The Sister Helen Effect

AshleyOld School Circus17 Comments

www.bigtopfamily.com / The Sister Helen Effect

Among the strange stories I’ve told, perhaps living with a nun for much of my childhood makes the loudest statement about just how different my childhood was. The nun’s name was Sister Helen, but her impact on my life wouldn’t just be on childhood. She would change not mine, but my whole family’s lives, forever. Most of us who were … Read More

AshleyThe Sister Helen Effect

Cirque du Today: Losing My Religion

AshleyCirque du Today40 Comments

As some of you might guess, my relationship with God has been, um, complicated. When you grow up with a mom who frequently converses with The Lord, and those conversations often lead her to pack up all your shit and move somewhere overnight, you might occasionally want to give God the finger. And not the You’re Number One finger. Now, … Read More

AshleyCirque du Today: Losing My Religion

The Trailer

AshleyOld School Circus12 Comments

Braking suddenly at the end of a dark dirt road, Mom almost slams into a cow. When the dust cloud clears, we see that not just a cow, but a whole herd of cows is surrounding our car, and ignoring this fact, Mom looks at us with a triumphant smile. “We’re here!” My sister and I peer fearfully out the … Read More

AshleyThe Trailer

Abandoning Pretense Guest Posts: Roadside Furniture is the Voice of God, If You Listen Hard Enough

AshleyCirque du Today9 Comments

I’m ecstatic and honored to announce that Kristen Mae of the very popular, very honest, very funny Abandoning Pretense is guest-posting here today! She read all about my religious upbringing in Old School Circus and thought this post would fit perfectly. She’s right. This story resonated with me on so many different levels, and I know it’ll do the same for you.  … Read More

AshleyAbandoning Pretense Guest Posts: Roadside Furniture is the Voice of God, If You Listen Hard Enough

The Night the Devil Chased My Mom

AshleyOld School Circus35 Comments

The night the Devil chased my Mom, I was six-and-a-half years old. We were living in a crumbling part of downtown Steubenville, Ohio, in a rickety two-story house with paint so peely I could pull it off in strands. The house had three bedrooms: one for my sister Alyson and I to share, one for my single mom, and one … Read More

AshleyThe Night the Devil Chased My Mom

Profanity 101 Or That Time I Taught Creative Cursing

AshleyOld School Circus25 Comments

The summer after I finished third grade, when I was nine, we were living in a mansion owned by The Community. The Community entrusted it to Sister Helen as a caretaker, and we were all allowed to move in too. It was a Tudor home with seven bedrooms, two staircases, a sun porch (converted to a chapel), a huge yard … Read More

AshleyProfanity 101 Or That Time I Taught Creative Cursing

That Time My Mom Thought She Was A Nun

AshleyOld School Circus23 Comments

I was eight years old in the Year of the Brown Dress, as my older sister and I eventually came to call it. My mom had been raised Catholic but in the years since divorcing my dad, she had become a Born Again Christian. And in her heightened state of Jesus Awareness, she’d decided to “sacrifice her vanity” by wearing … Read More

AshleyThat Time My Mom Thought She Was A Nun