God is a woman

When you died, your breath was

heavy for the longest time

but when we started talking

about God

and her big arms and beautiful hair,

you were calm.

And we knew, between

the echoes of the empty walls

and the solitude of that winter night,

God is a woman.

She came to you, picked you up

in her big arms and beautiful hair

and carried you home with her.



When Mom was diagnosed with cancer over five years ago, I was terrified. I was convinced I was going to lose her to the battle, I was convinced I was going to have to take over the house for Dad. After chemo and radiation and all of the different chemical concoctions the hospitals pumped into my mother, she pulled through.

Afterwards, she was given opioids to manage her pain from the radiation, chemotherapy and resulting full hysterectomy. It made sense. She was in pain.

As the years went by, her doctor visits kept bringing good news that she was cancer free, but Mom kept taking the pain pills. It didn’t make sense to me. I would bring up the subject to her as delicately as I could, and would receive the same fierce retaliation each time.

“I need them for the pain, Katie.”

I can’t see my mom’s pain, so I don’t want to say it isn’t there. But where is the line between pain management and drug abuse? One year? Three years?

It’s been what, five years? And she took her last opioid pill last night. Unfortunately, it wasn’t because she wanted to, but because her doctors wouldn’t refill her prescription without going to a pain specialist, which she cannot afford.

So now, she faces a new battle, and I’m not entirely sure I feel sorry for her this time. My mother has always been an addict. She’s addicted to coffee, chocolate, cigarettes, gambling, weed, and I’m pretty sure she’s a Judge Judy addict as well (but who isn’t?). She has an addictive personality. She strives to control every aspect she can of her life with ritual and repetition, and that includes her addictions. I want to see my mom make it through this withdrawal and as terrible as that sounds, it’s only because I have a feeling a lot of this pain is in her mind.

She loves to build things up in her mind more than what they truly are. And that’s anxiety and depression talking (she’s addicted to those medications as well), however, I wonder if she can exist happily without the aide of a fucking pill. Or a cigarette. Or a constant distraction of a television judge that doesn’t reflect our court system accurately whatsoever.

I hope with all of my might that she can get through this. I hope she can push through and not spend the extra hundreds of dollars we don’t have to see a specialist just so she can get her fix.

And on the flip side– maybe this is all in my head. Maybe her pain is real. There can be irreversible damage done when people go through chemo and radiation. I don’t want to diminish her feelings or her pain at all, but I know that she (and her entire family) enjoy making company with misery. I mean, whenever we have family reunions, the first thing my aunts and uncles do is compare medical stories. “I had my hip replaced last month,” “Well, I had pneumonia for 14 months straight,” “Oh yeah? Well I’m pretty sure I have the black plague.” Sibling rivalry, I swear. I wonder if that’s how it’s always been in their family.

Perhaps there’s some mental and emotional residual pain they all experience from seeing their mom go through brain cancer. I know my Aunt Cathy, according to my mom, has been acting very much like my Grandma in her last months. But again, the same with Cathy, I’m not entirely sure what she’s suffering from besides emphysema. And yet, she seems to be really slipping both physically and mentally. (Now that I think about it, a lack of oxygen to the brain can probably do terrible things.)

But back to Mom. On one hand, I hope her pain is real, because then I’d be wrong, and I want to be wrong. I want to think that my mom really does have pain and these opioids don’t have such a stronghold on the person I admire most. But I’ve known the lady for 30 years. I like to think I know her. I pray to gods she gets through this all on her own. Without help. And without smoking herself to death, which, I’m sure is probably around the corner.

I wish she could see how wonderful she is, how strong she is, how smart she is. Then maybe she would have more encouragement to get out of the house, to try and find a hobby or a job, or something to do besides sit and waste away.

That was the worst part about this cancer. After she got through the cancer, she gave up. She went back to smoking. She went back to being less active. She’s become a shadow of her former self. I miss my mom and she’s still alive. How does that work? What the hell kind of game is this?

Keep fighting, Mom. Keep fighting.

