Category Christianity

74 posts

Well Then, God is a Shitty Author Part 2

Alex’s dad called mine because he wanted Alex not to be crushed if he asked and dad said no. Or so the story goes.


Anyway, not long after, maybe the next day or later that night, Alex called and asked dad The Question (because asking to court is basically asking to marry me. I’m not joking either, courtship is “dating with the intent of marriage, and also with no privacy, and your parents controlling everything” but I think in the actual quote they use the word accountability), and to my surprise, my dad said yes. My mom was ecstatic, because her life-long dream of being pregnant with me simultaneously might actually be a thing.


We started courting (marionette dating) when I was 16 and he was 18, my mom heard wedding bells immediately. We had maybe a month of courting in peace before my parents (mom) started asking when he was going to propose if I really wanted to marry him or not. Something along the lines of, you graduated high school, now you can get married! was said, to normalize, I suppose, the pressure they were suddenly putting on their 16 year old to….tie the knot. And I told them then, and I said this before, it’s not that I didn’t want to marry him, eventually, but neither of us were ready.

To their detriment, in their eagerness to marry me off, they spent the last half of the year I was 16 drilling into me that I was an adult and capable of making my own decisions even though I was still technically a minor.


I ended up being in the general vicinity of his college a couple times that fall, due to campaigning and TeenPact events, so we got to see each other a couple times, though, never alone (obviously). Which was so nice. We even gasp held hands a couple times. This was happening simultaneously with my leg infection, and one of the campaigning trips I was on (where I walked for 10 hours with an abscess on my knee) was the one he was at, and he hung back and walked at my pace with me, while I hobbled along. Why didn’t he just carry me? because RULES YOU GUYS. RULES. Nonetheless, while everyone was miles ahead and oblivious, I didn’t mind having the company…and the relative privacy.


–aside– My brother went with me on one of the TeenPact trips (the one pictured) where Alex got a pass from his school to go because it counted for some class or other, and at first I was annoyed, but then figured out that siblings can totally piggyback and no one cares. So that was the best. Honestly, I feel bad that I didn’t want him to come, because it was actually fun to have him there (not just because I didn’t have to walk in heels the whole time). Go figure.–/aside–


The first time we held hands, it was like trying to put together a puzzle while blindfolded. It took us a while to figure it out. I’m not kidding. It was awkward and weird, and we were trying to be sneaky, and anyway. We eventually DID figure it out, but man, fingers, guys, they are complicated.

I went up to meet his family in December. It was intense because my parents and his parents (who to this day, have never met) were already starting to have issues with each other. Mostly because his parents were like, no, you can’t get married yet, and my parents were like, YEAH HUH THEY CAN. And they pressured Alex into buying me a promise ring, if not an engagement ring, because…my parents really wanted me married.


Being as excited as they were, however, they wasted no time in taking me to turn in my bonds and fully stock my hopechest.


You know, because two months into courting is totally the time to fully prepare for your future together.


When I came home from Maine and I wasn’t engaged (keep in mind, we’d been officially a couple for barely 4 months) my parents were disappointed. There was other drama, that at the moment is sort of blocked out. Needless to say both sets of parents were draining me and I wasn’t thrilled with them. My parents started questioning his commitment to me because he didn’t ask me to marry him that trip.


They started being more outspoken about their reservations when he still didn’t propose after he came to surprise me for Valentines day. Not that he would have been able to anyway, because I and everyone else had the flu and I sort of willed myself better to hangout with him but still. Funny though, because it was a surprise, so I didn’t know, so I was chilling on the couch being sick and my mom kept asking me if I wanted to brush my hair. All afternoon she asked me this, and I was like no, I don’t want to brush my hair, I’m sick. I don’t care if it’s messy. And then Alex came and she was like THIS IS WHY I SAID YOU SHOULD BRUSH YOUR HAIR. And I was like, eh, he won’t care. He didn’t.


Alex came to visit me over spring break 2008 (we’re 17 and 19 at this point), met my paternal grandmother, who’s still the strongest woman I know and it was one of those weird trips where it’s like, well, Gramme has to like him, and she did, even though she was like, months away from parting. At the time, both sets of my grandparents lived in Florida, so that meant a 10 hour car ride south, Alex, my brother, and I in the back seat of the 15 passenger, to meet my grandparents and go on our annual “vacation”/fulfill some of our residency requirement, to Florida. I showed him around the city I grew up in sorta. We went on an incredibly awkward and overdressed date, but we looked cuute.


Short trip to my hometown and to see my Gramme aside, most of what happened was Disney World and Sea World which sounds like it would be THE BEST THING EVER, but in reality was…not. My parents had unspoken expectations of things they didn’t communicate (not unlike the time the year before, they said we could do whatever at a GA park thing and were livid that we didn’t hang with my brother, despite not having told me to), said we could wander and got upset over stupid stuff that wouldn’t have been an issue if they told us ahead of time. Were mad about my phone dying, and mad about Alex and I talking (just talking, not anything questionable) at the timeshare my grandparents had gotten for everyone, and about us getting stuck on a ride (mechanical failure). Generally, it was a horrid trip, my parents were insane and tense and ready to explode at any given thing – even the kids were on edge and anything they or I did just……it was bad. I don’t remember a lot of details, just a lot of awfulness.


I need to go back to Orlando without my family there to enjoy it again sans the horrid baggage and guilt that came with that trip.


