A letter to the judge…

As a mother I cannot imagine a pain more severe than the loss of a child. A woman who lost her child in 2010 was asking for letters to the judge who will preside over an upcoming parole hearing, deciding the fate of her child’s killer. I was honored to provide a letter giving perspective on how that December night didn’t just affect the families involved, but our city as a whole.

I have a strict rule. No matter what, when someone is grieving I will not ever question their beliefs. If it is prayers they need then I will take time to sit and reflect. I have witnessed secularists throw the question “where was your God?” in the face of a grieving mother and it made me sick and still does all these years later. Religion encompassed this particular case. From the fact that both the Clelands (victims family) and the Isimingers (killers family) were extremely religious, to the fact that they had just left Lexa’s church pageant, the mother’s own words “By faith, I know it’s not my fate to judge you. That’s in God’s hands. I can forgive you.” and the killers response “I can never make this right. On behalf of your daughter, I will include a prayer for Lexa and her family every day.”.  

Though I respect the rights of those to grieve as they wish I do not believe that it is enough to think that it is in God’s hands to judge or that a prayer a day is penance enough. I want changes in our legal system. I want drunk drivers who kill to be treated like the murders that they are. So I was proud to write to the judge and let him know that six years is not adequate and that we need to do a better job of protecting the public. I am not sure if my letter will make a difference to the judge, but by sharing it I can only hope that at least one person will think twice before they drink and drive.

To Whom It May Concern,

On December 4, 2010 our city suffered a tragic loss as a result of the choices of one man. Travis Isiminger, a young man from a good family, who had values and a bright future ahead of him proved that good people can still do wrong. In choosing to drink himself sick and the Hofbrauhaus, then choosing to get behind the wheel of his car he took all choices away from the public. His actions made those of responsible citizens irrelevant. No matter how careful they were, Travis making the choice to play God put all of our lives in danger.

That night the Cleland family paid the ultimate price on a tab that belonged to Travis. They lost not one but two children and their lives were forever changed. The forgiveness they have offered and the compassion they have shown towards Travis is nothing short of amazing. To be able to look at him, at his family, and take the murder charges off the table was commendable… but I doubt they thought doing so would cut his sentence down to a time frame less than the short life their daughter Lexa was able to live.

There is no sentence long enough to make up for the lives lost that night. The beauty and joy in the face of little Lexa cannot be replaced. The potential of the life forming inside of Nicole cannot even be imagined. Nevertheless, I believe the maximum sentence should be served. I did not know the Cleland family in 2010 but as someone who has lost a loved one to drunk driving I can tell you that I felt a closeness to them and my heart broke with each detail that was released. When you lose a family member to a totally avoidable tragic event such as that on December 4, 2010 it does not just affect the immediate family. Generations of people will suffer a loss from the choices Travis made. From all of Lexa’s future nieces or nephews to the classmates that had to learn the news of their friends death, to every citizen of Pittsburgh that drives down Carson Street and for just a moment catches a glimpse of the memorial cross… lives have been touched and they will continue to be touched until the end of time.

I hope that when you make the choice of whether or not to release Travis you will consider the severity of his crime and the impact he has had. I am sure that it will be said that he has learned his lesson, that he wants to raise awareness, that he is forever sorry for what he has done. That is all well and good, but his wants and needs should not be a consideration. The needs of all those who were touched by Lexa Cleland, especially the beautiful family that has been left behind, are what need to be addressed. Any future plans that Travis has will still be available to him when his twelve year sentence is up, but no amount of time will compensate for the lives he stole that night.


Allison Reed


your privilege would allow it


So much has happened in the past few days that it is hard to figure out what to write about. The horrific murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and then the tragedy in Dallas that left five innocent police officers dead. I could reiterate the details of each case, give you bullshit excuse for why someone deserved what they got or an anger filled rant about who was justified. I am not going to do that. I will be frank and state that I believe that the officers who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were 100% wrong. I don’t care about their pasts, those officers had their own demons and none of them deserved to die. I also believe that the shooter(s) in Dallas were wrong. The officers who were killed were not the ones that did the killing, it was random, it was fueled by rage and families will never be the same.

What I want to talk about right now is the frustration I am feeling by the views expressed by my demographic. Caucasian women, mothers, 30-40 living in the suburbs. There was little talk among the moms in my local groups when it came to the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. An article or two was posted, a comment here and there… but in general last week was business as usual. Lularoe leggings, toddler problems and what’s for dinner tonight. I am not saying that I was trying to force it on them. I know from experience that these types of discussions are best saved for other groups, a more diverse crowd. Then the recording from  Diamond Reynolds’s (girl friend of Philando Castile) live feed sprouted up and this conversation did catch my eye.

