Dealing with death and dysfunction

My maternal grandmother passed away last week.  No condolences are necessary as I didn't know her.  I wanted to know her.  I tried to know her, but she wasn't at all interested in knowing me.

I sit here, dumbfounded.  I want to share, because I need to get rid of the buried emotions that have resurfaced since I learned of her passing,  but I don't know how to share what's on my heart.  If my family were "normal" the death of my grandmother would be heartbreaking.  Yet, I sit here, feeling the familiar pit of emptiness I have grown to feel each time I would think of her.  No tears to shed.  No funeral to jet off to.  No feelings of loss.  Just a lot of disappointment.

My story is peppered throughout this blog, and there is more to come.  I can only blog when my heart calls me to, so there really is no order to my posts.  So, I will lay out a quick summary of the women in my direct maternal family.

My mother abandoned me at a young age.  She had me when she was 20 years old and was more into her drugs and her man than she was into me.  She was not emotionally ready to be a mother and she made a (wise) choice and left me in the parking lot of a receiving home at the age of 3.

I was placed in foster care, then briefly adopted, only to be given back to the system again.  I spent my childhood bouncing from home to home until I wrote a letter to a lady who reunified people and she located my mother for me.  Thankfully, my mother agreed to allow me back into her life.  After some calls and correspondence, I learned that she was still with the same boyfriend she was with when she left me.  (This is a situation for an entirely different post)  Eventually, we planned a reunion in Las Vegas since most of my family lived there.

At the age of 17, I hopped alone on a plane to meet these people who I had never met but who were my family.  I knew my mother, my grandparents, my great grandmother, my aunt and my cousins would be there waiting for me.  It was all surreal, something to be shared in a dedicated post.  I want you to understand that I didn't know anyone in my family until this very moment.

I have always been so very thankful that my mother allowed this moment to happen for me.  She could have easily snubbed me.  She could have shut that door and kept it shut, but for whatever reason, when the phone rang on that day at that very moment, she was receptive to allowing me into her life.  I couldn't imagine what my life would be like, had she said no.  My feelings about her now are not pleasant, but I will always be grateful to her for giving me a chance to get to know my roots and through this reunion I was able to be a daughter, a niece, a granddaughter, a great-granddaughter and a cousin.  I never knew the type of love and belonging before I became each of these things.

My reunion with my Great Grandma, and Grandmother were nice.  They hugged me and said how often they thought of me through the years.  They told me I was beautiful and looked like my mother.  We all went out to eat and tried to get acquainted.  The experience itself was quite overwhelming.  It was remarkable to me, as I looked around the table.  My aunt and mother both shared my facial features.  We had the same eyes, same cheek bones, same bump on our nose they referred to as a "jewish nose." My great-grandma was jewish and I had a lot to learn about my heritage.  My aunt resembled me a bit more than my mother.  I could see a hint of each of us in the face of my grandmother and her mother.  My great grandmother was stunning for a lady of her age. She was lively and funny.  I really adored her from the start.  I never knew there were these people out there who looked like me, who belonged to me.   Family was finally something tangible.

After our get together, most of the family went to their homes and it was just my aunt, my mother, my cousins and me.  I recall during the drive home bits of conversation between my mother and aunt.  I learned that my reunion had brought my grandmother back into the lives of my mother and aunt.  They were estranged for whatever reason.  There was a lot of bad blood, but I didn't dare ask.  I was just a starry eyed teen, experiencing something wonderful, and all I could say was what a blessing it was that we were all finally together.

I also learned that my aunt had not seen my mother in several years as well.  It seemed as though there were many broken connections in that side of my family.  Instinctively, my guard was wanting to shoot up, but I kept it down.   Surely, this reunion would change everything and they would all learn from my experience, that having family was a gift not to be taken for granted.

My visit with my family was a gift I had long dreamed of unwrapping.  I cherished every moment with my little cousins.  My mother was there only for a few days and had to go home because her boyfriend would not allow her to stay longer.  I have always relied on my instincts and when she left, I feigned sleep, because I was terrified to say goodbye to her.  The moment I heard the car pull out of the driveway, I shot up from the couch and ran to my aunt.  Waves of emotion hurled out of me as I sobbed on her shoulder.  She held me and tried to comfort me.  All I could say was "I'll never see her again!"  She thought I was just scared.  I knew better.  I just knew.

