The Itty Bitty, Big Things.

If a page in Open Office could be ripped out of my computer and tossed in the corner, you wouldn’t be able to see my floor right now. That’s how many times I’ve started this post.

And stopped.

And started again.

This is what happens when an agoraphobic story, desperately wants to be heard, but still isn’t convinced that it’s safe to walk out into the world. No matter how times you dress it up pretty and have it almost coaxed to the door, it may just as easily turn back around, and spend the evening on the couch, with a stale bag of Fritos instead.

So here’s the thing. Not only do I love stories. I need stories. Even if they never make it outside of my head, they’re my long walk on a stormy beach. They’re my wander through a sun-dappled forest. They’re my Prozac. My Zantac. My Xanax. They’re my prayers for peace and understanding: my arms lifted in gratitude for everything I don’t deserve, but I still, miraculously have; and they’re the unbreakable thread that binds my heart, to the entire rest of the world.

Tell them, and I will listen. Listen, and I will tell them. Put me in an uncomfortable position, and I’ll make stuff up that I probably shouldn’t say out loud. Like when I’m flying. I spend the entire time, with my face buried in a book, blasting 70’s classics or 80’s hair bands through my ear buds as loud as my neighbors can stand it. Then the book and the music, merge into one, and become a story of my own.  On my way to Chicago last Fall, entire scenes from Outlander fell victim.  Like the one where Claire leaves Jamie in the 17th century at Craig Na Dun. In my vodka spiked version, just as she slips back into 1945, the rocks morph into jumbo versions of those fake stone speakers that they’ve hidden all over Disneyland, like the ones that blast banjo music while you’re having your spine re-arranged on Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster. Then The Scorpions lyrics “Always Somewhere…….Miss you where I’ve been…..I’ll be back, to love you again….” roll into the Scottish countryside as Jamie runs back to fight the battle of Culloden. In red leather pants. And a long auburn perm. With an electric guitar raised in the air. And the battle cry “Je Suit Prest!”. In a voice that sounds exactly like Klaus, as he closed their last set to a sweaty, screaming, half naked crowd in 1989, at Monsters of Rock in Candlestick Park. (Which is an entirely different story on it’s own).

On another flight, a few weeks later, I birthed a Helen Redy /”I Am Woman”/50 Shades of Grey, mutant story-child, that came out looking like a Jim Carrey/Vera-De-Milo/Buffed, Beautiful and Bitch’in version of Anastasia. It talked like me, but with a baritone Vera lisp—and bent Christian’s pinkie back the minute he tried to spank her, and told him if he ever tried it again, she’d rip it off and pin him to the wall, like a bug in a science project, with his fancy leather riding crop. To which he immediately replied “I’m so very sorry. I respect your boundary. Can I buy you a Greek Island in apology?” Then Me/She/We tap our bucky front tooth in thought, and say “No thanks, but a new pair of Manolos would be nice.

“Size 9. Extra Wide. Bunions. You understand.”

Then he looks at us like that’s the hottest thing he’s ever heard, and donates a few million dollars to the Malala Foundation. The End.

In these situation, keeping myself completely distracted until the last bit of turbulence has finally rolled through, is the only goal. Along with making sure that those tiny Matchbox wheels, that have no business supporting the weight of an entire plane, don’t pop off the moment we land, or get ground to smoking nubs before catapulting us end over end.

Yes. Telling stories helps me cope. But these particular ones, and this type of coping have nothing to do with why I’m here.

Which means I’m stalling.

I use stories to do that too.

* * *

It’s been an entire week since I wrote that first part. I’ve caught myself on the verge of Googling “How do I write this damn story?” twice now. Not that it would do me any good. I never find my damn keys that way either. It’s the reason I can go months between posts. It’s not easy to sit in the bug-crawly discomfort of a stage-frighted story, let alone set it free, to run amok, outside the safety of my own person.

As a last resort, I asked Siri.

What am I afraid of ?!?” I half yelled into my phone, because sometimes it feels good to yell at something that can’t yell back.

Interesting question, Alyssa” she said in her superior, un-bothered way, and then sent me to an online game, where the pictures you choose, reveal your unconscious fears.

The first time around I got Fear of Death. Not a big revelation. I’m afraid of those creepy clown, pop up music boxes for the very same reason. Knowing the demented clown is coming out of the box, isn’t nearly as scary as not knowing when the demented clown is coming out of the box. So I took it again, and got  Fear of Failure.

WA-wa. Disappointed face.

I was hoping for something new.  They may as well have told me that I’m afraid of palm sized spiders. Or of accidentally swallowing that placenta-wad, that lurks in the bottom of my Kombucha.

