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He was arrested and pleaded guilty to a charge of assaulting Brooke on Christmas Day This resulted in 30 days in rehab, 30 days of probation and 36 hours of anger management classes. They found the star virtually incoherent through drink and drugs, while his busty year-old porn star companion, Capri Anderson, was hiding in the closet. By January 26 he was in the spotlight again after a hour drugs bender with several porn stars at his plush home in Beverly Hills.

The party came to an abrupt end on January 27 when Sheen was rushed from his home to the Cedars-Sinai hospital in LA with severe abdominal pain. Sadly, their bliss was short lived and Brooke took off, leaving Sheen to burn his bridges with a hate-filled rant against CBS bosses. On March 1 ex-wife Brooke filed a restraining order against Sheen, claiming he punched her, threatened to stab her in the eye and vowed to cut off her head and send it to her mother in a box.

On March 7 he launched an online rant and on March 8 , when an page contract termination letter finally arrived, he reacted with the same bizarre optimism. Follow The Sun. Your Sun Sign in. News Corp WSJ. Sign in. All News. Updated: 4th April , pm. Her mouth hung open, her eyes slightly cracked, her neck as reddish-pink as a bloody raw steak. Her face looked as if someone had slathered it with a mud mask. Pasty in some places, blackened in others. But her skin, Hana says, was still there, even if it had turned a different shade. Badly hurt and on the brink of death, that is how Hana remembered her daughter on the day she was burned.

After Aysha was whisked away to Turkey for medical care on the day of the accident, an uncle who accompanied her sent a photo of her face wrapped in white bandages. Instead, the uncle would call regularly with updates from Turkey. She was going to be OK. Doctors focused on her lungs especially, which were damaged from the smoke. Hana prayed and cried, waiting for Aysha to be well enough to come home.

Finally, that day came. Hana waited, and when she saw the car coming down the road, she ran out of her house in time to see her little girl step out. She remembers that Aysha wore jeans and a red and white striped dress. Her hair had been shaved off. But it was her face that shocked Hana the most. She did not know that the burned layer of skin had fallen away in sheaths, and that the new skin that replaced it was a combination of grafts, recent growth and irregular-shaped scars. Aysha did not look like the little girl her mother remembered, but Hana had no doubt she was her daughter.

She grabbed Aysha and carried her inside of the house. She sat down, weeping. Hana recalls how Aysha was welcomed back to parts of the community, but the children who used to play with her refused. In May , they boarded a plane and arrived in California. For the last 10 months, Aysha has lived in Southern California, traveling with a chaperone several days a week — an hour each way from an apartment in Irvine — to the hospital in Pasadena for checkups and surgeries, all to treat the burns and scars that run across her arms, chest, neck and face.

She is one of six Syrian children who have come to the U. Given the immigration hurdles and expenses for travel, living and medical care, it would be almost impossible for most Syrian families to travel to the U. She has been active in humanitarian projects since the war in Syria began. State Department has remained supportive of temporary visas to bring burned Syrian children and their families to the U. Twenty-five more burned Syrian children are currently on waiting lists to come to the U. Currently they do not have enough funding to bring all of the children who need help.

There have been half a million deaths and at least two million injuries since the start of the Syrian Civil War in , and the young Syrian patients who show up at Shriners come with gnarled hands, missing eyes and knotty scars, as well as obstructed breathing, hearing and vision. Some can barely swallow. Their injuries are the direct result of air strikes and, in some cases, chemical weapons attacks.

A longtime Syrian-American activist within the Arab-American community, Moujtahed worked on developing the partnership with Shriners as well as getting support from politicians. Those who survive their burns have a really tough, heavy pain, not only from their burns, but also psychologically. Norbury recalls the injuries of one Syrian boy he treated recently.

It looked like he was balancing a baseball on the back of his hand. But she still has more surgeries to go. When Aysha is not in the hospital, she plays alone, or studies with a year-old Syrian girl, Hamama, who is also receiving treatment at Shriners and lives with Aysha and her mom in the Irvine apartment. Hamama lost her parents, along with key parts of her memory, when her village was attacked. She cannot recall her past, the accident, or even her family members who died.

