Spoiled Children of Divorce


Exemplary Children of Divorce – Manly P. Hall

The early 20th century in the United States was populated by spiritual and psychic gurus. Many of them apparently were phonies. One who is considered genuine was Manly P. Hall. Hall was born in Canada. His father was a dentist who he never met. His mother left him in the care of his grandmother so she could go to chiropractor school. She was a Rosicrucian which was a popular religion in California and was probably a big influence on Hall’s later work. Hall’s parents shared his last name so I suppose they were married and divorced before his first year. Halls mother left him (I think at age of 3 but am not sure) and his grandmother moved him to South Dakota. The grandmother passed away when he was sixteen. He then moved to California to either be with his Mother or with the Rosicruceans, or both. Hall had great good luck finding followers and financial backing through women donors. He published his greatest work before the age of 28.

The astrology is interesting in that it shows a big influence from the Moon. Children whose parents divorce very early during the first year will only have completed a few lunar cycles. This could set the influence of this planet in their character and destiny. The Moon can give great public attention, psychic abilities and sensitivity, and also influence from women, Home, food, babies, and childbearing. The Moon represents the Mother so I wonder how that figured in his life. Hall’s book, “The Secret Teachings of all Ages,” was published during his first secondary progressed lunar return. It has never gone out of print.



Banning the “D” Word

Okay this is too much.  I thought that New Yorkers were intelligent.   I thought they liked to talk about stuff.  I thought that it was only the Man-Childs and Baby-Womans of the California Dreamin’ crowd who couldn’t put up with the feelings of real live children.

But, no Edna, the New York City Schools have decided to join the herd.  For religious reasons.

CNN reports that the public school systems in New York are planning on banning the word “Divorce” from all school tests.

For one, as any Child of Divorce knows, talking about one’s parents’ divorce is simply not done.  People can’t handle the info.  Shrinks especially. Except when discussing how those kids are so spoiled, they get everything they want, you know, because of the guilt.

For two, and this is because of “For one”, the word Divorce probably doesn’t exist on the tests in the first place because Children of Divorce probably didn’t graduate from College and so did not write the tests.

The kids now have my express permission to write “The Death of my Parents’ Marriage” in stead of Divorce as answers on all of their written tests.  When the teacher wants to discuss your suicidal feelings please write “The Death of my Parents’ Marriage destroyed my desire to live because I now know that the Love that they profess for me is a shallow and transitory thing and could change on a dime if I screw up in any way.  I may even have to pay alimony if I complain.”

Maybe Divorce is more Scorpio than Uranian.  You put it in that clump along with other House 8 social secrets that nobody can talk about.  Namely:  Sex, Death and Taxes.  Rather:  Daddy’s Girlfriends’ Big Boobs; Mommy’s Alcoholism, Depression and Early Death from Destructive Lifestyle choices;  Tax Deduction #1 and Tax Deduction #2; the School Administrators’ deep and darkest desires to silence all feelings except their own. And the biggest of all:  “Power Trips.”

Not only is “Divorce” the big elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about, but, so are the kids.  They’re just kids.  They’ll get over it.  Don’t let them ever, ever talk about it, at least.

The words on the list of 50 banned words are said to be “Loaded.”  Loaded, as in guns?  Read the article and be prepared to drop your jaw wide open in disbelief.  Here’s the paragraph which explains why “Divorce” can’t be allowed.

Halloween may suggest paganism; divorce may conjure up uneasy feelings for children in the midst of a divorce within their family. One phrase that may surprise many, the term “Rock ‘n’ Roll” was on the “avoid” list.



Exemplary Children of Divorce – Oliver Stone

It’s amazing how many Children of Divorce, the guys at any rate, grew up to become famous movie Directors.

This morning I was listening to the NPR radio station in my area and heard a very interesting interview with Oliver Stone.  He was talking about his life as well as his movies.  And Michael Krasney, the interviewer actually asked him to speak about his parents’ divorce. (awesome!, and of course Stone couldn’t really find the words to discuss it.)

Stone was born into comfort in New York and Connecticut. His Father was a stockbroker.  Wikipedia says that his parents divorced when Stone was 15 because his Father tended to end up having affairs with family friends.  Stone had a strong relationship with his  father, but his Mother was absent much of the time.  In the interview Stone says that he was sent to boarding school when he was 14 and this in connection with the divorce was a time of great loss.  Can’t remember his exact words because I was driving while listening to the interview.