I spent two weeks in Las Vegas getting to know the rest of my family.  My grandfather...he was the sweetest most loving, genuine soul.  I had never seen a man cry before I met him.  I loved him instantly, though it took a long time for me to tell him so.  My Aunt.  I looked at her in awe.  I felt a connection with her,  more so than with my mother.  She was such a great mom to her children.  I soaked in all those moments together as a family.  Tuck in time, when she sang to her kids and they chatted about the day.  Dinner time around the table, eating an amazing home cooked meal and appreciating every bite as we shared smiles and stories.   Oh how I long for those moments now.

When I returned to my foster home, I felt so empty.  I felt lost.  Now that I knew what it was like to belong somewhere, I didn't want to be there anymore.  My dear grandfather offered to take custody of me, and made a room in his tiny 2 bedroom trailer home for me.  He was so thoughtful.  He knew my favorite color was green, and he painted my room a pretty light green, and bought me a black futon and a wardrobe chest.  My grandfather never bought anything on credit, and only used what he had.  He lived within his means, and earned a decent living as a bartender.  I didn't know it at the time, but allowing me into his life was a big deal.  Caring for a 17 year old was a huge commitment, both emotionally and financially.  I wish I could go back with the knowledge I have now, and tell him how much I appreciate him.  At the time I almost felt like I deserved all he did and didn't consider that he could have not taken me in.

I'm getting off track here.  I need to focus on the women.  My Great-Grandma. My Grandmother.  My Aunt.  My Mother.

My Great-Grandma was a remarkable woman.  I speak of her from my perspective.  From what I know, she had her flaws, especially as a parent.  There were times she struggled to support her 5 children.  There were times she made poor choices as a parent.  There was a lot of turmoil, but I am not sure of the circumstances.  I never pressed for the details because I only knew her as I saw her and what I saw was a loving, witty, beautiful woman.  She didn't put up with any crap either.  She told it like it was and didn't pause for the sake of what was appropriate.  I loved her for that.  She was humbled by my reunion.  She did have regrets as to how things turned out with her children, with me.  She did claim some responsibility for how her daughter parented her girls.  Though I never felt that she was to blame.  I never was looking for people to blame.  I was fortunate to have been in foster care.  I never put the great in great grandma because she simply was my grandmother.  I loved her wholly for who she was and what she taught me.  

My relationship with my grandmother pretty much fizzled out soon after the reunion.  I would see her off and on for a dinner here or a lunch there.  She never liked coming to the kids birthday parties and really kept herself removed from everyone, unless a free meal was involved.  I'm sorry to say it like that, but I am only speaking the truth as I know it.

My Aunt and I were close from the beginning.  I adored her.  I loved being in her home.  I thought she was beautiful and loving, and an amazing mother.  I knew she drank more than she should and I knew she had some deep rooted issues with her mother but I could never get her to really open up to me.  We would talk and sometime at night, when she was feeling numb enough, she would speak of her pain until her words slurred and my uncle had to carry her off to bed.  Nobody is perfect, I told myself.  I accepted her as she was because she wasn't changing and I loved her, flaws and all.  My heart ached for her sadness, and I wanted to fix it, but any time my cousins or I tried to talk to her about her drinking things would get ugly, so we lived with it.

My Mother.  My instincts were right on.  I didn't see her again.  We maintained a relationship via phone, but when she tried to invite me to her home, and I told her I wasn't comfortable around her boyfriend, she lost it and told me I was never to speak to her again.   It hurt.  Words cannot describe the pain of being rejected by the woman who brought you into this world, not once, but twice.  It killed what little self esteem that I had.  I felt if I wasn't worthy of love from my own mother, then I wasn't worthy of much.  The hurt eventually got replaced with anger, because it is much easier to be angry than to feel pain.  The story doesn't end there.  But for now we will leave it at that.

I lived with my Grandpa for 3 years.  I worked a lot and tried to keep a clear head on my shoulders.  I didn't drink or do drugs.  I wasn't very active with the boys.  I had crushes and there was a guy I really liked at my work, who liked me, but eventually he really hurt me.  I followed my instincts and never was intimate with him, but when he started dating a girl I worked with, I lost it and had a few weeks of acting like a broken hearted, reckless fool.  I made poor choices and a few weeks later, my life was changed in an instant by two little pink lines.

I was going to be a mother.  A single mother.  I was the exact same age my mother was when she got pregnant with me.  In fact, the father of my son was the exact same age my father was when my mother was pregnant.   On April fools day, I rang my Aunt to tell her the news.  I was terrified.  She pretty much scolded me and asked what I was going to do about it.  I told her I was going to keep my baby.  She wasn't pleased with me and pretty much told me I was a bad example to her kids and she didn't want them seeing me pregnant like this.  It was shameful.    My grandfather was disappointed, and scared.  I knew he was concerned about the financial burdens, but he offered to let me keep staying with him and we could make room for the baby.  I knew I couldn't allow him to worry.  When he told my mother the news, she said "I wish her luck." and that was that.   My father, who I had also reunited with, offered to move me back to San Diego and live with him.