Right off the bat, the person posting was commenting on how calm  Diamond Reynolds seemed. Many of the women in the conversations were intelligent enough to know that if nothing else she was probably in shock. Others speculated she was trying to keep it together since her child was in the car. Then someone dropped this bomb.

“What bugs my so much about this…. instead of trying to do something for her boyfriend in the seat next to her she feels it’s more important to video it for facebook! If someone next to me gets shot the last thing I’m doing is recording the aftermath of it…if she was that concerned with a routine traffic stop why wasn’t she recording from the point the cop showed up? I’m not trying to justify anything anyone did
It just doesn’t sit right with me that her main concern was that she recorded the aftermath of her boyfriend being shot as opposed to trying to save his life…”

This comment made me physically ill. It is impossible to know what you would do in this type of situation and this is compounded when you remember that this a white woman putting herself in the position of a black woman. I am not sure if it needs to be spelled out this clear but just in case, here it is. WHITE PEOPLE WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE A POC.  I am sure that she believes that the last thing she would do is watch someone she loves die next to her, white privilege allows for it. As a white woman I am sure that the thought of being held at gun point during a traffic stop has never crossed her mind and even after all of this it still won’t. A broken tail light should never, ever result in death. She poses the question “why wasn’t she recording from the point the cop showed up?” that answer is simple, because she shouldn’t have to. No one should have to, though perhaps moving forward they should.

I can only imagine the fear that was going through Diamond Reynolds mind. A man so unstable shot four bullets into a man who died while still in his seat belt, all while a four year old child was in the car. Even as she is recording he has a gun on her…. what do people expect her to have done at this point? Scream, yell, jump on top of him in an attempt to save him? Any and all of these actions guarantee that poor child would have been witness to the death of both parents instead of just one. There is no doubt in my mind that the woman who made the post believes she would have done all of the things I mentioned above and that the worst that would have happened is that she’d be arrested, and then later interviewed by networks praising her bravery. Her privileged allows for that confidence… and also the confidence to know that the odds of her husband dying while buckled into the family car are slim to none…and if it did happen, a heart attack would likely be the killer. I truly admire the strength that Diamond Reynolds showed. I am thankful their child still has a parent and I hope that justice is served.

On a separate post I saw another member of my demographic say that she went to bed last night thankful that her husband is white and that she is not afraid of losing him to senseless violence then she reflected on how horrible it is to think such a thing. I really don’t know if it is horrible or just plain honest. When a white couple gets pulled over for speeding, running a red light or a busted tail light odds are they will get a ticket, maybe just a warning… but they are not being profiled. We may live in fear of the state of our country, we may be afraid that we will get caught up in a random act of violence, but we do not have to go out each day and worry that it will be our last simply due to the color of our skin.



God and my .40 caliber


Recently one of most compassionate, loving people I have ever met started making posts to her social media that promoted violence, intolerance and hate speech… things I would never have associated with her. Between the bathrooms in Target, Harambe the gorilla and now the tragedy in Orlando there has been no shortage of opinions- but it is difficult when you realize how great a difference in belief that you have compared to the ones you love.

When I saw the words “all I need in my life is God and my .40 caliber” in a text message from my friend I almost died. It started on a thread about the tragedy in Orlando and ended via text. While we discussed the events of that night several people were more focused on their gun rights than the lives of the 49 people that died. Instead of seeing that more regulations and a high standard for gun control could have stopped this tragic event, they were worried that preventative action going forward would impede their progress to have a full unnecessary arsenal of military weapons. Those focused on themselves couldn’t grasp that a premeditated mass shooting has never been stopped by a gun toting civilian. They couldn’t understand that if proper regulations were in place this man never would have legally owned a gun. They couldn’t see that our world is so backwards that it takes more clearance to provide a child with a family through adoption than it does to obtain a gun and destroy an entire family unit.  When I asked how my friend felt about the danger these lax laws put her in she said “all I need is God and my 40 caliber”… I didn’t even know how to respond to that.

This friend knows that I am part of the LGBTQ community. That each year I celebrate at Pittsburgh Pridefest. Despite all of this she could not seem to understand why I was taking the Orlando tragedy so personally. That was when another person chimed in that they wish the media would stop calling it a “gay club” because their sexual orientation “doesn’t matter”.  I am sorry but that is just pure ignorance. The fact that it was an LGBTQ club is without a doubt relevant to the case. The fact that this person targeted the LGBTQ community makes this a hate crime, a terrorist attack- which will have a greater impact moving forward.  This was not a random act of violence. It was not a mentally ill person who was off of their medication. It was a deliberate act preformed by a religious extremist and it needs to  be portrayed for exactly what it is.