I suppose that growing up in divorce trauma not only gives one a heightened of how to tell a story emotionally but to have an extra layer of understanding about human motivations.  One also has the freedom, in a sense, to devote one’s time to something outside of family and relationships.  Movie sets probably become like little families that disperse quickly.

Stone graduated from the boarding school and was accepted at Yale but dropped out after a year.  According to one article he decided to reinvent himself and went to Asia.  Religion appears to have played a big part in Stone’s life.  His Father was Jewish, his Mother was Catholic and they decided to raise him Episcopalian.  That’s nuts of course.  Stone has studied Buddhism for most of his adult life.

Stone fought in the Vietnam War and has made 3 movies about this experience.  The most famous is Platoon.

It seems to be a very positive survival step when Children of Divorce decide to completely reinvent themselves soon after leaving home around Age 18 or 19.  Changing one’s name, throwing one’s self into a career (one that doesn’t require College), seeking out a new religion and a better way of life than one has been brought up in is a big potential gift that one can take from this upbringing. Uranus rules Divorce so those who can enjoy Uranian lifestyles perhaps do better than those who don’t.

In the interview, Stone talks about his problems with addiction and his mental health issues as an adult.

He discusses the motives behind choosing many of the themes for his movies.  One can sense that being a witness to the reality behind one’s parents’ wedded bliss can really trigger the seeker in all of us.   Stone  seeks to find the real truth.  Political fraud.  Violence.  What really happens in history outside what one reads from textbooks and news reports.  Okay, okay, and there’s a lot of dramatization, exaggeration, and conspiracy theory there.  And those last reasons are what sell his movies.

Stone is on his third marriage.  He has two sons from his second marriage and has a daughter with his third and current wife.  Stone himself was an only child.



Being a Guest In Your “Own Home(s)”
December 14, 2010, 6:20 pm
Filed under: creativity, Happiness, Healing, Health, Mentors, Religion

So, Child of D, you can’t get locked out of your parents’ houses because you learned how to pick the locks long ago.  Carrying around all those keys gets really tiring, after all.

But, Child of D, you feel strange.  They keep telling you they love you, but, for some reason, deep down, you know that they don’t love anyone all that much.  There’s no unconditional love in split homes.  Not really.  Just parents who are told by experts on TV that if they tell their children they love them they can go off and do their own thing.  And those dates they bring home?  Well, you gotta love it.

But, Child of D, what about yourself?  What about the Holidays?  How to deal with this month of overextended horrors of scheduling and hugging and hanging out with strangers who want to love you, they really do.  How do you protect your heart in this time?  Your heart is a very beautiful thing.  Well, hang out at your friends’ houses.  Or turn to books and great thinking.  Realize that what you are feeling in part is grief and grief is what teaches us to have great depth of understanding and empathy towards others.  I remember hearing an interview with Bill Clinton who was discussing how he got through having his last public affair exposed, the one with White House Intern Monica Lewitsky, he said that he spent a year going for counseling and searching for answers in books.  Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar who studied at Oxford, so not only did he have the best Western Education a person can have, but he was intelligent enough to understand what he was reading.  But, still one can seek answers through philosophy and religion and poetry and art.  That’s why we turn to these things.  I remember hearing the poet W.S. Merwin say that the first poem was about grief.

This wasn’t supposed to be babbly.  Of course, Bill was married to Hillary, and Hillary went to Yale which is the second best education in the Western World that one can have and so Hillary has more brains than most of us as well.  And Hillary decided to stick with Bill because, well, for one, they are rich and can afford to own two houses and probably only see each other at tax time, and also I remember hearing Hillary talk about the affair and say that she was aware that Bill had suffered much abuse during his childhood.  She understood how difficult this is to deal with as an adult.  When you read about Bills’ childhood you sort of get it that his childhood was really bad.  His Father was a womanizer as well.  He was on his 4th marriage at age 32 (or something like that) when he died in a car crash along with some other woman.

So, if this ramble doesn’t make you feel better about being a Child of D during the Holidays, assuming that you are unhappy, that’s certainly not a requirement, but if you’re happy you’re not going to be reading this blog because it’s focused more on the downers.

I found this awesome poem by Rumi called “The Guest House.” Translated by Coleman Barks.  It’s about how we need to treat all of our feelings, the good ones and the bad ones as guests within our beings.  We need to show them our best hospitality.  I think that’s what it means.  If not, correct me.  Thing is, if you study what you are feeling you can gain distance from it and learn from it.  (You don’t need to live in denial of it the way your Mommy’s shrink is, although that looks like a very lucrative business.)



