem to be on their way to normalcy.
posted by spiderskull at 7:58 PM on August 16, 2009

She's looking pretty good for someone who's had such horrible burns.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:59 PM on August 16, 2009

I've been reading the blog for a few months right now. Thanks for linking it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:00 PM on August 16, 2009

I have a lot of admiration for someone who shares a harrowing life experience with such grace and dignity.

For those of you jeering at a family's tragedy -- not so much.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:03 PM on August 16, 2009

I like the pictures of the goose.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:03 PM on August 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Mod note: many comments removed - can we try it again without knee jerk mormon and burn victim jokes, please? MetaTalk is your option.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:17 PM on August 16, 2009 [5 favorites]

Really moving stuff. I think this is the kind of thing that religion is actually useful for: helping someone make sense of something totally incomprehensible, and binding a family together in a time of unbelievable pain and stress. And therefore while I'm agnostic as all heck, I find myself somewhat envious that the Nielsons have this to guide them because I strongly suspect that in the same position I would not simply be able to look within myself for the strength to get through it all.
posted by padraigin at 8:19 PM on August 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

She's looking pretty good for someone who's had such horrible burns.

If you look at post-crash entries, you can see pictures of her husband- doesn't look like he was burned too badly on his face. I don't know how you'd deal with that- having your face completely and irrevocably changed. I don't know how I'd go on.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:25 PM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'll remember this to show to people who conflate visual beauty and content of character.
posted by phrontist at 8:27 PM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why does she call her husband Mr. Nielson in the blog? Does she ever address that?

I remember seeing the etsy sale but I never read her stuff. Whoa.
posted by gaspode at 8:30 PM on August 16, 2009

Beautiful and powerful, thanks.
posted by meinvt at 8:33 PM on August 16, 2009

I'm guessing that she calls him Mr. Nielson just because she likes it. Some pet names between couples are cute, and some are faux-formal. And given that her name is Stephanie Nielson and the blog is called Nie Nie, that commonality in their names may reflect how strongly bound she thinks they are.

What an incredible ordeal. I found it really hard to read about how some of her kids were taking a long time to warm up to her again because she looked so different.
posted by maudlin at 8:34 PM on August 16, 2009

I don't if I could go on; it's essentially losing your face. Her kid didn't recognize her at first; how painful that must have been. To go from a normal (attractive, actually) appearance to something so drastically different that your own son doesn't recognize you has to be unimaginably hard. She must have an amazing strength inside.

I certainly couldn't have posted that photo if it had happened to me. I don't know I'd still be living a year after that. I hope the blog is helping her and others who've gone through something like that.
posted by spaltavian at 8:50 PM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow. This post made me just sneak into my little girls' room and give them extra goodnight kisses. *Whew*

I am amazed at the resiliency of people. I can only wish that I'd have the same resolve in their situation.
posted by ColdChef at 8:59 PM on August 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

I read this, and I can't help but be grateful for her sake that her husband was with her and experienced the same things. Not only because, according to her blog post, did he save her life, but also because he's there to experience the difficulties and frustrations of recovering from burns of that magnitude.
posted by librarylis at 9:26 PM on August 16, 2009

Thanks for the post. I hadn't heard of the blog, but I'm up two hours past my bedtime, reading it.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:45 PM on August 16, 2009

OK, so clearly this is a remarkable and inspiring story for all kinds of obvious reasons, but she's also quite a photographer, isn't she? Her pictures (and her overall design sense) seem to really match the personality that comes through in her writing, smart but also very folksy.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:28 PM on August 16, 2009

She looks so sweet. What a lovely girl.

I don't know how I'd go on.

I think you just would. What's the alternative?

(There's only one that I can think of, and I don't think it would work when you have a bunch of small children and lots of loving family around you.)

almost fatal = sort of pregnant

Or, to be more accurate, nothing like that at all. Being shot in the brain, for instance, would probably kill you, but if it didn't, it would probably have almost killed you, or have been almost fatal.
posted by The Monkey at 10:48 PM on August 16, 2009

NTSB report on the crash.
posted by crapmatic at 10:53 PM on August 16, 2009

Three months in a coma and then your baby not knowing who you are. Not to mention all the indescribable pain and other long-term problems burn victims have. I don't care how she and her family prays or who they pray to.