The ride back to GA was even worse. My parents stopped at chick-fil-a near the GA/FL border and sent the kids to the outside climbing area and sat down with Alex and I and gave us a stern talk, because we had fallen asleep in the back seat. All three of us had (my brother was there too), and my parents were like, WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO SEE YOU, YOU COULD BE DOING WHO KNOWS WHAT BACK THERE. And we were just…aghast at the violent outburst in such a public place.

My parents were angry, because Alex, my brother, and I fell asleep on a 10 hour car trip and all three of us were leaning on each other. They said we were doing foreplay and didn’t listen to us when we said 1) no, we weren’t and 2) we didn’t even know what that was. Which was TRUE. Because we were homeschoolers who’s parents thought it best to give NO EDUCATION TO AT FUCKING ALL and decide that meant we were equipped for life.


Your teenager hearing the word foreplay for the first time during a lecture from you in which you are mad at them and then you refuse to explain what it is and also disbelieve them when they tell you they’ve never heard of it. Just no.


I didn’t learn about what foreplay was until months later, on fucking wikipedia thank you.


Things went south (even more) quickly after that.

Well Then, God is a Shitty Author

cracks knuckles
So, I was looking in the archives and realized that in the ~5 years I’ve been blogging here, I’ve only mentioned courting like, 4 times (swear it feels like more though), and it’s such a huge part of my story….but also an intensely emotional and painful one, which is why it’s referenced but never really talked about. This is going to change. Probably. Maybe. If I can stick it out long enough to finish it. My locally crafted whiskey and moonshine may be coming in handy for what will most likely become a series – so I can’t promise the best writing ever (which, actually isn’t something I ever promise), but, I think it’s time.


We met at TeenPact National Convention, but we’d followed each other’s blogs before that. He was SmartHomeschool and I was Politically InCorrect. We and a handful of other people were first timer’s at the camp and everyone else we knew had run off to hang with their already established friends, and as we wandered, we kept running into each other and finding a handful of other loners at random times to make our group more TPA. We called ourselves The Magnets, because, we just sort of all ended up at the same place at the same time, snacking on skittles and starbursts.

 
Alex, I will have you know, was a tough cookie to crack. Super shy and awkward, I made a point to open up his little clam-shell-self that week, because I just REALLY wanted to know what was inside his brain. Which sounds weird, but I’ve never really felt that much curiosity for anyone else. Plus he was cute to boot, but I would never have admitted it. boops baby alex’s nose SO I MARRIED HIM. THE END.

Just kidding.
If only it were that simple camp love story.

Anyway, back to reality.
Alex was a cool person, we became fast friends, not just because we were more or less stuck together for a week, but he was thoughtful and smart, and interesting to talk to. He argued with me when no one else would, and didn’t just take whatever I said and leave it. We were equal. Which is sort of an unheard-of dynamic in our circles.

When we went back home, we would spend hours every night IMing each other about everything under the sun. We had a lot in common, and we had a lot not in common. Eventually he brought me on the board of the magazine he started with some other homeschoolers and everyone basically started shipping us immediately.


We, of course, didn’t see it. We were friends, best friends, equals, that’s it. Everything we knew about marital relationships involved whatever sex was and submission (and not the fun kind), so, we went about our lives as best friends.


Alex came to visit me for my graduation party the week before TeenPact National Convention 2007, and that was when things started changing.
That visit was intense for reasons that actually have nothing to do with Alex and everything to do with my extremely pregnant mother.


It was that trip that Alex learned things weren’t sunshine and rainbows with my family. The day or two before National Convention, my parents sat me down upstairs and started yelling at me about laundry and shirking my responsibilities (Alex, who had been staying in my room while I camped with my sisters, heard everything from the basement). I came downstairs in tears to do the laundry they had exploded about – really the whole thing was a miscommunication, as was…..well, usual. I hadn’t done the laundry because I had to take a shower, mom had told me to do both without specifying the order, but then I had to make dinner and get the kids to bed and do all her other work, so I was going to get to the laundry, but apparently I hadn’t done it fast enough, or enough of it.


I got downstairs to the laundry which was adjacent to my room, and I just collapsed into a pile of tears. I forgot Alex was there and he came over and I tried to brush it off like everything was fine. I think I told him I deserved the verbal abuse my parents had just thrown at me, loudly, for an hour. I sat there and took it and apologized to them. I apologized to him for crying in front of him, and told me it was okay (to cry). He helped me with the laundry (he actually attempted to help me with all of my chores that week, but as soon as mom noticed she’d give me more shit to do), and was just there.

I….never had anyone do that before. I always tried to never cry, because my mom told me crying was weak and would get me made fun of. Alex didn’t make fun of me, he was just present and calm and…helpful.
Anyway his visit with my family was full of shit like that happening, it wasn’t really awesome and I felt really bad about it, but then we went to camp again and I got to escape it for a while, even if camp was full of religious guilt that just reinforced that my parents were right about me.


After he went back to Maine, and the life of being a mother resumed for me, things just….I felt halved. I powered through one of the most intense pregnancies my mom had ever had, probably the most intense actually, because she had an emergency c-section after having essentially a one-month long contraction. I had slept everywhere but my room for a large part of June (NC was end of may), including often the floor or a couch upstairs so my parents could wake me to man the house if mom went into labor.


But that’s another story. Anyway, time to myself after that was really scarce, I would be up until 2am because the only time I could talk to Alex was after everyone else had gone to bed and most of it involved him trying to tell me I wasn’t loosing my mind because of everything that was happening.


rewind When we were saying our goodbyes at camp, he told me to look under the coffee cup full of Reece’s in my room (his graduation present to me. Seriously, best. ever.) so that was, naturally, the first thing I did when I got home. He’d written me a letter that…reading it now, basically just said I love you for two pages, but at the time mostly was just the most validating thing I’d ever heard and desperately needed. That I wasn’t a horrible sister, that I was really strong, that what my parents were asking of me was insane and I didn’t deserve to be treated poorly.