If Your Parents Divorced When You Were Between Ages 3 and 4: Crossing Borders

After the Mars Return which normally occurs slightly before Age 2, there won’t be another Planetary Return until the Jupiter Return which occurs very roughly around Age 11.  So, in a big planetary picture childhood is bounded by two planets which mark the concepts of adventure, expansion and growth.  Most people say that these are the best years of their life when they were free from worry and fear.  I suspect that children who have Mars and Jupiter strongly aspected in their birth charts.

There are many other markers in between these two ages which can be considered in looking at how trauma of Divorce might affect a child.  For one, there are other Returns.  There’s a whole set of Asteroids and Dwarfs planets which are held in orbit between Mars and Jupiter.  These are called the Kuiper Belt.  By coincidence their interpretations started in Astrology in the same era as the big Divorce Boom of the 1960s and 70s.  These asteroids are mostly represented by Women Goddesses so they are connected with the growing awareness of the Feminist Movement. They do seem to add a Female Perspective to the strongly Male Rulerships of Mars and Jupiter.

The first of these to occur is the Vesta Return.  A child in his 3d year of life will probably experience his first Vesta Return.  Vesta literally rules “Hearth and Home.”  She is related to the idea of “Keeping the Home Fires Burning.”  One can only wonder what this means for a child going through a divorce.  Perhaps this child becomes the little Torch Bearer for his Parents, Chin Up.  Don’t know how this might manifest in a negative way since Fire can suffer from destructive flare ups.  I suspect that anger might express itself as a flare up and then would dissipate pretty quickly.  Perhaps a lot of these children grow up to be very good cooks.  Maybe they work for the Fire Department.

ET who had to “Call Home” was probably having a serious Vesta Return problem.  Drew Barrymore is a Child of Divorce.  She was 3 years old when she played her part in ET so one can see the energy of this age.  Her parents are said to have divorced very early on, soon after she was born.  Stephen Spielberg was also from Divorce.  I’ve written before about how him in a previous post and that ET is his story about growing up in divorce.

Also, we can begin to consider partial orbits of the slower moving outer planets and the Nodal Axis.  Jupiter’s first square to its natal position, that is, the point where it is 90 degrees away from the place where it was at birth, can be considered and does seem to match up with researchers’ observations of how children are.  Squares generally indicate Challenges and Lessons.  They are considered difficult aspects.  Often they are considered times when the growth spurt hits a hurdle and a person’s problem solving skills are put to the test so this can be a very important age to pass through for proper developement.  The first Jupiter Square comes at about Age 3.  Jupiter then trines its natal position around the Age of 4.  Trines are considered easy aspects in which a person can benefit from previous lessons.  A trine can also show a lax quality in which a person might actually suffer from assuming that things are well.  Since Jupiter represents “Luck” sometimes this can mean that a person can go through a lucky phase if he allows it to happen.  Or it can mean that he will become to easy going and lax and lose out on an opportunity.  That would probably apply more to an adult’s chart.  Either way, Jupiter is a basically optimistic, happy go lucky signature.  And Children at this age are often considered to have these qualities.

Jupiter rules the sign of Sagittarius and the 9th House of the Astrological Chart.  In Classical Astrology it might also rule the sign of Pisces and the 12th House so one might also consider this influence as well for interpretation.  Either way, after Venus/Libra, this is a child’s first introduction to how his life will develop the upper half of the Astrological Wheel, that is how he will express his more extroverted side (excuse the psychobabble vocabulary, it’s just commonly used and I’m trying to limit verbage).

A child begins to develop social awareness and skills at Age 3.  The Yale Child Center Study books say that a child’s vocabulary increases very rapidly at this age, something like 8 or 9 words a day.  This is very interesting from a Jupiter Standpoint because Jupiter rules all intellectual skills related to developing opinions about how people ought to behave.  It rules Organized Religion, Advanced Education, Law, and Publishing.  A child under this influence will have strong awareness of ethics, grammar, rules, laws and not necessarily enforcement or actual acting out of said activities.   So, these children will be to understand how people ought to behave and they will begin to share their opinions about it.  Often Sagittarius is able to be very outspoken about difficult subjects and to get away with it because they have enough “panache”.  On the other hand, sometimes Sagittarius just offends and I wonder if the phrase “Out of the Mouths of Babes” comes from people who were dealing with a 3 year old child.  Children at this age are learning to play with others.  The Yale Child Center books say that they may struggle with the ideas of competition.  This would be related to the Jupiter influence.  Sagittarius is a Centaur, half man and half horse and he represents the Hunter and Sportsman.