But as I kept scrolling down, it was the obligatory pep talk at the end of the game, that suddenly caught my attention: Many of our greatest fears are unconscious beliefs, attached to untold stories, that may or may not be true. Tell the story. Challenge the meaning. Overcome the fear.

Which weirdly enough, leads me right back here, to the story that wants to be told. About a little girl. And a lost dog. Stuck way back in the recesses of a grown adult’s unconscious mind, creating shadows, and monsters, and limitations, and fears, for no other reason, than she didn’t know it was there.

And of course it’s afraid to come out.

It’s about a little girl.

And a lost dog.

And in the broad scope of childhood trauma, it ranks slightly above falling off the Merry-Go-Round or a badly stubbed toe. Yet here it is, calling daily, with the persistence of a telemarketer who won’t piss off, using every trick it knows to keep you on the phone. “But wait! That’s not all! For just $9.99, your Social Security Number, and the name of your first pet, we’ll include a free set of nose hair clippers!”

Which may be the entire point: Maybe it’s not the bigness, or the smallness of an event that defines the trauma. Maybe it’s defined by the person experiencing it, and their ability to know what they know, and feel what they feel, and to store what they know and feel in a place that they can find it, and name it, and make sense of it. Because when we’re not allowed to know it and feel it, our emotions, and beliefs, get warped and twisted and stuck where we can’t reach them; and before we even realize it, we’ve become a living, breathing legacy, to things that no longer exist.


Bitty was my first child. The eat-you-up-adorable Yorkie runt, who was dropped into my world as I held her pregnant mom in my lap. One minute I was watching Donny and Marie, completely conflicted as to whether I was A Lil’ Bit Country, or A Lil’ Bit Rock n’ Roll, and the next minute, I was a new mom, to a blind, grunting ball of black fur and slime. I immediately named her Itty Bitty. Bitty for short. After she opened her eyes and weaned from her mom, she and I were inseparable. She slept with me, rode my horse with me, and shared Shwanz ice cream, straight from the tub, and a jumbo sized Sugar Daddy, as we watched Adam 12 and Emergency 911, under an orange and brown crochet afghan after school. She was Team Johnny too.

Then one day, I came home from school, and Bitty was gone. So were her brother and sister, that we’d named Fat Boy and Fat Girl, because they looked like black and tan sausages, with thick, grub-like tails, that wiggled non-stop. I knew they’d be going to new homes soon, because most of our puppies did, but not my Bitty. I was her Forever Person, and she was my Forever Dog.

No one knew what happened.

Maybe they ran out the door before anyone knew they were gone. 

Maybe they’re lost in the woods.

Maybe an owl or an Eagle carried them off.

Maybe they were picked up off the road.

Don’t get your hopes up looking. You’ll probably never see her again.

To a frantic little girl who had just lost her child, all of those possibilities brought unimaginable grief. Every day after school, I walked up and down our old country road, or combed the woods, calling her name. I slept with a picture of the two of us; her on my chest, me with a candy cane in my mouth, while she pulled it from the other end. I saw her in my dreams, hiding under a wet, mossy, rotted log, shivering in the rain.

And crying.

Always crying.

For me.

Her mom.

After not finding a trace of her, on the road, or in the woods, or from the people I showed her picture to at the drug store, or at the market, I knew I would never see her again. The ache in my chest kept me up at night, and when I did go to sleep, that deep feeling of  infinite loss, even followed me there. I didn’t speak of her again.

A few months back, I was driving my daughter home from soccer, when we saw a dog in the middle of the road with a massive head and paws and an awkward puppy body. He ran sideways, weaving in and out of traffic, tongue hanging out of his mouth, completely oblivious to the danger he was in. I did a U-Turn in the road and followed him down a side street.

We whistled.

We clapped.

We called down the road in those high pitched, Good-Dog voices, that only pet owners know how to use.

He ignored it all, eventually disappearing  into the maze of the neighborhood, and we didn’t see him again.

“If I ever lost Riley, I’d never get over it” said Annika, after we were on our way home again.

Riley is our rescue terrier. Although he’s older than us in dog years, he’s still the baby of the family. My husband is his person, but Annika is a close second. He sleeps on. Or by. But mostly on. Her bed every night. She says she knows what he’s feeling by the twitch of his feet, or the crumple of his ears, and we absolutely believe her.

“Have you ever lost a dog?” She wanted to know.

Thoughts of Bitty, were stashed so far down in my Bank of Things Remembered, they had almost disappeared, so my first response was to say “No”; followed by an ancient ache in my chest—and a painfully reluctant “Yes”.

Then I told her the story of Bitty,  with so much detail, color, and emotion, that I actually surprised myself.

She was quiet for awhile, biting her cheek, and glancing out the window, before finally turning to say, “You know you call me Bitty, right? Don’t you think that’s weird?”

