First memory

How old were you in your first memory? Of what does the memory consist? Here’s mine:

Mom takes me out of bed, but doesn’t say anything. It is very dark outside. It is cold and snow covers everything. Mom puts me in the car, in my carseat. Mom starts driving. It is silent. No one is talking to me. Mom and Dad aren’t talking to each other, either. I sense urgency. It is very important to get where we are going. When Mom stops the car, I see we are at Grandma Jo’s house (Dad’s mom). When we walk in, there is no happy greeting. Grandma is crying, then Dad starts crying. I don’t know what is happening, no one is telling me. Mom lays me down on the couch and I fall back asleep.

When I was in my twenties, Mom told me this memory was from when I was 19 months old. That was the night my great grandparents died unexpectedly. No wonder no one was telling me anything. I was a baby.

I mentioned in one of my first posts about the spirits who would visit me at night. It was an old man and woman. Sometimes I wonder if it was my great grandparents coming to watch over me. As my life from childhood to adulthood progressed, I was able to ignore the spirits. I think it was because I was shutting out all emotions for a long long time. There have been times in my life, however, where I have felt a definite presence beside me, a hand on my shoulder for example. I look over and there is no one there. Friends and family members who have passed on have visited me in dreams and other places. I have found myself being more accepting of these experiences, and it is almost comforting knowing the spirits are there. I cherish their visits. Most people I talk to about this get freaked out. It’s ok, I understand. In art class last week, everyone thought a particular painting was “creepy” because there was a ghost-like figure in it. I found it comforting. I know I am different than some in this way. This is something I wonder about my oldest son. I think he has the intuitive gift that I have. I have seen the signs: anxiety, seeking comfort in the night. He has not talked about it, but I am ready.

Something happened today that gave me pause. I am asked a lot “why did you stay?” regarding the cult. I wrote in one of my first blogs about hearing thumping and yelling in the pastors office during a “meeting” (beating). And how the adults just shuffled us kids away. How they would leave when this would start. In art class today, we were talking about colors. One thing we learned was about false neutrals. And how blue jeans, for example, are a false neutral. Teacher says “raise your right hand” (what he says when he wants us to remember something) “if you see something too much, you ignore it”. Although I knew this, it was a good reminder. When I was young all the behavior of the cult leaders was shocking. As the events went on and on, I was able to ignore it.

~E

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Summer/Fall 1993

Mom, Dad, and Sister came home. A few days after that, they had to stay overnight at the hospital because Sister had a fever and was dehydrated. Dad still refers to that hospital stay as her “$10,000.00 drink of water”. He thinks he is funny!

I have good memories of this summer. We stayed home, Mom wasn’t working. I loved spending so much time with baby Sister. She seemed to grow so fast. I would hold her in the rocking chair, and stare at her for hours. I would hold her up in the mirror so she could see herself. I dreamed of the day we could share a room as sisters. I think Brother was afraid of her. Or maybe just afraid of something hurting her. She was so fragile and tiny. When she would cry he would run away.

As we already knew, we were going to the church school in the Fall. I was not too worried. I loved school and I was a good student. I remember the feeling I would get when Mom would take us school shopping. It was a ticklish feeling in my tummy. Excitement. I loved getting new school supplies and clothes. I would study my Pink Pearl eraser edges and wonder how I could keep them neat, so they wouldn’t get rounded off. Summer events seemed to go along just like past summers: Playing outside and with neighbors, vacation at Grammy’s house on the Oregon Coast, and as the summer came to an end Mom took us shopping. Why didn’t we get as many school supplies this year? Mom said we didn’t need too many supplies at the new school. That was disappointing. For clothes, I had to get skirts and dresses. Mom said it was dress code. That was ok with me, but it wouldn’t have been my first choice. I liked to play on the playground during recess. Climb the monkey bars and jump rope, I didn’t want to have to worry about a skirt. Would there be a playground at our new school? What would we do at recess?

The school year started. We lived in Carnation and the school was located out of the elder’s personal home garage (the one who had been at the hospital when Sister was born) in Monroe. That was a drive of around 30-45 minutes. They had converted the garage into a fairly nice room. There was around 30 kids in the room. The 30 kids was the entire school. There was no playground outside. They had a fairly large back yard and some trees. I would love to go play in the woods during recess (they called it break time). The trees reminded me of home.