They occasionally go to the shopping mall, or out to eat. Aysha collects dolls, watches Disney cartoons, and loves Skittles. But mostly she longs to attend school in a building outside with other children, even if they stare or laugh at her. It is too risky. Doctors have prohibited her from attending school outside because they worry the sun and environment could harm her already fragile skin and nervous system.

Hana homeschools Aysha, who tries to stay in good spirits, even though she wishes she had other kids her age to play with. When she does go outside for brief periods, she worries about what people think of her. Once, Aysha spotted a woman pushing a stroller. She noticed a toy fall from the stroller to the ground. Aysha thought of picking up the toy to give to the baby. On the television, a shark tries to catch a dolphin. Hana wears a gray head scarf and a red trench coat, which she has buttoned. She gives Aysha rosewater. She is often so focused on her daughter, she forgets about herself.

Hana left five other children behind in Syria.


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Though Hana and Aysha video chat with their family members back in Turkey and Syria regularly, they know that they will likely not see them again for at least another two years. That is how long the doctors expect it to take to complete the needed surgeries. W hen Aysha was a baby, her family resided in the close-knit village of Heesh, where she and her husband lived off the land, raising animals and growing their own food.

They made cheese and traded it for other products. Their agrarian life was peaceful, Hana says, until the military came in and ordered everyone in the village to leave. Heesh would become a bloody battleground as opposition fighters and Assad-regime forces clashed — artillery, rockets and mortars dropping over the hamlet, driving out residents and killing those left behind.

Hana remembers gripping Aysha in her arms, carrying a bag of just a few clothing items, and making the two-week trek from Heesh to the border of Turkey on foot, with her husband and six kids. If we make it out alive, we are alive. They spent four years in the camps. Aysha learned to crawl, and walk, between the tents. Since their entire village and extended family members had relocated there too, Aysha knew many people. She would spend her days going from canopy to canopy, hiding and hunting for food. You keep her! The family eventually learned that the fighting had subsided and they could return to Heesh, but when they made the long journey back to the village, they found a heap of rubble, broken glass, burned toys, cracked concrete, dust, dirt and crumbled storefronts.

The ceiling had collapsed. The living room was a hill of rocks. Like the rest of the village, they rebuilt their home, one concrete slab after another. Less than a year later, it was not fully intact, but they had repaired it enough to live within its walls again.

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The doctor begins to make marks on her ears with a marker. Doctors know the patients may never look the same as before, but they hope to help them live a more normal life by improving their burn injuries and deformities step by step, until they look and feel closer to the kids they are inside. The ones who skip down halls, sing YouTube songs, and grab for toys like other kids their age — without fear of frightening others. At 10 a. Hama tells Aysha to open her mouth. The syringe is filled to the tip with the bright pink liquid. Aysha breathes deeply, gathering the courage to drink it down.

She drinks it down with a grimace and wipes her lips. Minutes later, Aysha is groggy. Her mom leans in close. Aysha says nothing, her eyes droop. A few minutes later, the nurses wheel Aysha out of the room, down the hall, as Hana watches from behind. Aysha is trying to call out. Her voice is so faint. Hana hears her. Hana rushes to her side once more. When priceless texts began disappearing from a seventh-century hilltop abbey, the police were mystified. They were even more befuddled when they finally caught the culprit. T ourists are a most common sight at the abbey of Mont Sainte-Odile in the summer.

So, when a somewhat hefty, tall man walked down the marble stairs leading to the first floor of the guesthouse, hardly anyone noticed. His backpack contained a Bible, which is normal in a place where people come for religious pilgrimages, but this Bible was more than years old. Along with it, the man carried a 15th-century incunabulum, works by Cicero and the eighth-century theologian Alcuin, and three more dusty, priceless books.