Well, of course I knew I called her Bitty. It’s the name I gave her the moment she was laid on my chest, right after she was born. I just didn’t know it had anything to do with my little lost childhood dog. And yes, I suddenly thought it was weird.

If it was a matter of just being weird, I could have stopped right there. Weird and I go way back, and we get along just fine. But it was more than that. What I hadn’t realized, until that very moment, is that a 40 year old story of fear, loss, and grief, had been showing up for an encore performance, in a fully grown woman’s life.

From the time my kids were born, I’ve had a paralyzing fear of losing them. Like on a playground. Or in the store. Or in their own bedroom. I wish I was kidding about that last one, but at least the other two I know are normal. Most parents worry about losing their kids in public. Especially when they’re little. Then as they grow, and learn, and have the ability to protect themselves, and make safe-ish decisions, we as parents, begin to let those fears go.

Unless you were me.

If you were me, you had two teenagers, and still felt inexplicably panicked when they left for school, or walked to a friend’s house, or were in a public rest room for more than 5 minutes. Then in nothing flat, you could escalate from, “Wonder what’s taking so long…” to a vision of lying awake at night, knowing you’d never see them again, completely consumed with unimaginable grief, without ever stopping to consider, the far more likely possibilities in between.

Like hair gel.

Or lip gloss.

Or Snapchat.

Just that day, as I’d been watching Annika play soccer, I found myself searching for her repeatedly. If I didn’t see her familiar run, or the one brown ponytail, in a sea of brown ponytails, that I somehow knew was hers, my hands felt sweaty, and my guts felt jello-y, and my vision felt tunnel-y, and it only went away when I spotted her again. Those feelings had become so familiar, I’d never stopped to question their sanity. They just were.

Except now, I was doing more than question.

That ache in my chest, with it’s nose in the corner for all of these years, was suddenly free from time-out. It was just as painful as I remembered; and for the first time in my adult life, I saw how powerfully present, that decades old story had been.

The ultra-simplified, not-a-professional-so-do-your-own-research-or-get-your-own-therapist, lay-person version, of how this happens, has been explained to me like this: The Conscious part of my brain, that should have been saying logical things like “Of course she’s still on the field. She’s the height of a grown woman, not a teeny, tiny, purse puppy that can disappear without a trace, the minute your head is turned”, was completely oblivious to the story being told by the much deeper, Unconscious part of my brain. This part has no concept of time and place, or even a language of it’s own to say “Pssst! All is well. That terror you’re feeling right now, happened 40 years ago. Relax and Google crock pot meals like everyone else is doing“. Since it can’t tell the difference between what happened then, and what’s happening now,  familiar stimuli (like searching for your “lost” child), can cause us to think, feel and experience it, in the same jello-y guts, and tunnel-y vision way. As miserable as that is, the Unconscious brain doesn’t give two hoots about how it makes us feel, because it’s primary job is not to make us happy. It’s first job is ensuring our survival, so it stores events, feelings, emotions and beliefs in a way that it registers as “safe”—even if it keeps us attached to a painful story, in a clearly dysfunctional way.

This is how the memory of Bitty became trapped in a maze of sadness, loss and grief; a repressed sorrow, that was being told and re-told through an invasive, irrational fear. And blocking it’s path to awareness, was a single question, that created so much shame and despair, I’ve spent a lifetime shush-ing it down: “How do 3 expensive dogs, disappear in one day, without anyone knowing where they went?” Even as a little girl, I didn’t believe that no one knew. But by never admitting that I questioned the story, even to myself, I buried the painful possibility, that the god-like people who I trusted the most, may have sold my dog with the other two—which  kept the reconciliation of that loss, out of my reach as well.

Our pain hates to be shush-ed. It’s like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. “It won’t be ignored!”; and one way or another, it will have it’s say—in either a fully accessible, agreed upon story—Past with Present, Conscious with Unconscious, no boiling bunnies or jacked up hair. Or as an anxious, obnoxious mom, counting heads like Rain Man by the side of the field, or pacing outside of the men’s bathroom and calling “Are you done yet, sweetie?”, to her mortified teenage son.

Every now and then, when I’m at the doctor’s office, and they see that I’m a retired paramedic, they’ll say some version of “Wow. You did that job? I wouldn’t want to do that job. Have you ever needed therapy for all of the bad stuff you must have seen? Here, go pee in this cup”.

Then I respond with some version of “Nope. I’ve needed therapy for everything else, just not that. Do you want a fill job, or just a splash?”.

They look at me out of the corner of their eye, like I’m in some sort of denial or have a trailer full of bodies in my back yard; which sometimes makes me wonder, as I’m shifting in discomfort on that crunchy tissue landing strip, in my gaping floral gown, if I should come up with something else.

“Well, it’s been a struggle, but I do try my best”.

