I’ve never posted, or talked much at all, about my mother’s death

I know that sounds sad, it’s not. The truth is that when my mother died, three years ago, we were basically strangers. Over the previous twenty-two years, we’d had maybe four or five conversations face to face, most of which did not go well. We occasionally exchanged email and snail-mail, which were mostly just arguments.

My mom was mentally ill. She was originally diagnosed as schizophrenic, but that was later changed to bipolar disorder. However, all of the reading I’ve done, and based off of my own experiences with others with these illnesses, and remembering certain behaviors growing up, I’m still inclined to believe that the first diagnosis was the correct one.

Growing up with her was no picnic, but as children, years before she was officially diagnosed, we had no idea that anything was wrong with her. The way she behaved was all we knew, so we thought it was normal, and never gave it a second thought.

It wasn’t until after her second fake suicide attempt that she was finally diagnosed, but only because a judge ordered that she do a stint in the state mental hospital because she was a danger to herself. I say they were fake suicide attempts, because she always arranged things so that someone would find her. People tell me it was a cry for help, but if you knew my mom, you’d know how far she was willing to go to recenter the attention on her, and get people talking to her again that she’d burned bridges with for the umpteenth time.

On the subject of help, I credit my mother’s relentless, fanatical faith for her failure to get proper help until she was well into middle age. She preferred prayer, faith healing, so-called “christian counselors”, and even the occasional attempted home exorcism by friends, over any actual, qualified, legitimate care. Even after her stay at the mental hospital, which lasted several months, she abandoned it all when she came home. The meds, the therapy, all of it, going right back to the old faith-based methods that had failed her over and over again, all of her life.

I have friends, and have had friends, even dated one girl, that was bipolar, and several friends that are schizophrenic. I’ve seen that people with these illnesses can lead relatively normal, happy, productive lives, even though they do struggle and have to work harder at it. With proper care, it can be done.

My mother actively fought proper care, and I recognized this at the age of eighteen. I had a bit of a “coming to” episode while I was in basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky. A drill sergeant knew something wasn’t right based off of some of my behaviors, and the lack of mail coming to me with my  last name on it. I was pulled into his office one day, and told to temporarily drop the military formalities that were normally so strict and unforgiving during boot camp, and talk. And boy, did I fucking talk. I had never, in my life, ever discussed the details of my childhood with anyone. I owe a great deal to Drill Sergeant Luscowski. That conversation changed my life.

I left Fort Knox feeling in control of my life for the first time. I knew that I had some difficult changes to make, but I made them, and I stuck to them. I took some time away from my mother. I didn’t speak to her for about a year. Not a peep. This wasn’t a punishment, or a silent treatment, it was just me understanding that my mother clouds things. She was a whirlwind of destruction, and I needed to clear my head to get my life figured out, and decide how to deal with her.

During my first year of college, I finally made contact with my mother. I sent her a letter and laid down some rules. Things like, don’t drag me into your arguments, don’t preach at me, don’t constantly rehash the past (which she loved to do, she couldn’t just move on from anything). Basically, if we were going to talk, let’s talk about our day, let’s talk about how we’re doing, what our plans are. It wasn’t a lot of rules, four or five, and simply laid out.

I told her that if she couldn’t abide by those rules, I could not be a part of her life. I had been walking on egg shells around her my entire life, constantly worried about what might upset her, always trying to calm what ever storm she was at the center of, doing anything and everything to avoid conflict. Again, I grew up with that. So I had no idea that it wasn’t normal. It left me with my own issues, for which I still periodically go see a therapist about, and for which I have had to develop tools and coping mechanisms to deal with.

Her response was what I expected. It was nine pages of bible verses, rebukes, demands that I not dictate to her how things are going to be, and on and on about my disrespect. I wrote her back, and responded with a single line.

“You’re not listening, and I’m not going to play this game with you.”

That was it. I folded it up, stuck it in an envelope and mailed it back to her, and didn’t speak to her again for seven years. This was all in the late 1990’s, right when the internet was beginning to take off, and email had not yet been widely adopted. Letters would come from her, and I wouldn’t even open them. I’d put the unopened letter back into another envelope, and send it back to her. She would try to relay messages through friends, and family, usually my brother. I would usually say nothing in response, and tell them to say nothing.