The final straw was when my friend piped up with gem:

“you know, i’m a conservative Christian and I think this is a perfect example of how much harder everyone is on Christians than they are on Muslims, I mean when someone shoots up a Planned Parenthood the world hates all Christians but this guy shoots up a club and everyone wants to make sure we know he doesn’t represent Islam”

Holy shit. Is that really what you got out of this? Despite all of the news reports, all of the articles and all of the discussion this was all that you came up with. First off, you are wrong. We are not harder on Christians than we are on Muslims. Perhaps it would appear that way because the Christian population is so much larger than the Muslim population, but I assure you all rational people are equally frustrated by hate crimes committed in the name of religion, regardless of the God. Yes, there were Muslims that were quick to say that this man does not represent their faith but that is to be expected as most people would not want to be associated with a terrorist. We went back and forth until she finally said I couldn’t understand what she was feeling because I don’t believe in God. To which I explained that god or no god I will never understand the ability to justify taking the life of someone based upon a difference of opinion. I need to believe that god or no god there are people out there who want to make a difference, want to promote tolerance, acceptance and respect. I need the government to do what is right in order to protect our country, to make amendments to outdated laws and to make regulations that fit with the growth of our society. I need to stand up beside like-minded citizens and demand to be heard until everyone realizes that just one more hate related death is unacceptable. Some people out there are like my friend, content with relying on God and gun to protect them, but I know that as a society we are capable of so much more and I will not sit and wait around for it to happen again. We cannot let the victims in Orlando, and all other hate crimes die in vain. It is imperative that we make a change.


To judge Aaron Persky, you make it better to just accept the pain.



I know I just published a piece, my first ever, addressing my rape in 2004 but I feel that in the aftermath of the Brock Turner sentencing that I need to speak out. One person commented on my previous piece that it was not personal enough, perhaps that is because I didn’t go into great detail, because divulging each detail is painful and reliving an attack is not something anyone should have to do. The pain that is felt when you have to discuss the details of your attack, combined with the pathetic punishments that judges like Aaron Persky give to rapists, makes fighting for justice seem like more trouble than it is worth.

Just like “Emily Doe”, my attack occurred at a college party. I was at a house party in Oakland, PA in 2004.  I went with a few girls from my college but we got separated once at the house. I remember music, I remember talking to a few people, I do not remember drinking, next thing I remember is waking up in a dry and filthy bathtub. I looked over and saw a 20-something male who immediately looked scared and just said “No, you don’t know what happened, it wasn’t me it was him” and pointed to the door where another male was leaving. I felt dizzy, disoriented and scared. I stood up and ran out of the house and called a friend of mine for help. When my friend picked me up he did not take me to a hospital, he did not take me to the police, he just took me home because I refused to talk about it… it didn’t seem like there was anything to talk about, I didn’t even know who he was or who the other man in the bathroom was… and I didn’t have to courage to go back and find out. All I wanted to do was shower, to wash away the pain, to try to block it out and move forward.

I wondered to myself, if I was able to identify him, would it even matter? If women who know their attackers cannot get justice, why would anyone take me seriously? I don’t remember drinking and yet I feel like I have a hangover and don’t even know how I got upstairs, no one will take me to be a credible source. Just like Emily Doe discussed in her letter to the court I would have had to listen while others filled in the blanks, let an attacker and his friends explain why what happened wasn’t what it seemed. I would have to hear that I wanted to be in that filthy bathtub and that I consented to all that was done. In the end, what would come of it? A slap on the wrist? Six months in prison with time off for good behavior? Rapists like Brock Turner and judges like Aaron Persky who exonerate them are the reason why many of us never report our rapes. They make accepting that it happened and that this is the world we live in, seem like the best choice and this needs to change.

This cannot be the future we set up for our children. I encourage you to share your story and let everyone know that rape is so much more than just “20 minutes of action”, you are never the same after an attack  and people need to pay for their life altering decisions. Though I know that the time has passed for me to face my attacker I can still make an impact by sharing my story, and so can you. If the justice system is going to continue to fail us we need to band together and demand a change. People like Turner and Persky want us to accept it and move on but I think better still we should address the issue and move forward.


not a badge of honor…not a source of shame…


I found myself in a heated discussion concerning the X-men promotional billboard that features Mystique and Apocalypse. The billboard shows Apocalypse holding Mystique by the throat. This image has proven to be triggering to some people. Our society is focusing on women being triggered stating that it glorifies brutality against women that is being inflicted by a man. I agree that brutality against women is a very important issue that we need to raise awareness for… but the particular discussion I was in showed me two things which I will attempt to dissect. First, that male v. male violence is acceptable while female v. male violence is unacceptable. Second, and more disturbingly, that only women who have been abused can have an opinion on the topic. Both of these are absolutely wrong.


