Category Homeschooling

46 posts

On being a broom (and why I can't just relax and enjoy shit)

I realized why I have a hard time relaxing and taking actual vacations and even enjoying the holidays.
As a child all of the times that most children have “off” to play and relax and do their own thing, I never had. We never had summer break, we took Nov-Jan off every year instead, and during those two months we never rested. During those two months, my mom made lists, my mom kept us running ragged either baking or crafting or “ministering” to other people, or doing deep seasonal cleaning. I remember, vividly, begging, all of us, begging to keep ONE DAY in two months free so we could just watch a movie and relax and not make cookies (or make cookies that we actually got to eat instead of for everyone and their aunt).
We had “parties” that I don’t ever remember being fun, because the entire time leading up we spent deep cleaning, and cooking, and setting up, and then when it was party time I had to help mom keep the party and the guests organized and on-schedule, and I had to make sure the dessert came out of the oven at the right time, and often was interrupted with some kind of caretaking need in the middle of a group activity.
My mom hated it when I planned my own (graduation) party and I told her she couldn’t do anything and that I had no plans, and we were just going to hangout, maybe watch a movie and order pizza. Even then she still tried to dictate what happened when, I was still pulled aside, it was still stressful.
All I remember my mom doing during breaks, and actually for the majority of my childhood was sitting in her recliner, writing us lists of things to do, and getting upset when we didn’t do them all fast enough for her.
Her version of helping and “being productive” was sitting there, after giving us our lists, watching us do the things on the list and telling us what we were dong wrong or should do differently, or coming up with more things to do simultaneously.
There is no pleasing my mother. We had “breaks” solely so we could do chores and things we couldn’t have done while we were “schooling”. Forget that we didn’t school on Fridays, because Fridays were intense cleaning days, you know, on top of normal cleaning all week.
Even my dad, my mom would write HUGE “honey-do” lists for on his one week off (you know, when we kids just wanted to play and have him rescue our toys from the packaging). My mom was a slave-driver who bred her own slaves.
And yes, I do feel like I and all my siblings are just slaves in my mothers eyes. She wouldn’t say it that way, but that’s exactly how they live(d) and practice(d), and people wonder why I have horrible self esteem issues.
I mean, I was told, outright, for years, that my purpose and job in life (while I was home) was to serve my “family” (i.e. mom). I felt, literally (I cannot emphasize this enough) like I was just a broom with arms, legs, and a heartbeat. I remember standing in the kitchen one day, fighting back tears, devastated as I was doing two things at once, that I didn’t have 8 arms, because I could. not. keep. my. mother. happy. I could not physically clean, and cook, and hold the baby, and do the laundry all at the same time. I was human, I ONLY HAD TWO ARMS, and yet, there was my mom, in her chair in the next room, berating and harassing me because while I was cleaning the dishes and cooking and had a toddler draped around my leg, I hadn’t yet started the laundry, or brought her snack.
If I was “caught” doing anything that loosely resembled “relaxing” that was immediately rectified with other tasks (unless it was bedtime, or the like 90 minutes of “free time” I had that rapidly shrank). I feel horribly guilty if I am not doing some kind of mundane work when I could be, because I was never allowed to breathe.
I wasn’t a person until I ran away. Before that, I was nothing more than a breathing, walking, broom. 