He picked six books from one of the oak bookcases standing against the walls, and walked right out through the Saint-Pierre chapel, briefly glancing at the marble tomb of Saint Odile — the revered saint who founded this mountaintop abbey in the seventh century — on his way out. Now, the square-jawed, long-legged man sauntered through a swarm of tourists near the parapet enclosing the religious site.

It was a warm, sunny day in August , and he had just stolen from one of the holiest sites in Alsace, a historical region in northeastern France. On countless occasions, he had soaked up the views of the hillsides, blanketed with pines, and the sprawling Rhine Valley. He made himself a promise not to steal from the library anymore, he would later tell police investigators.

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A small, vaulted room, it had once been known as Calvary, a place where canons and nuns meditated on the Passion of Christ. In the midth century, a canon had turned it into a library, amassing more than 3, books donated by seminaries and monasteries from the region. In the s, an amateur historian started drawing an inventory and had found ancient editions of works by Aristotle, Homer, and the Roman playwright Terence. Especially valuable were 10 incunabula — rare books printed before , during the earliest years of the printing press.

Sermons by Augustine, bound in sow skin, from Three Latin Bibles, printed in Basel and Strasbourg. Works by the Roman poet Virgil, printed in in Nuremberg.

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A Bible commentary by Peter Lombard, a 12th-century Italian scholar. Now one was missing. On the lower shelf where they were supposed to line up, there was an empty space. Buntz scurried out of the room. She bumped into Charles Diss, 61, the director of Mont Sainte-Odile, a short man with an affable face and protruding ears. Diss was rattled. The library was accessible to some of the 60 employees, as well as to groups of 30 worshippers taking turns in adoration of the Eucharist, a tradition going back to the years following World War I.

Buntz and Diss drove the weaving road downhill to file a complaint with the local police station. For a moment, they thought that things would be left at that. The door was often left unlocked, after all. It appeared that only one book had been stolen, or simply borrowed by a fervent but dreamy pilgrim, and not returned. No additional security measures were taken.

But when Buntz entered the library one day in November, just a few months later, the remaining incunabula were gone. The empty shelf stared grimly at her like an open wound. The gendarmes began an investigation and soon roamed the area. He had walked back to the car two hours later, carrying two bags full of nine heavy incunabula, according to previously undisclosed police records. The lock on the library door was replaced with a sturdier one, and access to the room restricted. For months, there was no further pilfering. It was a relief.

Life continued. In the fall of , Diss, the head of the site for 23 years, was succeeded by Alain Donius, a bespectacled, disheveled priest of No one told him about the thefts. The matter was considered closed. W hile the monks breathed easy, the thief enjoyed his new books. At night, in his tiny flat in Illkirch-Graffenstaden, in the suburbs of Strasbourg, year-old bachelor Stanislas Gosse tapped into his knowledge of Latin to read the stolen texts. There was a 19th-century volume reproducing plates from the Hortus Deliciarum , a 12th-century encyclopedia that had been lost in a fire.

Flipping through the pages, one saw the seeds of Christianity sprout and unfold. Miniatures showed Jonah crawling out of the jaws of the monster, a giant fish with its head a glowing red. The Three Kings followed the Star of Bethlehem, and a bearded King David sat on his throne musing, a harp tucked between his hands. Did reading these books produce the same joy Gosse felt playing the organ at church? He had found them covered with dust and bird droppings.

He had found himself a mission. He would save the texts from decay and oblivion. In ninth grade, his Latin teacher, a bibliophile, had taken his class to the library of the Grand Seminary of Strasbourg, where the spines of 5, ancient books glowed under the artificial light in countless shades of dull yellow, pearl-gray and purplish red. Equally bewitching was Mont Sainte-Odile. Gosse was 3 years old when he had first laid eyes on the secluded mount and scampered around the Pagan Wall enclosing it, a kilometer long wall made of large stones covered with moss.