I had learned from experience that my mother’s illness went in cycles, which completed about every three years. She would be fine, making friends, being social, etc, but then pretty soon she’d get paranoid. She’d over react to something someone said or did, or flat out fabricate a lie about someone having said or did something. The thing was though, that in the instances when nothing actually happened and she flat out made some bullshit up, she actually believed it. It wasn’t quite lying because she was fully convinced that it was real, and no one could change her mind. I watched this in action just through our few exchanges over the years. I would write her a letter or an email, and she would respond and say that I said something that was exactly the opposite of what I had actually said to her, or that I had said something that I had not said at all, and that I could prove by simply referring to our email or to my letter.

She would continue in this manner for months, slowly working friends and family against one another until everyone had their fill and quit talking to her, which she would see as more persecution, and eventually she would have a major break down, beg for forgiveness and for the opportunity to make amends. Then the process would start all over again. About three years was how long this all took.

I could tell where she was in the cycle by the messages that came either through others, or through email.

At around the seven year mark, when the internet was basically what it is today, and she’d tracked me down and blasted me with messages through various electronic means, I finally decided to write her back and just feel things out. It was like no time had passed since that last letter from her. She took the opportunity to send more bible verses, more rebukes, more threats of hell and damnation for my sins against her and against god, tell me how terrible I was to her… on and on.

This time I had a bit of a back and forth with her for a week or so, but ultimately I’d had my fill and told her not to write me anymore. I had to get creative about it this time though. I wrote bits of code into my blog that would tag her browser when she commented on my blog, and then from that point on whenever she’d try to visit my site, my blog would see the cookie and redirect her somewhere else.

I created a black hole in my email account that would immediately delete her email without ever notifying me, so I would never know she sent it. I blocked her on various social media sites, and had to repeatedly ask friends and family NOT to give her my contact information.

For the most part, this succeeded for a few more years, until grandma got cancer. My mother’s adoptive mother came down with breast cancer, but by the time they caught it, it was everywhere, in every organ, every part of her body. There was no avoiding mom throughout this, try as I might. Even grandma and grampa were no longer speaking to her at this point. In true mom form, she was absolutely awful to them and her older brother right up until the day grandma died. It really was terrible to watch.

Then of course, mom told all of her friends and family that she and grandma had had this touching, tearful, mother-daughter re-union before grandma died, which was yet another of mom’s total fabrications. As usual, mom was incapable of distinguishing her lie from the truth, and actually believed that’s how it went down. I know differently, because I was there, through all of it.

It happened again when my Uncle Mike died. Mike was mom’s older brother. I was fortunate enough to rekindle a great friendship with Uncle Mike in the years before he died, and he ended up being a tremendous source of support during my late twenties. Again, same behavior with mom. It was terrible.

Then Grandpa died a few years later, and this whole process repeated. Interaction with mom was unavoidable, so we had a few conversations here and there, only one of which that I can recall actually being amicable. The rest were all accusations of having poisoned him against her, and other such nonsense. She tried to get the sheriff involved but mom had earned herself a reputation with the sheriff’s departments in two counties, and any call from her usually resulted in them calling grampa to see if he was okay.

My cousin Tammy (Uncle Mike’s oldest daughter), myself, and Laure cared for Grampa at home, as he’d opted for in-home hospice care. We fed him until he stopped eating. We bathed him and helped him go to the bathroom. We changed his catheter bag. We sat and talked to him when he would wake up angry to still be alive. We played his favorite records for him, and helped him finish his puzzles. Grampa died in his sleep, as I held is left hand and Tammy held his right. He was 90 years old.

My mother was absolutely awful throughout the whole ordeal. It really was terrible, and we all felt terrible for Grampa, having to see his daughter behave like that in his final days.

I didn’t speak to her again until just before she died.