Mom would drive us to school in Dad’s big Ford truck. On the way to Monroe, we would pick up the W kids. There was 9 total, but I can’t remember if we took them all. I think some were too young to go to school. If they weren’t ready, someone had to go knock on the door. I will never get the memory out of my head of all of them standing in the kitchen, looking so tired and sad. They were all standing around a small pot of oatmeal. It was then that I started to realize that maybe their life wasn’t so great. I didn’t see their Mom or Dad helping them get ready. I would avert my eyes because I felt that it wasn’t appropriate to look and feel sorry for them.

Those of us who didn’t fit in the cab of the truck would ride in the bed. It was fun riding in the bed, for the first few weeks. We would sing or play games. After the first few weeks, the bullying began. Some of the W boys started making fun of my brother and I on the way home from school. They would make fun of the way I laughed, sang, and the size of my nose. They would pull on Brother’s ears and make fun of his name. They ripped his earlobe one time. Brother and I didn’t know what to do. Last year, when the neighbors threw rocks at us, Mom and Dad stepped in and talked with the parents. These were the W pastor’s kids, and we felt that we would get in trouble if we “told” on them. I do remember Mom getting upset that Brother’s ear got hurt. But I don’t remember my parents talking to the W pastor about the incident.

Overall, it was a rough transition. Everything was new and different, and I didn’t know where I belonged. I knew the kids from Sunday school, but this seemed different, more serious. The desks were attached in rows of three. They were called “offices”. Sidenote: I am just noticing this now, how subliminally we were being prepared for work life. Calling recess “break time” and desks “offices”. Anyway, we had dividers so we couldn’t see each other. We had five workbooks called PACES: Math, English, Science, Social Studies, and Word Building. You set goals for how many pages in each book you would do each day, and work to achieve those goals. You would work at your own pace, and score your own work. The teachers were available if you had a question. You would raise your flag (put it on top of the back of your desk) and they would come to you, or call you up to the teacher’s station. I liked being able to work at my own pace. I felt like I could get a lot more work done. And I did. I also liked Mom being a teacher at the school. It made me feel special. I did have to call her Mrs., which was a little strange. It didn’t take long before I was getting in trouble. I talked to one of the W kids about schoolwork. I thought since we were the same age, that we were doing the same type of work. I got in trouble for “showing off” because I was in higher PACEs than him. I felt bad. I didn’t mean to be showing off. Maybe they were right that I felt I was better than them. Because my Mom helped me get dressed in the morning, made me breakfast, and lunch, and drove us all to school. Because I had a lot of books, and I loved to learn and share that common interest with my friends. They were helping me open my eyes to how mean I really was.

The next thing I was getting in trouble for was for thinking I was better than my Mom. This is a lesson I was in from about the age of 10, to the age of 14. Every once in a while it would still pop up after 14. The elder was the acting principal at the time. I most likely did have an attitude with my Mom, I was spoiled. I did not understand what they were talking about when they said I felt like I was better than her. They would tell me that I wanted to be the Mom, that I felt like I could take better care of my sister than she did. I did love to hold my sister and play with her. I had no idea how to take care of her. I would get called into the principal’s office every day so he could yell at me. I don’t remember what was said, just the yelling. I had never been called to the office at my old school. I must have always been a really bad child and no one had ever told me. If I told the principal that the W kids were being mean to me, it probably meant that I thought I was better than them too. I didn’t want to find out. I would just try my best and see if I could make things better. I thought that if I did good, kept my grades up, and didn’t cause any problems, that I would stop getting in trouble. If I kept smiling, then everything would be okay. After driving the long drive home with the W bullies, Mom would wait for Dad to get home from work so she could tell him that I got called into the principal’s office. I remember a lot of dark nights were I would cry myself to sleep. I only ever wanted my Dad’s approval. I remember the look of disappointment and confusion that he would get when Mom would tell him about the day. I did not like that at all. I would think “tomorrow will be a better day, I won’t do anything wrong”. I would fall asleep exhausted yet hopeful.