His father, a military officer, took him there often, and as an adult Gosse visited the site every year. He was raised Catholic, and Alain Donius, the priest who became the head of Sainte-Odile in , had taught him catechism as a boy. When Gosse first peered inside the library in , he was enchanted. He would come back. In August , he walked up the stairs to the library and found the door open.

He came back a few days later, riding his bicycle in the summer heat. He made his way to the library. His hand felt for a latch through the loose chicken wire covering the bookcase doors. He picked six books, including a 15th-century Bible, and one incunabulum. Later, Gosse went to the national library in Strasbourg to read about what he had appropriated. He found the library door open. Gosse, who declined to be interviewed for this story, described the thefts to the investigators with a wealth of details, but the interrogation records fail to mention how he felt perpetrating them. By his own account, he left around midnight, driving away in the cold night.

For several months, it seems, Gosse was content with the books he had collected. In the summer of , however, he went back again. This time, he found the door closed and locked. Would it stop him? He returned the next day with a hand drill. How thick was the door, he wondered, and could he pick the lock? After drilling a 3-millimeter hole, he gave up. He was no professional thief, after all. He had to find another way in. This time, it hit her like a blow. Hundreds of books were missing. The door and the windows showed no signs of forced entry.

Some mysterious force had found a way into the very heart of the holy site. Unless it was an inside job. One of the two priests, perhaps? One of the 10 nuns? One of the employees? Could it possibly have been the work of Donius, the new director? After all, not everyone had welcomed him with open arms. Everyone was a suspect. Access to the library had already been restricted to a handful of people. Dietrich had changed the lock for a stronger one.

Buntz had even relinquished her key, to prove her good faith. Would they ever be found? Had they already been thrown into the Rhine, or sold to art smugglers in the Netherlands or Belgium? This was the lead pursued by the investigators, and art dealers across Europe had been asked to keep an eye out for specific books. They could only hope for a miracle. O n May 19, near 7 p.

He brought ropes, three suitcases, gray plastic bags and a flashlight. Once inside the main courtyard, he headed straight to the second floor of the Sainte-Odile aisle of the guesthouse. He tied the ropes to a wooden beam above a trapdoor in the floor and climbed down into a dark, windowless room of about 10 feet by 10 feet with a short 7-foot ceiling. Through an opening in the wall, he slipped into a second, narrow room.

A dim light filtered through cracks in the lower part of a wall. The thief gently slid two wooden panels open, revealing rows of neatly lined up books on two shelves inside a cupboard. He took the books off, then one shelf, before sneaking inside the library. At the library in Strasbourg, he had found what he had been looking for in an article from a local history journal that mentioned a secret passage, unknown to anyone currently working at the abbey, except Dietrich, the janitor.

It had probably once been used as a hiding place for the monks or as an ossuary — a place to store bones. Gosse selected a few books, wrapped them in plastic bags, then crawled back inside the cupboard. In the second room, he flipped a wooden crate, climbed on it and hauled the bags through the hatch onto the attic.

He climbed up the rope, moved the books to a nearby table to clear the hatch, and climbed back down. He repeated the operation eight times throughout the evening. By the time he was done, more than a hundred books were stacked up in the attic. Around 2 a. He came back the following evening. They had poked around the library for hours, eventually chancing upon the secret passage. They saw the suitcases Gosse had left and were waiting for him to come back. Around 9 p.

The gendarmes wrestled him to the floor. He barely said a word. At his apartment, they found about 1, books wrapped in plastic bags. On most of the books, Gosse had glued a custom ex libris bookplate stamp bearing his name in Gothic letters, as well as a drawing of a heart. He confessed to the thefts. He offered to donate them to the library he had so heartily pillaged.

He apologized to the director, who gave him absolution. A slap on the wrist, his lawyer says. He was even able to keep teaching. Close to 20 years after the thefts, the investigators still speak about Gosse with awe. He was no ordinary thief, after all. He stole out of passion, and the books were safely returned to the library in 22 boxes it took two volunteers six months to sort them out.