I miss you” was said with all the weight and meaning of “I love you” when it’s said for the first time.


blah blah blah pregnancy, june, july, GenJ camp, CPS visit, all other stories….September.


Alex and I had written each other letters by hand over the summer because it was fun and….I don’t remember why we started, but anyway, he was heading off to college in the fall and I was worried he’d fall off the planet and I’d be alone without anyone I could talk to about life who would really understand. All naturally platonic, stupid shit, jokes; we were basically pen pals who were madly in love with each other and refused to acknowledge it (but secretly hoped).


So one day in September, out of the blue, Alex’s dad calls my dad, and asks what his answer would be if Alex asked him for permission to court me.
And so it began.
 

Giving Too Much part 2

When I was 11 we came home one day to find someone we’d met at a homeless shelter/food kitchen/church thingy on our doorstep, with her infant. We’ll call her Missy.
I don’t know how she got our address, or why she was there.
But she was.

And I gave up my bedroom and moved in with my sisters and Missy stayed with us for a very long time.

She stayed with us through the aforementioned foreclosure, where my parents stopped paying their mortgage in lieu of paying someone else’s.
She stayed with us so she could get her two other kids (and nephew?) back in her custody.


Our house was foreclosed on and we were facing homelessness – not just for our family, but for Missy’s as well.

My parents traveled all over the city, and even a few hours north of where we lived, trying to find some place to live, but because we were being foreclosed on, no one was taking my parents + another family, because they didn’t trust they’d pay.

On the day we had to be out (the people who bought our house granted us an extra week or two on account of they were nice and we had a shit ton of people to move – although, Missy did most of the packing because….I think mom and dad were busy looking for houses and also hanging on to “god saving our home”) we had nowhere to go, we were looking at being homeless, and Missy was still going to follow us around.

The plan was for me and my siblings to stay at my grandparents while my parents continued to travel anywhere to find somewhere who’d let a two-family-one-income household rent from them. It was a really terrifying day. Not knowing where we were going to sleep, or live, or if I’d see the people in my homeschool group ever again…

But then my grandparents mentioned that the house next door just went up for rent, and so my parents went over and the guy who bought the place just wanted the land, so he didn’t ask questions and said as long as we’d paid the rent we could stay there. So we did.


When I was 12 mom got pregnant again, which meant that pubescent Kiery got to take over everything again, except this time….not only was my mom telling me what to do, and having me run the house, but Missy was too.
I was cooking and doing chores not just for my family, but hers as well.

Let me mention this again: I was 12 years old.
I was taking care of two families single handedly.
I was not okay.

Eventually my parents confronted Missy about using me as her slave too, and set up a chore list so other people had to also cook and clean and do laundry. Mostly, just that Missy had to take care of her family’s stuff, and we alternated cooking days. Zero introspection on the part of my parents regarding…I don’t know, placing too much responsibility on a twelve year old.


My parents got mad at me for my “attitudes” (because I was adolescent, exhausted, run ragged, burnt out, and barely keeping up with everything, including school), and blamed it on Missy’s 15 year old daughter’s influence (because I shared a room with her – even though we weren’t close). Very little came of this besides my trying extra hard to be totally happy all the time.


It was Missy’s older child who alerted me to the fact that my period had started when I was studying in a tree with my brother, her cousin, and some of the other kids. My brother was very concerned, and I panicked. Missy had then asked me, at random, if I was pregnant or not because I would sometimes wrap my arm around my abdomen (because cramps. and no meds.), and I was mortified. Half because I didn’t know what sex was or how to do it, and half because that’s not something you ask an isolated twelve year old who just started having periods.
 


My parents paid Missy $40 a week to stay with us and homeschool her kids. That way, she could say she had a job to the CPS people, while still fulfilling her god-ordained plan to be a stay at home mother and educator. I…don’t remember this going well. To be honest I’m not sure if she even did anything more to educate her kids than through books at them, like my mom did with me, but I don’t remember. I was otherwise occupied.

Missy was, however, a far superior cook than my mom, and fish and frog-legs aside, she made some really good food. This is the only pleasant memory I have of her. Graham cracker cake and home-made Chinese food.


Shortly before/after my 13th birthday, my parents discovered that Missy had been abusing pharmaceuticals and kicked her and her family out.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved that I only had one mom around any more, and my own room. Also, my brother got to move out of the closet and into Missy’s alcove, which was nice…and I was maybe jealous.
The second stillborn happened two weeks before my 13th birthday.


After Missy, my parents decided not to let random families live with us again. Turns out my mom didn’t like having another lady in the house either.
 


2003 dance recital

My mom got pregnant almost instantly after the stillborn and I had to get my own rides to ballet (which meant asking my teacher to pick me up and coming home with my grandma). My ballet teacher was a wonderful adult to have in my life at the time. She made me feel valued and cared for at a time when I really needed it, because I wasn’t getting that from my mom.


In fact, that was often one of the things that hurt me so much as a child – I never had time with my mom, and I’d get upset and we’d have a mother-daughter day, but that would happen all of three times before she would get pregnant again and it would end and I just became an object. I tried to explain this to her once, but she never really understood it.