Mom died on May 18th, 2015, of pancreatic cancer. At her request, I did drive up to visit her one last time, just a few days before she died. Oddly enough, the visit went fine. We just sat on her porch and talked about what I was up to, plans she’d made for after she died, we talked about my kids and about Laure. It was calm, yet a little awkward because we were both actively avoiding certain subjects.

As I got in my car to leave, her christian counselor approached me in the drive way. I forget her name, mostly because I couldn’t take her seriously enough to bother committing it to memory.

“You need to forgive her, and you need to explain to her why you quit talking to her.” She said to me, both hands on the door of my van, and looking at me with this look of sorrow that seemed to be for me.

I put my hands on the wheel, and stared at her through my sunglasses for a moment.

“She has you completely fooled.” I said to her. “You’ve bought into her bullshit, hook, line and sinker… haven’t you.”

She stepped back, her facial expression having completely changed to one of shock.

“I’ve told her, in writing, on the phone, and in person, why I left.” I continued. “She knows why, she just chooses not to accept it. And I forgave her twenty years ago, but forgiving her doesn’t mean giving her license to trample through my life, and the lives of my family, with her bullshit.”

This woman still said nothing. She just stood there with her mouth open, turning her head a few times as though trying to form a response.

“And you’re a fucking fraud, who’s done untold amounts of damage to who knows how many sick people. You should be in prison.” I said, before starting the van and driving away.

I’ve been a bit sullen off and on lately, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my childhood and listening to a lot of the music I loved as a kid, growing up in the 80’s. It occurred to me a few days ago that we’re creeping up on the anniversary of mom’s death, and I surmised that that is why I’ve been feeling this way.

It feels good to articulate it all.

It’s part get-home-bag, and part backpack full of random shit I use just about every day

I walk a lot. I have occasionally made the six mile trek to and from work on foot, just for the heck of it.

Laptop.
VIM pocket reference.
Travel track ball, in a snazzy hard case.
Batteries, with various charging cables.
Various extra meds.
Knife.
Emergency blanket.
Small first aid kit.
Hand warmer, one of the old original Jon-E kind, which belonged to my grampa.
Zippo lighter with small bottle of fluid, and extra flints.
Pepper spray.
Extra socks.
Gloves.
Stocking cap, when I’m not wearing it on my head.
Compass.
USB drive with encryption keys, GPG keys, encrypted password database, and various personal documents.
Several flash lights.
Dog treats, dog bags, and a leash, since I tend to come across a LOT of stray dogs in the summer time.
Other odds and ends that aren’t coming to mind right now.
I’m working on a way to affix one of my solar panels to the outside of the thing, so that it can be easily attached and detached.

My last backpack was one I had for more than a decade. It went to Ireland with me. The only reason I got rid of it was that my dog peed on it, and I wasn’t able to get the smell out. I spent about $150 on this one last summer. At the time, I didn’t like shelling out that much cash, but it was worth it. This thing is built like a tank, water proof, and quite comfortable.

I’ve been wanting to put these patches on it for a while. Laure did it for me this weekend. The two army patches are from the two units I served in. 163rd Armored Cavalry on top, 40th Mechanized Infantry on the bottom. A Raspberry Pi patch that came with one of my older Pi’s, a Debian Linux patch that actually took a bit of hunting to find, an old Star Wars patch, and just barely visible on the other side is an Instructables patch. I’m trying to find an Arduino patch, but not having any luck there so far.

It’s been an extremely productive weekend

I got a lot of work done on the tear drop, did a lot of little chores around the house, got a bit of coding in, read a little bit, cooked a big breakfast yesterday, ran lots of errands around town… I got a lot done.

I’ve got a lot of little projects I’d like to tinker with.