Then we could nod to each other knowingly, with a face that’s appropriately sad, and it would all make perfect sense. But the truth of it is, I don’t struggle. Not because I’m in denial, but because of the exact opposite, I think. Anything sad or mad or painful or gross from the years I spent as a medic, sit in a small, accessible box, on a fully conscious shelf, which means those thoughts, feelings, emotions and beliefs, don’t need to stomp their feet for attention, or get unruly, and misbehave, to be heard. Not the way Bitty did.

When my kids were little, I had a solid reputation as a Grizzly Mom, who most  didn’t cross more than once. I did what I knew was right, and didn’t apologize for standing my ground. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Unless it shows up where it’s not invited.

And it did.

More often than I wanted to admit.

I used to catch people rolling their eyes, or hear them whisper behind their hands—”It must be her job, poor thing……”. Like I had a terminal illness that I wasn’t aware of, and no one wanted to break the news. Being a medic would have been an easy excuse, if I was ever inclined to make one. I do admit, I was way more cautious than most other parents, for pretty obvious reasons. But when rational concern, turned into scary monsters that I couldn’t explain, I knew it wasn’t “my job—I simply had nothing else to call it at the time.

In all of the years I spent doing what many would call a traumatic job, I only carry a handful of calls with me, and even fewer names and faces. Not because they didn’t matter, but because they did; and one way or another, they were laid to rest instead of being left to wander, like homeless ghosts in the door wells of my mind. Do you know what I do carry with me though? The way the ambulance smells in different weather; like oil, metal and pavement when it’s hot, and like a big, un-bathed rodent when it’s wet. And the weight of our block radio, as it hung from my peeling leather belt. And the grid of the city, like a GPS tattoo, etched into my brain. And the cloudy scratched plastic, blurring the buttons on the Lifepack, like a kid’s candy fingerprints. And the clunky laptop, pulling on my shoulder, as I lift it to write a chart. And the smell of 7-11 Nachos after being stuck for twelve hours, under the drivers seat. And the taste of a lukewarm Venti coffee, with chunky swirls of Half and Half, floating on the top. And the way my waffle bottom boots squeak when they’re wet, across the shiny ER floor. And the early years of Fail-Safe, blaring in our ears, when we took a corner over 40 miles per hour. And the bare dangling wires, when my angry lead ripped it off the wall, and threw it out the window. And the laughter of my favorite partners. Or which ones snore. Or who would only eat a one kind of Pad Thai, from one single booth down at Saturday Market. And who would eat anything, from a withered carrot found rolling on the cab floor, to a day old McRib, left in their work bag overnight. And the pure fun of driving code 3, especially when it’s dark. But there are no pop up surprises. No painful stories left unresolved. Nothing forgotten that should be remembered. Nothing remembered that I should forget. Which is my best explanation, for why a big traumatic job, left a much smaller imprint, than my black and tan Yorkie runt.

The events in our lives are funny that way. Whether we know it or not, they’re constantly weaving a fabric. When we can feel what we feel, and know what we know, the threads become part of a strong, resilient whole. But the ones we snip back, (or that are snipped back for us through shame, guilt or fear), are fragile, and weak and eventually leave a hole. The hole that’s left, becomes the untold stories that live on and on, through our destructive thoughts and behaviors, our liming fears and beliefs, our unexplained anger and control issues, our self-sabotage, addictions and relationship failures—and so much more. Like a highly anxious mom, who doesn’t know she believes, that her two beloved children are destined to disappear, like her beloved childhood dog.

I’ve always said that I became a medic because it’s fun. You learn real quick (like after you’re slapped down on your first ambulance ride-along), to never say “because I like to help people”.  But it’s ok to say it’s fun. And for more reasons that I have room to explain, it really was fun. But on a deeper, and yes, unconscious level, I know it gave a voice to some very different stories, that I also couldn’t tell out loud. Like chaos. And abandonment. And betrayal. And unimaginable loss. And being taught to believe that I was a disgusting, worthless, un-savable worm who was hated by God. And a crippling fear of death (For obvious reasons. Like burning in hell forever.Duh.)

If fear, anxiety, worthlessness, and visions of being flung into the pit of hell by a laughing, vengeful, god-monster was the disease, being a medic was the cure. When I entered that realm, I felt indescribable peace and calm, because when other people were depending on me, fear and anxiety lost their power. There were tools. There was a plan. There was a way to control the chaos that usually seemed to work; and when it didn’t, I knew, that the dying aspect of living, was completely out of my hands. I hadn’t caused it, or created it. I was only there to help.  And someday do something so heroic, that god would forget that he hated me. And hopefully pay my penance for being a disgusting, worthless, un-savable worm.

I ended my career, never feeling like I succeeded in that, but the one thing I did understand: in allowing me to tell my story in a way that my soul understood, it’s my patients who really saved me, instead of the other way around.