Realizations

*There is no coherent flow to this, that’s why it’s numbered. Just needed to let these escape my head, so hopefully I can kill this migraine now.
I was remembering some things, about being homeschooled – with a few years of distance the ridiculousness of some of it has been made obvious, but I also realized a couple things:
1) I’m pretty good at ignoring things for long amounts of time, which sometimes makes me consciously unaware of micro-aggressions and things that bother a lot of people, because I got that all the time growing up and just tuned it out until it became impossible. This isn’t healthy, I don’t recommend it, it’s not cool, because it unconsciously affects me still, even when I don’t realize it, and it’s only when I become consciously aware of it, that things start to make sense.
This comes with a caveat though – the amount of time I can ignore a thing depends a lot on who’s saying it and how (and how many other things they’ve said over a period of time). Or I suppose, how quickly the boxes that all of these things go in get filled up, because after they get filled up, I notice – until my brain makes other boxes (but the things I notice don’t go in the new boxes after I’ve noticed them. This is, I suppose, how I’ve picked up on a lot of passive aggression, or aggression). This is a strange coping mechanism I didn’t realize I had until recently.
But this is what helped me get through childhood – especially puberty. I was able to drown out my mom’s comments about my appearance/self/existence for a very long time, it wouldn’t bother me (except that it did, but I didn’t feel it at the time). I was somehow able to write it off as stupid and shove it in a box to deal with later. It worked well in my early teens, and began to take it’s toll in my late teens, and kind of really started wreaking havoc after my parents rejected me in 2010. Suddenly all of the negative things they said about me, for years were cemented in a way I didn’t realize they had been before.
2) The role my parents treated me and my education has a lot to do with how I perceive myself, and is somehow connected to my gender identity (or seems to be. This is all subject to change because I’m still trying to figure things out). Because I was born anatomically female, I was raised as a woman and limited.
They got out of trying to educate me in higher maths and sciences because I was a woman and wouldn’t need them anyway (after all, I’m just going to be keeping house and having kids like my mom when I grow up). I spent more time taking care of my siblings and running the house because I was a woman and needed the practice. I was refused the option of college because I was a woman and women don’t need higher education to be homemakers.
The fighter in me, the warrior and protector in me, the chemist, the geometrist(? what name do people who do geometry give themselves?), the astronomer, the molecular biologist in me were never allowed room to be or grow or develop because I was a woman (and also, science is evil).
Being a woman means I am not able to exist as a whole person. I cannot be a woman and a fighter, a scientist, a creator, an entrepreneur, a techy, anything not associated with the pinnacle of femininity and child having.
Which, is, unfortunate? (I guess?) considering I’m everything BUT the pinnacle of femininity and child having and actively avoid it.
I know logically, identifying as a woman does not mean I can’t be any of those things. My favorite scientist was a woman (Marie Curie < coincidentally, the only one I managed to learn about), women started the tech industry, having a uterus does not actually mean that I cannot be X.
Except that, in the way I, and so. many. others. have been raised and conditioned, that is what it means. And it’s the strong ones who come out of that and fly in the face of what patriarchal society says a woman is, and still identify as one.
But I can’t. It doesn’t fit me. I don’t feel like I belong, because I just feel so trapped by it.
I don’t want to be defined and have my role in life “set” for me (by societal pressure) because of the body parts I have or don’t have, and I admire the people who are able to move past that and not let that affect them. But for me, calling myself a woman just means I’m holding myself back from my own existence, and I’ve spent enough of my existence being held back.
3) There are so many nuances and things I need to learn that I’m just not in a healthy enough mental place to deal with. I don’t have the mental or emotional energy to pour myself into women’s studies and queer theory or learn about all the ways people are biphobic. I wish I could, because then I could combat it, and I would learn more about myself in the process, but I just can’t. And sometimes that makes me feel like a bad person.
Because, it hurts when people question my faithfulness because I’m bi, and I know there are little things about my sexuality and gender identity that are being put into those boxes subconsciously.
But I just can’t. I can’t get through a talk on privilege without starting a self-loathing cycle and realizing how horrible of a person I am, and also feeling as though people are trying to silence me (when I’ve been silenced for so long). It’s not for lack of wanting to learn, it’s just, I’m not in a place where I can do that and keep my sanity and keep depression at bay.
It bothers me. It’s probably horrible of me.
But I know where I am and I know it’s just not a healthy thing for me to do right now, and as bad as I am at taking care of myself, this is one of those things I just have to wait on.I’ve been dealing with feeling out of body or trapped inside more often because stress and life and exhaustion.
I’m on the cusp of change – of realizing things about myself, awakening another piece of me that was long ago forgotten. I can feel it. I feel the restlessness and the tension, there is something brewing in my subconscious waiting to step out. Right now, I need to guard my calm like my life depends on it (sometimes it feels like it does).
4) When I lived in the south, my complexion was a lot darker than it is now that I live up north, where the sun is less strong and we don’t see it half the winter. When we moved to Georgia, I somehow became aware of this fact (that I had a middle-eastern/olive complexion). I don’t know why, I don’t know what caused it, I just remember becoming aware that I was ever so slightly darker complected. Not even in comparison to anyone, because in Florida and Georgia we had a lot of different ethnicities and Maine actually weirds me out because it’s so homogenous.
I don’t really know why I’m bringing this up. I just remembered that I noticed and I reacted and it was odd.
No, I remember now, this was the lip hair thing. Because I have dark, thick hair – especially on my face – very thick eyebrows, and my mom was like, yeah, it’s because you’re part lebanese, that’s why you have dark lip hair, and then the pain with the cream…that’s why I didn’t like it, that’s why I noticed, because in that conversation, she also brought up olive skin tones. And that connection is what triggered the odd only-parent-induced sense of shame and self-consciousness about my genetics (which, wtf).

On Femininity

Good Homeschooled Girls are supposed to be perfect. They’re supposed to be Pollyanna, Elsie Dinsmore, and Jane Bennet.  They’re supposed to be completely innocent, unnoticed, modest, graceful, but still look beautiful and unblemished (while not thinking too hard about it).
Good Homeschooled Girls are impossible. All of us are wearing masks, we’re all acting feminine, we’re all hiding ourselves, because none of us are that perfect.
Instead, we are berated – we are told we are never enough, that we’ll never be good enough, that we don’t measure up. We’re told we need to fix our hair and only wear makeup to cover our acne, we’re told we need to look just so – but not focus on it. Our appearance and personalities are shamed, muted. We are turned into china dolls – empty, silent, porcelain – while we die slowly inside. Our unique identities are stripped – told to be sinful – our independence denied, and to fight for it is to abandon all that we were raised to be.
Our dreams – if they exist outside the chosen path – are cast aside, scoffed at, or allowed under very specific circumstances and made to end upon marriage and/or pregnancy.
And if we abandon this dream, or if we seem to have a particularly hard time measuring up to this standard? We are broken, and there is something wrong with us. To base our worth in who we are instead of when our uterus is used flies in the face of this ideal.
Elsie DinsmoreBeautiful Girlhood, and Jane Austen are the books that are handed to us as examples of femininity and how we should conduct ourselves. Good Homeschooled Girls are supposed to be quiet, demure, masters in the art of domesticity – never raising their voices or asserting themselves, never doing heavy lifting (unless it’s babies or laundry baskets), always walking with poise, always graceful, always innocent and perfect, never loud.
The first two emphasize the devaluing of self as godly and feminine. I can’t speak to Jane Austen because I’ve never been able to make it past the first chapter.