Former colleagues at the engineering school where Gosse still teaches are more guarded. What kind of example had he set for the students? They described an aloof, reclusive man with no appetite for social activities whatsoever. He is now 48, single, and lives with his mother. They exchange a quick salute and walk on. Fifty years ago, a left-wing radical planted bombs across New York, launching a desperate manhunt—and an explosive new strain of political extremism.

T hroughout much of , Sam Melville, an unemployed year-old with an estranged wife and 5-year-old son, frequently sat at his desk in a squalid apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, contemplating how he could destroy America. Two years earlier, Melville had left behind a well-paying job as a draftsman, a spacious apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and his family. His father, a former member of the Communist Labor Party, whom Melville once greatly admired, had recently given up the socialist cause, remarried, and opened a hamburger stand in an upscale section of Long Island.

Fearing that he might follow his father on a similar path led Melville down an existential rabbit hole. In and around his neighborhood that year, he took part in marches and sit-ins, but by , as his anger toward the government grew, he secretly set off a series of bombs across Manhattan. To many in the counterculture underground, he was their equivalent of a masked avenger.

There was no way some doped-up college kid was making them. You can be all those things and still not want to blow up buildings. Yet in the flashpoint of just four months, Sam Melville and a small group of followers took the American radical left on a hard turn into armed struggle.

Melville was one of the first to turn to this kind of violence, but the country would soon witness the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the bombings of the Pentagon and NYPD headquarters by the Weather Underground, and more. What else would make a person act that way other than knowing they damaged their family? The one thing nobody can debate is the haphazard manner in which Sam Melville went about bombing Marine Midland. Though his intention was to destroy property and not people, he did not take into account the presence of an evening staff in the building when he set the device for a 10 p.

When more than a dozen employees were taken to the hospital — all with minor injuries — it forced him to rethink his future plans of attack. Army and Selective Services inside. The device went off at 2 a. There were no injuries. Melville and his cell soon learned that damaging federal property could elicit a furious response.

The next day, the FBI went to an apartment Melville had moved out of months earlier, and later they tracked him down at the apartment on East 4th Street where he and Alpert were living. He told them his name was David McCurdy — the pseudonym he had used to rent a nearby apartment where he had set up an explosives workshop — and denied knowing who Sam Melville was. Unfazed by this close call, the collective went to work plotting their most ambitious statement on American tyranny yet: a trio of simultaneous bomb blasts across the city on Veterans Day.

Meanwhile, Melville opted for his version of laying low: skipping town and going on a bombing spree of U. Army facilities across the Midwest. Melville also participated in a guerilla warfare workshop in North Dakota, hosted by the black nationalist H. Rap Brown.

From the inside, black people have been fighting a revolution for years. And finally, white Americans too are striking blows for liberation. Another blast was planned to follow at the Lexington Armory on 26th Street, with Melville delivering the bomb himself with help from George Demmerle, a newer member Melville had befriended on the Lower East Side.

Demmerle, an overly rambunctious radical who not only was a member of the Crazies but also held rank as the only Caucasian member of the Black Panthers, greatly impressed Melville. Had they found his bomb factory? He had to mobilize. The revolution was in full swing. N ot long after the explosive on Centre Street, Demmerle and Melville made their way uptown, to 26th Street.

The plan was to chuck the timed bombs onto the large Army trucks parked in front of the 69th Regiment Armory, knowing they would later be brought inside the building. But as Melville approached, he noticed something different than the numerous times they had cased the building.

Figuring the action would have to wait for another day, Melville was just about to turn away when he was bombarded from all angles by FBI agents pointing pistols and ordering him to freeze. Just like Melville, Demmerle was a man who had left his wife and child looking for purpose in life, but instead of becoming a self-appointed revolutionary, he found it as a low-level mole for the government, beginning in But to Melville, Demmerle was just another comrade in the struggle.

How the hell am I going to get out of jail, jackass? A month after his outburst in court, Melville pulled another act of desperation. After racing down two flights of stairs, he was apprehended. On May 8, , Melville pled guilty to three charges: conspiring to and destroying federal property, and assaulting the marshal.