She spent so much time talking to and being there for other people, acting like she knew all the things about being a good wife (helpmeet), homeschooling, and parenting – but was never there for me, never there for her kids.

I never doubted my parents heart for giving.
I’ve always doubted their love for me. 

Reason

I’ve been triggering myself a little lately, getting introspective about life and the meaning. Nothing weird I guess, but in my dreams I found myself missing things I don’t actually miss, missing rituals and set answers – things I consciously don’t actually value.
I’m not particularly sentimental, and I don’t really care about tradition for tradition’s sake – in fact, I’ve found more freedom and healing in abandoning tradition as much as possible lately.
So, anyway, when I’ve been finding myself in these introspective loops – at least after outing myself as an agnostic, none of the pat answers that I used to have are there anymore (for good reason), but it’s like I’ve taken another step into the unknown and I don’t know why I exist again, or why I make things, or why I feel the way I do, I just know that I do, and the bit of fundamentalism that’s still clacking around in my brain jumps on it.
They were right all along, it says. You need religion to matter, it tells me. All these things I know are false – at least, for me – because religion (christianity specifically) is an unsafe place for me, and is the place I can trace back to when I want to find out why I feel worthless to start with.
I know it’s wrong, because I never found the answers I needed in religion – the pat answers and just don’t think about it too much cliches aren’t useful to me. So it’s weird when I suddenly find myself feeling depressed and reaching for those non-existent platitudes.
And it’s taken me all of this week to figure out what I’ve known all along.
I don’t need to have a reason for everything all the time. Unknowns are perfectly okay and legitimate. I don’t live in an environment anymore where I need to have an answer for everything.
And that’s gloriously freeing.

Giving Too Much

Ever since my family became devout, they became regular tithers and givers. Before I go further, I should point out there is nothing wrong with giving as long as that giving isn’t negatively affecting your life (or that of your kids/family).

Which, I realized somewhat recently is the case with my own family.
They started out giving 10% (the actual biblical definition of a tithe) all the time. Then, they realized that wasn’t enough, and “god told them” to give more and more and more until the last time I remember was them “tithing” 50-60% of their income and waffling with  giving more, because their faith, at one point, wasn’t strong enough to give 70% because they had hungry mouths to feed.

When I was 10, my family chose to allow our house to be foreclosed on because “god told them” to pay another families’ mortgage, and when my parents couldn’t financially afford to pay both, they decided (knowing full-well the consequences) to stop paying their mortgage instead, trusting that “god would provide” a way to keep our house, or a new place for us to live.
“god’s provision” happened at the hand of my grandparents who noticed the building next door was for rent and the landlords weren’t picky about having a family who’s house had just been foreclosed on (every other place my parents looked turned them down), renting from him. This happened the day we had to be out of our foreclosed-on house and we were looking at being homeless.

My parents refused to pay their mortgage and take care of their family because “god told them” to do that for someone else. 
Not to mention, at this time, we had another family living with us because my parents believed god brought them into our lives so this woman could get her children back from CPS.

Because my large family + this additional family who my parents payed to live with us, so she could homeschool her kids but still say she “had a job” were moving in to this house, my brother’s room was a closet, literally, he lived in a closet. My sister’s all roomed in a portion of the master suite my dad partitioned off from their room, and I shared a room with the other families’ eldest daughter, and the rest of her family had the separated off room/bathroom combination. At one point their cousin came to live with us too, and he slept on the floor outside my room, in the dining room.

My parents didn’t really mind the fact that this mother was taking as much advantage of me as my mother until I had a breakdown one day and they decided everyone should do chores and cooking, not just me. Eventually, my family had to ask the family they invited to live with us for free to leave, because the mother had started abusing pharmaceuticals again after regaining custody (which was part of the reason she lost custody of her kids initially).

At some point between these two events my parents did stop paying the other families’ mortgage, I think because they found out and asked them to stop (how they didn’t know, I don’t know, I was a kid,  this was all foreign to me).

This whole time my parents have been tithing more and more – by the time we moved to GA to live in the house my grandparents bought for their retirement, my parents were tithing close to 50% of their income. After my dad found a job that payed significantly less than the one he had previously, they tithed 50-60% of their income, fully believing that “god would provide” and by refusing to acknowledge that my grandparents are the reason we had a house, food, and shoes that fit, “god” did provide.

There were multiple times, aside from being forced out of our house, that I was worried if we’d even be able to eat, and I remember my mom talking to my grandma, and at one point, there was a series of weeks where my grandparents paid for an Angel Food subscription for us because we couldn’t afford groceries.

At birthdays, and even in-between them my grandparents would buy us new shoes and clothes (which was always really nice because most of what we wore was hand-me-downs from pitying church folk, or old clothes of mine passed down to my sisters) because, really, we couldn’t afford a lot of that either – at least not at the rate that 8 kids grow. I think it was a relief to them when I stopped growing at 15, and had only grown an inch or two between then and age 12 (stunted at the I-can-still-technically-shop-in-the-kids-section size – I’ve since grown curves, so, yay?).

But you know what we could afford? buying and donating a shit ton of everything to the Crisis Pregnancy Center, throwing extravagant donation-only christmas parties, putting together lavish packages for the Shoebox/Samaritan’s Purse group, making a ton of cookies and buying presents for everyone in church (and only keeping the cookies that didn’t come out right for ourselves after slaving in the kitchen for a week), putting together care packages for nursing homes, buying presents and making gift baskets for the entire neighborhood, and since I’ve left: creating the most elaborate easter baskets for all of the church kids (but my siblings only get the $1 chocolate and whatever is cheap and on sale or left over).