Innocent, all with Hayley Mills and a yellow house in Maine and everything, harmless. Right?
If we leave it at the movie, sure(?).I didn’t know at the time, but the out-dated standards they sing about – is something that is invisibly expected of all Good Homeschooled Girls.
The line: hide the real you while it was probably meant to be funny and absurd was essentially my way of life.
I’ve always been stubborn, strong-willed, and independent – when it worked in my parents favor, this was a good thing, otherwise it was something to be squelched.
I was never really a tom-boy, sports bored me and seemed pointless – which, I suppose naturally meant I was a good candidate for the social experiment of super-girly-femininity. I was given books – Elsie Dinsmore, Beautiful Girlhood, Pride and Prejudice or Emma or Northanger Abbey (I don’t remember which ended up in our collection), and etiquette 101 for tweens (I can’t remember the name). I had to learn to be hospitable and submissive, though my parents never (or rarely) used the word feminine. Submissive and feminine are often synonymous here.
I read them, dutifully, internalizing the expectations (well except Austen. I just couldn’t, but that comes in later). My parents never really talked with me about this, they had a tendency to just give me the books and expect I learn from them. Elsie is less fiction and more a not-so-subtle way of giving young girls impossible and unhealthy expectations and telling them they’re worthless if they can’t master it as Elsie did.
It didn’t take long for me to realize Elsie is an impossible set of standards that I was never going to meet. Though the real line was when she married her father’s best friend. I couldn’t bring myself to do it anymore, arranged marriages to a man who’s old enough to be your father who was creepy as hell to you when you were 8, AND you’re too perfect and ideal to even exist or be relatable. Just, no.
The appeal of the civil war/regency era vanished – because I saw through what they were trying to do and I think it was my own secret form of rebellion, sort of. Good Homeschooled Girls are given these books as guidelines – Beautiful Girlhood literally is a guideline for femininity and social conduct.

First Recital
My first ballet recital to “Femininity” from Summer Magic

As much as I tried to mask my nature, to hide the real me, I was never able to do it well enough to be the pinnacle of femininity that I felt I was supposed to be.
Austen bored me, because I couldn’t get into the obsession with ribbons and dresses and who’s-courting-who. Elsie and Beautiful girlhood just made me more painfully aware of the inadequacies I was already painfully aware of.
I felt broken. I felt broken because I didn’t live up to this idealized standard of godly womanhood (or girlhood). I felt broken because I am not delicate, and no amount of silencing myself was going to re-write the core of my DNA. I come from a line of stubborn women, you can’t demure you’re way out of it. Or maybe you can, but I couldn’t. I felt like that meant I was less desirable (the end-goal of being female being married and having kids).
Being born female meant that I had my entire life and code of conduct set in front of me, no personality required. I was required to follow the program. I felt wrong because the very fiber of my being was in direct opposition to it.
It still is. 
I remember when I was 11 or 12 trying painfully to write fiction about an edwardian-era girl (instead of my book about the secret society of women who fought in the Revolution via spying because the Quartering Act) who sat in a garden in her frilly dresses and waited for suitors. I think I got maybe 4 paragraphs and then became frustrated because it was impossible for me to even write about that without getting bored.
The idea of being locked up, spending my life in waiting for someone to whisk me away, and then to spend the rest of my life locked up birthing and raising children horrified me. No matter how hard I tried to make it not, or how hard I tried to make it seem…as ultimate as people were telling me, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself it wasn’t certain death.
I couldn’t escape the feeling of the futility and meaninglessness of my life if all I was allowed to do was wait, and then have kids, and hope that one day they’d grow up to do the great things that I wanted to spend my life doing.
That meant something was wrong with me. I was too independent and god wouldn’t like that.
I remember being told, on several occasions, when I chose to fight for my autonomy, “independence is bad [for a woman], how do you think GOD feels about that [me being autonomous]?”
I was wrong and broken because I was not, am not, could not be demure, quiet, and feminine. I would never live up to the standards that good homeschooled girls are supposed to live up to – no matter how many masks I put on, or how hard I tried to hide myself.
I may never have been a tom-boy, but I was never the epitome of girlishness either.
Masks could only cover so much. I found ways to let myself be stubborn in subtle and approved ways. I was compliant to a point.
The things is, I know now that those books are poison to my rose-soul, but I still feel the need to embody all that is wispy delicate and feminine. I still feel broken because I don’t fit  the mold when other people project it onto me. Because it is impossible for me. It would require giving up my autonomy and a complete change of taste.

I can’t watch Pride and Prejudice without raging, I generally hate dramas (there are exceptions to this), I’d rather read a good fantasy or scifi novel or comic than a book about amish courtship (don’t get me fucking started), I love a good action movie – Give me robots fighting monsters any day.
None of my most basic preferences are even considered in the world of godly womanhood and good homeschooled girls. It is assumed that I LOOOOOOOVE anything by Austen, that cooking, courtship, and children appeal to all of my tastes and interests, that robots and monsters and other-worlds are boring and unnecessary, and action movies are for boys. When I express otherwise, it’s all but laughed at or ignored.

I watched the Lizzie Bennet Diaries without raging (loved it, even). I know Austen was groundbreaking for her time (a woman author? *gasp*), but I can’t read her – not just because I find it dry, but because of homeschool culture.
Good Homeschooled Girls are supposed to be looking waiting for their Mr. Darcy (an asshole, really?). Good Homeschooled Girls are supposed to be Jane Bennet (Lizzie is far too independent) which doesn’t make sense because Jane marries Mr. Bingley? I know too many people who are trying to hack the 21st century into a Jane Austen novel and it frightens and sickens me. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were balls and you married the person you danced with? I feel like that can’t be the point of Pride and Prejudice, but you wouldn’t know it in this particular subculture.
^ Don’t start thinking about it too hard, it’ll hurt your brain.
It is the obsession with denying women humanity – autonomy – and worth that pervades this whole idea. Good Homeschooled Girls have no needs. Good Homeschooled Girls are whatever they are told to be. Good Homeschooled Girls must gracefully and perfectly meet and fulfill contradictory requirements (look perfect, but don’t obsess about it! learn things, but don’t use your brain!), while never having a bad day or a human moment. Good Homeschooled Girls aren’t allowed to be.
All in the name of femininity.