I moved from my family when I was 5 months pregnant and went to stay with my Dad.  It hurt a lot but it was a blessing too because it gave me a chance to get to know him.

After I had my son, I brought him to Vegas to meet my family.  I recall my Great-Grandma, Grandmother, Great-Aunts, and my 2nd cousin were driving down to see my son.  I was staying with my Aunt.  They all walked in and sat with me, taking turns holding me 2 week old son.  He was my Great-Grandma's first great-great grandchild.  He was my grandmother's first great-grandson.  Most everyone cooed over him and admired him.  My grandmother was reserved and cold.  There was an air of stiffness around the room.  Something was off.

Later, I learned that on the drive to visit us, my grandmother pretty much said that I was going to be a failure as a parent and that history would repeat itself.  I had no business having this baby.  My great grandmother and great aunt and her daughter told her otherwise, but my grandmother was set in her ideas that I would be just as poor of a mother as her daughter was.  What wasn't mentioned was that my grandmother was an awful mother so perhaps she was partially responsible for this chain of dysfunction...

 I never had to keep my distance from my grandmother, as she did this well enough on her own.  Once in a while she would surprise me.  I recall her sending $100.00 as a baby gift for Austin.  I was stunned and called to thank her.  She was kind.  This happened BEFORE the car ride to visit my son.   It is all so strange.  She never called me.  She never wrote.  When my mother would come to town they all would get together but never try to contact me.  I felt so left out and confused as to what I did to make them feel this way about me.  It was deeply painful.  I turned to writing each time my heart would be full with the burden this pain weighed on me.  It seemed to help ease the pain a bit.  To work through it by putting pen to paper.  It cleansed me and helped me enough to go on instead of allowing it to consume me.

A few more years went by.  My Grandmother was celebrating her 90th birthday.  My son, now 6 years old, and I traveled to Las Vegas.  I knew my biological mother would be there.   The experience was dreadful, with my grandmother and mother checking place settings to ensure they were far away from the likes of me.  I felt like an outcast and didn't understand why.  Here I was, with a beautiful son, their grandson, and they were too self absorbed with their differences to set them aside and treasure this occasion with the matriarch of our family.

The next morning, my grandmother showed up to a brunch thrown by my cousins and because my mother was not by her side, she acknowledged me and said hello to my son.  We all sat at the table and I was pleased she sat next to Austin.  He was talking to her and I was touched by the moment because regardless of how I may have felt, I knew it was important for my son to know his great grandmother.  I met her eyes and smiled.  She glanced at him and back at me.  "You know, he has a lisp, don't you?  You should correct that." she said coldly.  Then she got up, walked to each person in the room and said goodbye to everyone except my son and I.  Then she left.  Once again, I burst into tears not understanding what on earth was so bad about me that she could treat me, and now my innocent son this way.  It just sucked.

"She's cold."  "Don't let her get to you."  "That is just how she is."  "She's a shell of a person."

Regardless, it hurt a lot.  More rejection.  I couldn't take any more.

I worked with myself internally.  It's their problem, not mine.  I am a good person.  My son has all the love he needs from me, and doesn't need his grandparents.  I built walls, but they were flimsy.  Every time I heard my mother's name or my grandmother's name, it hurt.  It hurt when I knew they were near me and together, yet I couldn't be part of their day.  It hurt to watch my son grow up and not only miss out on a relationship with his father, but also his great grandmother and grandmother.

Here I sit, nearly a decade after that last incident, and I admit I still harbor some anger.  It stems from frustration.  Frustration that these two women have victimized me over and over again.  Frustration that I allowed them to hurt me over and over again.  Frustrated because I cannot understand why they are so cold and prefer to be alone than have family around them.  I can't wrap my head around it.  

You see, in the past 8 years I have experienced too much loss.  I lost my maternal grandfather in a tragic house fire. My great grandma passed when she was 94.  My dad passed suddenly the following year.  My aunt passed from her alcoholism this past March.  Now, my grandmother passed last week.