The Pisces side of Jupiter rulership expresses spirituality and imagination.  I suspect that Children begin to further develop their fantasies at this age.  Little Girls become Fairy Princesses.  Little Boys begin to imagine themselves as, well ….  I don’t know if Cowboys and Indians is still considered PC among little boys, but something like that.  Often,  lonely children will make up an imaginary friend.  Pisces is also related to needing privacy and to be alone in order to get in touch with one’s higher self.  It is also related to deception.  Children at this age might begin to understand the idea of keeping secrets.  They will understand finer points of manipulating the truth.  And there’s no better way to learn this type of behavior than from parents who are divorcing.

As far as Play goes, Yale Child Center that children will begin to play with other children around this time.  Sagittarius brings lessons in how to deal with Competition and Games with Rules and Pisces brings lessons in how to be a “Loser” in a graceful way (wonder how many Step-Mothers are going to use this as ammo against their kids).  Since Jupiter is represented at this age by a Square transit aspect one has to look at the fact that squares come along to teach us a lesson.  The lessons are not easy to learn and children need guidance.  I imagine that the idea of Sharing comes in big at this age.  Children of Divorce are probably awarded a whole lot for their ability to Share with others by their divorcing parents, and the parents have to remember that the children might go overboard with this trait later on in life.

In divorce a child will have to compete with step-families in order to get some attention.  One can see how a child might feel lost within that environment.  As one can see from all the hostilities and bad vibes from Step-Mothers, children are immediately labeled as “manipulative” and probably will remain stuck in that verbage within their families for the rest of their lives.  This is just the result of selfish adults and lousy parenting, of course.

Children at this age will probably enjoy and strongly identify with having a pet, especially a big pet as both Sagittarius and Pisces rule larger size animals.  (Virgo rules small household pets).  So children will want to go to the Zoo and to the Farm, etc. etc.  I imagine that they will enjoy travel very much.  It gives them a chance to practice charming strangers as both Jupiterian signs are good at doing.  Of course, in this day and age, parents have to watch out that the kids don’t walk off with the strangers.  (I suppose one could do a research study by observing the kids who are traveling alone at the airport to see if the 3 year old seem to be the happiest – facetious comment, sorry Carolyn, I know that was you, don’t know if you’ll have been able to tolerate reading down this far).

Both Sagittarius and Pisces are capable of understanding very complex social interactions.  Because of the Happy go Lucky side of Sagittarius and the Magical Otherworldly Side of Pisces, they will seem fine on the outside.  (Well, Pisces can appear to be a little spacey and inattentive).  Sagittarius brings lessons in understanding Humanity and Pisces brings lessons in understanding how to Empathize with others. These are very valuable social skills to develop properly.  If forced to freeze at this age due to trauma, a child inside might be suffering from great fears that not only can they not express due to their limited experience and vocabulary but that they will be aware that they can’t express due to understanding retribution from others.   They understand how this will affect others in the bigger picture.

In Stephanie Staal’s book, The Love They Lost, adults who describe how their lives were affected by their parents’ divorces at Age 3 say that they have vague recollections of life before the Divorce and of the Divorce itself.  They tell very complex stories of what went on in their families afterward with understandings of jealousies and favoritism.  There are descriptions of feeling like an outsider (Probably the reason why Sagittarians develop interests in International affairs).  As adults there are descriptions of being “commitment phobes.”

Within Astrology one learns that Jupiter is strongly phobic about making commitments in relationships since it tends to be a freedom loving and independent energy.  Pisces if often considered to be an unreliable sign.  These interpretations are broad generalizations and have to be considered case by case according to natal chart, present chart, and overall environment and experience.  In some cases this may loosen up a conservative style chart, it may create a total flake.  Either way, a child who feels traumatized at this age may partially freeze within an energy that is very idealistic and enthusiastic and uplifting for others and suffers some anxieties about always showing this positive face to others.  If there are fears of commitments, this means that the person needs to look at the disparity between how he/she feels and about how he/she makes himself look like he feels.

Since both Sagittarius and Pisces are concerned with how people interact on a Global Scale the examples I’ve found here show an ability to reach out across National and Race boundaries in order to unite people.