Becoming Geek

Not so long ago, I was one of those really unsocialized homeschoolers who couldn’t hold up a conversation about Harry Potter but could tell you about ANWR (Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge), domestic (oil) drilling, and how little control our federal government really has over the control of oil prices. I’d only ever played racing video games occasionally – my favorite games were the educational ones my parents bought or that my grandpa got from school – namely, Mavis Beacon Typing, Story Weaver, and Amazon Trail. Those were just the games I was allowed to play, actually. My brother played Need For Speed, and Lego Racers (which I joined in on a few times) and was allowed video games and consoles.
I lived in a very controlling, mentally/spiritually/emotionally abusive home, where I raised and nurtured 6 of my siblings until I moved out days before my 7th sibling was born at 18. I was never encouraged in any artistic endeavor or to do anything but get married and become a breeder for religious reasons. That’s what I got for being born with a uterus – my reproductive organs defined my worth.
I never read The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter because magic was witchcraft, which we would inevitably start practicing if we were exposed to it (because of our lack of brains?). At one point we abandoned our Disney collection, until my mom had too many kids it was impractical to keep them from Cinderella even if it did have a fairy godmother in it, and she did use a spell (bippity, boppity, boo).
I thus immersed myself in historical fiction and studying history so intensely that I still have a lot of random stuff memorized. It was the only allowed form of geekiness that I had, and so, I used it. I had 4 pocket constitutions; for a couple years I always had one on hand, just in case. I knew where to find ANYTHING by the article, and often section number.
Because I was so intensely set on learning I saw through the bullshit that a lot of the history “teachers” in the Christian community were peddling. Their revisionist history – while I was never allowed to say otherwise without being lectured – was clearly ill informed, completely untrue, and lacking in any historical context. I knew this because I studied everything around and leading up to events just for the context.
Now when people try to tell me that we were meant to be a theocracy by our founders, I call bullshit and brainwashed.
That’s kind of besides the point, though. The point is that I was sheltered. I was not allowed to play actual video games for more than an hour here-or-there if my siblings needed a player 2. I wasn’t allowed to read fantasy books because of religion. I hadn’t seen Star Wars until I was nearly 17, and even then I was bored because it was Episode 1. I’m convinced we only saw it because my mom was confused about the “classic” nature of it, and the kid from Jingle All The Way was starring.
I didn’t see LOTR until I was 17 at my boyfriend’s house, because he was really into it: Tolkien quote in email signature and everything. We started with the extended edition – I had to watch it 3 different times before I got the story and then I fell in love with the genre and with LOTRTwo Towers especially.
When I moved out, and moved in with my boyfriend’s family which is an even longer story, we started playing the PC version of Halo on occasion. That was my first “real” introduction to gaming, even though I hated getting shot all the time while figuring out how to move. I was also introduced to Firefly and Fringe – we’d watch these quietly to avoid waking up his parents, who are also not into science fiction or fantasy.
When we got married, we bought our first console, cable, and I’ve come a long way since then. I’d always identified as a geek, much to my mom’s horror, because I always knew I was – so you can imagine my happiness upon finding not only a ton of content, but a ton of people who were into the same things. We discovered that Focus on the Family outright lied about Harry Potter; Doctor Who is amazing; Browncoats are forever; and GAMING IS FUN. There are games that have stories, you guys! STORIES, not just racing and/or shooting. I had found that piece of me that was missing and wanting to manifest, that piece of me that helps everything else make sense.
Ask any ex-quiverfull or fundamentalist daughter and they’ll tell you it’s reallllllly hard to escape the you-are-your-uterus-mindset and find out who you actually are, what you actually like. This has been a long process for me – an ongoing process even, because I’m still unlearning old thought processes. On bad days, I just sit and wonder if doing what I want is even worth it – if being me (whoever that is) is even worth it.
It is.
Now, I’m making the third season of my web-series. I started it last year in a moment of clarity, sudden bravery, and lack of fucks to give after an existential crisis.
This project, KieryGeek Season Three, is all about storytelling: the things that I love about gaming, sci-fi, fantasy, and geekdom – I’ll be talking about world-building in games and collecting play-through footage. I’ll also be creating stories with the help of my co-conspirator Matt (MALE FRIEND I’M NOT MARRIED TO WHAT? TAKE THAT UPBRINGING!) in a hangout format. I’d really like to see this funded not just because it’s cool and another kind of community, but because it would mean so much to me personally and my constantly self-critical psyche to do something amazing and worthwhile and completely me for a change.
Thank you everybody!

The irony.

iron-y
The irony of being featured for my writing and Homeschoolers Anonymous, and posting nothing in written form all week isn’t lost on me. I’ve been overwhelmed by the (amazing) responses and talking to so many people this week, it’s kinda surreal and hard to believe it’s only been a few days.
I felt for most of this week, that there wasn’t really much to say – I had an overwhelming feeling of Deja Vu, and some of the nervous energy I think transferred into pummeling through my creative block and actually making some headway with the Surface Pro, Sketch Book Pro and comic-drawing. I’ve actually been more proud of the drawings I’ve created over the last few days than I have been of my creations in a while.
I’ve been avoiding the comment sections religiously, but that’s not to say some of it hasn’t gotten back to me. Most of the negatives were exactly what I expected: largely dismissive responses, saying things that were never said or writing off our experiences as illegitimate, as if we aren’t “actual homeschoolers”.
So, I’d like to take a moment – before I go back to drawing – to say what I think it means to be an “actual homeschooler”.
It’s simply this:
If you are a parent, and you are homeschooling – you are not a homeschooler (you are a homeschooling parent). 
If you are/were a student who was/is homeschooled, you are a homeschooler. 
Every homeschooled child has a different experience. Saying that those of us who had negative experiences are making it up or because it’s  “only one” story doesn’t mean there isn’t a real and legitimate problem – simultaneously, this doesn’t mean that every homeschooling family is doing it poorly. Simply put: there are problems, abuse does happen and the situation is unique because there is little recourse to be taken on behalf of the people directly involved (homeschoolers). This is why we share our stories, because we have been silent – we want to help people who are feeling alone know they are not, to tell people who had no idea this went on that it exists, and hopefully aid well-intentioned parents in not falling into the same kinds of traps that we lived through. These are our stories, but they don’t have to be anyone else’s.