I just read several posts from her blog and her sister's blog. I was reminded of going to Catholic school, even though I'm not Catholic. I was the weird only-child student who couldn't take communion at weekly mass. The one who didn't get the first-communion dress or get confirmed when we were all 14. I didn't miss any of that. But, I was the only child in the midst of some BIG families. Those families were solid. They had their drama, but when push came to shove, it was a case of, "I can pick on my sibling with impunity, but you can't," and them looking out for each other over time, no matter what the disagreements had been when they were young and goofy.

My parents made a smart decision. They couldn't really afford another child. There are pluses and minuses to being an only kid. If something tragic happened to me and my husband, my kids would go live with their dad and the family they have there.

I also am quite aware that you can't pick your blood relatives, and crazy is crazy. I know it isn't all rainbows and sunshine to have brothers and/or sisters. In a lot of ways, I'm lucky to get to choose the "siblings" I have.

The love these particular sisters and their families have for each other (as well as the love apparent in the families I grew up with)... Well, it's something I kind of envy, for lack of a better word.

Even though my son and daughter fight as often as not, I hope they find the friendship in the long run. I hope they end up knowing they are lucky to have each other.
posted by lilywing13 at 11:30 PM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd like to point out that my very close friend and coworker Jeremy Lindblom launched a weight loss-based charity site called Give A Weigh, and as he is a close friend of the Nielson family, they are one of his two primary causes.

The concept is really quite great and I hope to see the site take off as a platform for charity and weight loss, but I felt it especially pertinent to this post.
posted by disillusioned at 1:31 AM on August 17, 2009

Wow, I wouldn't have expected to see this on here. My friend Jeremy and I have been losing weight to help the Nielson's (and another family) since July 1st. Donors pledge to donate $X/lb of weight we lose after the end of a ten week period (September 9th), all of which will go to help the two families.. Together, Jeremy, his brother, and I have lost nearly 50 lbs so far. We would really appreciate your help.

Self-links, clearly, but relevant to the post and for good cause
posted by !Jim at 1:43 AM on August 17, 2009

Crap, I had no idea disilussioned (another friend of ours) was going to post that. Turn your away message off, dumbass!
posted by !Jim at 1:44 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I never saw the deleted comments, no doubt quite inappropriate, and deserved deletion, but the meta thread about them got closed too.

I feel any writer makes themselves "fair game" for religious debate when they commonly reference their faith, as this is a major tool of evangelism.

Would you have a Tom Cruse thread without scientology jokes? Would you discuss Dawkins without mocking his very strong anti-religion stance? Yes, the Nielson's are extremely sympathetic, but religious criticism of the writing still seems appropriate.

Well, let's just remember that Proposition 8, which deprived thousands of CA residence of their civil rights, was largely funded by the Mormon church.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:07 AM on August 17, 2009

I think intolerance is a bad thing -- on all sides of an issue.

Of all the things we could talk about -- the difference between inner beauty and outer appearance, the power of humans to continue on under dire circumstances, the power of a strong family unit, the use of blogging as a means of self-expression and addressing fears, latest medical advances that allow extreme burn victims to survive, the confusion of young children when faced with the fragility of their parents' physical bodies -- we would choose instead to use this as a platform to lament Prop 8, again?

Look, I get that it was a bad thing. I get that Mormonism itself is pretty controversial. But do we have to grind away at the same thing, never varying, everyone lined up in their familiar places making the same comments and the taking the same position? Are we not big enough to see around one thing we don't like, to see something amazing?
posted by Houstonian at 3:22 AM on August 17, 2009 [22 favorites]

i just read a year's worth of posts on that blog- it's beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:00 AM on August 17, 2009

Would you discuss Dawkins without mocking his very strong anti-religion stance?

