I’ve been lucky to have such a supportive, encouraging network of readers. From strangers on the internet to my old children’s pastor to former neighbors to my parents’ current friends to people who’ve followed along with my family since I was a kid, I’ve gotten a lot of lovely emails over the years. Some people write to share personal stories with me, often about their own experiences with religious trauma. Some people write to let me know they’re thinking about me. And others write because they’re curious about something.

Since I still regularly get asked these questions, I thought I’d finally put together a FAQ page.

Re. Writing 

Are you still writing?

Yup! My stories haven’t gone anywhere. I’m writing more for print these days (it pays better) and I’ve been doing a bit of ghostwriting.

If you’d like to follow along with my current personal blog to find out what’s happening with the little Hough-Munger family, shoot me an email at MsMunger1987@yahoo.com and I’ll send you a link and password for my blog. It’s the best way to stay up to date on where to find my latest print pieces.

Why is your new blog private?

I wanted to combine basically blogging and Instagram and I didn’t feel comfortable sharing family photos publicly. As a kid, a lot of photos of me were posted publicly without my permission. When I became an adult, photos of me as a little kid showed up when I searched my name. In addition to feeling creepy, that’s not really what you want potential employers to find. So I try to be very careful with family photos, especially as it relates to kiddos.

Additionally, a lot of print and web publications won’t take writing that’s been previously published. And personal blogs count. Having a private blog allows me to share my thoughts and stories with you as soon as I like, while still giving me the option of selling it to a publication later.

Why not just use this blog?

I started this blog when I was 26 and just beginning the journey of healing from religious trauma. It was also a place for me to write about the grief of losing my dad (see the next question for info on why this is no longer relevant to my life). I’ve changed so much since then though that it felt time for something new.

Plus, because of an abusive person in my life, so many of the stories I shared on here, even the most raw ones, were heavily censored. I want to retell some of those stories. And I want to move onto other topics all together.

I’m at a very different place in my life. I’m the safest and happiest I’ve ever been, so it seemed time to start something new in honor of that.

What is the topic of your new blog? 

My life as a 30-something. I write a lot about my little family and my new stage of life. I also touch on topics like parenting, education, healing from financial abuse, and freedom. The good, the bad, the ugly. Just like before. Mainly, though, I just tell stories.

Re. My Dad

How are you coping with the loss of your dad? 

There’s no way to not have this sound jarring: My dad isn’t dead and was never sick.

In 2003, when I was 16-years-old, I was told by my mother that my dad had been diagnosed with Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia (FTD). And that, if he was lucky, my dad had 10 more years to live. My Dad wouldn’t live to see my 26th birthday.

My siblings, our church, and our entire community was told that my dad was dying. That dementia was slowly robbing us of him, one little piece at a time. And that he wouldn’t always remember he had dementia — but his lack of awareness of his health condition was, itself, a heartbreaking symptom of the deadly illness.

It’s 2019 as I write this. I’m 32-year-old. And my dad is perfectly healthy.

My dad lives in Seattle, works full time, has been in the same committed relationship with his girlfriend for a decade, has many active hobbies, and doesn’t have any trouble remembering things from the present nor past. When I first talked to him on the phone after years of being separated, he remembered my exact height.

My siblings and I grieved for our dad for over 12 years. It was a loss that ripped me to the core. It made it hard to relate with peers who hadn’t went through such a profound loss yet. I sobbed myself to sleep for years … and for no reason.

It feels like someone played the worst imaginable practical joke on my siblings and our community. It’s so awful, so unimaginable that it makes me feel sick. How our mother could put us through that and why she would even think to is by far the biggest mystery of my life.

I financially supported your family because I thought your dad was dying. 

I’m so sorry you were taken advantage of.

I’d like to personally thank everyone over the years who gave my family such thoughtful bereavement gifts — free regular access to a vacation house, a subscription to locally grown organic vegetables, thoughtful homemade gifts, money and gift cards, food and household items, even things for the cats.

Your compassion was blatantly exploited. Your gifts, however, weren’t wasted. Life wasn’t kind to my siblings and me as we were growing up. Your gifts added light. Thank you for your love, support, and generosity.

Your dad missed your wedding because you were lied to. I’m so sorry. 

Thank you. I really appreciate all of you who’ve expressed sadness over how this impacted my wedding.

As many of my long-term readers know, planning my wedding was incredibly painful because of the grief of losing my dad. It was the first topic I wrote about when I started freelancing. I wrote about Wedding Planning as a Fatherless Bride for Offbeat Bride and then had it republished later on The Huffington Post. I wrote about the feelings of grief for HelloGiggles in How I Realized There is No “Right” Way to Feel When Planning a Wedding. And it’s a topic I wrote about in depth here on my blog.