Everywhere I look there are people arguing that what makes this billboard problematic is that a man is attacking a woman. It isn’t so much that people have an issue with the violence, but the violence against women. So let’s get something straight. Women can abuse men, men can abuse women, men can abuse men and women can abuse women.  Now that we’ve cleared that up I want you to ask yourself if you worried that people might be triggered by an image of Wolverine fighting Apocalypse? Of course not! You would think that you were about to see a superhero movie that was going to feature fight scenes between the hero and the villain and guess what THAT HAPPENS IN ALL SUPER HERO MOVIES. In one article Rose McGowan was upset by the tagline “Only the strong survive” well I have news for you Rose, “the strong” refers to the X-men! Even if I take off my nerd glasses and assume that you don’t know the back story of Apocalypse, I have to assume that you do know the basic premise of every super hero movie/comic/television show which is, the hero wins. If you want the Joker to beat batman, or Green Goblin to overtake Spider-man you are going to have to start writing fan-fiction because in the comic book world it just doesn’t happen that way. In all honesty it makes perfect sense to have “only the strong survive” right next to Mystique because she is arguably the strongest of the X-men. Did you hear that, a female character is the strongest and one who can beat the villain. Listen, you cannot have it both ways. If you want to have a female protagonist you have to be okay with her battling against evil in the form of both genders. How anti-feminist of the feminists to take a perfectly good example of what a female lead is capable of and imply that she isn’t capable of winning against a man.  The discussion made all these points and counter points and then it took a nasty turn.

One woman decided that my view of not being offended by the billboard must mean that I have never been raped. As if rape is a trump card that can be played whenever you need to be right. While myself and another person were discussing the many violent roles Rose McGowan has played (like her role in Jawbreaker where she kills her best friend and then stages her corpse to look like she was raped… yay feminism!) a woman named Sarah decided to ask “Hey, you two. Have you ever been raped?”. I told her that yes, I had in fact been raped and that it is completely irrelevant to the conversation. This woman, who so clearly felt the need to defend women was now shoving abuse against women in our faces… just like she said the billboard did.


Listen people, just because I was a victim of a sexual assault that does not mean that the assault gets to follow me around and dictate the rest of my life. No one is going to tell me that being raped has to make me feel a certain way about a billboard, or anything else for that matter. What happened to me that night is not a badge of honor or a source of shame. It is something that I have made peace with and not something you get to judge me on. I am sorry if you think that my night of pain should always be front and center in everything  I do, but you are wrong. I refuse to let my abuser control my life. I also do not believe that as a victim of sexual assault my opinion is somehow more important than that of one who hasn’t been assaulted. Not to mention the fact that unless you are a cold-hearted soul like Sarah, you aren’t going to survey everyone on their abuse history before deciding if they are worthy of an opinion. I do not believe that a mutant on a sign promotes abuse because the type of person who has it in them to abuse does not need a fictitious deity like Apocalypse to tell them it is okay. No amount of censorship is going to take away the fact that people hurt other people everyday… and maybe, just maybe, victims of abuse would like to believe that “only the strong survive” because it doesn’t take strength to hurt someone, but it does take strength to persevere.

Further Up The Mountain: A Response to Robert Jastrow’s Infamous Quote


“At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”[1]

For those who haven’t encountered this quote before, it’s from American astronomer, physicist and cosmologist, Robert Jastrow. This statement has been championed by theists and has even found its way into high profile debates against atheists[2]. I probably wouldn’t have given much consideration to it had it not been thrown at me on more than one occasion. I assume it’s touted by theists so ardently because they think it carries significant weight simply because of his scientific credentials (and not on the scientific merit of the statement itself, proving once again that in apologetics, it’s not what is said but who is saying it). It would seem that Jastrow’s renown is all that is needed to confer the stamp of legitimacy, even if the statement itself doesn’t pass muster.

So what are we to make of this? Many of us will no doubt balk at such an irresponsible utterance, having heard such rhetoric before, but it deserves a retort if for nothing else than the widespread patronization of it by crass apologists.