Jupiter is the biggest planet in the Solar System and has the strongest Gravitational pull of any of the planets.  And its rulership within Astrology reflects this.  It is related to Expansion, Growth, Overflowing and Overdoing.  It is a positive, jovial spirit.  But sometimes it can promise too much and think it can accomplish more than it can actually do.  There is sometimes a problem with hypocrisy because of this.  Jupiter knows how things ought to be and how to act and that there are others who are suffering more.  It is learning the correct rules and grammar, but it suffers from severe anxieties sometimes in keeping up with all its own rules.

On a physical level one can see a child who is concerned with his small size.  He may begin to wish to be larger like the adults and he may wish that he could walk faster.  Jupiterians tend to be a little clumsy because of this bad judgment about size and I wonder if this continues into adulthood through trauma.  Think of all the weird problems that Alice in Wonderland has with her size after falling down the rabbit hole.  Or the fairy tale about Goldilocks who struggles to find just the right size of bed to sleep in while at the Bears’ house.  Or even the Princess and the Pea who can still feel the pea underneath 20 mattresses.  Boys will relate to all the stories of Heroes who have to accomplish many tasks in order to save the Kingdom.  Hercules, for example.  Hopefully girls read and identify with these stories now too.  Jupiter rules Publishing and storytelling.  He rules the opposite side of the Pole across from Gemini which is also related to writing (along with Mercury’s other sign Virgo).  One would expect some writers to come out of this crowd.

One problem that one would consider through a negative manifestation of Jupiter would be the tendency to overdo and to have problems with addiction and escapism.  These kids might happily be parented by a TV and their Computer games and their distracted, divorced parents might allow this to happen.  Kids at this age probably need to spend time outside getting used to strange people and environments because they will be open to them at this point.

Mariah Carey is a great example of a child whose parents divorce under Age 3 Jupiter influence.  For one, Mariah has a big voice.  I heard an interesting interview with her on Larry King where she says that she is eternally stuck at Age 12.  This is around the time of the Jupiter Return which shows that she really identifies with that energy.  Mariah is currently married to a much younger man, the Jupiterian desire for eternal youth, and they like to have fun by visiting theme parks and taking the scary, fun rides.

Poetess Maya Angelou also went through her parents’ divorce when she was 3 years old.  She has written many memoirs about her extremely difficult childhood and became famous for her first book I know Why the Caged Bird Sings. (Nothing like a Jupiterian to explain how to deal with being trapped somewhere.)  Angelou’s life story is an example of someone who can survive and thrive through extreme adversity.  Jupiter rules International Relations and Angelou is a great example of someone who was able to reach out and communicate her struggles as an African American during the Civil Rights era to the rest of the world.

Along those lines as well, Farmerworkers’ Rights Activist Dolores Huerta went through her parents divorce at Age 3.  After leaving her Father in Texas, Dolores moved with her Mother and siblings to California where the family made a living by running a Hotel.  Talk about Vesta energy of Hearth and Home.  This even extends out to her concern for the Rights of those who work the land.  Huerta became a leader in farm workers rights and has lived a life as a very independent thinker.  There is another Cycle coming up at Age 4 which the Dwarf Planet Ceres makes.  Ceres rules Agriculture and I wonder if this Cycle and the transit of this planet figure strongly in Huerta’s biography.

Film Maker Charlie Chaplin went through his parents’ divorce when he was 3 years old.  Due to his parents being unreliable Charlie and his brother had a lot of free time to wander around London as children so Charlie’s Jupiterian sense of adventure was more strongly developed at an early age.  The brothers moved to the U.S. while still very young.  This shows the International influence.  Chaplin became famous for his comedy and his portrayal a tramp, both very Jupiterian traits.  Chaplin also used his art to show his opinions in order to speak out against Political powers.  He spoofed Hitler in his movie The Great Dictator.  And he had to flee back to Europe after being accused of being a Communist.  “Out of the Mouths of Babes….”

Since Jupiter rules Higher Education I would expect that many of the children whose parents divorce during a part of their Jupiter Cycle might place more importance on Academia.  One such person is Anthropologist Clifford Geertz.  Can’t say that I understand what Geertz wrote about but can say that he spent a lot of time in other cultures interpreting symbols of different cultures.  There aren’t very many Academics from his era who are considered to be highly successful.  I suppose that this field responds to those who grew up with strong Authoritarian influences, or at least I’ve heard that this is a very unappealing characteristic of dealing with Academics by my Child of D friends.