Those were always articles and posts that made me cry to reread, but now that I know that I never should’ve been feeling that way. That my dad was alive. That I lost not only time with my dad but that I lost the opportunity to enjoy wedding planning and getting married, I can’t reread those pieces at all. They gut me.

When I first found out that my dad was alive and well, I immediately realized: “Oh my god. Dad could’ve been at my wedding.”

This sounds like the perfect essay for the NYT Modern Love. Have you published anything about it yet?

I seem to know a lot of Modern Love readers! Thank you to everyone who has suggested aiming high publication-wise when I eventually decide to write about this. Your encouragement and support mean the world to me.

It definitely is a wild story, that’s for sure. I haven’t published anything about it yet. I’m taking some time to process first.

For anyone worrying, yes, I’m taking lots of notes, saving all correspondence related to my dad’s health, and filling up paper journals. There’ll be plenty of material whenever I finally feel ready to write.

Have you thought about writing a memoir about this? 

Yes, actually! When I told some of my writer’s groups that I’d just found out my dad was still alive the responses were all along the lines of “OH MY GOD! THAT’S A FUCKING BOOK!” and “Are you taking notes? You need to take notes for when you write the book!” and “Please, write this book! I want to read it!”

There’s definitely interest in the utter strangeness that is my life. I know it’s not something I want to write presently though — taking time to process and all that. I’d probably start with writing some personal essays to see if it’s a topic I’d want to stick with for an entire book. But who knows. If I have enough material, maybe I’ll just dive right into writing a manuscript.

Re. Family

After all that, are you still in touch with your mother? 

No, I’m not and neither are my two siblings. It’s been 4 years since any of us saw our mother.

Surprisingly, our mother is the one who cut contact with us.

After I wrote a blog post about how hard it was growing up bisexual in a homophobic religious setting, she immediately cut contact with all three of her children, to the point of even blocking us on Facebook.

That must have been so painful.

It was definitely the exact opposite of how someone hopes their parent will respond when they come out, that’s for sure!

But it honestly was a blessing in the end. If she hasn’t cut contact with all three of us, I doubt we ever would’ve realized the stories about our dad’s declining health didn’t all add up. And I’m positive we never would’ve gone looking for him. It was painful to be rejected by someone who should love you unconditionally, but it’s the reason we know our dad is alive and well.

Re. Homeschooling

I’m interested in homeschooling. What are your thoughts on your parents’ Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling? 

From the prospective of a former homeschool child, Charlotte Mason homeschooling is not something I recommend nor support. For me, it’s not educational philosophy. For me, it was my life. And I didn’t enjoy it nor learn from it.

I also don’t recommend my parents specific approach to homeschooling. They didn’t follow Washington State homeschooling laws. For example, I was evaluated by an educator once at the end of kindergarten. According to Washington State homeschooling laws, either being evaluated by an educator or taking a written assessment is supposed to happen yearly. But for me, it only happened once. And for my siblings, it didn’t even happen once.

Whatever the intent, our parents homeschooled us illegally. And that’s not something I can support.

I saw your name and photos on your mom’s site though. 

My photos, name, and stories involving me were used without my permission to support an educational approach I don’t agree with. When I got married, I originally dropped my maiden name specifically because I didn’t want to be associated any longer with Charlotte Mason homeschooling.

The fact that this is one of the most common questions I get asked made me realize dropping Hough wasn’t helping distance me like I’d hoped. So I now use my maiden name again socially and professionally.

Did your parents’ approach prepare you for college? 

No, it did not. When I was 18, my math was an an elementary school level. It took four math classes at a local community college for me to get to the point of being high school level. It was especially challenging mentally because, unlike my classmates, I wasn’t relearning the material — I was learning it for the very first time.

This prevented me from starting with any college option other than community college. I’d wanted to start at a four-year university but was unable to. Having to start with elementary school math also made college take longer and cost more.

Were you ever lonely as a kid? 

Constantly. Unlike some homeschool kids who are involved in sports, clubs and homeschool co-ops, I spent most of my childhood alone in my bedroom.

Did you ever wish you’d gone to public school?

Constantly. I even asked to be sent to public school. I was always told no, the reasoning being that I’d be in the “stupid classes,” and would be ruthlessly picked on for my lack of intelligence. To this day, I still wish I’d attended public school.

Would you homeschool your own kids? 

If I had my way, no. I’d only homeschool if it became necessary because of a child’s health or some other unforeseen reason.