Sunday, August 17, 2014

"I deserve better" A Mother's day rememberance

Mother's Day remembrance

I cannot think of Mother's Day without this memory coming to the surface, the two are forever linked in my mind. Now some of you might be a little shocked by this story, I know everyone I've ever told it to has been. But for those of you who have been reading my blog will realized it's just 'par for the course' of my childhood.

New Friends, New School

After I had become 'damaged goods' and enrolled into special education, I was sent to a different school district in the next town over. The school was known for a good special education program, and it was
thought that I needed to be completely removed from the other children who had been harassing me at my former school.  There were just two other girls in my new special education class, and we became fast friends in a class full of boys. I had never had so many friends as I did in this class, and I was able to settle in. I spent two years at this new school, and it was during this time when I was 10 or 11 that my Mother's Day remembrance takes place.

Sleep overs

I had spend a Saturday night sleeping over at one of my new friends house. With time I have lost when this exactly happened, but I'm fairly certain I was in the 6th grade so I was around 10 or 11 when this happened. Like most children, we don't keep track of specific holidays unless it has something in it for us. It's no great surprise that I wasn't aware that Mother's Day was the next day after my sleep over. Normally a parent will assist a child with procuring a gift or card for Mother's/Father's day, or at least help remind the child of this date. So Sunday afternoon, my friend's mother piles everyone in the car and we stop at Walgreen's on the way to dropping me off at home. My friend then says she is going to covertly buy her mother a card and gift while we are there, it's Mother's Day!  Now I'm a little surprised to hear this, I wasn't aware. But one thing is that I do not have any money on me at all, and I'm not about to ask my  friend or her Mother to loan me any money.... that isn't even a consideration in my mind. I start to devise a plan on what I'll do when I get home, and hope that I have enough time to make a gift for my Mother. After all I have no money at home, and I doubt I'll have enough time to procure a last minute gift for her, even if I can devise funds and transportation to a store when I get home.

Crafty Conceptions

When I'm dropped off, no one is home. However, my adoptive mother has left me a note declaring that it's Mother's Day in case I wasn't aware. If I had been older, I would have read the under currents of this note to realize I was already in trouble, because I simply wasn't there when Mother's Day started. But instead, I start looking for supplies to make a gift for my adoptive mother. I had decided that I would paint wooden plaque with a poem I had started to compose in my mind at Walgreen's. I'm sure I was inspired by all the Hallmark cards in the store. I rummage around in the garage, in the wood scrap pile looking for something suitable. I had envisioned something roughly the size of a sheet of paper, but the wood pile was mostly full of 2"x4" scraps. In the end I settle on a 2"x4" scrap that is about 12" long, and I know I can make it work. It has some rough edges, and I rummage around for sand paper and I sand down the rough edges.

Fruits of labor

Being a creative child, I start drafting out my concept. Using pencil I write the poem, draw where the flowers
will go, then mix the paints and start to decorate my 2"x4" length. Through trial and error, I realize that red lettering and border with white/red flowers and green vines/leaves will look the best for my project.  I take my time, being careful to make this look as good as possible, hoping that my creative labors will transform this length of 2"x4" and please my adoptive Mother.  Of course I make over-the-top declarations of  'how much I love" my adoptive mother on the wooden plaque. While the paint dries, I pull out construction paper and start making a card for her. I cut and create paper tulips, and glue them to the front of the card. I am really pleased with my efforts, and I'm sure that my adoptive Mother will appreciate my artistic labors.

A Crappy Piece of Wood

As I double check to make sure that the paint is dried on my plaque, and see if the glue is dried on my card, I hear my parents arrive home. I am really excited at how well my home made gifts have turned out. With not much time, and limited supplies I really feel like I've pulled off something special. I'm excited to give my home-made gift to my adoptive mother.

I come downstairs, find her and ask her to sit down while I go get my gift.  I come back down with my card and gift which aren't wrapped, as I really didn't have any time to considering searching for wrapping paper. I had her the card first, then the gift once she is done reading it.

I'm not prepared at all for her reaction, and now as a 44 year old, I'm still shocked by it.
My adoptive Mother goes into a rage and starts yelling at me. I simply respond that I don't understand why she is upset, I have a gift for her. In my naive mind I think the only reason why a parent would be upset would be if you didn't have something to give them. But in this case my adoptive mother starts yelling at me that I "didn't plan" and it's obvious. I try to explain all my labors, but she says to me "I don't want this crappy piece of wood!" "I deserve better!" "I want a store bought gift, not some crap you've tried to make!"
She hits me a few times, and I start crying. I am really shocked by this outburst. She sends me to my room "so you can think about what you've done".