  • I want to build my own hidden USB drive, just for the hell of it. I’ve got a few ideas there, either modifying some doo-dad I have laying around, or 3D print something.
  • I need to finish the little robot I’ve been working on for months now. All that’s really left to be done is get a decent set of wheels, and a gearbox for it, and then put it in some kind of enclosure. My code could use some cleaning up, and I have another feature that I want to add onto it. I have a million and one uses for it, but I’ve been so busy with other things for months now, that I haven’t taken the time to finish it up.
  • I’ve been fascinated with toy photography for about a year now, and I have so much stuff laying around my nerd cave, namely legos, that would make good subjects. I need to get on that. This would be a good summer for it.
  • I haven’t had time to play Minecraft in a few weeks. I have goals there that are languishing.
  • I still need to migrate my main PC over to Debian, from Kubuntu. I know it’s going to be a big project, so I keep putting it off. There isn’t ever going to be a good time to do it, so I need to just do it.
  • I’ve been thinking about ways to contribute to the Linux and open source communities, since I’m not a decent enough coder to contribute anything useful in that arena. I’m going to start screenshotting some apps that are in dire need of screenshots with their documentation, and send those in to Debian. I’ve set up a Deluge server and I’m seeding various forms of different Linux distributions, and working out ways to keep those up-to- date. I’ve been thinking of rebooting my Every Day Linux project, which is mostly a Youtube thing for beginning Linux users, and I’m going to start contributing podcasts to Hacker Public Radio.
  • I’m resuming the D&D game that me and some friends started last summer. I let it go because everyone was so busy, and no one ever asked about the next session. My anxiety got the best of me and I assumed that I just really sucked as a DM. So I didn’t bother continuing with it. We all talked at my last birthday party, and they want to keep playing.

As you can see, I have lots I want to do, but clearly not enough time.

I’m planning on changing my sleep schedule, and getting up about an hour earlier than I normally do, so that I have time to work out and walk our dogs before work. So, I should probably get to bed.

Here is a shot from an impromptu hotel shoot we did a few years ago. Enjoy.

Thunderbird + browser

In case anyone else has wasted too much time trying to figure out how to change the browser that Thunderbird uses to open links in emails, it’s here:

  1. Go to Preferences (Menu Edit → Preferences).
  2. Click on the Attachments tab.
  3. In the Content Type and Action section set HTTPSHTTP, and FTP to Use google-chrome (or other desired browser).

Carry on…

Blowing my battery

So I’m building a tongue box for my teardrop trailer, that will contain the battery, power center, and charging station from the solar panels. I’ve been concerned about heat in that box, and was kicking around the idea of putting an Arduino controlled fan in there to keep things cool when necessary.

Yesterday, the maintenance guy at the library walks up to me, holding this big ass blower, says he found it in a pile of crap, and asks me if I could use it.

Hell yes, I can use it.

I ran the model and serial number passed Duckduckgo, and couldn’t find a datasheet on this thing. It says right on it that it operates on twelve volts. It only took about fifteen minutes of tinkering to figure out how to control it. It moves a lot of air, and should work perfect.

I’ll have that Arduino Micro, a temperature sensor, and a relay in there, and set this thing to kick on automagically when it gets to a certain temp inside that box.

Yay for old shit.

Birthdays, photo shoots, the flu, and cabin fever

It’s been a crazy busy year already.

My brother’s birthday was last week, and Laure baked up his usual preferred birthday cake. He came over and we had a little thing. It was nice. My birthday is less than a month away. We’re just inviting a few friends over for a game night. It does fall on a Friday this year, and we both requested each others’ birthdays off from work. I have no idea what we’ll do with the day off. I’m sure we’ll think of something.

Laure, myself, and our housemate all caught the flu. It was a miserable week home from work. We’re all back at work, but still coughing constantly, and going through tissue like nobody’s business. We’re all on the mend though.

I have a tentative shoot with my friend Maia, scheduled for tomorrow evening. I’m excited about that. We’ve been trying to put together a photo shoot for months but life keeps getting in the way. Tonight I’ll be cleaning up the garage to make room for a studio space. I’ve been busy out there working on the teardrop. I’m finally back in the groove there, and wanting to work on it as often as possible. That’s good, because I haven’t wanted to touch it for months, and spring is on the horizon.

The more I work on the teardrop, the more I think about summer, and a road trip. We’ll most likely be broke again this year, and we’ve resolved to use our credit cards as little as possible, so a big road trip probably won’t happen. Still, we’ll be doing as many little trips around the state as we can, visiting state parks and camp grounds. Glacier park will probably happen, and a trip to Yellowstone is not out of the question. We both have time off in July, so we’ll see what the money situation is like then.