My family gets the short end of the stick because they have to support 6 kids-at-home on 40-50% of whatever my dad makes. Everything else goes to churches, people (projects), and random “ministries”, in the name of “god”.


I remember having long devotions about tithing and how you have to tithe to be a good christian (also, the more you give the better christian you are), and how if you don’t tithe, your life will be horrible and “god won’t bless it”

I’d heard so often that if things aren’t done X way, then your life will be bad. Given my already hellish childhood, when I was a teenager I was actually scared of what would happen when I left home.

I was afraid that I would have to live my childhood all over again, on my own, but worse, because god would be after me, specifically.
Part of the reason I didn’t want to get married for so long was because I couldn’t imagine having to go back and make all the decisions my parents made and live through that all over again.

When Alex and I were getting serious I tried to get him to promise me that we would always tithe. Because if we didn’t, I knew that there would be horrible consequences – because my family was “so blessed” and doing everything right, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if we didn’t. 

I couldn’t imagine how dire the consequences of not tithing would be, after living my entire life in a house that was so other-centric it neglected their own children’s needs. I thought it would be a nightmare. I was just so so afraid of what would happen if I left home, if I didn’t tithe, if I didn’t live exactly the way my parents did, because I knew what that was like and I hoped that eventually it would get better – that they would get their 100 fold, and everything wouldn’t be so scary.

I was terrified at the thought of having to walk that path again, myself, starting from square one.


As an adult now, and learning how the world works…I was lied to so much, and so much fear was ingrained that was completely baseless. Never once have I had any cause to be legitimately worried about food (not to say that I haven’t, because an empty fridge is a huge trigger even if it just because we ate out all week instead of shopping), never once has my life been anywhere near as hellish and scary as it was in my childhood.
“god” has not come after me like the mafia for “his money”, and I have a lot more satisfaction giving what I can to who I want, than giving more than is financially wise to whatever church I’m in that day.

My family could have, at any time, started paying their mortgage, or maybe cut-back on tithe for a month so we could eat. Instead, my family decided to bring financial crises upon themselves because they thought “god told them” and it made them better christians. 

And that’s really all that it’s about, isn’t it?

Kiery Gets Shots

So, I’ve talked before about how medically neglectful my parents were...and how they believed in faith healing instead of going to the doctor, because doctors are evil.
They also spent a LOT of time, drilling into me/us that immunizations/vaccines are dangerous (and evil) and you will either get sick or die from them – clearly, because they are not of-god.
So today, after having my tetanus, etc, shots out of date for over a decade (I actually don’t remember the last time I got immunized, I just know that I did before my parents went nuts), I went to Planned Parenthood to start on getting the Gardasil vaccine (Yay, 1/3rd of the way to not getting cervical cancer) and…. I got my TDAP shot! So, I am now safe from tetanus, diptheria, something else, and whooping cough until I’m 33! 😀
Though my shoulders are mildly achey (one shot in each arm), it really wasn’t as bad as I was preparing myself for (heh internet) – and taking ibuprofen has helped with the minor uncomfortability of my body realizing it had two shots (and also realizing that it was up all night driving back home from an awesome weekend in NYC where we saw Comedy Bang! Bang! and The Thrilling Adventure Hour).
I have not yet shown signs of tetanus, whooping cough, HPV, diptheria, or that other thing.
SCIENCE YOU GUYS, SCIENCE.
So, I am immune to things again! And it is awesome.
I feel like a BAMF.

parents

I’ve had really vivid dreams lately, probably due to getting over the lingering effects of a cold (it was a horrible cold, and I’m mostly better but still dealing with minor sinus issues). My dreams have been weirdly stressful and tend to feature my family and I wake up feeling like I haven’t slept, but last night…last night I dreamt that my dad was shooting at me. A lot, constantly, I was trying to leave and he was just shooting and shooting and following me and shooting, and that’s the first time that’s happened. The last time I had a similar dream, my dad was a bear trying to eat Alex and I…this is the first time there were guns.
Which makes sense, my family has at least 3.
A few weeks ago I sent my family an open letter, addressing the things I knew they were upset about (my hair, my sexuality, my lack of pregnancy, telling them once and for all that I’m an agnostic), and telling them things about me that they probably didn’t care to know, and ending it by telling them to stop using me as a bat on my siblings, and to leave me alone (with the caveat of, if they ever get over themselves and decide to accept me as a human and get to know me and not just spy for creating-drama purposes, to talk to me instead of going through other people). Considering all my family really cares about is using me to create drama, I think that my letter shut everyone up about me like I thought it would.
My theory was that by giving everyone the same information about me they wouldn’t have anything to gossip or speculate about or reason to use whatever means necessary to spy – since I answered all their questions/issues and took the interestingness out of it.
It’s been radio silence and I hope it keeps. It’s weird, you know…my parents said they wanted nothing to do with me until I apologized to them in 2010, but then conveniently forgot that when it suited their purposes (I’m assuming, to make them look good in front of church people – it’s what they do). I unfriended everyone on my mom’s side in November and the family freaked out when they realized it, but I’ve never once been asked, genuinely, how I am, no one has tried to get to know me in five years, they’ve only been intent on spying and using me as a tool to inflict guilt on my siblings and that’s just wrong. Every contact I’ve had with them has been silently self-serving, done of obligation, or not-so-subtly implied that they wished I was who they wanted me to be and approved of and not who I am. I don’t have time for that.
I will never live up to what they want me to be, and sometimes that hurts a lot more than I want to admit.
I put up a strong face – I throw up brick walls the way Elsa made her Ice Castle, bury the pain inside the mortar.