Before my grandpa passed away, my mother's long term boyfriend died of a drug overdose in their kitchen.  In just a handful of months she lost her life partner and her dad.  I was so worried about her and had my dad call her to tell her I was here if she needed me.  She did call me and we did reunify again via phone.  Needless to say, she pushed me away because she just didn't want to be a parent or a grandmother.  Rejected again.  I wish I could get used to that feeling, but it hurt like a gaping wound each time a little worse than before.  Like ripping the stitches out of a wound not quite healed.

When my dad passed away, I emailed her to let her know.  I had hoped for something.  Maybe she would see how precious life is, and not to take her daughter or grandchildren for granted.  All I got was an email saying "I'm sorry to hear that, Tammy."

I realize how foolish I am for wishing my mother or her mother would eventually come around.  I want so desperately to be accepted by them.  It is completely unrealistic but I simply don't understand why.  I know that it's not me, it's them...I mean that is what everyone says, but when is it them against me, it is hard not to take it personal.

I knew my grandmother was in poor health.  She has been for years.  I wondered how she lasted this long.  Her death was zero surprise to me, but it has left me once again feeling uncomfortable and unsettled.  A reminder of how screwed up parts of my family are for reasons unbeknownst to me.  I will never know the truth as to why my grandmother was so cold or why my aunt drank herself to death or why my mother can't care for anyone including herself.

My grandmother died alone.  No family by her side.  There is no service planned to honor her life.  She simply existed, then didn't.  She does have family who cared for her.  Surprisingly, my mother and her maintained a close relationship after the reunion with me.  Prior to that, they didn't speak for nearly 15 years.  I am glad they had each other, because without each other they would have had no one. 

There is a part of me I hate to face right now, but I have to face it and get it off my chest so I can move on.  That childish part of me, the starry eyed dreamer and believer in sappy movies with happy endings.  I can never seem to purge that part of me when it comes to my mother.  That innocent, hopeful, foolish part, that knew the day would come where my mother would have literally no one left in this world but me.  I always felt that would be the day she would finally turn to me and accept me indefinitely.

It's unrealistic, and even if that day were to come, the truth is I would not be emotionally ready to consider allowing her into my life or the lives of my children.  Still, I need to be significant to my mother.  That feeling will never go away no matter how many times I push it deep down, things will happen to cause it to resurface.

The death of my grandmother is depressing to me.  Simply because she lived and she died but she never lived.  In her obituary, her grandchildren were not named as survivors, but her dog and one best friend were.  She had 3 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.  Had she lived until next year, she would have had 5 great grandchildren.  None of us knew much of her.  All of us were hurt by her.  Her great grandchildren will never know her and we have nothing to offer them in the way of who she was.  She will forever be a blank name with no stories behind it.  There is no legacy to be picked up and carried on through the next generation.

Perhaps I think too much, but it is just a sad situation.  I am sad over what could have been but never was.  I'm disappointed in her.  I'm frustrated because I will never know my grandmother and I fear that history will repeat itself when it is my mother's time to leave this earth.  I'll be left sitting here wondering what the hell happened just like I am right now.

When it comes to my life, history absolutely has not and will not repeat itself, it just simply can not.

I pray that my grandmother's soul is at peace.  She died the way she lived.  She wanted to be alone, as she pushed everyone close to her away so perhaps she was happy in the end, for she didn't know life any other way.   

Most of all, I pray with all my might that I will not die alone.  That I will love all of my family with all of me and they will feel every ounce of that love until I take my last breath.  I pray that they will deem my life worthy of a celebration and have stories to share that bring warmth to their hearts and smiles to their lips.  I hope that those stories surpass into the next generation and the next carried by love and laughter and fondness for the person I was.

I know what it is like to have no one.  Now that I know what it is like to be a part of a family and have a family of my own, I pray that I will never be alone again.

Working Girl

Just wanted to pop in with a quick update to my previous post.  I got the job!!  I start Monday and I am thrilled!  I've been home since I had my youngest son, and he is 3.5 now, and ready to be socialized.  He's excited for "school" and I am excited to begin a new career path!

Thanks for your nice comments on my earlier post.  I have big plans for this little blog, but my family needs to adapt to all the changes we will be making with the new job, school starting and getting used to the new, rigorous schedule (i.e. not sleeping in until 9AM anymore!)

Hoping to pop back in within the month!

Take care!

Overcoming Statistics: How I got my HS Diploma

I have a secret.  It's a deep, dark secret that I have carried with me for 17 years.  One that I do not like sharing for fear that I would be judged. 

I'm a high school drop out.

There.  My secret is out.

I've hesitated about writing this post, but I feel that the information I can provide to others in my position far outweighs my fear of shame and embarrassment.