In taking a closer look, right away we see there are problems. Not just with the statement itself, but also with the way theists present it. For example, it is often used as a point of argument by theists that Jastrow was a self-professed agnostic, but given the many interviews he’s given in various Christian forums, and by the tone of his books, like as evident by the statement on offer here, he’s pretty clearly of a theistic (or at least deistic) slant[3]. Funny how these same theists that prop up this tripe as an honest concession of a skeptic fail to take into consideration that an agnostic can in principle be a theist and continue on portraying him as if he were of the more common atheistic type.

Also, I could spend quite some time addressing other obvious issues that jump out to me. Like in the use of the word “faith” here or the way theology is expressed to take precedent over science (It is a bit surprising to hear such a dismissal if science coming from a scientist). These two issues alone could fill an entire book. But I’d rather focus on analyzing the symbolism of the analogy itself because there’s several problems contained within that I don’t think Jastrow anticipated. In my analysis, I noticed how this analogy could easily be used against theology instead of in support of it. And the finale is that it actually exposes what has been argued by my fraternity to be true of theology in the modern scientific climate all along, and that is that science has passed this antiquated ideology by and left it far behind. Allow me to illustrate what I mean, then offer a response to Jastrow’s analogy in kind.

First, it could be asked if they’re even on the same mountain as theology never answered any such questions about reality. But for the sake of argument, we’ll assume they are. If they did happen to reach any point of the mountain before the scientist, it wasn’t because they knew where they were going nor did they even know where they were. They were essentially wandering in the dark and lost[4]. But it’s even worse for the theologians because in their faith induced self assuredness, they stopped climbing the mountain (the scientist is greeted by the theologians who are just sitting there). Their religious faith gave them the illusion that they have reached the top. We see that the theologians here assume they have met the scientist at a pinnacle that, as science has shown us, hasn’t been reached. Their faith essentially serves as clouds obscuring their view to what lies beyond. And this is the obstacle religious faith creates.

So now that I laid a bit of foundation, allow me to offer (oh so humbly) my response to Jastrow’s careless analogy. This is what the logical conclusion to the story would be…

“As the scientist sat amongst the theologians, he found that he was not content with just faithfully sitting on the rocks. His commitment to reason and scientific inquiry compelled him to explore further and he discovered that the mountain continued past the clouds that had kept the theologians from seeing any higher. So he began climbing further up and out of the clouds to find the vast universe beginning to open up to him as he left the theologians below to gloat by their dwindling fire beneath the cover of the clouds. Left clouded by their faith, they arrogantly thought they had reached the highest peak and so they just sat… as they have for centuries.”[5]

– Rich Hess

[1] From God and the Astronomers, Robert Jastrow (1978). Jastrow’s allegory was about the Big Bang Theory (which many fundamentalist Christians still deny). This isn’t relevant to this particular discussion however and I only mention it here for accuracy. But for further research, I recommend looking up works from philosophers of science, such as Quintin Smith, and any number of contemporary physicists and cosmologists (Lawrence Krauss, Stephen Hawking, Victor Stenger, just to name a few) who explain the Big Bang and why the theologians are wrong.

[2] The example I had in mind was the debate between Frank Turek and Christopher Hitchens (23:44 mark) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVZnwZdh-iM

[3] Now I’m not going to go out on a limb and speculate that he was a believer in God, but it’s enough to point out that there is a distinction in how we are to understand “agnosticism” here. It’s certainly safe to say that he was sympathetic to theology.

[4] After all, it’s theologians that teach as fact Noah’s Flood, the Genesis creation myth, talking animals, etc. Even if they were to stumble onto some observation that turned out to be factual (or even partially factual), we can hardly credit their “methods” of getting there.

[5] The “clouds” here represent the theologians faith. In thinking they had all the answers they were looking for as prescribed by their religious dictates, they were ignorant of the possibility of there being anything beyond. And thus they have stopped searching. Unlike religion, in science, the climb is never ended. 

Satanic Sabotage


While surfing the net (yeah, I just wrote that lol) I came across a discussion concerning a child sustaining a scratched cornea just days before her baptism. This sounds terrible, I feel bad any time a child is hurt, but to be in pain and then put on display at a big party and  passed around like a tray of hors d’oeuvres sounds truly awful. The mother wanted prayers and blah blah blah… but then sweetened the pot by blaming the injury on Satan… as he was clearly trying to sabotage the baptism. I received all of this through a post about a post so I do not know what type of response this got but I do know that to me, this is just plain ridiculous.