Sex™ (and the lies I was told about it)

*”Sex™” for this post refers to traditional (procreative/penetrative) intercourse*
Sex™ is hard – and I don’t mean it in the cute double-entandra way. I mean it’s difficult.
It’s hard being newly married with an unhealthy body image, unhealthy (and untrue) understanding of what Sex™ is and means. Becoming quickly disillusioned by false promises perpetuated by parents and theologians and feeling horribly ashamed – and mostly? mostly angry. Because the lies of my childhood permeated every fiber of my being and made intimacy scary.
Imagine being told that you’re damaged goods and no one in their right mind would love you if you had sex before you were married. Imagine being compared to murky water in a glass, a scratch on a sports car, a chip on fine china if you were to be impure (which is so loaded that it could even mean something as simple as having a crush on someone. I know I felt guilty and apologized for having a crush once – thinking that made me undesirable). Imagine being scrutinized for kissing, or so much as holding hands while dating. Because that leads to Sex™ you know? And there’s no such thing as self control.
But then also being told, as a young girl, that when you’re married – you have to have A LOT of Sex™. Whenever your husband wants it, and you have to have unprotected, unsafe Sex™, too, because otherwise you’re ruining god’s design. Being told that essentially your job, once married is to be a baby and sex machine – because otherwise your husband would probably leave you (don’t get me started).
To make this worth it? To make not having sex before you’re married worth it, they tell you that you will have The Best Sex Ever™ just because you’re the purest of them all.
The Best Sex Ever™ is supposed to happen with absolutely no knowledge of your body, learning only abstinence, and being told your entire life that Sex™ is evil, bad, and ungodly outside marriage, but that as soon as the pastor announces you, it’s the most best thing ever and you suddenly know all about your anatomy and how your bodies work together?
It’s about time someone called bullshit.
Purity teachings, abstinence only education, and guilt/fear/shame tactics about my sexuality have been hard to get rid of. They permeate, they collect, they stay, they tell me I can’t talk about the fact that I did not, indeed, have The Best Sex Ever™ because I waited and proceeded to be ignorant about my body. My ignorance has cost me much, personally. Largely in embarrassment, but also in identifying physical problems, and forming a healthy relationship with myself and my own sexuality.
Those feelings of failure persisted for a while, failure because purity teachings required us to be ignorant. Our parents subscribed to “if you tell them nothing, they won’t do it or know how”. The ignorance that was required, the lies I was told – the fact that value as humans were dependent on first: whether or not sex was had before marriage, and second: on how many kids you’ll have after – anger me to no end.
The philosophy of, women must be 1) horribly self-conscious and paranoid about other women their husband see and 2) must be gods in bed because that’s what’s keeping their husband there strikes me as demented and generally makes me want to strangle whoever is spreading that lie around.
I often feel strange when I’m around people who live this way. Because I don’t feel self conscious or paranoid, I don’t care, and I trust my partner. Our relationship is based on so much more than that.
“Purity” teaches you that appearances and sex are everything, but also that you should in no way think about or know about your body, sex, or have any healthy relationship regarding your sexuality or your future partner’s.
“Purity” taught me that ignorance is safe, wanted, necessary and it lead to me feeling like a failure, guilty, ashamed, confused, and disillusioned.
I was homeschooled,  I bought the lie, I believed ignorance was best, and I was told I’d be rewarded. I know countless others have suffered at the hands of purity teachings, and abstinence only education, of not being allowed to know about our own anatomy. I was ashamed because I didn’t know basic things (like, about my hymen).
I wish that I had been taught a healthy outlook of my body, of my sexuality, of my existence; instead of one that degraded not just women, but all of humanity into raging sex beasts.  Even so, if there is one thing I learned the hard way (ha), the one thing that I learned that made dealing with the shame and guilt easier (if not almost completely go away)? Is that sex is what you and your partner make of it. Sex is about enjoyment, it’s about each other, it’s about what makes both people involved feel good and is not about procreation.

I Don't Pray Anymore

When I was 10 and we were well into our left-the-cult-but-still-kept-everything-but-demons days we started going to church again. After being told churches in general were evil, it was weird going back to the buildings. My church experience was never great, we were never at one long enough to belong, because the pastor would say something and my parents would have a disagreement and we’d either leave or be asked to leave. I occasionally had time to make friends before we were shunned and never spoken to again. It was lonely, to say the least.


In September of 2001, 10 days after the trade centers fell, we had another reminder of the love of god – my mom had a stillborn. A boy, which was special because I only had one brother and at the time there were 3 girls including me (and another boy meant we’d have a chance of carrying on the family name, because that was somehow important..I remember that remark being made before). He died in the birth canal with the cord wrapped around his neck – he suffocated. My siblings and I were sick with the flu at my grandparents house, so it was just my mom and dad (homebirths were unassisted, always) at home and they called and had us come home and told us the baby died.


They showed us the blue and purple and red body, my mom was holding and touching it and wanted us all to hold it. I flat out refused, grossed out by the thought of touching a cold corpse (in who knows what state of decay *shudder*) I went to lay down and when I woke up a few hours had passed and the police and paramedics were there. I remember seeing strange people walking around while I was on the couch kinda delirious from being sick and dead baby, I think they tried to ask me something but I just mumbled something about just getting there and not knowing what happened and being sick. They were very very nice to me and understanding (which was comforting because I was scared), they took the corpse and my mom sobbed. I didn’t understand, I didn’t understand why they kept the corpse around for so long.