 
It’s easier to be callous and cold and numb, than angry, and vulnerable, and hurt. So I act like it doesn’t bother me, Fuck them all is my mantra, but it does bother me and I wish that it wouldn’t.
I wish that I didn’t feel as though the most abusive people in my life mean something. Because I feel like they shouldn’t. I wish I didn’t feel sad because I know that by merely existing  I’m letting down the people who spent my entire childhood neglecting me and using me.
Sometimes I feel like the Hulk and my secret is that I’m always angry. Because I am angry. I’m angry at how they get off scot-free, I’m angry at how the world thinks we need to revere parents even when our parents are the bullies we couldn’t escape. I’m angry that they can keep on manipulating people and lying and living with no guilt or remorse, with aid from family, and keep people on their side and looking up to them – as people with Narcissism and Borderline are really good at doing.
My family is looked up to in churches, cited as examples, people seek out my parents to ask them advice about homeschooling and child-rearing (and other things), they think the fact that my mom has destroyed her body having kids is awesome and noble.
No one sees the dark underbelly of what it looks like to grow up with them and their life choices, no one registers the fake smiles, no one sees past the masks.
And I get to pick up the pieces.
I can’t look at an infant or pregnant person without feeling ill and stressed out. I panic every time I see a stroller, or an entitled parent at a restaurant. I get to be condemned for not having or wanting kids, for not doing anything for mother’s day, for doing what I need to do for my sanity and quality of life that involves cutting out the toxicity that is my family. I can’t leave my apartment without being bombarded by triggers, I can’t talk to any nosey old person without being patronized about my existence, the general consensus of the world does everything in it’s power to tell me that everything about me is wrong and flies in the face of what is approved of and wouldn’t it just be easier if I killed everything-that-is-me and conformed?
I’m planning out how to help my siblings after they reach adulthood because my parents thought it was unnecessary for half of my sisters to have identification, and everyone born after 1999 is unvaccinated.
This is the aftermath of growing up with abusive and neglectful parents and extended family who enable them. You bet your ass I’m angry.
And also crying.
Because no one fucking deserves this.

My Elaborate Plan

Five years ago, on my birthday, I left home.


Obviously, there’s a lot of backstory to this, and, I guess, this is that story.
I didn’t say goodbye – I couldn’t say goodbye. I was terrified that if I did, if I told them I was leaving, that they would shut me in my room, and jam the door and not let me out. That they wouldn’t let me out of their eyesight ever again, despite my having reached legal age where they couldn’t do anything – and I would have fought, you bet your ass I would have fought. I would have called whoever I could, police included, if they locked me up when I was 18 – but I didn’t want that to happen, I didn’t need that delay, I didn’t need that pressure or the guilt trips that would then ensue and cause me to acquiesce.


My mom was 9 months pregnant with the last child, due any day – I prayed that my mom would have the baby before my birthday, so I didn’t have that weight on my shoulders. I talked about how praying never really worked for me, this wasn’t any different.


I had spent the last three months planning my party, working on my parents to let me go to the mall by myself without a sibling. I told them of my plans many times – how I was going to hangout and eat dinner with friends and then we’d go to a movie and they could pick me up at like 10 or 11 when the movie let out.


I started carrying a messenger bag with me everywhere I went months ahead of time too, so when I packed what I was bringing with me, and brought it to the mall, they wouldn’t notice anything different. I always had a jacket in there to keep it looking full, no one thought anything of it. On my birthday, I packed my vital records that I had kept/hidden after getting my driver’s license the month prior, my HSLDA diploma, my laptop, a pair of clothes, and my conveniently travel sized birthday presents.


I convinced my family to celebrate my birthday early, before I left for the mall because I would be home after the kids went to bed and we had church in the morning. They didn’t really like it, but they went along with it.
I had bought all of my siblings presents with some leftover amazon money from christmas or something, and put them in my backpack by my bed with a note dividing up my stuff and saying I love them.


I got to the mall, and my closest friends met me and we had an early dinner and that was as far as the plan I told my parents about went, because after that, my actual plan came into play.


This plan, the escaping part, had been in the works for over six months.
In August of 2008, right before the olympic opening ceremonies, Alex and I woke up to an email in our inboxes from my parents saying “we have decided to end the relationship between Alex and Kierstyn and are forbidding them from speaking to each other.”


This happened conveniently after my mother had yet another positive pregnancy test (or whatever it was that indicated to her that she was pregnant and had every reason to control my entire existence again). Things had started going downhill since that May, and the last time Alex and I had seen each other in person(June), we created this plan.


If my parents broke us up (because they had been acting like they were about to and causing a lot of drama and being suddenly very negative and pushy and ridiculous) that on my birthday Alex would come get me, and we would run away.  If it was on my birthday, there would be nothing legally my parents could do, since I was legally an adult – we would be free to do whatever. We hoped it wouldn’t come to that.


July happens, Alex is asking about a proposal (the earliness, yeah, okay, they were pushy) twice is what sent them over the edge – twice because they didn’t respond the first time and the vacation he was planning on proposing to me on was coming up soon and he needed to buy tickets.