You know that saying, “When the past comes calling, don’t answer it. It has nothing new to say”? Well I think it’s exactly the opposite. When the past comes calling ANSWER THE DAMN THING. And then invite it over for coffee; and ask it to tell you everything it knows; and then tell it everything you know; and then keep inviting it over until the conversation becomes so incredibly boring, it doesn’t want to talk to you anymore.

Because here’s the thing. Dealing with our past isn’t like removing a tumor, where the bad part is cut away, and the good part gets to stay. The good and the bad are fully intertwined, and in shunning our past to escape the bad, we lose the rest of our lives as well. In knowing what we know (even if that means shaking your fist at no one, and screaming into the air “You sold my eff-ing dog?!?), and feeling what we feel (even if it means ancient tears, streaming down your face, that you haven’t tasted in 40 years); we not only preserve the fabric, but we create new fibers of meaning and belief, that weave in and out, through time and repetition, to eventually mend that hole.

“Letting go” doesn’t mean spinning around an ice castle, singing a Disney song. If we really want to let something go, we have to pick it up, first. That means facing our stories, grabbing them tight, holding them close, listening to what they’re saying, over and over, like a child who’s afraid of the dark, until we fully understand; and then, and only then, can we truly set them down. Feelings from our past, don’t go away, just because they don’t make sense in our present lives. Neither do the holes from the stories we’ve left untold. We may call it choice, or destiny, or being cursed, or “this is how I’ve always been” or “I don’t know why I feel like this but…”, or “how do these same things keep happening?”, when the truth of the matter is, it may just be an Itty Bitty story, that’s so desperate to be heard, it does whatever it thinks it has to do, to simply be invited in.

That Time My Daughter Was Gay.

Before I even start, I need to say a few things up front.

1- I have my daughter’s permission to tell this story.

2- This is not an attempt to be an authority on something I know nothing about, like being gay. Or having a child that’s gay. The only thing I can be an authority on, are my own experiences, and realizations, and flaws, and regrets. Of the last two especially, I have more than I can count.

3- When I first started this blog, the Go Daddy Saint who helped me set everything up, asked me what my “brand” would be. I had no idea how to answer that, because I’m not a brand. I’m a person. And while brands are used to sell inanimate objects like vacuums, and razors, real people don’t come factory produced and sealed in a plastic bubble. They’re growing and learning and becoming. Or at least they should should be. And real stories—the ones that change our lives, or perspective, or who we are inside—can’t be tweaked and twisted for a label, or leave us feeling obligated to nip it here or tuck it there, like a tragically botched facelift, to fit the box we’ve created for ourselves. I’ve spent my entire life doing that. Living up to a tragically botched label. And it’s nothing but a lie. My experiences, and the beliefs I have surrounding them, don’t come from a pretty packaged box with a description of what to expect inside. (“Deeply flawed Christian mother who avoids groups, hates Kool-aid, and cusses as much as she prays. No guarantees. And absolutely no returns”.) They’re dug from the dirt. They’re The Whisper in my ear when I’m ready to give up. They’re the sores on my knees, after dropping in anguish to the middle of my bathroom floor. So at any given time, they may fit, or contradict, any or all of the different aspects of this journey I’ve set out on To Become. Which is the long way of saying: don’t let a single story or experience get you too invested in the parts of yourself that you may be expecting me to reflect back. Especially when it comes to faith, and God, and the 7.4 billion other humans, with their own thoughts and beliefs and realities and experiences that we all share this planet with. Because I reserve the right to live this life with all of the awe and wonder it deserves—and to change accordingly with every new shred of truth that I’m lucky enough to find. And I reserve the right to believe whatever I feel is right, and still say I’m a Christian. And I reserve the right to speak out against anything I choose to, and to love, and support, and stand up for people like me, and not like me, and yes, still say I’m a Christian. I’m just saying that up front, to save anyone the trouble of writing me a message, that includes the phrase “How can you call yourself a Christian and still……”. Let me give the only answer to that question that I ever will: Don’t worry about it. Me. My story. How I express it. Who I love and support. What I believe. Do not affect you, so don’t let it make you a victim of something you’re not. And on The Road To Becoming, I’ve thankfully learned, that another person’s rejection, or even acceptance, of my relationship with God, has no real power either.

So back to the story. Or maybe I should say stories, because when I really think about it, it isn’t just one. It’s four that collided into one, and they changed my life forever. I’ll call them Bloody Sunday, The Dream, The Decision and The Dog.