If he'd been horribly burned in an aeroplane accident, and nearly died? No, of course not. You'd have to be a giant cock to do that.

Yes, the Nielson's are extremely sympathetic, but religious criticism of the writing still seems appropriate.

There's a time and a place. I'm fairly sure this isn't the time, and metafilter doesn't usually serve very well as the place.
posted by The Monkey at 4:45 AM on August 17, 2009 [8 favorites]

Would you have a Tom Cruse thread without scientology jokes? Would you discuss Dawkins without mocking his very strong anti-religion stance?

If the thread was about Tom Cruise suffering from a nearly fatal accident, or about Richard Dawkins being the only survivor of a car crash which killed everyone in his family eccept him?

Yes. Yes, I would.

Because freedom of thought and freedom of speech does not trump common basic human fucking decency.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:47 AM on August 17, 2009 [83 favorites]

I am pressing that favorite button for EmpressCallipygos as hard as I possibly can.

For the fuck of shit, people. This thread? NOT THE TIME AND PLACE. Jesus H. Christ, 1pm is too early to start drinking.

(I don't know why I'm leaping to her defense. Stephanie clearly has more fortitude and courage in one finger than I ever will in my whole entire life. Good God.)
posted by kalimac at 4:54 AM on August 17, 2009

interesting story but damnit, that last picture was just NSFL(unch).
posted by krautland at 5:07 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd been following this blog since before the accident. I dislike a lot of mothering blogs because they can often be a litany of complaints. And sure, toilet training is a pain, but in the grand scheme of things, a mother with clean water and on-site laundry facilities should count her blessings. Stephanie always did. And it always felt like she was celebrating -- a first day of school, a new baby in the family, a job success -- it was a reminder that it adds to happiness to note and mark happy occasions. I liked her.

The one thing I liked not quite as much was her ... well ... vanity, for lack of a better word, the obvious pleasure she took in her lovely looks. I guess I just always think that we should try to starve, not feed, our preference for beautiful people, given that it's one of those randomly distributed advantages that say nothing about worth.

I shouldn't have begrudged her one iota of pleasure in her beauty. No, I wouldn't say she's beautiful now, not in any traditional sense. But she's certainly shown that her celebration of her life wasn't dependent on that, either.
posted by palliser at 5:31 AM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]

Palliser, I was thinking about how her photos are still the same celebrations of family and life this year as last year. Certainly she's much more focused on her own health than on making craftactular birthday parties or whatever, but the tone is still that same joy in daily life that I've always really appreciated about her. If sometimes things seemed a little smug before the accident, that tone is completely erased now. I'm really sorry about the accident and I'm also so glad that her perspective, her "soul" as she would put it, shines through more clearly now. I really like this little family, they help me count my own blessings by celebrating their own even when times are extraordinarily tough.
posted by pomegranate at 5:40 AM on August 17, 2009

interesting story but damnit, that last picture was just NSFL(unch).

Are you kidding? You need to re-calibrate your gross out meter kid, I prescribe a couple hours on

I think she looks just fine, and not in an Everyone is Beautiful kind of way. She just looks good.
posted by Scoo at 6:02 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Because freedom of thought and freedom of speech does not trump common basic human fucking decency.

I made the comment that derailed the thread right out of the gate, and I'm sorry that I expressed myself in that manner. And the metatalk thread's closed, so I can't go in and clarify that if there were jokes specifically about burn victims in the thread, I didn't make them.

I made a comment about the couple's sacred garments not protecting them, and I should have abstained from doing it. However, I disagree that I am obliged to feel sympathy for people who are furthering dogma and ideology that tries to dictate how I live my life. But I reiterate, I should have kept that to myself. I apologize for voicing the comment and causing the commotion.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:08 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I disagree that I am obliged to feel sympathy for people who are furthering dogma and ideology that tries to dictate how I live my life.