By the time the funeral had come around, maybe a week later, the paramedics had labeled it SIDS, which I came to understand as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. My parents said that this was all part of gods plan and nothing could have been done to stop it. My dad somehow worked the love of god and the salvation message into the eulogy, talking about how it was a good thing, and told us kids how this would be a good opportunity to get my catholic grandparents to convert.


I didn’t cry.


I didn’t cry for many reasons, one was because I learned early on that crying was weakness, but also, because I truly believed with all my heart that god was going to bring the baby back, I prayed sooo hard and didn’t want to leave the graveyard because I knew that there was going to be a miracle, I had the faith of a mustard seed – though it felt like more; I didn’t know what a mustard seed was, but I figured I could be moving mountains because I believed it so much. That there would be cries of life before the coffin was lowered into the ground and everyone would be surprised.


But as we left and the grave-people were getting ready to bury the coffin, there was no noise, just silence.


This didn’t bother me until years later, I just assumed that maybe I didn’t have enough faith even though I thought I did and gave it all I could muster.

Cut To: 2004
Valentines day (2 weeks before my 13th birthday), 7am, we were all there this time. I was woken up and told to keep the kids under control/fed/etc as mom was in labor in the master bathroom. I popped on cartoons and fed the kids and those things that you do while trying to pretend you can’t hear the screams and noises of labor.


The worst happened. We all heard it, “BREATHE” was shouted over and over again and silence fell.  Color drained from our faces. I don’t remember any sequence of events after that, the memory is locked somewhere, but I remember touching this corpse (girl this time) because it seemed to be important to mom. Still cold and blue and purple and pink and gross. It was the same cause; strangulation, the paramedics labeled it SIDS again, but I think we were at our grandparents house when they showed up because I don’t remember interacting with them. My grandparents did their best to comfort us and just let it all sink in. They’re good at that, at giving us what we need and being generally unassuming. I don’t think they know how much that means to us.


My mom said, later, that she felt god telling her that he did this because he loved her, this was his way of saying I love you. It was her valentines present, taking the baby. Same weird salvation, this is good, this is love, etc message was preached at her funeral too – another opportunity for my grandparents to convert, and a few months later they did, so it was all seen as a wash and “worth it”. We laid her to rest beside my brothers grave. I didn’t pray for her return this time, I figured that Lazerous and Jesus were probably just one time things.


Honestly it’s the questions that got to me most. Because every pregnancy since the first stillbirth, my siblings (who were around to remember) have asked “is this baby going to be born alive?”. The thought of them asking that and me having no answer, and mom and dad’s pat answers still make me cry and my blood run cold. I hate that it’s even a question that had to be asked.


Cut To: 2007-2008
My life had become a living hell. I was 16-17, I was growing into an adult, forming my own opinions and, to their credit (and chagrin) my parents didn’t raise a weak daughter. My boyfriend-now-husband and I were in this process called “courting” à la Josh Harris. I don’t remember where my parents heard of the idea, probably a homeschool convention that also included HSLDA and Mike Farris. For those unfamiliar, it’s like, trying to date but with your whole relationship being micromanaged and manipulated by control freaks and outsiders who have no interest in the relationship itself, just in dictating things without taking the time to get to know anyone.

In our case it went from my parents trying to marry me off at 16 because as soon as the word “relationship” entered it was like wedding bells were ringing. At 17 my mom got pregnant and the cycle of my existence as a person ended (again) and my existence as my mother’s sentient broom began – only this time, I fought back. I was just getting into my personhood after a decade of not having one.


I was dragged out of bed and cornered and bullied by my parents for hours. Told I wasn’t being godly enough, told I was a better daughter and better skilled when I was 8, that Alex was generally evil, and corrupting me, that I was on my way to hell and had better shape up, that god disapproved and I needed to make it right. It was my DUTY to end my life and be a live-in slave to my parents whenever they demanded it. That because I was a woman/younger, THEY heard from god for me, and there was no way I knew for myself what was best for me, and god wouldn’t tell me something against their will.


Unfortunately for them, they spent the 6 months prior drilling into me that I was an adult and capable of making my own decisions. I quickly came to the conclusion that people didn’t have the power to bestow and then relinquish adulthood at the drop of a hat, or plus sign of a pregnancy test.

I was devastated when my mom told me she was pregnant. No, not devastated, enraged, panicked, and hurt. I had spent the last hellish year, and especially six months praying oh-so-hard for god to work, to make it better, to make things okay. And the result of my prayers, every single time? the problems made up by my parents just escalated, escalated, and escalated until my parents told me that I was no longer allowed to talk to Alex.

My prayers were hitting the ceiling, I felt pieces of myself dying as I spent those last six months of 17 plotting my escape and trying to fly low enough under the radar so as to not be noticed, so my near-suicidal depression wouldn’t cause room for concern and cause more squelching. I misdirected to survive, letting my parents think I was “over” Alex just to get me to my next birthday.

I felt abandoned by god, which crushed me, because I had done everything, I had given up having my own life for years, I rarely saw friends, I didn’t ask for much, I worked so hard.


Cut to: February 28 2009
I left on my 18th Birthday, I had a party away from home (that took a lot of work) and Alex and I left that night. My parents went nuts when we called them. They went from acting concerned and sad to bullying, not hesitating to pull god into it.


Cut To: March 4 2009
Newest baby was born by Cesarean due to complications and that the previous child (boy) had been an emergency C-Section. The reasons for this C-section? Umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.


I don’t think it hit me then. It hit me on the anniversary of the first stillborn. It could have been prevented. It was the same thing that killed him and the other one, but this one made it because they happened to be at a hospital. I’ve rarely been more crushed and angry than when that realization hit.