Laure has been playing a shit ton of Unravel, and Horizon Zero Dawn. She’s really enjoying those, and I’m glad she’s gaming more these days. I’ve been gearing up to run a TMNT game on Roll20. I only have time to do one-shot scenarios, and I’m hoping to be able to run those at least once a month. I’ll aim to keep each one under two hours, so that I can do them on week evenings. So far I’ve made a bunch of tokens, put together a collection of back grounds, and made “Be right back” and “Starting Soon” screens for YouTube.

I might stream it on Twitch, if there is some way to shut off the chat. I won’t be able to run the game and focus on chat at the same time. The alternative is just to ignore it all together and play. I’m still thinking about that one.

That’s about all I have today. Enjoy these early morning, candid motel room shots from one of our shopping excursions to Spokane.

Shit to do – 2018

Last year, I wrote a few posts (here, here, and here) inspired by Wil Wheaton’s life reboot posts. It wasn’t so much a new year’s resolution thing, because I’ve come to believe that those are fucking ridiculous, so much as something that had been nagging at me for a few months, and I needed to actually enumerate the ways in which I was going to try and do something about it.

So, I’m doing a review, to see how I’ve been doing in that area. So here we go:

* Keep up with my exercise…

I’ve been up and down with this one. I have been walking a LOT more, sometimes as much as seven or eight miles a day, thanks to the motivation provided by Fitbit, but still haven’t managed to get any sort of actual work-out routine in motion.

The only time I could realistically work out, would be in the mornings, which means getting up at 6am, which requires getting to bed by 10pm, because I have sleep problems as it is, and I can’t be fucking with my sleep schedule. This is fucking impossible, because I live with a night-owl. Even if I do go to bed without her, I wake up when she does finally come to bed, so it’s pointless.

Still not sure what to do about that.

When I am walking every day, my weight drops down and hovers between 210 and 215. I’d like it to be closer to 200, ideally 190. I think I’m doing as much as walking and diet can accomplish, and an actual work out regimen needs to be adopted to make any more progress there.

* Quit eating so much, and quit eating so much shit…

Again, up and down with this one. Most of the time I do just fine. The food allergies in our household make it difficult to eat anything but healthy. We eat pretty well, but I still have to watch portions, and resist the urge to buy a peppermint patty every time I’m at the store.

Over all, doing really well on this one.

* Take more photographs…

This effort has been abysmal. I did take more photos this year, but only one actual organized shoot, and nothing at the level I was photographing my every day life five years ago. I’d like to get back to that.

* Play more pen and paper RPGs…

I have been doing pretty well with this one. I’ve got a Rifts game, and a BTS game every month. Admittedly, the Rifts game has gotten a little stale. It’s been ongoing for three years or so, and I’m finding myself less and less interested in it. The BTS game is fantastic. I don’t remember when we started that, maybe last winter some time, and it’s been a lot of fun.

I tried to start a D&D group with my SO, the housemate, and some friends, but after only three sessions, it fizzled out. We managed to get two actual table sessions in before life took over for everyone, and getting together became more difficult. So we decided to instead play over Roll20.net about once a month, and then meet for a table session whenever we could manage it. We played one game on Roll20, which went pretty well, but never got back to it. Everyone seems pretty uninterested in it. Perhaps I just suck as a DM, or maybe everyone is just too busy.

I’d still like to run some one-shots, and have been doing quite a bit of research into quick adventures, and I’d also like to get in with a solid Adventurer’s League group over Roll20 or Google+, since there are no AL groups where I live.

I’d also like to either run or play some Call of Cthulhu. I recently scored a used 7th edition investigator’s handbook, in really great shape, for a hell of a price, so we’ll see what I can manage there. I wanted to get the keeper’s handbook as well, but couldn’t manage to pull an extra $30 out of the budget for it. Hopefully it’ll still be there next week.

* Get to bed earlier…

I mentioned this earlier. I’m doing no better on this one, and it’s pissing me off.