Queen Elizabeth I of England didn’t actually experience a divorce.  Her Father Henry VIII chose to murder her Mother instead of divorcing her.  Well, he was King.  But, in their own way, this might be considered a divorce.  And Elizabeth I certainly reflects the Independent, Free Thinking Jupiterian type.

Last but not least I’ll include Beatles singer Ringo Starr.  Talk about a Charmer.  This was the easy going Beetle.  He’s also a very relaxed version of a Child of Divorce because he liked his Step-Father.  Ringo’s parents divorced when he was 3 years old and he subsequently became drummer in what is probably the greatest Rock Band of all time.  The Beatles is known for its positive, open and loving sound.  Jupiter can be attracted to loud sound, by the way.

Copyright 2010.  Spoiled Children of Divorce blog.  All Rights Reserved.



Exemplary Children of Divorce – Sinead O’Connor

As the Catholic Church reels from yet more disclosures about mass pedophilia, Irish singer Sinead O’Connor has come forward to speak out about abuse she suffered by the Church as well in her childhood.

I saw O’Connor tonight on Larry King Live, and just had to check…

Yes, Sinead O’Connor is a Child of Divorce.  Already very popular in the U.S. in the 1980s, Sinead achieved icon status when she ripped apart a photo of the Pope on Saturday Night Live.  She says that she wants to rescue God from Religion.  That is one great line.

Sinead’s parents divorced when she was 8 years old.  After the split, she and her siblings (maybe only the oldest ones, am not sure about that) lived at first with her Mother who was abusive.   Sinead has written a song about the abuse she suffered from her Mother called “Fire on Babylon.”

Her Father had so much trouble fighting for custody rights for his children that he became chairman of “The Divorce Action Group” in Ireland.  In 1979 Sinead moved in with her Father and Step-Mother but was eventually sent to a Catholic school because her behavior was out of control.  In Catholic school she began to sing.

According to Wikipedia, Sinead has been married twice, claims to be bisexual, and has 4 children.  She tried to commit suicide on her 33d Birthday and was subsequently diagnosed as Bipolar.   That’s the short version of the story, of course.   This is a very complex woman.



Exemplary Children of Divorce – Liza Lou

Biographies of Modern Artists are difficult to come by.  Artists speak through their work first and if they’re successful a biographer comes along and explains the life experience from which the art springs.  I was really pleased to find that Artist Liza Lou is from a divorced family.  Lou is an American Artist who makes unbelievably beautiful sculptures which are covered in tiny beads.  She became famous for her life-size portrayal of a modern american kitchen which sparkles and gleams.  It’s a feminist commentary.  It’s also interesting that she chose to show an idealized version of something related to home.

Lou’s childhood seems very strange.  Her parents were bohemian artists living in New York until they found God and became Born Again Christians and moved to the suburbs.  Lou’s Father seems to have gone off the deep-end.  She has performed a piece about his abuse.  Lou has a sister.  I don’t know what age she was when her parents divorced.  She is said to be still close to her Mother.

Excellent article (with pictures) here.

From the article:

“Liza’s work is an imitation of life, where nothing is real,” says her Paris gallerist, Thaddaeus Ropac. “At the same time, it’s so present that it can be very frightening.” According to art historian and critic Robert Pincus-Witten, it offers a unique synthesis of issues deriving from conceptualism, Pop art and feminism. “There’s that ambiguity between the extremely luxurious and the politically terrifying,” he says.

You don’t have to dig very deeply into Lou’s personal history to find the wellsprings for her works’ conflicting themes. Her parents lived determinedly bohemian lives in Manhattan until 1965, when they attended a revival meeting and became born-again Christians. After burning all of their books and artworks, including Roy Lichtenstein paintings that were gifts from the artist, they moved to Minnesota, where they worked for various fundamentalist churches. Lou and her sister grew up watching exorcisms and speaking in tongues.

At a certain point in her teens, Lou began to question some of the tales she’d been told: Did King David really speak to her mother in the hospital after Lou was born, to explain that the baby was a blessing unto this world? (Today, although not exactly an atheist, Lou says she isn’t a believer, either: “Certain things have to line up for me in terms of logic.”) In 1989 she took a summer trip to Europe, and in the cathedrals of Florence and Venice, she experienced revelations, though they had less to do with Jesus than with mosaics and Byzantine domes. “As an American kid who grew up in the suburbs—postmodern churches with plastic chairs and all that crap—it was totally transforming to be in a place that took hundreds of years to make,” Lou says. “That blew me away.”