The statistics of former foster children are staggeringly against their favor.  I found this excerpt from a website called Headquarters of Hope:

"A study conducted by The League of Women Voters found that 40-50% of former foster youth became homeless within eighteen months of exit from foster care. 

In studies by the Casey Foundation, former foster youth have shown twice the incidence rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than that of U.S. war veterans.

Another Casey study, found that 70% of teens who emancipate from foster care report that they want to attend college, but less than 50% complete their high school graduation and fewer than 10% of who graduate from high school enroll and college, and of those enrolled less than 1% graduate from college.

Lastly, a study conducted by the Chapin Hall Center for Children found that 25% of former foster youth will be incarcerated within the first two years of emancipation.

Although these statistics are shocking and paint a dismal future they don’t even come close to detailing the despair and hopelessness experienced by many former foster youth post-emancipation."

Those are pretty upsetting statistics.  I am proud to finally say that I have been fortunate enough to avoid all of those circumstances, except the statistic about education.  Until now.

The story behind me dropping out of high school is this:

I was in foster care.  I moved 8 times just in the time I was in high school.  During one of my placements, I was back at Hillcrest waiting for a home to open up.  With my history of bouncing from home to home and poor bonding, I was stuck in a temporary placement for several months.   This hindered my advancement.   I later reunited with my family over the summer and moved in with my Grandfather who lived out of state.  This happened over the summer.  When we went to register for school, they told me I had missed too much school to even be allowed to go.  I would have to take night courses to make up for the time missed, or go to an alternative high school.  I was so frustrated.  I loved school and having friends.  I felt robbed.  I was angry and decided to take some time to think things through.  I ended up getting a job at a hotel (in Vegas) and the pay and benefits were great so I decided to keep working.  In the process, I discovered that checking "High School Graduate" on my application worked well for me because no one ever really checked.

So I went through life as a self proclaimed High School Graduate.  It worked well for me. No one judged me for being a drop out and I felt justified for lying about being a graduate because I was essentially robbed.  I didn't willfully drop out, (I did) I really didn't have a choice (I did).

Even now, admitting that I did willfully drop out, and that I had a choice is hard.  I want to stick up for myself.  I want to say it wasn't my fault.  The only thing I can say in my defense is that at the time I did not know my options.  I did not know I could get my GED.  I did not know I could go to Adult Ed and get my diploma.  I pretty much assumed that if I didn't go to night school or alternative high school, that I would not be able to graduate. 

So life went on.  I worked.  I got married.  I had three sons.  A family of my own.  Life was good.

For the past 3 years I have been a stay at home mom.  Not too long ago, I decided that it would be better for my family to go back to work.  I would like to bring in some income and help pay off debt.  I would also like to have my toddler socialized with peers his own age.  I also miss having a rigorous schedule, as we all seem to function better that way. 

I came across an awesome job opportunity.  It is in the medical insurance field and I know that is one area that hasn't been hurt by the economy.  I was really excited about this job, and I got it!!  Yay me!!

Then, they checked my schooling.  I found myself having to come face to face with that deep, dark secret I had tried so hard to forget.  It was awful to have to go to this wonderful company and admit that I had lied to them.  I am not that kind of person.  But yet, I was.

The funny thing about this experience is that this job literally was an answer to a lot of my prayers.  The pay was more than I have ever made in the past, the company is a place where I can grow and learn, they give you full paid training and expect training to take well over a year.  I would have had 3 weeks paid vacation, full benefits, and so much more!   I felt all along that God was helping me.

So why didn't I get the job? 

Would God have wanted me to lie?

So I came to the realization that I needed to do it His way.  I looked into getting the GED.   I went to a local college here and attended the orientation for the GED.  Here is what I learned:

The orientation is 8 hours long, broken into 2 days where you do pretesting and figure out where you are for taking the test.

The test is $60.00 and is broken into subjects.

If you fail a part of the test you have to retake it, but you wait 90 days before you can retake the test.  You also incur the fee for that portion of the test again.

(The GED rules and fees are different with every state)

I did very well in most subjects but I needed help with my math.  The college has a learning library where you can go and study, and there are 2 tutors who walk around and help people with their work.  This is a free service.  It sounded great, except for the few times I went to the library, there was a lot of people there and it was hard to get one on one attention.  I needed a lot of help in Math and I found myself more frustrated because I felt like no one could really help me.

I bought booklets, and did work with a CD program from home.  Still, I wasn't getting it. 

Frustrated, I'd put the books away and quit for a few weeks, then pull them out only to be more confused. 

I wanted to bang my head against the wall.