BLOODY SUNDAY: One Sunday night about 7 years ago, I came home late, and went in to kiss my daughter Annika goodnight. She was fast asleep in what looked to be an over-sized hoodie that had been pulled tight around her face and neck. Which was odd—but then again, she’d spent the evening home with her dad and brother, so who knew what they’d all been up to. As I came a little closer, I saw a band of white sticking up from her collar. When I gave it a pull, a big wad of gauze came out, covered in large amounts of blood.


Yep. That was the Shit-Together-In-Crisis response from a seasoned Paramedic.

“I cut myself” she said in voice that was calm. Too calm. Creepy calm. Slither down your down your back and wiggle in your toes calm.

“Like on accident….?” I nodded, cuing her to say yes.

She stared me straight in the eyes, and shook her head no.

I wrapped her in a blanket and headed to the car, stopping just long enough to yell at my husband, who I’m not sure ever woke up. Not that I really wanted him to, because even though, unlike me, his Shit-Together medic response extends to our kids and their blood, I’m a lot faster, and I didn’t want to wait for him to get dressed.

The 10 minute drive to the hospital was spent priming her for what would come next. “They’re all really nice……..and they’ll make your cuts better. Then they’ll ask you some very important questions, and I need you to tell them the truth, no matter what.”

Even if it’s something your parents have done.

Please don’t let it be something your parents have done.

The rest of the night was a slow/fast blur. They stitched two deep gashes in her neck, that she insisted she did with a pair of nail clippers, (Wth…..nail clippers?!?), “because she just wanted to know what it felt like”. We left 3 hours later with wound care instructions and the name of a child psychologist, who after two months of weekly visits, came no closer to solving the mystery than any of the rest of us had. Although she did send us home with an ADD test (that we immediately threw away), and a pop-up tent “sanctuary” that filled Annika’s entire room, and a baby teething ring, “to chew on in times of distress”.

I may have used both of them myself.

THE DREAM: A few months later, after picking ourselves, and our lives, and every aspect of our kid’s environment apart, like the last bits of KFC from it’s crispy fried bone, we were still no closer to finding the answers we needed to move on. Prior to Bloody Sunday, there had been some intense family upheaval that we thought may be responsible, if for no other reason that we were desperate for a Scapegoat.

We were in the process of being shunned by our friends and family after leaving my childhood church for a new one. Nothing about our situation was unfamiliar: Step 1.) Grown adults attempt autonomy. Step 2.) As punishment, love and acceptance are withdrawn by The Herd. Step 3.) After punishment, grown adults attempting autonomy are expected to run back, fall on their knees renouncing their sin, and beg for forgiveness.

Blah. Blah. Blah. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. It was the same game I’d watched being played, over and over, my entire life; the only thing that ever changed were the names and the remote control faces.

And now me.

Because I wasn’t running back. And there was no way, in this life or the next, that I was groveling for my autonomy to anyone. Or accepting punishment for doing what normal adults, with jobs, and a marriage, and a well cared for family, have earned the right to do: live the lives they were given, instead of allowing other people to live it for them. I was already prepared to do whatever it took, to raise my family on my own terms—with or without The Herd—because if we couldn’t have the freedom and respect we deserved along side of them, than we would learn to go on without them. What I didn’t anticipate, was the emotional toll that separating from the only life I had ever known, would have on me, my marriage, and my children. I went from thinking I knew everything, to being positive I knew nothing.  Up until then, my thoughts and beliefs had been manufactured for me, and I was trained to recite them, like a secret password, whispered at the door of an exclusive club. And not just any exclusive club. The MOST exclusive club. Full of the only people that God could ever love. So there I was, like an actor without a script. A Minion without a Villain. With no idea where their voice ended and my voice began. And I was probably going to hell.

Then came the morning that Annika sat down for breakfast, and told us about her dream: “Me and Selena Gomez got married, and Justin Bieber sang Baby at our wedding. You and Daddy said you loved me so much—but some people got really mad” And when I say “some people” she actually named names. The usual suspects, who always had something demeaning or negative to say about us, or our house, or our parenting, or our monstrous children who just needed a good beating to get em’ right with God. She wanted to know why people would be mad at a wedding when they’re supposed to be happy. She had no idea, at least not consciously, that the church we went to, and the people we had spent our lives with, simply didn’t do gay.  Not in a Westboro Baptist way, with signs and protests and lispy, inbred sneers. That would make them look mean. They didn’t do gay in a much nicer way than that. They may not demean anyone to their face, but if you were gay, and shook their hand in a business transaction, the minute you left, they’d look at their Club Christian Co-Workers and wipe their hand on their leg with an “Ick”. Apparently gay money was fine, as long as they didn’t have to touch someone gay to get it. The unsaid agreement within the church, was a Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell kind of thing, as if saying the word gay out loud, would make them appear out of nowhere like Voldemort. So were we the kind of people who stood in judgement, while some poor kid with their head bowed in shame, read an I’m-Sorry-I-Kissed-A-Girl-and-I-Liked-It letter in front of the entire congregation? No. Which I’m truly thankful for. The I’m-Sorry-I-Fell-On-A-Penis letters were bad enough as it was. And did we send children off for a soul saving summer at Camp Pray the Gay Away? No. We didn’t do that either. In fact, as far as I knew, no one in our sect ever was gay. All of that good, pure living of extra-marital sex, porn, divorce, addictions, gossip, and groping little girls must have bred it all right out of us. Although there were several people we knew who “never wanted to get married”, but adopted some kids that they raised with their “best friend”; or who moved in with their college basketball coach, and “never got around” to moving out; or who owned a house with their “roommate” of 20 years, and took yearly vacations to their timeshare at Atlantis.