If you really don't feel sympathy for these people's pain, I think it's because you're using a prejudice to deny them basic humanity. You can't really think having horrible burns over most of your body, suffering pain and lack of recognition by your own babies, is a fit punishment for being Mormon and expressing your Mormonism on a site on the Internet that people can visit or not, as they choose.
posted by palliser at 6:38 AM on August 17, 2009 [14 favorites]

I made a comment about the couple's sacred garments not protecting them, and I should have abstained from doing it. However, I disagree that I am obliged to feel sympathy for people who are furthering dogma and ideology that tries to dictate how I live my life. But I reiterate, I should have kept that to myself.

For the record, keeping jokes to one's self was all I was hoping people do. No one is expecting you to have sympathy for them in the "oh I need to feel bad for them" sense, for the record.

Also, while I share your ire at how the LDS higher-ups used their clout to defeat Prop 8, unless it comes to light that this couple was actively engaged in dropping anti-gay leaflets from their plane right before the crash, I think that these two issues are a BIT unrelated, anyway; a person's faith doesn't always necessarily inform their politics.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

I don't think one needs to feel any less sympathy for them, but one should contaminate the message of mormon indoctrination contained within the religious writing. Well, orthogonality had a wonderful comment doing exactly this, which subsequently got deleted.

I really doubt you guys would take kindly to Tom Cruse talking about how Scientology's RTC saved him from some great trauma, which is basically what we're discussing.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:26 AM on August 17, 2009

I think she looks just fine, and not in an Everyone is Beautiful kind of way.

I thought this, too, Scoo. Judging by the one picture so troubling to krautland, Nielson to me looks quite natural, warm and alive--not at all bad as burn victims go. Still, the transition from conventionally attractive woman to reconstructive facial surgery patient must be a tremendous adjustment for anyone--perhaps especially a young woman steeped in a conservative culture that places extraordinary value on traditional gender roles. (...Or, for that matter, a photographer so in tune with design and appearance.)

Her blog is aesthetically beautiful. I enjoyed much of her writing, too, although I find many of her views very difficult to relate to.

I'm happy that Nielson has a caring husband and so much love and's difficult to imagine how one could get through her life without it.
posted by applemeat at 7:28 AM on August 17, 2009

I think the page applemeat links to is interesting especially when compared to her page in early June, when she's so nervous about posting her photo that she can only post a photo cropped to her eyes, and then in July, when she finds an old photo of herself and discusses how hard it is for her to accept her new appearance.
posted by Houstonian at 7:39 AM on August 17, 2009

Tears dropped as I walked down the stairs to the boys room- anything could happen. He could scream for his Dad or mom (lucy) and push me away. Inside Nicholas sat up next to a sleeping brother (who by the way was wearing a Zorro mask) I lay beside him on he bed repeating soft words to him just as Mr. Nielson had done for me moments earlier.
Nicholas cuddled up to me. He stopped crying. I was shocked. For a moment I felt like myself-a mother. I think that cured our relationship.

Just today he asked for his mommy then curled up on my lap, rubbed my scar filled face and said to me: "bites mommy...ouch"

Now he likes me. Just like that. It just takes one day at a time.

posted by mediareport at 7:49 AM on August 17, 2009

I'm glad that this person is writing and posting her experiences and that she has found joy and strength despite her and her family's suffering. I'm not sure that I would agree with her politics, but that doesn't enter into whether I feel something positive emanating from her writing and from her posting about her experiences and from her obvious gratitude for life, which emanates from her quite strongly. Sometimes people are just people and not accretions of ideologies and prejudices to whom we can attach our own ideologies and prejudices and beat with sticks.
posted by blucevalo at 8:04 AM on August 17, 2009

I'm leaving the Mormonism aside.

This post is beautiful and amazing. I am so very glad for them both that they survived together. That is the most wonderful thing of all of this awfulness. There is so much love in her posts. I am so happy for them. Things could have been so much, soul-crushingly, worse.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:18 AM on August 17, 2009

Her blog is aesthetically beautiful. I enjoyed much of her writing, too, although I find many of her views very difficult to relate to.