He was sentenced to a consecutive run of 31 years. Hughey ended up serving two years, while Alpert absconded. While harbored by members of the Weather Underground, she circulated the feminist manifesto Mother Right to much praise and criticism from the radical left, before surrendering in There, abusive guards were the norm, as were ludicrously sparse rations such as a single bar of soap every other month and one roll of toilet paper given out only once a month. The lone bright spot for Melville was finding prisoners to connect with from the Black Panthers and a likeminded Puerto Rican civil rights group called the Young Lords.

Over the course of the next year, Melville sent out a storm of letters decrying the conditions at Attica to lawyers, outside supporters and the New York Commissioner of Corrections, Russell Oswald, while also publishing a handmade newsletter distributed to prisoners on the sly called The Iced Pig. For many both inside and outside of prison walls, this new awareness of incarceration conditions came from George Jackson, the San Quentin inmate who authored the best-selling book Soledad Brother.

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When word got out that Jackson had been shot dead during a bungled uprising on August 21, , it set off a brooding fury in Attica. In an act of solidarity, Melville led a multiracial phalanx of prisoners wearing black armbands into the mess hall for a very solemn hunger strike. One guard was singled out for a beating so bad he died a few days later. Over the next four days, negotiations were volleyed in and out of the prison walls by journalists, senators and the well-known civil rights lawyer William Kunstler. At the end of the sudden and bloody debacle, nine guards and 29 inmates were dead, with Melville reportedly being one of the first to get picked off.

Legend says Melville was in mid-throw of a Molotov cocktail when he was gunned down. As much as that would make for a great dramatic ending to this made-for-TV story, evidence brought up in a civil suit during the s revealed this to be a mistruth, as no such item was found near his body. For an almost year stretch starting in , a group that initially called themselves the Sam Melville Unit carried out a series of bank robberies and bombings across the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest.

Last year, former New York City Police commissioner Bernard Kerik summoned the name of the Melville-inspired group when arguing that the left-wing protest group Antifa should be considered a domestic terrorist group. Arching back in his chair to lend further significance to his statement, he puffs on his cigar and continues. While other girls my age were sneaking off with boys and getting drunk, I was becoming a zealot—and trying to convert my parents.

O n a summer Thursday evening, shortly after my 16th birthday, my face was pressed into the maroon carpet again. Mildew filled my nostrils and I coughed. I was mesmerized by the way God moved through her. The Secret Place of the Lord was the place we could dwell if we lived holy lives. In the Secret Place, God would whisper divine revelations to us and show us miracles. I dug my face harder into the floor — lying prostrate was how we humbled ourselves before the Lord.

I sang, improvising a new melody to the Lord. I felt something release as I sang, something like the warmth of God. I kept singing and the tears started flowing, as they always did when I prayed long enough. They dripped off my face and darkened the carpet underneath. I was a homeschooled girl with only a smattering of friends. My best friend, Siena, lived just down the road from me, on the pine-speckled canyon seven dusty miles from town. I adored her, but Siena was a public-school jock by then and had way cooler friends than me.

I was lonely, and this Pentecostal church had the only youth group in town. Not long after joining, I was all in. I prayed in my room for hours every day. I spoke in tongues and believed I was slaying demons as I prayed in my spiritual language. I threw out all of my secular music.

I went on mission trips to spread the Gospel. I cut out my non-Christian friends. I signed a contract promising that I would protect my virginity for my wedding night. My parents were nominal Christians, but not churchgoers. I deserved parents who would guide me into the Things of the Lord. They told me that sin could be passed down for generations and that people born into a spiritual legacy — generations of people who were believers — had a leg up on people like me from heathen families.