After several months of reaching, and searching for any bit of probable cause that would force a 7 year old to hack her own neck open, The Dream was exactly what I’d been waiting for. So I put 2 + 2 together and came up with “My Daughter Must Be Gay”, figuring she heard the tones of disapproval, like only kids and dogs can do, and in her distress, she’d taken it out on herself; it seemed perfectly logical at the time.

I spent the rest of the day looking for ways to support her, without making it into a big weird deal.

Which means I made it into a big weird deal.

I pulled up famous gay people on the internet and forced awkward segues into bizarre conversations about how funny, or inspiring, or successful they were. (So speaking of the weather, have you ever heard of Ellen? I hear she loves dogs, just like you!)

If God was being merciful that day, he would have struck me dead right then.

Later that night at dinner, I asked the kids what kind of person they’d like to marry (“It could be a boy OR a girl you know!”).

They both stared at me blankly. Then Anders told me about the new Transformer he wanted, and Annika asked what was for dessert.

After they went to bed, I told my husband about the sign I was planning to make, for the next Pride Parade, of course.  “Christian mom who will F**CK ANYONE UP, who messes with my gay kid!”. Not that I’d ever been to a Pride Parade. Or knew when the next one was coming. Or if it was even normal for super triggered people to carry insanely aggressive, over-the-top signs, with claws and teeth coming out of them.

He said he wasn’t trying to be a jerk, but that he did wonder, if I may be taking things a little too far.

The obvious answer was yes. But here’s what was really burning me, from deep inside, all the way out: until the minute I thought my own child was at risk, I knew I had never taken it far enough. I had sat back and allowed disrespectful,  dehumanizing behavior without ever speaking up. I stayed safely in the middle. Too quiet. Too docile. Protecting my position in my social group, above the rights of other people. Protecting the ministry I ran. Protecting my own ass. Now here I was, with a possibly gay daughter, and there was no way I was going to pretend that the slowly emerging levels of freedom, equality and safety, were a real reflection of society as a whole. Nor would they be, without a continued fight, for a long time to come. I also knew that any advances that had been made, on behalf of my possibly gay daughter, and my future daughter-in-law, and the children they may someday have, would be no thanks to me, and my no good, no help, ass saving self. I was deeply ashamed and embarrassed, and I wanted to fall on my knees in thankfulness, to those who had spent their lives, risking far more than I ever had, by standing up for her in my place. From that moment on, I vowed never to be passive, or quiet, or let fear and selfish interests stand in the way of another person’s right to safety and equality again. Because even if my child wasn’t gay, someone else’s was, and now they were my child too.

THE DECISION: So here’s the thing about being shunned by friends and family for leaving their church. As I’ve said before, in other posts, it’s not the same as being disowned. Compared to being shunned, disowned is an act of mercy, because it’s one big jab through the heart, instead of a long, miserable death by a thousand little poisonous cuts. Most people don’t admit they’re shunning. In fact, if they’re ever actually confronted, they claim that they’re not, because they know it makes them look like jerks. So here’s what happens instead. They don’t stop inviting you to birthdays and holidays and social functions. In fact, you may find yourself invited even more. But it isn’t because you’re loved or accepted. It’s so they can sit at table with you, and turn their heads away when you speak. Or so they can yell at your children and treat them like feral little monsters if they so much as breathe in the wrong direction. Or so they can give each other beautiful gifts and make a big deal out of each one, while your kids get clothes that are 4 sizes too small, and a baby rattle that’s “just perfect!” for a 5 years old. Or so they can plan trips and laugh at inside jokes that you’ve been purposefully left out of. Or so they can bring up controversial topics on religion or politics, and demean the “sinful”, “disgusting”, “trash” (like you) who are dumb enough to believe the way you do.