One day, when I was driving by the local high school and the thought occurred to me that there may be some program through the school district that allows high school students who have not finished school to get their diploma.  So I called and left a message with the principal.  Within a day, he returned my call and told me that indeed, there is a program through the Adult Education classroom.  He connected me with the teacher there and I agreed to meet her the next day.

During my meeting with the teacher, I was in tears.  They were happy tears.

The program was free, in exchange for 8 hours of community service.
I could take work books home and work on the pretests and worksheets there.
After looking at my transcripts, I had plenty of credits in Math so I did not have to worry about that subject.
I could easily be a graduate within a matter of weeks.

I couldn't believe how easy this all sounded.

I worked hard to complete all the tasks.  I only spent a couple hours each day going through the books at home, and a few hours each week at the school taking tests.  One by one, the subjects got checked off and I had passed with flying colors. 

One day I received a text from my friend who works at the company where I had applied for a job.  The same position that I had applied for was opening up.  She told me her boss had asked if I had completed my schooling yet.  I had only 2 more tests to take and I would be done.  I thought how amazing the timing was!

I completed my tests, did my community service at the local Goodwill and was a graduate the following week!

I finally did it!!!

And, it was easy!

Which was kind of sad.  I mean, I had let all this time pass.  17 years!  I could have done this a lot sooner, had I taken the time to look into it instead of pretending it wasn't an issue.

Based on my experience, I would hands down recommend trying to earn your diploma over taking the GED.  Having a diploma is looked at more favorably by employers and if you want to join the armed forces, you need to have a diploma.  

The GED is also a great option, but I felt much more comfortable in the adult education setting.  I had a teacher on hand to answer my questions and work with me when I got stuck.  I also didn't have to pay any fees to get my diploma.

So if you are an adult and you haven't graduated High School, no matter how old you are, I recommend looking into your local high school for information on how to obtain your diploma.  All they need is your information so they can look at your transcripts.  Once they have your transcripts, they will tell you what you need to do in order to complete your credits.  Even if you missed 2 or 3 years, it will not take long to earn your diploma.  Just a little drive and determination!

If getting your GED sounds more appealing, you can check with the local school district or college to find out what you need to get started.

I highly recommend that you look into both options and choose the one you are most comfortable with.

On another note, if you are a former foster youth, and you are less than 25 years of age, there are scholarships available to you!  So get on this!!  You don't want to be like me at 35 and wondering why there are no scholarships for people my age! 

Here are some sites that are helpful for finding scholarships if you are a current or former foster child:

Kids Matter (in Milwaukee, WI) has info on finishing and continuing your education
United Friends of the Children has a great list of scholarships available and how to qualify
Fostering Change has a list of scholarships for San Diego and CA based foster children. has a list of scholarships available nationwide (Foster Youth In Transition) has a list of scholarships available to african-americans (Nationwide)

Please google for scholarships in your area.  There are so many for foster kids under the age of 25.  A college education is a sure way to secure your future, so I hope you take the time to look into this!

Don't be a statistic!!

On the job front, I recently interviewed for the position and I am currently going through the process, hoping to get hired!  I will keep you posted!  I have a good feeling, as like I said, I think I had a little guidance along the way!

The Cloth I'm Cut From

(This moment happened a little over a year ago. I am moving the post here because this blog is dedicated to my story.)

I awoke this morning to find an email from my mother in my inbox. Normal people with normal lives would think nothing of this. In my not so normal life, this was an email from a woman who I had not spoken to in many years. A woman who has only offered me heartache and grief. Not a mother. Not my mother. At least not the mother I had always prayed for.

Dear Tammy,

I am writing this letter to you because I need to get past some things I have done and forgive myself once and for all for my inability to care for you and for giving you up for adoption. I am in therapy, and my therapist thinks this is where I should start. I agree with her. I don't expect a response from you, I just need to write this letter. I would have written it on paper and sent it ( a bit more personal I think), but I don't have your address. I’ve been carrying this heavy bag of guilt for what happened with you and other events in my life too long and it’s causing me to have emotional issues, so here goes.

When I was a teenager, I heard that my mother was going to have an abortion when she got pregnant with me. I thought long and hard about what it would have meant if she had the abortion. As a result, when I got pregnant with you, against your father's wishes and offer to pay, I did not have an abortion. All I really knew was that I was not going to have an abortion - I did not think about any other consequences.

When you were born, I was amazed, but I don't really feel like I bonded with you. That is not my fault or yours. I tried to be a mother, but I guess it wasn't really in me. I wanted to be your mother, the best mother a daughter could have. I was not, I could not. I even went to a class where they teach you how to change a diaper, feed, burp and bathe the baby. Nothing came naturally.