I found, "I'm proud that my husband is so good-looking," for instance, a bit challenging, too!

But you know, in some way, that makes her attitude after the accident that much more worth sympathizing with. It reminds me of this couple we know just a little--friends of friends--who were so obnoxious to hang around with when our oldest kids were preschoolers, because their constant bragging about their son's intelligence and how "advanced" he was got very tiring.

And then their son got leukemia. And one of the side-effects of the treatment for childhood leukemia can be lifelong cognitive impairment. This would be hard for any parent, but when I wasn't remembering how obnoxious they used to be and rolling my eyes, I would think with sympathy that their son's high intelligence was one of the things they valued and enjoyed about him, and that on top of everything else they were faced with losing a part of that.

In that same way, this woman's "I love how goodlooking my husband and I are" before the accident quite poignant. And, as someone up-thread commented, she has turned out to have much deeper resources for dealing with the loss of her good looks than anyone might have predicted.
posted by not that girl at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]

I suppose my perception is coloured by the fact that I haven't read deeply into her site, just some of the links in the FPP, and a few choice links from the comments.

All I've seen is a girl recovering from a terrible trauma. I haven't seen any of the religious or political stuff some people seem to be so challenged by.

Here's the thing, another way of seeing it, if you'll allow me a moment: She thinks angels and gods helped her through this incredibly painful trial, that mystical spirits gave her the strength to survive day to day, and get back to her family, and suffer through so many surgeries - but I know (and I think the people that are the most hateful of her religion also know) that all of that strength came from within Stephanie herself. That she is responsible for her recovery, and her tenacity, and her ability to continue with what must be an incredibly painful life to live right now. (I mean, come on, we're talking burns here. Burns are the worst.) And, to me at least, that's even more impressive.

But I don't mind if she gives the credit away - especially when it is so clearly is hers to give.

So, perhaps this once, we can let that stuff go?
posted by The Monkey at 8:48 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

I really doubt you guys would take kindly to Tom Cruse talking about how Scientology's RTC saved him from some great trauma, which is basically what we're discussing.

You know, there's a difference between "my religion helped me through an awful crisis I faced" and "my religion helped me through this awful crisis AND YOU TOTALLY SHOULD JOIN UP NOW AND I'M GOING TO COME TO YOUR HOUSE BECAUSE I'M TRACKING WHAT YOU'RE READING ON TEH INTARWEB AND I KNOW YOU'RE READING THIS SO I'M GOING TO BREAK INTO YOUR HOUSE AND FORCE YOU TO READ THIS AND LISTEN TO ME".

Are people's convictions so weak that someone else merely MENTIONING their own beliefs is enough to shake your own sense of security? Is there no situation in which you think that complaining about someone else's beliefs is just too far? What's next, picketing their funerals the way Westboro Baptist Church does?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:36 AM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]

Another amazing lady found a reason to go on.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:43 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Warning to krautland and jeffburdges: You will find the above post also "NSFL(unch)!" A comment that was shared by another person when we posted about Jacqui a few years ago.
posted by Houstonian at 11:02 AM on August 17, 2009

This woman loves life, she loves her husband, she loves her children, and she really does love herself. That joy reveals itself in almost all of her writing.

But there's this shiny, beautiful veneer that covers some deeply ugly things. For example, upon moving to New Jersey:
Corzine, Fernicola, Consatino, Rozzo, Castillio, Lagtgona, Forchion, and Pawlowski.

These are the Men and Women that I had to vote for yesterday at the booth. I had to wonder as I stepped into the small, enclosed stall is the mob running for office? Will they walk around with pinstiped suits and machine guns? After all, this is Jersey were twalkin' bout.

Unfortunately the democrats beat out the republicans. I am not saying that Dems are mobsters, but well, whatever.

The republicans had names like Forrester, Coury, Boxwell, and Tidd. That seems normal enough to me.
Elsewhere, there's comments about how "Democrats are crazy" and that her father is running for office, and this is great because he "has values." It doesn't take a lot of reading between the lines to figure out what these values are.