For several months before The Dream, I’d been on the verge of doing something drastic. It’s a last resort measure called going No Contact, and it means cutting off all interaction with abusive people and their environment. Not because I wanted to. Even if you’re treated like garbage, when it’s all you’ve ever known, no one wants to. But something in me finally understood, that this cycle of behavior, had been growing and thriving long before I was born, and with or without me, it was going to continue, long after I was gone. Gay child or not, it didn’t really matter, because if it wasn’t about being gay, they would have made it about something else: Politics. Religion. Who you marry. Where you live. What brand of toilet paper you use. Turkey over ham at Christmas. Their need for other people to be bad, so they could feel good, was a problem far bigger than me; and like any real addiction we use to plug the empty holes in our lives, there was no rational conversation or magical solution, to talk them out of their next fix. The only behavior I could control was my own. And if I really did have a gay child, I knew that staying in that environment, would set her up for a lifetime of hiding or being shunned: never fully accepted, with the cross of self-loathing hung around her neck, forced to apologize for being born, “an abomination”, “a disappointment” and “broken”.

It was all sounding strangely familiar—and over my dead, cold, infidel body, was I letting anyone feed their Narcissism, on my innocent little girl. 

I had to let them go.

THE DOG: Five years later, my then 12 year old daughter, who so far was not gay, and in love with Edward the Vampire and Twilight, came downstairs for school, and dropped a bomb that left me stunned.

“You know when I cut my neck open?”

Um. Ya. I remember it well.

“Well it wasn’t me, it was Riley (our anxiety ridden rescue Terrier). I was forcing him to hug me like you kept telling me not to, and his teeth got caught in my neck. I was afraid you’d get rid of him, so I said I did it to myself. Can I please sleep with my door closed again, now?”

Her older brother had apparently known for years, but until they were sure the dog was safe, neither one of them was going to tell us the truth. As she went on to explain it more, she said she yanked his head when he bit her, and it tore two gashes, instead of leaving more recognizable bite marks. But just to make sure we believed her, she used the nail clippers, to disguise it some more. As extreme as it sounds, they loved their dog, and what they feared was actually real. Had we known it at the time, there was no way we could have kept him, after vampiring a little kid’s neck.

“But all of those years…..” I couldn’t even finish the sentence, as memory after memory of sitting up all hours, listening outside of her door, and visits to the therapist, and late night soul searching, and forced, awkward talks, clicked like an old toy Viewmaster through my mind.

There’s a term used by Tolkien, to describe the good story, that comes from the bad story. He called it The Eucatastrophe. It literally means, The Good (Eu) Tragedy: a sudden turn in an impossibly bad situation, that leaves us breathless with surprise, to find something beautiful on the other side. Sometimes its a found attribute, like loyalty or courage. Other times its an arrow, that either points us to our Hero’s Journey, or puts us on a path to a much needed change. It’s different than a happy ending, because just like real life stories, Tolkien didn’t believe that a fairy tale ever ends—it keeps moving forward, To Become something else, after catching a sacred glimpse of the truth.

So what’s the good story in the bad story here? I got out. Even under the threat of hell, and damnation and no more lemon meringue pie at Christmas. And I changed. Not because of my abilities—I didn’t have anything special to speak of—but because I was offered the choice to be different, and I showed up long enough to say yes.  And I experienced Grace. Not the kind where Angels sing and all is well with the world, forever and ever amen. The kind that hauls you on her back and dumps you in Time Out, so you can sit and think about how you’ve been acting for awhile. And I broke the cycle. For my kids. And my kid’s kids. And for a sick and suffering world that desperately needs to hold each other, and rock each other, and beg each other for forgiveness.

Please forgive me.

I saw a quote the other day, that said “Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in, can hope to escape.” It may seem strange to think of desperation as a positive, but it’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given. Knowing who we are, isn’t the same as being who we are–and when Dog showed up as God, and lit the path to peace and freedom, The Knowing, and The Being, moved closer to becoming one.

Finding Peace and Understanding, in the Gross, Spongy Center of Life.


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post that was kind of about the B word (Bigotry) and kind of about the R word (Racism), and then sort of about some other things that weren’t doing me a bit of good to keep carrying around.

So I threw them out.

Into cyberspace.

why? Why? WHY?

Almost 5 posts down The Road To Blog, and I continue to ask myself that same question, right before I close my eyes and press Publish anyway. And I still don’t know the answer to it, any more than I know why I buy a 3 Musketeers and peel the waxy chocolate coating off of that gross, spongy middle part, and throw it away. It’s just a compulsion that brings me peace. Reason enough, I guess. Continue reading Finding Peace and Understanding, in the Gross, Spongy Center of Life.

Sinners, Honkys and Misfits.

I never have loved to run. But for whatever reason, every Spring, I try to convince myself that I do. That’s how I ended up here. Staring from the top of these old concrete stairs, completely out of breath—not only because I’m overweight and out of shape—but because of the staggering flood of memories that have just come rushing back in. Continue reading Sinners, Honkys and Misfits.