~E

Feathers in her hair- 1993

It was the most exciting day of my life up to that point. The last day of school, our Grandma was going to pick us up, and my Mom and Dad were at the hospital getting ready to have our baby! The anticipation was growing as the day went on. I didn’t know yet whether we were going to get a boy or girl. The school day finished, and I hurried outside to meet Grammy. There she was, sitting in her blue convertible Volkswagen bug, with the top down! It was a sunny day. She had her sunglasses on and she was smiling. I felt love and excitement seeing Grammy. She told us it was going to be a while before going to the hospital, so we should go home and get something to eat. I knew what I wanted to do. Show Grammy my new trick! Mom had taught me how to make Top Ramen on the stove, and Grammy said she didn’t know how to do that. When we got home, I showed her and she was so impressed. I felt very proud. I was hoping this was a sign that I was responsible enough to help out with the baby. I was finding my place in the family. I could make food for the family, just like in the Babysitter’s Club books or a Laura Ingalls Wilder story. After eating our Top Ramen, we headed to the hospital.

I didn’t really know what to expect when we got to the hospital. What surprised me was this: We turned the corner to the waiting room to find an elder of the church and his wife sitting there in the waiting room. Why were they there? I felt nervous. Was he going to yell at us? I was afraid. My brother liked to run, climb, and jump. He got up to check out the snack machine. I told him to come back and sit down. He wanted to get the baby something from the gift shop, Grammy told us to wait. I wanted to go see the gift shop too, but I didn’t want to ask, I would get in trouble cause Grammy had already said no. I did my best to keep Brother in his chair, but he wouldn’t do it. The elder and his wife just sat there watching us. Not talking to each other, Grammy, or us.

It felt like days went by, but it was only about an hour. Then we saw the nurse come around the corner with what looked like a crib with a light over it. Grammy said that meant the baby was close! We heard a soft cry from behind the door. I forgot all about my worries and I was so happy! I was impatient. Did I have a brother or a sister? After a few minutes the nurse came out and said that visitors could go in. Grammy, Brother, and I couldn’t go in yet though, the elders had to go in first. I’m going to be brutally honest, that pissed me off. That was my family in there. I didn’t even know who these people were, and they got to meet my baby before I did. But my fear of getting in trouble outweighed my want to throw a fit. So I shoved it down. Today was a happy day. Grammy said “we will see the baby in a few minutes”. Grammy is the kindest person in the whole world. I did not want to upset her.

Another long wait, and the elders came out. Finally our turn to see the baby! I stepped through the doorway, and all troubles disappeared. Mom was in the bed, Dad next to her, holding my baby sister. I was so happy to have a sister. She was what I had always wanted. I wanted to examine her visually before holding her. She was much pinker than I had expected. She had dark hair, with a few white streaks. The nurse said she thought they were feathers at first. Now how would a newborn baby have feathers? I couldn’t focus on that question. I was in awe of my sister. A little a miracle. Dad asked me if I wanted to hold her. Yes, I did. I sat down and he placed her in my arms. She was so soft, and fragile. I was glad she was wrapped up tight in a pink blanket. That made it easier to hold on to her. I could have stared at her for eternity. Her face was all squished up, but peaceful. She was the best baby in the whole entire world. The most wonderful thing I had seen in my entire (ten year old) life. I was in love. I don’t remember much from the rest of the day. We must have gone to the gift shop, because a pink bear and flowers appeared. We must have gone home and gone to bed. But I felt like I was on a cloud. I had memorized my sister’s beauty and that was all I could see. I went to bed saying her name in my head, it was the name that I had picked, and Mom and Dad had decided it was perfect for her.

The next day, I woke up early and ready to go see my sister! Grammy said we had to wait for visiting hours to start. That was ok, Grammy was my favorite person. I felt so special around her. I could wait since Grammy told me to. When we did get to the hospital, the M pastor and his wife were already there. Why did they get there first? This was getting frustrating. I felt violated. This was a precious moment in our family. They were walking out of the room when we arrived. I was glad they were leaving. I couldn’t wait to hold my sister again. We walked in the room. Mom and Dad were happy, but their smiles were not that of total happiness. We had been there for a few minutes when they told me the news. They weren’t going to name the baby the name I had picked, they were going to name the baby the same name as the M pastor’s wife. A seed of bitterness was planted inside my heart. Is that why they visited? To tell Mom and Dad what to name the baby? I was upset. I really loved the name I picked, and felt a special bond with my sister knowing she had that name. Dad didn’t like that I was upset. He said that they were the parents and they got to pick. I did not voice my feeling that the pastor had told them what to do. I didn’t really know how to say that. I was looking forward to Mom and Dad and Sister coming home from the hospital so we could be a family that was all together and safe.