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  5. This came at just the right moment, developmentally speaking: I was leaving behind the childhood fantasy that my parents were perfect and coming to the realization that they were actually just winging this whole parenting thing, and that they sucked at it sometimes. This is a very normal realization for a child, but at the time, it felt irrevocable and huge. Jessa offered to be my spiritual mentor, and I excitedly agreed. I spent many hours in their living room, talking about my hopes and dreams. Jessa stroked her frizzy hair and told me all about the incredible destiny God had for me if I surrendered everything to Him.

    I clung to every word she said. I wanted to be just like her.

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    You are demonic. We ate a meal of corn on the cob, cherries and grilled chicken, on a wooden picnic table a few yards from the water. I pushed the food on my plate around, sulking. I was thinking of ways I could convert them to my faith.


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    Next to us, the river rushed constantly, filling the spaces between words. As the sun set, we played cards by lantern light. I wanted to mention this, but I thought that it would only stir up trouble. My heart hurt thinking about what my Jacob and Jessa were up to that night.

    I imagined them praying together, or worshipping around a bonfire, or dissecting passages of the Bible around the dinner table. I longed to be with them. I tried to comfort myself with reassurances that God was both all-powerful and all good and that human suffering was all part of His Plan. But for the first time since I joined the church, those answers came up short. Just 10 days after the fire, I left my hometown to go to a nearby Christian university.

    I spent that first semester in a fog, trying to make sense of my life. I remember lying on the top bunk in my new dorm room a few weeks into my college career, wondering if my faith made sense anymore, while my roommate used our dorm phone to talk to one of the boys who wanted to date her.

    I held still and listened.

    Not a free member yet?

    I watched Snow White on the inch TV screen that somebody had donated to me, under a fort of blankets and pillows on the floor. I allowed myself to be whisked away to a time before. A time before the altar calls, before the revivals, before the fire, before the fog. I hid for days in the fantasy of enchanted forests and fairy dust and singing fish, while my peers went to prayer meetings. I stopped trying to read the Bible. None of it made sense anymore. I called Jessa, hoping for a lifeline. I confided in her that God felt so far away. She asked me if I had been praying and reading the Bible enough.

    I told her that I often tried, but that it all felt so forced. She wore a scowl on her face, and my stomach filled with dread. The whites of his eyes swelled, and dark blotches of sweat stained his shirt. They told me I had the Spirit of Rebellion. They told me my heart was evil. I tried to push back, but they yelled and told me that God would abandon me if I continued to live in sin. I wish I could say I stood up for myself that night, that I ran out of the room and never came back, but the truth is I stayed.

    I stayed for what felt like hours, crying and letting them pray for my sins. I finally drove home in a blur, my body spent. I knew in that moment I had lost my faith. I moved on with my life without much talk about those fiery Jesus years, as if pretending they never happened made it so. It was years before I began to talk about my experiences in the church and process them for what they were: abuse.

    The more distance I had from the church, the more I could see how brainwashed I had been by fundamentalism. During my teenage years, I lived exactly how Jessa told me to — down to how I dressed and what music I listened to and what friends I was allowed to spend time with and how I spoke and how I approached the world. I believed that by following Jessa and Jacob, I was following God. They had the final word on salvation, eternal life and objective truth.

    They leveraged my normal human fear of death, and my desire for connection, as power over me. While it hurt at the time, I now look back at their cruelty with gratitude because it was the catalyst for me to claim my freedom. I ran into an old friend from youth group while visiting my parents for Christmas, and she asked me if I attended church. No, I said, quietly, shifting my weight from one leg to the other as we stood in the produce section of my childhood grocery store. I saw sadness in her eyes. I remembered what it was like to be in that world.

    For years, I believed that people who walked away from their faith would suffer eternally for it. I used to judge the backsliders, and now I was one. The words of my pastors that night so many years ago had been seared into my mind: You have the Spirit of Rebellion. Most of them come from those spiritual legacy families that I used to long for. Often, they are the first to break away from generations of religiously devout people. Some of them have been disowned by their parents, while some are constantly pressured by their family members to come back to the fold, complete with warnings of impending judgment.

    Compared to their journeys, I had it easy.