Interestingly, when Alex asked my dad in general about proposing, my dad gave a whole-hearted yes that lasted until the next morning when my mom took me aside and told me that my dad had changed his mind. This wasn’t the only time this had happened – dad endorsing something, then going to bed and “changing his mind” I knew it was bullshit, I knew my mom was actually behind it and the subsequent announcement of the pregnancy sent me over the edge. I was livid that my mom was having yet another baby, I cried on the phone to Alex telling him that my life was over – because in many ways, it was, this was the one that was going to do me in, if there was one that was going to do that. I realized I couldn’t keep living as my parents slave but I also had no choice. At this point I didn’t realize that what was happening was abusive and wrong, I thought I was wrong. This pregnancy is when the shit hit the fan.


So August, the email happened. The email obviously created an email fight and I was too emotionally distraught to deal with it, so I told people to stop CCing me. I screamed and cried uncontrollably, I went outside where I was alone and there was room only to have my mom come out and tell me to get back inside or someone will think something is wrong (ya think? asshole). I went in, and she sat on my bed and deigned to tell me she understood what I was going through (um, she has no idea what it’s like for parents to decide they can retract your adulthood, control every move of your life, and break you up with your boyfriend just by being parents – her parents didn’t do that). I glared at her through streaming tears, and managed to muster “only for six months”, she said “no” shook her head and left, as I watched her, still glaring.


This triggered a borderline suicidal depression, or whatever it is that results in suicidal ideation – because I did that a lot. I was already depressed (but I didn’t know it until I started meds and realized what not depressed felt like, and realized that was not what I had ever experienced), but this was just, every time I thought I hit bottom, the bottom caved in and I fell deeper deeper deeper into an increasingly dark abyss, of confusion and self loathing and numbness.

I was always waiting for another shoe to fall because they kept hitting my head, it was unbearable, and the entire six months, that went unnoticed. No one said anything. In fact, I barely talked to my parents at all except to go over my birthday plan and be demanded of. I felt so alone and uncared for and every day I felt like I was dying inside, and every day I was reminded just how much my parents really didn’t give a shit about me as myself, only in relation to my service to them.


Interestingly enough, I had told my parents, after my trip in June, that Alex and I were planning on running away together should they break us up, because they were all like “we feel like maybe if things keep going this way we’ll have to stop it” and I was like “yeah, well, if you do, I’m leaving” and they didn’t believe me, or remember this conversation. I remembered it because I thought I was screwed – turns out my parents don’t have much of a memory for things I say, unless it makes them angry and/or bent on punishing me. And before anyone dares get into “but parents are wiser” territory, this was about stuff that had been completely resolved, stuff that happened because I was projecting things (my parents) onto people, and stuff that was cleared up because I was apologized to. And also about petty theological disagreements my parents had with his parents. Nothing that had anything at all to do with the relationship or the relationship dynamics between Alex and I – just them and his parents (again. my parents destroyed so many of my friendships because of their disagreements with parents).

So, I bode my time, I flew under the radar, I became what felt like invisible – I made plans to get my driver’s license in January, started carrying my messenger bag around in October or November, and started birthday planning in November, and was beyond that, never noticed.


I told some people I trusted about my plan, and was supported, mostly – except for one person who was supportive at first, and then was like, you have to tell your parents because youth pastor said and I was like “…” but all my close friends, all the ones who’d been with Alex and I from the start, knew sort of what was going on and were super supportive – which meant the world (and still does <3). Then I left, I left on my birthday without saying goodbye, before my mom had the baby.

My grandparents had come up for the baby/to be around to help, so I wasn’t leaving them hanging. I don’t know what it says about me that I still, five years later, have to justify my escape with but my grandparents were there, so I knew the kids would be taken care of, and I wasn’t abandoning them altogether.  I think I feel like people will still be like, but you left your siblings! Which, I’m pretty sure is not the reaction people should have, because I shouldn’t have had to have been my siblings’ (essentially) primary caretaker in the first place. Strangely enough, I’ve never had that reaction, but it could be because I always pre-emptively answer it.


It killed me though. Leaving without saying goodbye killed me. I mean, I said goodbye, but not with the “I’ll never see you again probably” ending, but I hugged and kissed them before I left, because I needed to. Because, I was leaving everything. Leaving didn’t trigger a change of heart on my parents, it just enraged them. I didn’t know if I’d ever see them again, honestly, I still don’t know if I’ll ever see my siblings again. My grandparents paid for our plane ticket to see my family in the December of 2009, and that’s the last I’ve seen of them.


My parents have spent the last five years telling my siblings not to be like me.


In 2010 my parents decided they wanted nothing to do with me until I apologized to them for the hurt I caused. It destroyed me. I didn’t leave my room for two weeks.


I don’t know how to say this emphatically enough, leaving was hard, it was brutal, it wasn’t something I did willy-nilly, it destroyed me, there were times I re-thought leaving at all because I knew it meant leaving my siblings and believe it or not I do give a shit about them. Ultimately I left, because it was a life or death choice. I could stay, and wither and die – internally, definitely, and with a daily increasing possibility of physically – or I could leave, and have a chance at life and then be there on the other side for my siblings when they get older – or at least have that chance. So I left. I left on my birthday five years ago, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done (to. this. day.).


I just wish that maybe people really understood what that meant – means – feels like.