I love the rain

Present day. It is raining. I love the rain. I grew up in Washington, so I am used to the rain. This summer is an unusually dry summer. I have missed the rain.

The sounds of the rain in Carnation were not that of rain hitting the ground, but rain hitting leaves. It would trickle down the leaves and branches to finally meet the ground. I would hear the birds still singing, communicating, and I would imagine I was in the rainforest.

“Don’t open your eyes” I tell myself,

Breathe in the warmth of the rain.

“Don’t open your eyes”

Listen to the birds singing their hollow song.

Laying, planning: I will grab my boots

I will find my jacket

and an umbrella

(to make Mom happy)

I will walk slowly, steadily

Listening

To the sounds, the sounds

Of the birds, of the rain,

near and far.

The drops, the melody.

I will breathe,

breathe

breathe.

Breathe in coolness, breathe out warmth

I wonder where the butterflies go

When the rain keeps them from their home,

the wind, the flowers.

Maybe today I will find them.

I will hope to find a butterfly,

or a rainbow

but that would mean,

the rain would stop and the sun would come.

I want to keep the rain.

The clean air,

the wet dirt

the sounds, the breath.

All is quiet

still

when the rain comes.

all is well.

I can’t wait to open my eyes.

~E

Outside

Our whole life did not instantly revolve around the cult. A gradual change took place. So slow it was hard to notice, until it was too late.

As long as I can remember, my Dad played soccer. Before I was born, he played in high school, and received a scholarship for college. He was involved with the Seattle Sounders for a short time as well. I have a healthy respect for the sport. As a child on the sidelines, I cannot say it was “fun” to watch. I loved to go explore and play around while the teams were on the field. I knew that my Dad had broken his nose three times, and that kind of scared me. I saw some injuries take place while we watched, and that looked miserable for the injured person! I liked to play with the other kids, and I still like to play for recreation, but the high competition still makes me nervous. I would like it when Dad’s team won. Everyone was happy! What I didn’t like was when Dad or his friends would pick me up because they were happy and excited. They were always so sweaty! Also- the spitting. Yuck! They would put water in their mouth, swish it around, and spit it out. Above all this, I was so proud of my Dad. He was so obviously gifted. I will never forget the way he would dance up and down the field with the ball. It was very artistic.

My family has always been active. We have pictures of Dad carrying me in a backpack while hiking to Lake 22 and many other day hikes in this area. Mom and Dad loved to bicycle, and shared that love with us. I remember Brother and I being towed in a bike trailer on a long trail. And then Brother and I learned to ride. We would go for day trips and it was so fun. We had a hill by our house, and I loved to start at the top and ride as fast as I could to our driveway. When I would reach a certain speed, it felt like I was flying. One time, I hit a large rock at the end of our driveway, and I literally did fly over my handlebars and landed in the bushes. A good reason to live in the country. The bushes were a lot softer than the sidewalk. Every weekend, and most evenings in the summer, we would be outdoors. Either watching Dad play soccer, riding bikes, playing tennis as a family, or going camping. In the winter, Brother and I would do gymnastics. Mom and Dad made the best of our moments as a family. They kept us active and I am so grateful for that.