I feel for this woman and her strength and her pain, especially upon becoming a mother all over again after three months in a coma and a complete change in what it means when she looks in a mirror. I wish her continued strength as she endures everything that is to come. I applaud her bravery at finally posting a picture of herself.

I just cannot enjoy the cupcakes, the birthday parties, the chubby-cheeked babies and the rest of it as much knowing what lies beneath.
posted by houseofdanie at 12:14 PM on August 17, 2009 [15 favorites]

I think she looks just fine, and not in an Everyone is Beautiful kind of way.

I thought this, too

Really? I didn't think that. I thought what I would imagine most people who see her think- wow, she looks like she was in a terribly painful accident. I don't know if it's pity that would motivate to someone to say they think she looks fine, but I think to say that minimizes the struggle of dealing with looking that way.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:12 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

ThePinkSuperhero, I agree it's obvious that she was in a terrible accident. But she looks human, she looks like a feminine, human person and one with a relatively normal facial silhouette, and that’s quite fortunate for someone with burns of her extent and severity. See futureisunwritten’s link above.
posted by applemeat at 1:36 PM on August 17, 2009

She's gone way beyond merely mentioning her beliefs, EmpressCallipygos. The Monkey's point is far more valid : the credit is hers to give away. But then her evangelism still makes her writing fair game for political criticism.

I also see people upthread talking about giving her money, but you know Mormons tithe. So those people are almost surely giving money to the same LDS leadership that destroyed the Boy Scouts, argues against gays visiting their loved ones in the hospital, etc.

I'm sure there's a non-profit hospital burn ward near you that always needs money, you'll help people who write less eloquently, but they're burn victims too.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:47 PM on August 17, 2009

This story and photo of Stephanie make my stomach churn a little, but not because Stephanie has become ugly. It's because of a gut terror that someday something like this could happen to me and I wouldn't be able to handle because I am SO vain. I've been moody for months because I've developed a smattering of acne, for god's sake. I'd rather cast myself onto an ice floe or lock myself in an attic rather than face the world after suffering facial burns. But Stephanie has found the strength to face her husband, her children, and finally the world and I admire greatly her for that.
posted by Rora at 5:13 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think there's an essential and important difference between Stephanie Nielson (and her plainly-stated Mormonism) and Tom Cruise/Richard Dawkins, and that's the difference between a private citizen and a celebrity. Cruise and Dawkins pretty much deserve whatever they get in terms of religious criticism, as they are public figures, indeed spokesmen, for Scientology/atheism. They've gone on national television, done extensive interviews, written a book, and generally put themselves out there in the public eye in a pretty strident and annoying manner. They want people to identify them with their beliefs.

Stephanie Nielson, on the other hand, is not a celebrity, is not a public figure, has no public agenda, and nor does she even seem to be making any money off of her blog. I don't see any annoying advertising banners or click-through donation links, nor do I see links to conservative or religious action sites. It seems that Stephanie's written a blog for the same reason that many of us do so, to share photos and stories mainly with friends and family, and if someone outside her circle of friends happens to find her blog by word of mouth, then they're welcome to read it. Yes, she may be an evangelist of some sort, but (and this is key) I see no indication that she's actually trying to use her blog to evangelize, or that she is trying to talk to, or is even aware of, any readers outside her group of friends.

I'm guessing that the only reason why she doesn't have an invitation-only blog is so that the grandparents and great-aunts won't have to deal with a password or other barriers to look at the nice photos of the kids.

So, as near as I can tell, this is just a family blog. For us to now criticize her for being one of those filthy Proposition 8 garment-wearing tithing Mormons is, as EmpressCallipygos said, similar to Fred Phelps (he of the Westboro Baptist Church) crashing funerals of supposedly-gay men and women with signs saying "God Hates Fags".

So. I disagree with jeffburdges that Stephanie's evangelism makes her fair game for political criticism, first of all because I don't really see much evangelism, and second of all because, like The Monkey said upthread, this is neither the time nor the place.