Social media is a place to show off. Everyone has to have the worst injury, the cutest baby, the cleanest house, the grossest rash  and they cannot wait to be validated.  Then when something bad happens they just absolutely need to plead for prayers. These posts can become incredibly lame and it isn’t just Atheists that think so, I have seen plenty of believers say that asking friends to “please pray my son scores a goal in soccer” is obnoxious and not what they wish to have their God wasting time on. When you are in a truly tough situation, like a death in the family, I see no harm in posting for prayers- I myself have asked for “positive thoughts” to be sent my way… sometimes it just feels good to know people care. There are definitely times where we need the most support we can get and if this comes in the form of “prayers” so be it.   However, I do not support vaguebook prayer requests… this type is the worst of the worst for prayer seeking. “I cannot tell you what is happening, but it is bad, so so bad, please ask God to save me” . Wait, what?? If it “bad, so so bad” shouldn’t you be with the police or at a hospital or just skipping the pedestrian prayers and running straight to a priest??? With the vaguebookers we don’t know if the tragedy is a kidnapped child, domestic abuse or a ripped pair of LuLaRoe leggings in a pattern they discontinued. So if you really want help and not just attention from people begging for the details, just tell us what is up… personally I won’t pray for you, but I will definitely help any way that I can if you’d just spit it out already.

So prayer requests are common, but satanic sabotage is a new one for me. To think that a parent sees their kid get a boo-boo and instead of assuming this is one of life’s unfortunate events (bad things happen all the time, sorry if you are just learning this) their first instinct is that Satan is coming after them… ridiculous, almost comical, if it wasn’t  for the kids involved. I just imagine them teaching their kids these lessons. “Don’t worry Bobby, it isn’t your fault that you punched little Tommy, Satan was trying to turn you away from God”.  Listen, I don’t claim to know everything but one thing I am pretty sure of is that SATAN IS NOT ATTACKING YOUR CHILD. Blaming Satan (and I guess God for not protecting you from Satan) is dangerous. So many unavoidable crappy things are going to happen throughout your child’s life that they need to be prepared to place blame where it is appropriate, accept blame when they are at fault and distinguish when an unfortunate event is just a random act. If your daughter gets her period in the middle of the school dance while she’s wearing a white dress, this is biology, not Satan. If your son isn’t tall enough to slam dunk, this is genetics, it doesn’t mean that Satan is trying to hold him back.  If five minutes before your beautiful Catholic wedding is to start the groom splits his pants… it is not divine intervention attempting to stop the exchange of vows… it is an unfortunate moment that will become a funny story to pass on to grand-kids and a cautionary tale for all those to be married after you.

I love taking my personal life to social media, my network of mommy friends is as large as it is because of the power of the internet. That being said it is one thing to get advice on the best pampers, to vent about the day-to-day frustrations of being a parent, and to even give a little brag when your cutie pie does something extra special… it is another to assume that “likes” and “shares” will ward of Satan and bring God back to your side.  I assure you, if I am wrong and Satan is sabotaging your child’s life… the answer is not going to be found in a Facebook thread.

My breasts are not your stumbling block…


My daughter just turned 18 months and she is still breastfeeding every day. She has been a champion nurser since day one but has never liked any restrictions. We never kept to a strict schedule or used a cover. Eye contact, physical touch and the freedom to nurse on demand have all been important to our nursing relationship.

In general I have had an incredibly positive nursing experience. Very little push back from family or friends and only a few instances of creeps trying to sneak a peak. The most negativity has come from the internet. People enjoy the shield the internet provides them and use it to show that it isn’t just their personal view that breastfeeding is wrong, but also the biblical stance… well I am here to explain that my breasts are not your stumbling block.

The meme at the top of the post was presented to me in my Facebook news feed from the site “old world order” this page promotes a bigoted oppressing view towards women breastfeeding their children, citing the bible as validation. Their post to accompany the meme is as follows:


This point of view is not new or uncommon, I have heard it many times. It is, however, one of the finest examples of victim blaming I have ever seen. You see the OP is suggesting a woman hide her child away in the bathroom or cover their head with a blanket, not for their safety but to protect men from feeling lust. According to this believer the bible tells us that men are incapable of controlling themselves when breasts are around. That no matter if they are being flaunted in a sexual way or being used to feed a child they are a danger to society because they will cause a man to stumble.  So let’s think about that for a minute. What person in their right mind could imagine a world where a woman that is victimized by a man is the one at fault for simply preforming beautiful and natural act of nourishing her child. That is disgusting and does not represent the type of society that I want to live in. If I have to raise a daughter in a world where she is blamed for mans inability to control himself, I will have a lot of work ahead of me to make sure she is protected.  I know what the casual believer is probably thinking right now… “This person is the minority, they don’t represent a true Christian view”  but the OP was not the only one involved. There were thousands of responses praising these words. Here are a few examples…

If you check out the screen shots you will see statements that, because men have eyes and thoughts they are wired to stray from their master’s plan… whether they want to or not… and that because women know this they should be good Christians and cover up as to not cause men to stumble. According to the responses that I read it doesn’t matter if a man should be having these types of thoughts, it matters that I am causing it by feeding my child. The majority of the people responding to this were women, and they were more than willing to agree that they are the ones who have the responsibility to cover themselves… I can do nothing but shake my head at that level of brainwashing.