I spent less and less time with you when you were an infant. I was too selfish, too busy being a young adult. Of course, that made the possibility of bonding even less remote. That was my fault and I am sorry for that.

When I met Bob, I was not spending very much time with you at all. He did not like children, so I'd leave you at the sitter's. Not too long after I met him, I started doing meth and cocaine. It wasn't very long before the drugs became the most important thing in my life (except maybe for Bob, who I was also addicted to). I was guilty that I wasn't being a mother to you, but that wasn't enough to make me change.

I became more and more guilty and took you to give you up for adoption. I was a failure. In a week, I decided I hadn't given it all I had to try to raise you, so I brought you back home. I tried again, and I failed again.

If Bob did molest you (which, as you know, I don't believe he did because he was never alone with you, although, being a meth and cocaine addict, I could sleep for days on end, and I suppose something could have happened), that would mean I was even a worse mother. How could anyone let that happen to their little baby girl? If it did happen at my house or at a babysitter I left you with (which is what I always suspected happened), I am very, very sorry for that.

I am sorry for not being able to be what I wanted or what you wanted. When I signed the papers and gave you up for adoption, I thought I was doing the best for you that I could. I thought you would be adopted by a family that would shower you with love and that you could have a normal childhood. I am sorry that did not happen.

I am sorry, too, that I could not give you what you needed as an adult.

There is one thing, though, that I think we can both be very happy about. I did not have an abortion.

If you are looking for more - that is it. She ended it with that sentence. She didn't even bother to sign it.
I had a hard time with this today. There are three major things that hit an angry chord with me:

1) The selfishness behind her actions for reaching out to me
2) Telling me my dead father wanted me aborted (I refuse to believe her lies)
3) Ending this letter the way she did by abruptly telling me I should be thanking her for not aborting me.

I think she should have run this letter by her therapist before sending it to me. If that therapist isn't a quack she would have informed her that a note like this can be pretty damn damaging to a person. Then again, my mother has a pretty good track record when it comes to shredding my heart.

I am not going to justify this letter with a response today. I may change my mind about that at a later time, but today I will remain silent on my end of the email. I thought long and hard about putting this on my blog. Initially I told myself that is immature and I need to keep my dirty laundry to myself. Then I reminded myself that I blog for me and no one else. Blogging is way cheaper than therapy and well, if throwing my dirty laundry out for anyone to see saves me a little sanity and a lot of dough, then so be it.

If my mother happens to find her words aired out on my blog, and gets upset, well then...shame on her for writing them. These words belong to me now, and I can put them here if I feel like it. I have nothing to lose. We have no relationship and frankly, if she gets upset then la dee dah I don't give a damn!

I tend to write what I feel as I feel it and right now I am angry at this woman for writing me such an awful letter. I pity her for being so cold and empty inside that she cannot imagine having the capacity to love a person that she helped to bring into this world. As selfish as she is, she obviously doesn't love herself. For that, I am sorry for her.

Even in a supposed apology letter, she is still stabbing at me. I don't understand her need to hurt me. I understand her desire to do what is best for me, and the guilt associated with knowing that her wishes were not fulfilled and I had it rough in my childhood years, but to deliberately lash out at me only measures the level of selfishness this woman has climbed to.

I know what happened with my Dad. I know that she called him after she had me in order to collect child support, she told him she had his daughter and his name was NOT on the birth certificate so he would have no rights to me. Then three years later he gets a call from social workers asking him to sign over his parental rights so I could be adopted. My dad fought for me. He refused to sign those papers for 3 years. He tried everything he could to get the state to give him a chance to take custody of me, but he was a single man, a truck driver, with no roots or a home at the time, and they would not let him have me. He only signed away his rights when they agreed to send him photos of me and allowed him one visit to make sure I was safe. I was six when he met me and that would be the one and only time he saw me until I was 17 and I found him.
March 10th will be the 3rd anniversary of my Daddy's death. This is a really hard time for me already, and to have this woman tell me such a horrible thing right now, it cuts deep. Three years is a long time, but that doesn't change the fact that my heart is broken over the loss of my Daddy. For her to say such things...She is awful. I cannot believe I have her blood running through my veins.

I think about how we are cut from the same cloth and it literally sickens me. I cannot turn out like this woman. I am nothing like her. She is everything I strive NOT to be.