* Finally get started building our teardrop…

I made a shit ton of progress on the tear drop, and if I really buckled down, I could have it campable in a week or two. Unfortunately, I also kind of burned myself out on it, and haven’t been able to bring myself to do much of anything with it in months. I’ve been feeling the urge lately though, and spring is only a few months away, so I may be getting back to work on it very soon.

All in all, regarding the goals I set forth last January, I’ll give myself a solid B. I’ll keep all the same goals for this year, but add two more items to the list:

*Read more.

I haven’t been reading much at all this year. I started again a few weeks ago, and realized how much I’ve missed it. So I’m making time each night before bed, to sit and read for at least a half hour before going to sleep. I like it.

*Less politicsing, more doing fun shit.

I feel guilty about this one, because the US is basically a giant flaming pile of shit, on a slowly sinking ship right now. I want to be active, I want to sign petitions, protest when I can (when I can protest somewhere that anyone will fucking notice), spread information, all that stuff. Here’s the thing though, I’ve been really angry for months now.

At the time, I didn’t know why, but it was brought to my attention numerous times by Laure just how grumpy and generally fucking angry I was all the time. It eventually became clear to me that politics had taken over my life. It was all I thought about for most of this last Autumn. Consequently, I was angry and shitty for most of this last Autumn. It took over my twitter feed, I lost followers on Google+, I was short with everyone, and generally depressed all the time. A few weeks ago, I realized where it all was coming from, and took drastic measures.

The first thing I did was log on to Twitter, and commenced with a shit-ton of un-following. Not because I don’t like those people anymore, but because they were immersed in politics, and I just couldn’t have that shit in my face all day long anymore. In fact, I un-followed a few people that I really like, and I’ll miss their posts, but I just couldn’t do the politics anymore.

Next, I began making a conscious effort to post less on Facebook, and more on Google+. Facebook is almost a necessity now, because I have family members that I can’t seem to stay in touch with any other way. Aside from that, I could leave FB in the dust. Google+ on the other hand, is a wonderful place for me. It’s nothing but games, gadgetry, art and just generally fun people, without all of the ads and bullshit that FB throws at you all day long. Also, it gives you the ability to weed out posts you don’t want to see, while still following those people.

I’ve said it before, Google+ is far, FAR superior to Facebook. I wish more people would come over.

Finally, I moved the Facebook icon off of the main screen on my phone, and into a folder as sort of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind thing, and it’s been working pretty well. I also went in and disabled all notifications from Facebook. I’ll check it when I get home from work, but I don’t need it barking at me all day long. I didn’t delete it entirely because it has it’s uses. I won’t be posting there much anymore though. Instagram, I’ll keep.

As for the doing-more-fun-shit part, more games, more reading, and more making is all part of that. Also, with the teardrop being completed by early spring, travelling will be a thing this summer. Maybe not a big trip, but lots of little trips will be quite doable.

That’s about everything I have, other than to say that the accompanying photo is one that I posted to Twitter and Instagram a few days ago. It’s a collage of one hundred twelve photos of Laure that I’ve taken over the years. I have literally taken thousands of photos of her, these are just some that I randomly grabbed for this collage, and forced myself to stop at one hundred twelve.

On the linux distro switch, gaming, and other stuff.

Waaaaay back in May, I posted about exploring Debian, and moving away from Ubuntu. I installed it on my laptop, and I’m happy to say that six months later, I’m thrilled to death with Debian. I’ve actually found that in many areas, it’s more up to date than Ubuntu, and in the areas that it’s not, it’s much easier to manually update things without breaking other parts of the OS. I’m also able to use proper AMD video drivers with Debian, which is not possible with Ubuntu, and that makes the gamer in me quite happy. For that same reason, I’m also going to update my son’s PC to Debian, so that he’ll be able to fully utilize the new graphics card that we’re getting him for Christmas this year.

I’ve also began installing Debian on new servers at work, which I have been using Ubuntu for in the past. It’s all working out quite well.

I’ll begin the process of updating my home PC in the next week or two. The actual update should be pretty easy, and only take a few hours. I use Urbackup on my home network, which works fantastic, so I’m already all backed up. The tedious part is going to be reinstalling and configuring all of the various software that I use. I should simply be able to copy some Kde files over, to keep my configurations for a lot of that software. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ll post details after I finish the switch.