This type of mindset leads us further down the path of rape culture. Taking all accountability away from men (or other predators) and telling the woman she is at fault. People who don’t bat an eye at nude models on magazine covers are going to tell a nursing mother that she is contributing to the downfall of man. If someone harasses me as I feed my child I am asking for it. By making the choice to expose my breast so my child may eat I am saying “I am okay with any abuse you wish to put forth unto me” WRONG! Wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels. If your husband is the type of person who thinks it right to objectify, harass and (God forbid) assault someone because their breasts provoked them and you agree that the woman is at fault… may the justice system punish you and your God have mercy on your soul… because there is a special place in hell for those who inflict abuse.


When I nurse my child I do so because it is what she needs from me. Whether she is looking for nourishment or simply needs to soothe in an unfamiliar environment- I am there for her, just as any good mother would be. It isn’t a chance to flaunt my body, it isn’t about making people uncomfortable, it is about the bond of mother and child. I will not force my child into a bathroom, a closet, or cover her head in shame… no, her first memories of us as a team will be filled with strength, comfort and love.  If you should stumble because of this, you deserve the wounds of the fall.

If you say you support breastfeeding, even public, so long as the mother is covered… then you do not support breastfeeding. No where in the bible does it discuss what type of cover Mary used with Jesus. We have to assume that everyone, with the exception of Adam and Eve, were breastfed as formula was not invented until 1865. This would mean that thousands and thousands of God worshiping women went around disrespecting God and their husbands for the selfish purpose of keeping their babies alive… how terrible is that? Actually it isn’t terrible at all, it is wonderful and it is EXACTLY what any rational person would do. You can say that was then and this is now. That in 2016 we have no reason to not hide our bodies- but why should we? Even if you do believe in God, i’d hope that when your baby is hungry you will feed them- whether that be at an uncovered breast or a non-kosher formula, you are going to do what needs to be done to feed that child, and to that I say “Well done!”.

So if my breasts are the stumbling block that pushes you or your husband into a world of lust and deceit, I think you need to reevaluate your own issues. I will not break the bond I have formed with my baby just to accommodate the sick twisted mind of someone who cannot control themselves. If you are unable to separate sex from parenting, this is an issue best examined by a licensed physician and not something that can be prayed away. Until you are able to get help and before you fall I highly recommend you take a seat in a quiet place, put a blanket over your head and leave the rest of us alone.

“I’m a believer, I’m a Christian and I’m right…”


Recently I received this statement in a text message.  The text came from, what I thought was, one of my closest friends. We have known each other for years, she was at the hospital the day I gave birth to Arabella and just a few months ago I watched her marry her long time partner.

I have often used her as an example of why you should not be afraid to tell your friends that you are an Atheist. Just as if it were yesterday I can see us walking down the street in Pittsburgh’s south-side when I first mentioned my Atheism… she turned to me a little stunned and said “you’re an Atheist?”, I said yes, then she replied “wow, well I guess I like Atheists”. She was my proof that believer and non can mutually respect without judgement… unfortunately that is no longer the case.

What started out as typical conversation turned into a lecture on how I could never understand her beliefs. That I will never be able to relate to her because I “haven’t seen his work or don’t recognize his work”.  She spewed out your typical “God is good”, “Faith is strong” and admitted believing in the virgin birth, the trinity, Jesus’ ability to heal the sick and that  God is still here with us.

I thought we could bring in the reigns, I asked her if she worships all Gods or if she was just revisiting her Catholic roots… reminding her that if she doubts any deity she is agnostic/atheist to them and therefore could see my point of view, even if she chooses to disagree with it… she wouldn’t answer the question and simply said “I don’t understand Atheist stuff… cause I believe in God”.

I tried explaining that it is ridiculous to say she can’t understand Atheism, at least from an academic stance but only received responses like “I can’t understand it because it doesn’t make sense to me, I believe in God”.  Honestly, at this point I felt like I was feeding a troll on a fundamentalist debate page… it was a sad moment.  Then she said to me “I believe in God… you can’t take that away from me Allison… No one can”… this is the only thing we’d agreed on all day.

