Saturday, November 16, 2013

Have voice, will travel

I am tempted to always wear my SANE name tag
in case there is doubt regarding my sanity.
I'm not a seasoned traveler yet. But I'm not bland anymore.

In the last four weeks I've been to Connecticut, Texas and Massachusetts to share my story and speak out against religious medical neglect of children. It's been a trip not only in terms of flying & driving, but in the amazing variety of wonderful people I've met every single place I've been.

October 19 was the Secular Assembly for the North East's first annual conference (SANE) at the University of New Haven, CT.  Speakers included Jessica Alquist, David Silverman, Sikivu Hutchinson, Dennis Himes, Barry Kosmin, David Niose...and (ahem) me. It was the first time I've launched into a solo speaking gig, printing out directions (yes I got lost, but it wasn't Map quest's fault) & heading out in my Nissan pickup fondly known as the Final Frontier.

I was excited and optimistic even before the bald eagle flew across the highway in front of me. I love coincidences that look like Signs. 

November 8 was the Child-Friendly Faith Project's first annual conference CFF in Austin, Texas. I was part of a  survivors panel discussion which included Bethany Brittain, Jaime Romo  and Joel Engelman, moderated by Steve Hassan.

With Sam Brower

Other speakers included Sam Brower (who sat next to me at supper & described his investigative work that led to Warren Jeffs' capture and conviction) and Rita Swan: my hero, mentor and friend who has led me into this world where my voice is increasingly heard as one of the ones who got away. 

With Rita Swan of CHILD Inc. My hero!

I also met Linda Martin the night her story broke on surviving the horrors of the Followers of Christ church.   KATU  This woman's strength and determination are amazing. Keep an eye on this reporter & KATU's coverage. This will be as big as the Warren Jeffs case.

With Steve Hassan, survivor of the
Moonies. (At the start of our
survivor panel discussion, I think
 he should have raised his hand
and said, "For immunity! Survivors
ready? GO!" the TV show...)

I love my Sean Faircloth Fist of Emphasis

I admit I was a little...braced...about the Child-Friendly Faith conference: this is a mix of religious and secular activists seeking to protect children above all religious traditions. The conference's title was "Can Faith Be Made Child-friendly?"  (Before-hand, I honestly had my doubts as to whether we could even find common ground at the conference, let alone elsewhere.) I was wrong. This was another dynamic mix of the last group I'd have bet would inspire me, including a rabbi and a Baptist minister among others.

I did my part

With Austin Dacey in Austin Texas
Yes, there's a joke there somewhere. I think it was on me. Having been raised in an impractical and passively religious family, it was powerful to hear women and--especially--men form a verbal front line to protect kids. I was honored and humbled to be surprised.

Thirty-odd hours after I drove home from the airport (in the middle of the night) I was off to Massachusetts and the Greater Worcester Humanists. (It's pronounced Wuss-ta.) Worcester Another terrific group, a lot of great questions, and dinner with a childhood friend I hadn't seen since eighth grade when I stopped going to school because my leg was so painful. 

With a new friend in Worcester...and a childhood friend
I hadn't seen since before my bone disease. Love ya,
It's been a bungee-jump of faith in myself and human beings, something like those South Pacific islanders who tie vines to their ankles & throw themselves off towers.  Telling my story is like stripping down to raw emotion and showing scars more graphic than the one from 31 staples where my left leg was. But my story isn't any more important than anyone's. And when I tell it, we can recognize this common history aand connect with each other.  

And this week? I'm speaking Thursday night, November 21, 2013 to the New York City Atheists. It happens to be the eve of the day that I call the last (possibly best) day of my childhood.  NYC Atheists I can't wait.

So remember: The lint roller is your friend. The grande margarita you order in Austin will be the size of a goldfish bowl. And only agree to let a flight attendant check your carry-on when they pry it from your cold dead fingers.

Greater Worcester Humanists, Massachusetts. (They are greater!)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Abby Normal

OK, kids. A Halloween story of sorts. I'm a skeptic of the atheist variety, right? Well, listen up. (Yeah, I know I've missed Halloween by x minutes. Just shut up & listen.)

When I was a kid, I loved ghost stories even though they were verboten.  Hey, I was a Christian Scientist. We believed real spiritual Life was eternal. But it was fun for me to believe in ghosts. I read stories, screamed at slumber-party tales, and imagined the "haunted" house down the road had sent a soul between-the-worlds to my own attic.

Flash-forward forty-odd years. (Believe me, those years were odd.) I became a skeptic of the atheist persuasion. I had (have) two daughters, the elder of whom was sixteen or seventeen when this series of incidents happened. We (my two daughters & I) lived in a new (= non-spooky) log cabin.

My elder daughter had always had a somewhat tumultuous relationship with her father. One afternoon when I was home alone, I heard a huge, deafening crash from my daughter's (empty) room. I thought Shit! her shelves collapsed!... because that was what it sounded like. I assumed her glass dolls & all were gone. I sighed & went to look.

Nothing. Her room was empty. Shelves intact.

Some time later (again when I was home alone) I heard another deafening crash--this time from the stairs that led to the basement.  Instinct said The shelves with all the canners & canned jars collapsed! Again I groaned & went to look.

...& again: nothing.

There were more incidents. My daughter had a party, and a bunch of her high school friends spent the night in our semi-finished basement. In the middle of the night there was a crash that shook the house and woke everyone. My daughter & her friends discussed it, then recreated the noise by lifting and dropping a heavy futon on which several kids had been sleeping. Yup: that was the sound.

Keep in mind that my daughter's relationship (and mine) with her dad was...uneasy...throughout this time.

Fast-forward to that summer. My daughter went to live with her dad for several months. There were upsetting developments.  Very upsetting. She moved home under less than happy circumstances. And then the noises started in earnest.

For several nights in a row, there was a terrific crashing and banging from the (empty) basement. I heard this. It stopped after I turned on all the lights on the first floor & prepared to go downstairs. Except no one was there. (I was not asleep or sleep-walking at the time. This happened.)

As a skeptic (which I've become very consciously in the half-dozen years since this took place) I would doubt someone heard those noises, had I not been the one (among others)who heard them. I have no explanation. I am not claiming a paranormal defense. But I heard them. So did my daughter. And so did close to a dozen of her friends.

Everything I've recounted here is true. I am willing to believe there is a logical explanation. But I have yet to hear one.

Sleep well, campers. Dammit! I don't care if it isn't Halloween anymore. Close enough.