I stopped praying because my prayers didn’t do anything good, they only made things worse. I stopped praying because god obviously never listened to me. I stopped praying because I was tired of being let down and abandoned by someone who was supposed to never abandon me.
I’ve cried and wrestled and fought over this. Why didn’t god listen? was I not good enough? does he not care? if he did care, why did he let this happen? why would he abandon the fervent prayers of an innocent child, of a young adult? I don’t know, all I know is, praying has left me disillusioned, callous, and cynical.

The Cult That Changed Everything

When I was between the ages of 5 and 7 my parents joined a bible study group through a family in our homeschool group. I guess it was less of a bible study and more of a home-church, because we went to their house for hours every weekend (I can’t remember if it was Saturday or Sunday, probably Sunday). This was not very long into homeschooling, maybe a year or two – my parents, I think, had been pressured by some of the group who had an incredibly spiritual persona that they weren’t godly or spiritual enough *or* homeschooling for the right reasons (but that’s a different discussion entirely). Anyway, My brother and I, we went along to this group with our parents and sat around being really bored, eating weird tasting food, listening to whatever it was we could understand and spending the rest of the time looking at the animals and wondering why it smelled funny at their house (they had a farm, and were into healthy/organic/self-sustaining life and for some reason that has a particular smell).


I don’t remember how long it took before my parents and the other couples at the group were introduced to this program called “Cleansing Stream”. Wanting to be godly and whatever, everyone hopped on board – they “learned” how to study their bible, use a concordance, expel demons (no, I’m not kidding), and we all had to make sacrifices (my brother and I lost many a loved plushie in the name of demon expulsion, and family heirlooms which didn’t matter to *me* as much) to make sure the demons didn’t have any “footholds”. There was a little red book, and any work by the Bevere’s  makes me run the other direction. A lot of this now is instinctual, I don’t remember exactly what was taught (besides that demons could inhabit christians if they sinned, and apparently my stuffed tiger) but the ramifications have lasted…well they haven’t stopped.


My parents “left” or dropped out of the cult when they realized that the whole demon-inhabiting-christian-thing wasn’t actually biblical, but they never exited. They learned how to interpret the bible (according to the cult) and this is what became harmful. I was too young to understand anything happening at the bible study (that, or the memory is just blacked out), but the price that came with the things they learned there and after cost a lot:
Somehow god had turned from a loving being to an angry, vindictive, bastard who sent bad things to people for the fun of it, to “test” them, and “try them by fire” and somehow you knew you were loved by how miserable your life was and how much you suffered. The years following the cult were packed with much “love” from this deity.

We became increasingly isolated, we were drilled on the family beliefs, we had unassisted home-births (two of which resulted in stillborn babies – that *could* have been prevented by cesareans), we were constantly told that suffering was a good thing, that we should expect to suffer, even that not suffering was a bad thing (so anyone who good things were happening to? doomed. Anyone happy? obviously not loved by god). I was so scared to leave (and get married) because I thought for sure that after living through my own version of hell, the cycle would start all over again with my husband and our inevitable family.


We never had friends that lasted for more than a year or two – when I was finally able to make my own friends (on the internet!) I built myself a group of people I could trust, most whom I’m still friends with. The friends my parents “made” usually end up having a falling out over some doctrinal issue. We were kicked out of churches and widely hated (or so it felt) by anyone my parents disagreed with.


It grew worse as I aged, in ways I don’t yet have words for. I went from believing and being told that I could hear from god, to being told that he spoke to me through my parents (from my parents – it was convenient and self serving). I was less because I was a woman, my god-ordained-job at home was to be a caretaker to my siblings; I was brutally reminded of that pregnancy after pregnancy, child after child. I was told that my god-ordained-job as a woman, when I was married, was solely to reproduce and homeschool and give my husband sex when he wanted it (because otherwise, he’d find it somewhere else don’t ya know?). Not only that, but I had to let god plan how many kids we’d have, because “he wouldn’t give us more than we could handle” – don’t dare interfere with any kind of protection because that would be getting in the way of god’s will and that would be sinning.


I was a little self-conscious (I resisted as long as I could), but not of my own volition. My mom freaked out about facial imperfections – I have hereditary upper lip hair, my acne was worse than hers at my age, my teeth weren’t straight (supposedly, we could pray my teeth straight. true story), I didn’t wear makeup, I wore clothes a size too big so I’d “grow into them” (with a large family, you do that sometimes) even though I stopped growing when I was 15. The modesty culture was rampant, though admittedly my parents had little to do with this themselves.


Image and appearance were everything: we had (had) to look perfect and perfectly happy on the outside to everyone. We had to be good examples and witnesses, we could never complain, or have a less than perfect moment whenever we left home – if we did, there would be consequences. I can’t tell you how many times people have come up and commented to me about how perfect my family is and how “I bet you help out a lot, huh?” and I just had to stand there and smile politely, and nod, and say “yes, I don’t mind” (or a better variation) even though everything within me was screaming “no! everything is NOT okay! my family is NOT perfect!”  There was no room for human moments or authenticity (which is why I treasure them so). We had to attract people (those poor, ignorant sinners) to our lifestyle, so we had to seem perfect. I have a great smile.


The version of christianity/god I knew, “loved”, and served was egotistical, demeaning, self righteous, superficial, and fear based (much of christianity I’ve seen so far is fear based, don’t you dare say love!). If my parents didn’t like someone, they’d rip them to shreds as soon as they were out of earshot, if I was less than perfect I’d get dragged out of bed and made to sit through several hours of Kierstyn-is-evil-thus-saith-the-lord lecturing until I would finally give up and act how they wanted (usually it was for minor infractions, like not hearing or understanding something correctly – sometimes it was for *gasp* wanting a life) I never knew when this line would be drawn or what the boundaries were.