The animals we had in Carnation were two dogs and a cat. Barney, our German Shepherd, was a trained fire dog. We got him because his temperament wasn’t correct for police work. He was too nice. He really did have the most patient and sweet personality. But he was a little dumb. The good thing was he was a good protector because everyone was scared of him because of his breed. Our other dog was Lady. She was a small yellow lab mix. She “smiled”. Have you ever seen a dog smile? They look like they are baring their teeth, but it is not because they are being vicious. It is adorable. However Lady would get herself in trouble. She would scare people with this skill and one time a lady whacked her with a stick because she thought Lady was going to bite her. Poor Lady. She did have an evil side though. She used to lead Barney to porcupine. He would get quilled and she would get nothing. They did it often enough, that eventually Lady got all the dogs in the neighborhood together, they all got quilled (except Lady) and she brought home the porcupine body. Barney and Lady lived a long time. Barney had bad hips, and disappeared into the woods one day. Lady moved with us a few times, and disappeared when we lived in Snohomish. My cat, Tabby, was my cat. She was tabby/calico mix. We moved into our house in Carnation when I was 3. Mom took me to pick out my kitten shortly after we moved in to the house. I picked the one that was the most playful and independent. She was very smart too. Aaron and I used to call her to bed with us, and she had to decide in which bed to lay. She put up with us. I remember one night when she was in my bed, that I had a dream a dinosaur had cornered me. The dinosaur was a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It was scratching my arms. In my dream, I was squeezing my teddy bear tight. I woke up and I was squeezing poor Tabby and she was scratching my arms!

I wanted to write all this to show that the cult did not instantly take over our lives. We had many recreations that slowly got “taken” away. Brother and I had a toy room full of toys, and shelves full of books. Dad had bought us a computer, and Nintendo. We were spoiled children, and had no idea the changes that were to come. I had never imagined that we would move and I could only keep one bag of toys. That I couldn’t keep my books. Or that we would be separated as a family unit, and from our extended family.

1992

I don’t have many distinct memories from ages seven to nine. We seemed to have settled into a family routine: work (for parents), school, church, family time. We lived in a gorgeous manufactured home on a wooded street. Behind the house lay 42 acres of preserved forest. My brother and I loved to play in the forest. Mom would always tell us to make sure we could see the house when we played. That didn’t always happen. We would wander the paths worn by the wild animals. We would paint our faces with mud and climb trees. We had our favorite stump, which we pretended was a castle. A fallen log that went over the blackberry bushes. We would find animal bones and other treasures. Dad had built us this amazing rope swing that came down from two tall trees. When you swung out you went over a ravine. All the kids in the neighborhood came to play on the swing. We had a dog named Barney, a German Shepherd. And another named Lady, a small Lab mix. I had my cat named Tabby (guess what breed she was) a Tabby mix cat. These animals were so patient with me as I would look in their mouths, ears, and examine their paws. Tabby would let me dress her up like a baby and push her around in my carriage. Our neighbor up the street had a horse. They would let me come “help” take care of the horse. In exchange for a riding lesson. I have many wonderful childhood memories of that house and neighborhood.

My Dad and his brother worked together on my Dad’s wood working business. I was good friends with my cousins. They felt more like siblings. I remember spending a lot of time with Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, and Cousins on both sides of the family. I loved and cherish that feeling of comfort I had when we were all together. My cousins and I used to put on “shows” for the adults where we would act out Disney movies. We were silly, crazy, adventurous children.

Something changed. It felt so fast to me but I am sure it was a slow progression over time. My Uncle stopped working with Dad. There was some sort of fight. We didn’t see Dad’s family as often, and when we did the adults were mostly quiet. I remember my Granny saying something to me once about my Dad, and I felt very defensive. Grandma and Granny started taking the kids places without our parents. I did not realize this was the beginning of a very long separation.

During this time, I started having what I realize now were panic attacks. I would go to bed, and then start to feel like I couldn’t breathe. I would go tell Mom and Dad, and I remember them calling the ambulance once. Most of the time I was told that I was fine and to go back to bed. I don’t blame them, they didn’t know. Maybe I had a wild imagination, or maybe I really was being visited by spirits. Either way it was scary. I would put the blanket over my head so I couldn’t see the people in my room. As an adult, I have seen visions of loved ones who have passed, so I know I have that connection. I just had no way of explaining this to my parents. I asked if I could share a room with my brother. Mom and Dad said yes. Being with my brother did help. He and I would talk until we fell asleep. He talked in his sleep though so I guess technically we would talk even after we fell asleep.