After the fact I wondered what I could have done differently, given that if I did have any money it was change. The other factor was transportation, I had a bicycle, but the nearest store where I could have bought a suitable gift was Walgreen's and it was 1 mile, one-way on a bicycle. I was doomed from the beginning.

Comfort in a closet

The small walk-in closet in my bedroom had long since become the place I went when I needed to find
comfort. I could hide completely in there and not been seen. I often wished so desperately that my mother would come rescue me  from these people I was living with. I so desperately wanted her on this day, as I realized that these people who had adopted me really didn't care for, or love me. I felt unwanted and disposable, but unable to verbalize these complex feelings since I was only 10 or 11 at the time. But I knew the way I was being treated was wrong, and I knew that I did deserve better. As a child you don't understand what a closed adoption is, or that your mother has no idea where you are... or that she has been threatened with legal action if she ever tires to find her child in the TPR (termination of parental rights) paperwork she's signed.  A chunk of my soul died this day, I would be lying if I said this hadn't left some emotional scars on me. Your first mother has already rejected you, now the 2nd one is rejecting you because of a hand-made gift.

You're making a big deal out of nothing

After this, I was very careful to ensure I had a proper store bought gift and card for my adoptive mother each Mother's day. In fact I never made her another hand made gift again. If I made something in school or at home, it was never given for a holiday... it was just something I brought home.
I made sure that each Mother's day / holiday / occasion going forward, and  I took care to mention that it was a store bought gift and card, and inquired if she liked it, or if she wanted to return it. When she would chastise me for acting this way, I would bring up the home-made gift and her reaction to it. She would then tell me I was "making a big deal out of nothing" and to stop mentioning it.  But it was a real concern on my part, would she punish me if my store bought gift and card were not to her liking? Would I be rejected again if it wasn't good enough?

As an adopted child, we realize our adoptive families/ homes are not guaranteed.  We've already been given up by our first set of parents, what is to stop the 2nd set from doing the same?  And now with the new practice of re-homing adoptees by adoptive parents, I have no doubt that my own adoptive mother would have done this to me if she'd been given the chance, I was never what she wanted in a child. I was never good enough for her, ever.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When you get married....

When you get married

While I was making $5 dollars and hour, struggling to pay for school, car repair bills, car
insurance, clothing, and my own expenses my adoptive mother in an effort to make my life even more difficult declared one day that “If you ever want us to PAY for YOUR wedding, then you need to start paying rent to live here”. I was 19 years old and struggling, I could barely afford gas money. I tried my best to explain that I just could not afford even $5 dollars a week, as I was just barely making it. I wondered if this was her effort to make me quit school. My adoptive mother wasn’t exactly a supportive person, and she would often make comments to under mind my self-esteem. She’d make comments like “you know you can’t do math, how are you going to take a Math class?” A narcissist is a master of manipulation, and she knew I had very low self-esteem to begin with. If you keep telling someone they aren’t smart enough, or good enough to do something… then eventually they start to believe it.
In the end I was told that since I could not afford to pay rent, they would not pay for my wedding as I was…. You guessed it….. “you are on your own” to pay for it.  So what did I do when I did get married in 1998? I didn’t tell them, I decided that my adoptive parents didn’t deserve to attend. It wasn’t like we had any money to have any kind of wedding party. So we kept it simple, we were married by the Mayor of Montgomery Ohio and that was it. I also knew that cutting them out would result in them disowning me, so I chose not to tell them and my husband was “the boyfriend” for 8 years after we were married.  I also knew that the inclusion of my adoptive parents would be a horrible mistake, as they would do everything in their power to destroy it.

A College Education part deux

A few years before I was disowned by my adoptive parents, my adoptive mother had struggled with breast cancer. I recall a conversation we had where she complimented me on never asking for help of any kind…ever.  I told her that wasn’t entirely true, I had asked for help twice and been told “NO” twice. She asked if I resented them not helping me with school. I simply said that “because I don’t have a college education I will never make as much money as I could. Not having a college diploma decreases your income”. She started to cry and asked if she had been a “bad mother”. Everything in me wanted to scream “YES YES YES” but she was on chemotherapy, and just had surgery. I felt that if I were to tell the truth, it would be like kicking a dog when it was down. I told her what she wanted to hear, I said “No, you weren’t a bad mother”. But for the record, she was a HORRIBLE MOTHER!