Starting Out Of Order

Sometimes I feel strange because all of the major life events happened to me before the normal life stuff. I graduated at 15, which I thought was cool at the time. I find myself now, questioning whether or not I was actually ready then. A lot of the outside-of-school skills most people learn in high school, I didn’t learn until after I was married. I don’t feel like I earned graduating that early, which might have something to do with finding out I graduated after getting home from a trip and expecting I had to catch up on math before that was even an option. It was welcome and as far as transcripts are concerned, I graduated with over 30 credits, but deep down inside, I don’t trust it. I don’t trust the education I gave myself because I feel so ill-equipped in real life, with people, and jobs, and not homemaking.
If I grew into the adult I was raised to be, I’d probably be pregnant or have a child by now, I’d be cooking meals and taking care of spawn or becoming a planet and looking at homeschool curricula. I would feel perfectly capable, maybe.
But I’m not that person.
I’m a geek who doesn’t get math jokes unless they involve pie – I don’t know what the Mandelbrot set is, but I like the song. I didn’t have an actual or good job experience until after I was married, when I was 18 (the one job I had in high school lasted a month, but it had nothing to do with me).
I’ve slowly been realizing that all the bad things I was told happen to marriages where women have jobs that involve being outside the 4 walls of their home haven’t happened, and are mostly lies.
At 21, sometimes it feels weird to have crossed all the major check points and still feel woefully inadequate, inexperienced, and ill-equipped.  But maybe everyone feels that way if they’re doing the things they like doing?
Everything I’ve done, I’ve been learning as I go – and I have no formal training or anything, I read a lot of blogs from people who’ve been there, I research things I’m unsure or curious about, and I spend a lot of time doing. Which explains a lot of my failed attempts at successful etsy business-ing, but also my successes as data entry specialist and now web administrator for local non profits (child of the internet, ftw).
When I remind myself how far I’ve come and the things I do, I can sometimes remember to be confident. But the struggles I face in my brain just doing simple things and relating – I second guess myself too much, I over think and spend hours inside my head replaying events and hoping I didn’t sound stupid or boring or anything, sometimes I’m almost frozen with insecurities and I never used to be.
But I love the things I do, and I love the opportunities and the friends and experiences and everything that’s so new and exciting that’s happened over just the last 5 months. I love that I get to work with non profits doing things I’ve been acquiring skills for (unwittingly) since high school, I love I get to make videos and that people like to see them, I love that I get to play new games and try new things every Thursday, and I love that I’m actually part of a community.
So maybe it’s normal, when you’re flooded with things that you like doing and opportunities to make money and get help and feedback from people while doing them, to feel insecure. Maybe it’s normal to feel ill-equipped because things are moving faster than you imagined. Maybe it’s normal to be a little scared and dizzy. Maybe that’s all okay.

Two Decades

Tomorrow I’ll turn 20, which is honestly pretty exciting – in some unexpected ways. It feels kind of weird to tell people I’m 19, married, and no, I didn’t *just* graduate high school. It’s totally cool, but there’s always that awkward moment when people are like “oh!”.  I remember when I was turning 10, I was super excited to be double-digits and “a whole decade!”. Now I’m two decades, and I oddly feel similarly excited. One that I made it this far, and I have great hope for the future, and two, because 20 just sounds way better than 19. I oddly don’t expect to be quite this excited when three decades rolls around though, so I’m enjoying this while I can. In light of this, I was reminiscing the other day, about my schooling, and about life, and about things I’m happy about.
(school)
The best thing I gained from homeschooling was learning how to learn. This is a gift and something I’m thankful for. I don’t know everything, and I’m not good at everything, but the one thing that I do know how to do, is learn.
Alex and I are starting projects – separately and together, and the thing we have enjoyed is learning. Researching, looking at blogs, watching and reading whatever we can get our hands on for the subjects we’re interested in. We have a few books we want to buy and I think the key to any success is the ability to continually learn.
I’ve been reading Empty Easel and many other articles and blogs about art and painting and the art business for months, I’ve started trying to incorporate what I’ve learned to practice and I keep reading. I make notes, plans, goals and eventually I work up the nerve to put myself out there.
Together, Alex and I have been looking into cameras  because we’re planning on making a short film over the summer – Alex has been following several indy film blogs, we helped fund an indy project, and we’ve been researching cameras online and reading and watching reviews on vimeo or amazon. We finally bought the Cannon T3i because it seems to be a great blend of the things we were looking for after doing all of our research, and it comes in the mail in a few days!
If we hadn’t learned the process of learning, I don’t think that we would be able to get this far. If there is one thing that is to be said for homeschooling, it’s that it enables you to learn how to learn better. Everyday is an opportunity to learn something new – everywhere you go is a field trip, and everyone you meet is someone you can potentially learn something from.
 
(life)
 
The other day we were watching Restrepo, and I realized, that in September, we will have been at war for 10 years – half of my existence. By at war, I mean, we were like “We’re going to get you!” not the day we actually invaded the other countries. I’m trying to remember if there’s ever been a “hot” war that’s lasted this long, that we’ve been in?
I’ve always felt like I should have been a ’90 baby and not a ’91 because I always feel like I’m being held back a year. And then I realize, that the doctors, the hospital, and my parents, and the birth certificate committee would have all had to have been in on this big scheme to change the year on my vital records. So I decide that it’s unlikely and continue to feel like I’m supposed to be a year older but I’m not. That’ll probably change?
 
(happy things)


This year has been a year of self-discovery, and I’ve learned a lot about myself. I rediscovered my artistic side, and spent the last year working on that with no plans to stop and plenty to go forward. I’ve also tapped into my inner geek which has been amazing and fun. I never used to be into games, I like joining a community of gamers and geekiness. I imagine that this year will be filled with equally amazing opportunities and challenges and ways to keep learning and move out of my comfort zone a little bit.
And 20 is just much more fun to say. Until next year anyway, because 21 is just that much cooler.