I explained that I would never want to take away her right to believe and wondered how she could have completely wiped from her memory how respectful I had always been towards her faith. I remember going to the Catholic mass when her mother died, holding her hand while she shared beautiful fantasies of her mother safe in heaven… I never used those moments as a chance to question her or ridicule her and even at this very moment I still stand by her right to believe… though I question the cost that might come with this newly developed faith.

The final gauntlet was thrown down with the firm statement ” I’m a believer, I’m a Christian and I’m right”. Everything after was dodged with the response that it is something an Atheist cannot understand… boy was she right about that. After a little more discussion I received five messages in a row all stating “I win”. I imagined a child with their hands over their ears trying to block out the reasoning words of a parent. It was just a sad moment- I asked what she felt she won? Fear? Oppression? Hate? but “I win because I have faith” was the only thing she would say.  The conversation ceased for several hours until she messaged me stating we could no longer be friends… I told her it was unfortunate. She told me that I will never win (because I don’t have God).  I’d say we both lost.

So this certainly isn’t the first time I have lost a friend over God, but it is the first time it mattered. What is funny is that while she is praying for me to be saved I am here just as worried for her, if not more so since I don’t have a God to put on the job.


We celebrate Christmas and that is okay…


Another Christmas has come and gone with new memories, familiar traditions, surprises and a feeling of wonder that anyone with kids who celebrate the holiday can relate to.

Year after year I fight the urge to voice my frustrations with both believers and non-believers when it comes to the holiday season. Believer A says “I’ll say ‘Merry Christmas’ and I don’t care who doesn’t like it!”. Non-believer B says “I better not see city workers taking down those lights- that is the government choosing one faith over the other!” Believer C wants to “Keep the CHRIST in CHRISTmas” while Non-Believer D screams “YOU DON’T EVEN DESERVE A YULE LOG- THAT BELONGS TO THE SOLSTICE!”. You know what I have to say to all of this….  GET OVER YOURSELVES!

Funny enough by saying that I unite them- suddenly I am the problem with Christmas because I don’t believe and I still celebrate. I get bombarded by accusations from some died hard nons about not being a true Atheist if I have a tree, some decorations or maybe an “Elf on the shelf”. Then I get attacked by the holier than thou believers that I have no right to celebrate the birth of Christ because I don’t worship God… Lucky for me I didn’t ask anyone for permission, and I certainly don’t need the way I live validated by anyone.


I refuse to allow anyone to use their beliefs to impact how I raise my children. Rich and I were both raised by moderate Catholic families who celebrated Christmas every year. We were both taught about God, Santa, the spirit of giving and the importance of family togetherness. With the exception of an instrumental version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” there wasn’t anything explicitly religious. Continuing now with our own children we follow similar traditions, none of which require God to enjoy.

This year we had a beautiful tree, old ornaments mixed with new… a custom “Dawkins A” ornament placed next to one featuring a picture of my daughter with Santa and solid lights to minimize my risk of photosensitive triggered seizure. We introduced our “elf on the shelf” for Arabella- we named him “Hitch”… we will use this story as a fun part of the holiday, but not as a threat of punishment from Santa (google the story and you’ll understand better). I sent out roughly 100 holiday cards, a reminder to our friends and family that we love them. The cards we received covered the archway from our living-room to dining room, this will be the last decoration I take down.  I baked cookies and cakes, some traditional and some new ones as well… it turns out that making cupcakes that resemble the “bumble” is not as easy as I thought it would be. Holiday movies play non-stop in our home from 12/1-12/25 (the cheesier, the better). Even our rubber ducky manger made an appearance this year.

Christmas eve was filled with family, food, drinks, gifts and love- it is a nice opportunity to get everyone together and I look forward to it each year. Christmas morning was filled with magic. Most of this comes from watching Arabella experience everything from a completely different perspective than she had last year. As we waited for her older brothers she danced around the room with our puppy, Zdeno, waiting to see what was going to happen next. She was much more excited to see her brothers open gifts than to open them herself (this will surely change as she gets older) but once she caught a glimpse of her new toys her smile lit up the room.



Even with all of this my Christmas gift (or as Rich says, his gift) took center stage. After the kids finished opening their gifts Rich approached me, got down on one knee and presented me with a ring, asking if I would give him the gift of being his wife. As you might imagine I said yes without hesitation. Though the institution of marriage has never been critical to our relationship, the declaration of love and commitment meant more to me than I ever could have imagined.

So yes, we celebrate Christmas, and yes- it is okay. December 25 may not signify the birth of Christ for our family (and it isn’t his birthday anyway… sorry had to get that in here somewhere) but it does stand for family, giving, happiness, celebration and most of all love.  I hope you all had a wonderful December, no matter what you did, and I wish you all the best in 2016.