An act of rebellion

Holding my Associates degree diploma
After I was disowned, I re-enrolled in school. It was almost like an act of rebellion. A college education was something that was important to me, and I wanted it desperately. But without support from my adoptive parents, it became impossible when I was younger. In the days before online classes, working full-time and taking a college class were very difficult to do. In 2007 I re-enrolled in college, partially an act of rebellion against what I was told “was a waste of time” and that “you aren’t smart enough” to do. It was also something important to me. Without the negative influence of my adoptive parents, I found the self-esteem needed to go back to school. It’s amazing how bad people can drag you down and eat way at your self-worth. I’ve been enrolled continuously in classes for over 7 years now, using my employer’s tuition reimbursement plan to pay for my education. I only get 5 thousand dollars a year, but I try to maximize my money by using a community college with an online program for some of the lower level classes I need and taking the upper level classes at the the University I’m enrolled with. School takes a lot of time, but it’s always been important to me and I make it work by taking 1 class at a time.
I’ll have just 7 classes left after the fall semester until I’ll have my degree. I finished an Associates degree in Business back in 2010. And with a little luck I should have my BS in Business Administration, with a minor in Human Resource Management next year or in early 2016. I have a 3.75 GPA, which isn’t bad for someone who was told they “weren’t smart enough for school”.

 Some people find that holding others back is the only way they can feel good about themselves. Removing the negative influences in my life has been hard, but it was necessary so I can strive to achieve my goals. Adoption only provides a different family for a child, not a better one. 

A College Education?

A College Education?

The difficulty of a College education has been one of the more impactful events on my life in general. The after effect has been lasting. I think the majority of people will agree that those with a college degree will earn more than those without one. Obtaining a college education was something important to me, and without the support of family I found that it becomes incredibly difficult goal to reach.

When I was a junior in high school I received a scholarship and invitation to spend the summer studying at the Savannah School of Art in Georgia. I can remember how astounded I was when one of my art teachers handed me the school packet and check. The sum would cover summer tuition at the school I was told, however it did not cover the cost of room/board… that would be a cost that I would have to cover if I wanted to attend.   I will never forget how my adoptive mother reacted to this offer I received.  Now a ‘normal’ mother might be proud, happy, or excited…right? Well not my adoptive mother. Her response was this….”If you want to go to college, you are on your own… we’re not giving you one dime of our money… and don’t ask us to fill anything out either…we’re not helping you at all…. It’s a waste of time and money” She made it clear that this statement went for any college, not just art school.  So I took my packet and check from the art school and put it in a box with my other important papers, it was just a keepsake… a memento….not an opportunity or future. So as my high school education started coming to an end, my classmates would ask me what I planned to do after graduation. With college now not an option, I said that I was planning to take a year off and work. It was hard having everyone else I knew making plans for school with supportive parents helping them… and me on my own.  I didn’t even have a driver’s license or a car when I graduated high school. I had my part time job at the local library, but that was it.  

Money and the Struggle

I had written before about how I had been forced to sign over my savings bonds to help

pay for my adoptive brothers first car. However, when it came to me I had been told I was “on my own” and I had to pay for my own car, and I would not be getting any help, or as my adoptive mother put it “not one dime”. So I’ve graduated, and if I even want to think about going to the local community college I needed a vehicle. So that summer I start working full time in this horrible small office as a receptionist. I still had my part-time job at the Library. I can recall when I had to go shopping so I could have a wardrobe for the receptionist job. I hated withdrawing money from my savings account to buy the clothing… this job only paid five dollars an hour.  It was a horrible office, and the office manager didn’t like me. She set out to make my life as difficult as possible. It was a very small office with just four people in the office. I worked there for about 5 months before they decided they didn’t need a receptionist anymore. While I worked there, I finally got my driver’s license, but had to rely on my adoptive parents to pick me up and drop me off every day. Three days a week I went straight from one job to another, often with no dinner. I was still suffering from bulimia at this time, and not eating was normal.  After I lost the receptionist job, I had a hard time finding another. I only had a high school education, with only five months of full time work on my resume. I struggled. My adoptive mother was upset that I didn’t have a full time job yet, and I would often be targeted by her because of it. My two friends were away at school, and I was alone. After several months of looking for another job, I was able to get a job at an answering service for five dollars an hour again.  Because I had kept my part-time job at the library, I finally had enough money to buy a used car. My adoptive father picked out a ‘84 Ford Escort that I would buy. It turned out to be a bad car that at 5 years old, broke down all the time. I paid for the car in full out of my checking account, and paid for the registration and tax. My adoptive parents paid for the license plates because I had just spent every penny I had.  They had gone to great lengths to help my adoptive brother buy his first car, and the help they gave me was minor in comparison. Had they wanted to, they could have made the situation easier on me… but they chose not to.