Bullying: A reflection

As I let this ever-present topic consume all of my brain capacity, as the details of the local incident come to the surface, and as the social media pages run rampant with bits and pieces of story that may or may not be true, I’m left to digest what I know of my own experiences with bullying in my community.

Part of my thinks, half of the people at the school board meeting last night were bullies to the members on the school board. I understand these people are upset, but is there anything the school board really could have done to resolve the issue before it happened? I wonder how the parents of both the victim and the perpetrators are handling all of this coming out into the eyes of the entire state. I know some of the parents of those kids. I know some of the siblings of those kids. I know none of them are perfect.

There are moments, bits and pieces of what was said at the meeting that replay over and over. A pastor spoke up and told the 100-plus-person audience to return to God and seek refuge in him and his word. That’s a load of bupkiss if you ask me. Too much of our country is already reliable on an invisible god that will not reach down and do the work for these humans (because, in my opinion, that god doesn’t exist)…and so, there are many a person left thinking that “God will provide. God will lead the way. God will do everything for us,” when really, it’s we who have to do the heavy lifting of talking to our students and sons and daughters about how to treat another human being with dignity and respect.

I think back to my own house, where I grew up. I saw violence and anger quite a few times. I watched my father get angry over the simplest of things; he would lash out at my older brothers, or, if my parents thought I was asleep, they would argue in the kitchen. Their angry words would echo up our stairs, and since my bedroom was at the end of the hall, more often than not, as quiet as they tried to be, I would hear every word. I would slowly walk down the hallway, and sit at the top of the stairs, gripping the newel post. I had nightmares for years. I hated sleeping upstairs alone for the longest time. That was the model I was given on how to react to things that intimidated, scared, or offended me– anger, words, threats, intimidation, violence.

Did I let that anger get the best of me sometimes? Yes. Did I push it onto other people in the form of hurtful words or a push, or a punch? Yes, I did. I remember getting into a fist fight with my friend, Meagan, in sixth grade. I remember calling a boy on the playground dumb in maybe first or second grade. His name was Caleb, and he retaliated by climbing up the playground equipment where I was at, gripped my shirt with both of his hands around the cuff of my neck and shook me, telling me not to say that. That worked. I stopped. I remember in high school, making fun of a girl, Stephanie. I made fun of her size, and her name. I was a bully because that’s what someone did to me. I regret doing those things every day.

Regardless, how would “God” help me to understand how to act and react towards people? Some would say it was the mentors I followed and the role models I looked up to who helped me to see how we truly should act towards others. And some would say God brought those people into my life so I could see how God wanted me to act. That takes credit away from the amazing people who did have the respect and dignity of being humane towards others. I’d like to give them credit rather than some benevolent god.

The community has shifted and soured and taken sides. Good and bad. But, no solutions have been resolved over the situation. Bullying still occurs. It still happens everyday, whether at school or a workplace or at home. There is a certain level of having to figure out how to manage the situation by yourself. There are times we all respond with impatience, anger, and misunderstanding. There are times we respond with kindness and understanding and enough of an unbiased opinion/solution to the situation to where things can progress in a more positive way.

I’ve been finding inspiration in the things I’ve been reading lately.

I just finished a book by Rupi Kaur. One of her poem reads like this:

to hate

is an easy lazy thing

but to love

takes strength

everyone has

but not all are

willing to practice


Practice love, patience, kindness, understanding. Gather information before jumping off conclusion cliffs. Don’t compare your journey through a tough topic to your own journey– they will never be the same. And remember the solutions to those issues are up to us (not God) on how we handle and receive them.

Bullying: A personal history

As I sat in my room for hours after a heated discussion at a local school board meeting, I kept thinking to myself, “I have so much to say on this subject, to this school, to these students.”

I wondered how this grey cloud that was cast over my tiny little town would break and came to the realization that this cloud has been hovering over this place for decades.

Grabbing my anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications before bed, I looked at the pill bottles and thought of all of the names of all of the bullies that hurt me in my life. And those bullies didn’t just come from my school. They came from my daycare provider, they came from my church, they came from school, they came from home.