I have something to show you

It’s funny and probably in no way coincidental that I was talking about art last night  – and how powerful it is – with a couple friends. It’s been a while since I really thought about the subject, I’m more of a “just leave me alone and let me make my own shit” kind of person who will learn theory and whatever I need to in my own time, at my own pace, and it will happen organically at a point where I really get it.
But art being something subjective and the beauty and power in that is something I’ve always loved about it and what draws me to it. I believe that good art lets the viewer find their truth, find what they need and is less of a cohesively preachy piece of work than something powerful on a subconscious level. The beauty is the creator doesn’t know what people are going to find when they look at it – the artist knows it means something to them, so they paint it – people who view it might not find what the artist intended them to see, but something they needed to see instead (which, can be frustrating). I believe that good art does this. Good art resonates on a level we maybe don’t consciously understand, or at least maybe don’t right away (or we do right away, because that’s how we are and what we need). Good art resonates.
And I’m happy to be able to announce a project that showcases good art – with people who understand the power and beauty and vulnerability of it.
We are the Swan Children, and we have something to show you.
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I don't know what to call this

I was going through the files on my laptop looking for something specific and I ran across a picture that I saved from 2007. I won’t post it here, because it makes my stomach turn, but content note: graphic descriptions of infections and medical neglect.
My parents stopped taking us to doctors before I was 10. They believed that god told them doctors were evil, to go to doctors was to not have faith in god’s ability and will to heal the sick. Along with that, came the belief that if you were sick, it likely had something to do with sin in your life. Both of these came from James 5.
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So, anytime we got sick, we did that. We’d have dad pray for us, literally anoint us with extra virgin olive oil, and then make sure we didn’t have any unconfessed sins. Ex: a cancer sore we could have because we “talked back”.
Because my parents didn’t believe in doctors, they also didn’t believe in medicine, because there is a greek word called Pharmakeia which is where the word pharmacy is derived from, but also means witchcraft. My parents made the jump to then decide that any medication, including ibuprofen and tylenol is evil, because witchcraft.
(side note: just writing this all out now is making me feel sick. First, I can’t believe I remember these arguments so well, and secondly, I just, I can’t, it’s so stupid)
We had one bottle of children’s chewable aspirin on hand, they reasoned THAT was okay because it’s from bark, not chemicals, and because one of my sisters was prone to migraines that resulted in vomiting – but that was only for dire emergencies.
My mom had “natural” remedies, like tea tree oil, oil of oregano, and wurther’s hard candies (for sore throats  << that one I’m not complaining about, actually, it was candy). Stuff that 1) doesn’t actually make sense and 2) is not located anywhere near the pharmacy area in the grocery store.
(side note: it took Alex so long to get me to take ibuprofen for migraines because of this.)
So, when I was 16 and a half, I had this horrible horrible infection on my leg. I could not move. It was swollen and oozing and painful, any movement at all was excruciating (and no painkillers), it swelled so much that my thigh didn’t look like part of my leg anymore, it was some weird mutated…thing.
My parents believed it was boils, like Job had (Job 2:7)
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So, they prayed for me, anointed me with oil, asked about my sins, which I couldn’t think of and then….the fun started.
Remember: no medicine, no doctors, nothing. My mom decided we had to keep the infection clean (makes sense), so, she would push and squeeze the abscess until puss came out of it (so. fucking. painful.), then she would put oil of oregano in and around the wound because it was a “topical pain reliever” and “antiseptic”, I’m pretty sure hydrogen peroxide happened too. Basically I just remember my siblings complaining that I smelled like spaghetti (maybe that’s why I hate it so much).
It was deep, and there was a good bit of blood – it was blue and swollen around the..head? I still have a visible scar from that first one. And the second one.
This went on from the time I was 16 and a half until I was 18 – it didn’t start fully clearing up until I left home, though it had gone down in intensity.
The second one, was right below the first, had two heads (which I think had more to do with my mom PHYSICALLY SQUEEZING THE ABSCESS than anything else) each wound was big enough you could put a pencil eraser in (I still have that scar too), and there was like, a flesh bridge between the two holes, so they were connected /open at the bottom/inside the wound, but on the top there was a little bit of skin that kept it from being a fucking gash.
After the first one though, my parents were less concerned, and I managed to move – while still in excruciating amounts of pain with no recourse – and do chores and go places and manage.
As time passed and I continued to get these and they continued to leave scars and I continued to function in large amounts of pain, my mom started commenting on how my legs looked.
Because, due to the scars – and random abscesses, they looked polka-dotted. So, I wore only jeans or ankle-length skirts (or tights) so as to hide the hideousness of my infected legs. (This continued well into my marriage, in fact I think it was around a year before I stopped wearing exclusively jeans and wore skirts/dresses that were above my knee, because of that reason.)
I walked for 10 hours in boots with an abscess on my knee (it was not fun and towards the end of the day I was having a really hard time walking/keeping up with the group, but being carried was not Teenpact Appropriate). Some of my skirts had stains from them.
I passed up an opportunity to intern with Teenpact after that trip because of my legs and knowing I wouldn’t have the stamina required to wear heels and walk all day.
They were frequent but became smaller – I started to be able to get to them before they developed into something bigger.
This whole time though, over a year and a half  – no one thought anything of it, no one thought to maybe get it checked out, this infection that didn’t go away – this thing that we’re calling boils and figure it has something to do with god, and not providing any kind of relief from the pain, I just had to suck it up and deal with it, and I did.
Our second year together, my legs and scars were healing and I was wearing shorts and short skirts and my parents would always comment on my legs – “oh, it looks like they’re clearing up!” which actually just reminded me that my legs might still be unseemly and polka dotted.
I realized, yesterday, after digging up that picture on accident, that my infection, much like my teeth, was something that they had the power to stop and chose not to. Instead they chose to shame me about it and give me the bare minimum of help (if oregano oil and being made fun of because of it counts as help) because of their religion.
The first two scars are shiny and feel weirdly smooth, but are fading.
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