In the summer of 1992, Mom and Dad hosted the Vacation Bible School for the church at our house. It was after VBS that Mom decided to volunteer at the church school. They had a home school type situation at the church. It was grades preschool to 12. Not very many kids attended. All the teachers were church members and volunteers. The parents (all church members) would pay tuition and the principal (one of the pastors) would order the curriculum from a company called ACE. Also around this time Mom quit her job to stay home with us kids.

In the summer/fall we found out that Mom was going to have another baby! I was so excited. I really wanted a little sister. I hoped and hoped. Mom and Dad were not going to find out if the baby was a boy or a girl until birth. My cousins were calling the baby “cousin It”. It was a magical time, this new life seemed to give hope. I was hoping it would draw the family back together. Mom was tired in the beginning of her pregnancy. She would tell us that she was going to rest, and not to knock on her bedroom door unless we had broken a bone or were bleeding. Once I tricked my brother and told him that we should knock on the door to ask mom if we could play outside. He did, and I hid under the table. Mom opened the door, furious. Brother looked behind him, expecting me to be there. I was not there, but was hiding in a spot where I could still see the situation and laugh. Needless to say, I still got in trouble.

During the school year of ’92-’93 Mom and Dad told my brother and I that we were going to attend the church school that following school year. I was not excited. I loved my teachers and my friends. I loved to learn and felt happy being praised by my teachers. I loved earning prizes in the library for reading books. Would the church school have that? How big was their library? I was worried. I took that whole school year to say goodbye to my friends. We all promised we would stay in touch. They promised they would still invite me to their sleepovers.

The last day of school, my baby sister was born.

Reflecting on “Why? 1990”

I have been thinking a lot about the post last night. A few things of which I would like the reader to be aware. I will say some things that are “edgy” or meant to bring a reaction. These are things to keep the reader hooked and enticed. I wrote last night “I wonder if my parents knew that by putting us in this church, we were being handed over to and raised by criminals.” I got a reaction from this line. Which is kind of what I wanted. Maybe that is the evil part of me. When you get a reaction, you get attention, and also hopefully make the reader think. How many situations do we unknowingly put ourselves into without realizing at first that the situation is terrible? Of course my parents didn’t know!

If you are a parent or even someone who interacts with children at all, I would like you to think about something: are you encouraging or discouraging? For example, hand a child a hot dog. They say “it’s too hot!” You feel it, and it feels fine to you. You say “it’s not hot it’s fine” what did you do there? Unknowingly discounted the child’s feeling or opinion. Now let’s say the child gets a little older. Someone in a position of authority does something questionable to a child. Feeling that they don’t like it, they question themselves. Adults are always right. “The hot dog wasn’t hot” “that was love not molestation” “they only hit me because I deserve it”. You see where I’m going here?

The purpose of my writing, there are many purposes. 1) I would like my extended family to know what I went through.

2) Writing is helping me process. Now I have been going to counseling for a few years, I can honestly look back and reflect somewhat objectively on that part of my life.

3) The things I have gone through have helped to shape my identity. I am embracing it and would like to share with whomever will read.

4) I want to have a point of reference. In conversation, it may come up that I was raised in a cult. The conversation is never short after that. So many questions. I would like to be able to tell friends “Here is my blog, when you read this then it will explain a lot of things”

Thank you all for reading! I will post another story this evening.

~E

Why? 1990

This is a story of a little girl who grew up too fast. Of brainwash, thievery, abuse, and evil people. I wish I would use another word. They don’t deserve to be called people.

You see, for 17 years, my family and I were in a cult. Why? It did not appear that way at first. It was masked as a church. My Mom started attending when I was seven years old. I did not realize it was a cult until two years AFTER I got out (27 years old). They still had control of my mind.

Spring 1990- I am seven years old, my brother five. Carnation, Wa. Our Mom started attending a tiny church in our small town.

My parents worked very hard. Mom and Dad took care of my brother and I in “shifts”. Dad would work during the day, then when he came home then Mom would go to work at night. She would work all night. In the morning, she would wake us up and drive us to school, because my brother would get sick on the bus. Also, the neighbor kids would throw rocks at us if we waited at the bus stop. That was scary. I knew Mom must have been tired, but she never complained. She loved us so much. She just didn’t seem happy, until she started going to church. Mom had made new friends who also had young children. One day Mom came home and said she had been “saved”. I was not sure what this meant, but she looked happy and peaceful. It was then she decided that we would attend church as a family.