I thought of all the tears I’d cried over the names given to me that I didn’t choose. Fat pig. Disgusting cow. Bearded lady. Failure. Poser. Piece of shit. Queer. Bitch. Ugly….

I thought of the boys who cornered me at a local show and spit in my face, and kicked me and called me white trash. I thought of the girl who spit in my hair, in my face, in my hands. I thought of how she pursued me online, back in the MSN messenger days. Once I blocked her, she sent another friend with another account after me. People I didn’t even know. And they began with the names. I finally stopped using the thing all together for fear they would find me. And it didn’t stop there.

When I was 15, I went with my friend to the mall. We were stopped outside of a Hollister store so I could tie my shoe. My friend went into the store because she could actually fit into (and afford) the clothes. As I waited outside, a large cluster of teenagers came into view at the end of the shopping center. As the group grew louder and came into view, the voices and faces looked and sounded familiar.

My soft pretzel I’d just eaten lurched into my throat as I sprinted into the store to grab my friend to get the hell out of there.

It was too late.

They never touched me that day, but they embarrassed every ounce of blood in my body to a boiling point. While my friend and I booked it down the length of the mall, the murder of bullying crows cawed behind us, saying my name (first and last) at the top of their lungs with slurs of names behind it. “Katie Mullaly is a fat sow!” “Katie Mullaly can’t get a dude hard even if it was her own dad!” “Katie Mullaly is a slut!” “Katie Mullaly is a dumb, fat, bitch that no one cares about!” What’s worse? My friend that I was with laughed and giggled along with the group because she noticed one of the boys she was crazy for at the time was a part of the herd.

I remember every fucking second of it. And it still burns in my chest; that embarrassment, that anxiety, that incurable desire to want to off myself and bleed out on the floor of that mall just so they would shut up.

Just last year, a very old classmate of mine showed up at my house around Christmas. She and I used to be best friends in high school and junior high. We had a falling out over boys…fucking boys…when I was 15. She admitted that she was the one to send her group of cronies after me. Including the guys at the rock show. Including the girl who harassed me over the internet. And once they realized how terrified of them I was…they didn’t stop.

I was bullied by many people in my life. Those words took the greatest toll because, for some reason, I believed those people and I believed the words they said to me about me. I can’t even fathom what people say about me when I’m not around.

One giant fact remains: I told one of my teachers that I trusted. I told her everything about what was going on with these kids. But these kids were smarter than me, they were more charming than me, and thus, they were actually favorites of the teacher that I told. And when I told that teacher the names of the people bullying me? She tossed me aside, dismissing my claims because the girl I experienced and the girl she experienced couldn’t possibly be the same girl. The girl she knew was smart and funny and witty and sarcastic.

And I gave up.

I gave up and I shut up and I started all over with a new group of friends. It wasn’t easy. It came with its own struggles. But one thing is for sure…I can’t stand the names Corinna, or Colby, or Cale, or Christian, or Jordan.

I thought of the kid that I grew up with who sexually abused me for YEAARRRSS, and when I finally decided to tell my friends because I was terrified something bad would happen to one of them because she feigned interest in him? They didn’t believe me either, because that’s not what he would do. That’s just not who he is. Was I sure? I was fucking sure. Everyone carries a darkness with them. Some are just more careful about letting it escape than others.

And as those medicines I took earlier in the evening sat at the bottom of my stomach, I realized that those words, those actions, will forever haunt me, like a VCR tape stuck on rewind and play; rewind and play; rewind and play.

When I posted something to Facebook this past year about our art program being downsized, I got a call from the school’s current superintendent. And he chewed me out for saying how I felt. And that same burning, acidic take over in my chest rose up my throat. As that man barked at me over the phone, my bullies came to mind. And I now realize, even a superintendent can be a bully.


More on this tomorrow. Because I’ve been triggered so deeply by this topic, I know I’ll have more to say in the morning.