I don’t anticipate doing as much gaming (video games) on my PC as I have in the past. I won’t say that I’ve lost interest in gaming, I still play a shit ton of Minecraft and The Sims 4, but that’s about it. Most of the gaming on my PC is pen and paper RPGs, played over Roll20.net, or Google Hangouts.

Also, Laure recently bought us a PS4, and we’ve both been playing a lot of Fallout 4 and Star Wars Battlefront. I’ve never been a big fan of consoles in the past. As a hard core gamer, I found consoles to be very limiting, for many reasons. But since my gaming furer has cooled significantly, I find consoles to be perfectly adequate.

I have lots of shit to say about politics, but I’m not going to. It’s a mess, all of it. I’m just avoiding a lot of it right now.

Bye, for now.

Another photo of Laure, from a shoot we did out in the woods, this last summer.

Losing my religion

 

I guess I wouldn’t say I lost it, so much as I shed it.

Like most white Americans, I was born into christianity. My dad was never what you would call steadfast, or devout, but he claimed to be a Christian and as far as I know, still does. My mother on the other hand, was a christian fundamentalist, through and through. She was fanatic about her faith, and tried to instill that fanaticism in my brother and I. When we were little, it worked. It was easy. Why wouldn’t it be? We were little kids and we believed anything our mother told us.

We grew up right in the thick of the satanic panic, and man, that shit had me and my brother terrified. I can remember, very clearly, the fear that any talk about “the devil” invoked at the time. We were afraid of everything. Cartoons, toys, movies, games, you name it. It all had the power of satan behind it.

When mom told us the smurfs were satanic because there was magic in the show, we believed her and we became afraid of the smurfs. When she told us He-man was satanic, the same went there, enough that when I would see a He-man toy at a friend’s house, I would be afraid to touch it or even be near it. The same went for Dungeons and Dragons (kind of a given), rock music, MTV, you name it. If someone at church, or on the 700 club, said something was satanic, my mother was all over it, and it was banned from the household.

My brother and I saw the movie “E.T” in the theater when we were kids, and of course we loved it. We had the books, the toys, the story cassettes, the stuffed animals, the posters, the t-shirts… E.T. was huge to us. Then one day, I believe in the third grade, it all just went away. I never saw what happened to it all but the murmur about the church was that it had all been burned.

When I was four or five years old, we lived in a little trailer park on the outskirts of Casper, Wyoming. My parents had somehow decided to take in a foster child. She was a teenager and her name was Claudia. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a permanent situation or if she was just staying with us for a while, but the situation was volatile right from the start. Somehow, my mother had become convinced that Claudia was practicing witchcraft. My mom claimed to have seen a demon in the living room, and that Claudia had made the vacuum cleaner move on it’s own. Again, being a small child, I believed all of this without question. I would go on to repeat the stories my mother told me about Claudia, to my friends growing up.

At some point, Claudia packed up her things and ran away in the middle of the night. I never did find out what happened to her. Looking back, I feel sorry for her. I have no idea what kind of family situation she came from, or how she ended up in foster care, but to get dropped into our family… that had to be awful. I haven’t thought about her since I was a kid.

The rest of my childhood, up until high school, was a parade of incidents like this. Not knowing anything any different, I never really thought much about it all. It was the world I knew. Demons, witches and satanists were every where. The devil was constantly trying to influence us, and he had followers sacrificing kids, and raping babies in day care center basements, in his name. God was around, but you had to spend a lot of time looking for him. Or rather, you had to spend a lot of time looking REALLY HARD for signs of him, but you’d never actually see him. He worked in mysterious ways and such.

The turning point for me started in high school. I got a job, a car, and started making friends and having a life away from the church, something that didn’t go unnoticed by my mother, and by the church. It wasn’t as if my friends and I sat around picking apart christianity, quite the opposite in fact. My friends all thought of themselves as christians. The difference was that their christianity was not the focal point of their lives. It was peripheral. It was something they believed, but that belief did not occupy every waking moment of their lives.