As long as I'm on a bit of a tear, let me give kudos to Mayor Curley for graciously apologizing for an earlier comment. I think that he/she raises an interesting point. Let's look at the quote (and let's be clear, that I'm not piling on Mayor Curley, but rather just bringing this up for discussion; immediately following this sentence, he/she says, "But I reiterate, I should have kept that to myself. I apologize for voicing the comment and causing the commotion."):

... However, I disagree that I am obliged to feel sympathy for people who are furthering dogma and ideology that tries to dictate how I live my life.

This is worthy of discussion. Should our sympathy or our assistance be only limited to those who share our ideology? Or should we be sympathetic towards those who, in fact, might even want to enact laws against us?

I say yes we should be sympathetic to all, and I think that everyone here would agree. Well, if you're the type who would walk past a burning church or temple and not stop to help, then you're too far gone, but for the rest of us, read on.

First, there's the basic humanitarian instinct that we all have. If there's a burning house or a car accident or a hurt child or a natural disaster, we'd all want to help. We don't stop and ask for their voting records or their religious affiliation before dragging someone to safety or patching up a wound.

And second, there's the basic political motivation that is seen more in larger institutions than at the individual level. Western governments donate to earthquake victims in Iran or famine victims in North Korea because it wins hearts and minds. This doesn't always work (in particular, in North Korea) but there's something to be said for giving aid and charity even to those we disagree with. It can't do any harm, and it might do some good, and if it helps to create a bond between disparate peoples, so much the better.

Whew, that's more than I've ever written before. I best go cool off.
posted by math at 5:39 PM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]

She's gone way beyond merely mentioning her beliefs, EmpressCallipygos. The Monkey's point is far more valid : the credit is hers to give away. But then her evangelism still makes her writing fair game for political criticism.

That would be true if what she's been writing is evangelism.

It would also be true if she were writing a political blog.

She hasn't, and it ain't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:14 PM on August 17, 2009

Ha. I've been stuck on this blog all day, so thanks! Good readin'. My thoughts are these:

*I decidedly don't believe in a god-being and am not into her belief system. But let's remember she started this blog in 2005. Her prosthelytizing was much more prominent back in the day, when she seemed so much more young and naive about the world. Yeah, she's still vocally Mormon, but her "sharing" is fairly limited to 'lil links now. It really shows in her writing throughout the years (even pre-accident) that she's grown quite a bit, as most people do in the seemingly long four or five years that span the early-to-late twenties.

*And her youngins/hubby life ain't necessarily for me, at least not yet. But I really do find the beauty in a young woman who enjoys being a mother, loves (and lusts for) her husband, explores her creativity, and ultimately, finds herself even further through a terrible situation. That, in my "enlightened rawr-woman" circle, is kind of a nice anomale.

*I can't imagine the pain she's been through, politics and gender roles aside. I just can't imagine being in a situation in which everything that I'm proud of in life (superficially, educationally, religiously/belief-ly, or career-ly) being so drastically changed overnight, but also with normality keeping just out of reach.

*This woman not only deals with the egg-shell social axioms of Mormonism, but puts on her pretty red heels, gets her husband turned on, raises four great children, photographs with a bit of talent, isn't too bad a writer, bakes freakin' cakes, and handles a sincerely life-changing tragedy.

Good lawd, if I could be so beautifully and gracefully simple and grateful.
posted by functionequalsform at 11:16 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

How delightful to see Stephanie's blog linked here. I came across it by accident a longish while ago and devoured all the old posts and then waited for new ones. It made me cry -- the things she's been through are the things I've often feared most having to go through myself. A plane crash. Being burned. I wanted to see her face, but I respected her right to hide it. How strong she must be to show herself not only to her family, but also to the world. Stronger than I could ever be, I think. I've often come back to her blog in times of trouble, and I feel like she shared some of her strength with me even though we've never met.
posted by Never teh Bride at 7:52 AM on August 18, 2009

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