Church was not foreign to me. When I stayed the night at my friend’s house on the weekend, I would go to her church. Now we could take turns going to each others’ churches. Somehow, having a church gave me social status. Even though I kind of liked staying home on the weekends with Dad while Mom was gone. We would watch cartoons and I would draw.

We started going to church. At first, Dad would stay home by himself. I really wanted to stay home with Dad. I loved to be able to sit on his lap and watch cartoons while he “read” (fell asleep while reading) the paper. Or sit at his feet and draw while he napped. But I also loved going to church with Mom. I would lean against her, listen to her heart and her steady breath while the pastor spoke. Most of the time I couldn’t sit with Mom though. I would go to Sunday School with the other kids. That was okay, the pastor would yell a lot in the adult church and that scared me.

Yelling. I was not familiar or comfortable with yelling. At first (before I became numb) I would look around the room. Some people were nodding, others crying, still more looking guilty. He always seemed to be yelling AT the people, in a mean way. Wanting something from them but I didn’t know what. In the end, I never knew. ┬áThere was always an “invitation” after the sermon. Meaning that the church members were invited to come up and speak about what they had just heard. It was more like an invitation to be publicly humiliated. But if you didn’t speak, and they thought you should, that was even worse. If you had to be called up by them, or called back to their office after the invitation was finished, then you would be in trouble for weeks. Most of the time after the invitation, people would mill about and chatter nervously. If the pastors didn’t call anyone back to the office, then everyone would be relieved and go home. If the pastors did call someone back, then it was a relief (if it wasn’t you), but you should leave quickly unless you wanted to hear muffled yelling and sometimes thumping. Like things being thrown or people getting hurt. When I heard this at first, I looked to the adults for a reaction, they would look nervous then shuffle us kids away so we couldn’t hear.

I say “pastors”. You should be aware the church leadership was two men and their wives. The fat pastor (we will call him M), had been married before, but then got a divorce from her and remarried another woman when he thought his wife was going to die. First wife didn’t die. Awkward. Also, his second wife had at one point been married to an elder in the church. She had two kids, and the M pastor had a daughter and stepdaughter from the first marriage. So together they had five. The tall pastor (we will call him W) was married to a tiny woman. They had nine kids. He was the scarier of the two pastors. These two families have been intertwined. What appeared to be arranged marriages, and a lot of family secrets. A lot of things I wish I didn’t know. I wonder if my parents knew that by putting us in this church, we were being handed over to and “raised” by criminals.

A charmed life

About me:

I started to write a book about my life in 2012. The biggest motivator was my extended family. We were separated for around 17 years. My immediate family was in a religious cult. I thought that it would be easier to write about my experiences than having to retell stories to 30 people who wondered what happened to me while we were in the cult. It was very hard to relive over and over again the experiences and feelings. The more people I meet in “the world”, the more I realize that most of us have similar circumstances and experiences; all with different labels. So here we go, I will be recounting my years in the cult, as well as keeping up to date with current events. Present day (7/20/2015) I have three boys: Vincent (6), Troy River (2) and Miles (1). I am married to Ryan, we have three dogs and one cat. We live in Washington state, USA. I have been a pet groomer for 13 years, and have just started college.

I left the cult in 2007, and immediately jumped into achieving my goals. I started a business and got pregnant with my first son. I thought everything was great and the cult stuff was behind me. In the winter of 2010 I became pregnant with twins. We were over the moon excited. In January 2011, we lost the twins to a miscarriage. I was devastated. Also this year we lost our 17 year old dog and my grandpa died. I had what can only be described as a breakdown. I was scared and anxious all the time. I couldn’t work, and did not want to be alone. Ever. I felt like I was going to die at any minute. I was having flashbacks, panic attacks, and night terrors. I could not explain this to anyone. I decided to seek help. My cousin gave me the gift of meditation classes. I started seeing a counselor. Slowly, slowly, things started turning around. I still require the maintenance of counseling and meditation, and writing helps. Thank you for following my journey and reading my story.

~E