This did create enough distance for me to start seeing things just a little bit differently. I had time to start actively contemplating some of the things in the bible that just didn’t add up, and to take a step back and actually, critically think about some of the things I was being taught in church and at youth group. I started to notice patterns of behavior in the church that bothered me. I remember standing in the church one day after a sermon, looking around the room and listening to what people were saying about homosexuality, and thinking to myself “This is not love, this is hatred disguised as love, and no one here can tell the difference”.

At some point I went out and bought myself a Strong’s Concordance. I was then able to cross reference things, look for other places that certain things were mentioned, and instead of revealing more godly wisdom to me, it cast a glaring spotlight on all of the cracks and inconsistencies in the bible. Shit didn’t add up, and no one in the church wanted to address those things. It was a collective willful ignorance, and I was chastised for speaking up about it.

Pretty soon I was asking who Adam and Eve’s children married, and what people was Cain worried about so much that god marked him to tell them to leave him alone, if there were no other people around? I wanted to know how we knew that so many other civilizations existed in the world, at the time of “the flood”, and yet they were not wiped out, and apparently failed to even notice the raining for forty days and forty nights, and the subsequent flooding. Egypt was a perfect example. They kept impeccable records of everything they did, and yet somehow this flood is never mentioned, and their civilization was untouched by it.

I had a lot of questions. The answers were usually something along the lines of “I don’t know, but god does”, an answer which somehow satisfied everyone else in the room, all of whom were more than happy with the non-answer, and who felt comfortable with the idea that god knowing the answer was good enough. It wasn’t good enough for me though. Eventually my questions were brought to my parents’ attention, and what I was told by them and the church elders, was that I should spend more time meditating on god’s word, and less time asking questions. They didn’t put it like that, of course, but that’s what they were saying.

It wasn’t just the unanswered questions, it was my increasing awareness that all of these people, not just in my church but every other church I had dealings with, were incredibly judgmental. They were spiteful, and hateful, and yet utterly convinced that they were the exact opposite of all of those things. By the time I hit college, what was left of my faith was hanging by a thread. The only thing that kept me calling myself a christian, was fear of the unknown. Christianity was all I had known, all my life.

I was twenty five when I was finally comfortable saying out loud that I was not a christian. Nothing monumental happened that lead up to this, just more little experiences. Lots of little life lessons that showed more and more, that everything I’d learned growing up, was wrong. Not simply factually incorrect, but often morally wrong, and even harmful. I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.

To say that I have some lingering anger at christianity doesn’t really describe it. Yes, I am angry. It’s an internal struggle that I deal with every day. I’ll admit that when I learn that someone is a christian, it colors my view of them immediately, and they have to work harder to earn my respect. I know this is wrong. It’s difficult to shake.

The de-conversion process was mostly about learning to recognize old behaviors, and eventually to see them coming so that I could choose to behave differently. Things like attributing every good event to god, and whispering a prayer of thanks under my breath, or a prayer of forgiveness when I did something I thought I shouldn’t have been doing.

It took a while to shake attitudes toward women who behaved, or dressed in ways that the church taught me were unacceptable. It became this game of asking myself why I felt the way I did about certain things, and boiling it down to one simple question.

Is a behavior harmful?

That simple question became the litmus test by which I judged everything I did, and everything I saw other people doing. If I couldn’t find some harm in an action or behavior, then I could begin to see it differently, and think about it more critically. This was quite different from what I’d grown up with, which was simply “because god” or “because the bible”. It took years to change my thinking. I still look back at old behaviors, I look at the way I judged people, and I feel utterly foolish, even ashamed sometimes.

I’m now forty-one years old. I no longer look at anything through the lens of christianity. I also no longer have to consciously play that mental tug of war with my old, christian beliefs. I don’t live in constant fear of the devil and satanists anymore. I no longer spend all of my time wondering what god thinks of what I’m doing at any given moment. In general, I’m a much happier person, and to be honest, much less of a judgmental ass.

I’ve been coming back to this post every day for about a week now, and I can’t seem to come up with a good way to gracefully close this post. So here is a shot of Laure from a recent photo shoot. 🙂