Community College

My higher education aspirations were modest in nature, I enrolled at the local Community College. When I had my meeting with the financial aid office, I found out that without my adoptive parent’s cooperation to help fill out financial aid paperwork, I could not apply for any kind of financial aid.  I was told that I might qualify for a Pell Grant which was free from the government, but I would need my parents cooperation. I knew not to ask, I had already been told that “you are on your own, and don't ask us to fill anything out” and “it’s a waste of time and money”. So with modest funds and expectations, I enrolled in classes. When you only make five dollars and hour, and are paying for your own car insurance, repairs, gasoline, and clothing, coming up with money for tuition and books is incredibly difficult.  Shortly after I had enrolled and started classes, my adoptive mother approached me one day. She was angry at me and I didn’t understand why.  She said to me in her nastiness tone possible “Your father seems to think we should help pay for your books if you are paying for your classes”. I hadn’t asked for any help, I knew better. But this offer took be aback, of course I could use some help but I didn’t understand why she was telling me this in her nastiness tone possible. It’s one thing to have someone treat you like shit when you ask for help, another thing entirely to have someone treat you like shit offering a helping hand. While I could have desperately used the help, any help…. I was sick of my adoptive mother treating me like a piece of shit.  I got angry and I said to her “I’m quite alright on my own, I don’t need your help” when in reality I needed all the help I could get. She had a surprised look on her face when I said this, I mirrored her shitty tone right back at her.  I wasn’t her doorstep to walk on, and I wanted her to know it.
I was only able to make it three semesters before I just wasn’t able to financially afford school and a car.  I had to find another job that paid more, the used car I had purchased broke down all the time and the bills were increasingly larger. I cried for weeks when I had to quit school, it was one of the saddest times in my life.

Asking for help

Adoptees in general are self-sufficient, at an early age we realize that we have to take care
of ourselves. For me asking for any kind of help is difficult, I will go down every avenue to solve a problem on my own before asking for any kind of help.  Only twice in my life have I ever asked someone to help me financially. Both times I asked my adoptive parents to loan me $50 and then $40 dollars so I could cover a car repair bill when I was between paychecks. I said that I would pay them back when I was paid the next week.  Both times I was told a resounding “NO”. I can honestly say that my adoptive parents never load me as much as a dollar for even a day.  Imagine now needing your car to make it to work and school, but you have to pay the $300 dollar repair bill to get the car out of the repair shop and you are $40 short.  You get up enough courage to finally for once in your life ask for financial help, a modest loan… and you hear “NO”, not because they didn’t have the money… but rather because they didn’t want to help. Now, if I had been the kind of child who was always asking for money or loans I could understand being told no. But this was the first time I had EVER in my life asked for a loan or financial help of any kind from them. In the end I wrote a check for more than I had in my checking account, knowing that I’d have to pay an overdraft fee. Just a few months later the car broke down again, and I was confronted with an even larger car repair bill, this time was $50 dollars short. I asked one more time for a loan just until I got paid. My adoptive mother actually laughed at me said “NO” and turned her back to me and walked away. I started crying to her turned back as she walked away from me. I really didn’t know what I was going to do this time. The overdraft fees had cost me a lot the last time, and I needed to figure out some other option. When I didn’t have a car, I would ask to borrow hers. She started to resent this and would tell me to “take the bus you cannot have my car” which is easier said than done. I can recall that it took me three hours by bus to make it to school and work one day. By car it was 30 minutes round trip. I ended up leaving my car at the repair shop for a few days until I got my paycheck and could cover the bill, taking the bus to school and work a few times and being “allowed” to borrow my adoptive mothers car after I explained that I’d have to walk 4 miles at 11pm at night to make it home after I was done working 2nd shift at the answering service since the busses would not be running at that time of night.