I love my babies. Each and every one of them. I love them more than life itself. I would jump in front of a bus to save them. I would die for them. My love has NO boundaries. My babies are my heart, my soul. I could never imagine being without them. Being a mother is hard work, but the moment I saw those two lines on my pregnancy test I knew right away that I was ready for the challenge.

Sure, when I found out I was pregnant and alone I was scared.  I knew there was a good chance history would repeat itself, but I looked history in the face and told it to fuck off. I didn't need to sit and wait for history to repeat itself when I had a future to look forward to.

13 years later, I have so much to be thankful for. A loving husband who loves me more than I deserve, three beautiful boys who know just how to drive me nuts, and make me smile all at the same time. I have my faith. I know that my mother is not in charge of my fate. She never held the key to my life. God is in charge. He is the one that breathed life into me, and He continues to breathe life into me. He has a purpose for me. He is the one that I will thank for my life. Not her.

So today, I am going to thank God for the blessings He has bestowed upon me. I am going to take this experience as a reminder to love my children more outwardly so they will never ever doubt how much they mean to me. As hard as it is, I will pray for my mother. I will pray that one day she will know what it is like to feel for someone other than herself. She is living in a cold, dark world and I will pray that one day she will see the light and understand exactly what she has missed out on. Then, when I am done praying for her, I will let her go and hold on to what I do have, and thank my lucky stars that my side of the cloth is whole, colorful and woven strong, instead of tattered, faded and worn.

While I was posting this I came across a quote that I got from Tuesday's service last year:

"Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down, refuse to stay down. If you cannot refuse to stay down, lift your heart toward heaven and like a hungry beggar, ask that it be filled and it will be filled.
You may be pushed down. You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you from lifting your heart to heaven--only you.
It is in the middle of misery that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good came of this, is not yet listening."
-Clarisse Pinkola Estes
These words say it best. What is in my heart. I am refusing to stay down and rejoicing that my heart is filled with His love and all the love from all my family and friends.

I know that tomorrow, I will be ok. My side of the cloth is also resilient.

I thought long and hard about responding and overall felt I deserved to tell her how her words and actions made me feel.  (Although I wrote this response, I also decided NOT to send it.  Sometimes, it is better to just get it off your chest and move on.)


I really don't know how to respond. First, I think you never should have sent me this message. You could have written it to get it off your chest or whatever, but sending something like this to me was very selfish on your part. Did you ever once stop to think how hurtful your words would be to me? Compassion. That is a quality that is obviously not instilled in you, and why it is that you can never ever care for anyone unless it benefits you..

What your mom said to you was cruel. I am sorry she hurt you so badly, emotionally. Somehow, you have managed to get over what she did to you and if anything good came from our reunion it was that you and your mother now have each other. Which is good because without each other you both would have no one. The way you both have treated the ones that love you is unfortunate because pretty much anyone who has loved either of you has been hurt too much to maintain a healthy relationship with either of you.

I never hated you for giving me up for adoption. All I ever wanted was a mother. You should not feel guilt over giving me up. That was the one good thing you did for me. I surely would be dead had you not given me up. Regardless of the abuse I experienced in foster care, I came out of it to be the person I am today. Regardless of how difficult it is for you to care about me enough to be proud of who I am, I am proud of myself.

When I read your words all I see is you pointing your finger in every direction but at yourself. You need to stop blaming your mother for your poor mothering skills. You need to understand that your guilt is eating away at you because you need to take ownership of your actions. Saying sorry and being sorry are two different things. You are not sorry for anything until you admit that you did it. No one else is responsible for your actions. They are yours and yours alone.

Saying what you did to me, about my dad. That was incredibly selfish on your part. My Dad is dead. He can't stick up for himself. That was a jab at me and at him and it was unnecessary. That was just a weak attempt at making yourself feel better about your choices. I saw right through your words. It doesn't matter to me if my dad suggested an abortion. In the end, my Dad stepped up to the plate and was my Father. He loved me. He was selfless and compassionate. He was a good man.

I always knew you gave me up for Bob. That was something that lived in my gut my whole life. I was a thorn in your side and some man won your affections over me. Dumping me off was the easy answer so the two of you could have nothing in the way of each other. I never said that Bob molested me. My files said that he might have molested me. I said that he scared me. I was terrified of him. Even in my adult life, his name makes my stomach churn. I know he abused me. I know you abused me. I was not scared of you because you were my mom and all I ever wanted was for you to love me.

I never have and I never will get that love from you. I am actually ok with this. Because it was not you that I needed love from. It was my mother. Someone that I have never had. Someone I will never have. You, are not my mother. As far as I'm concerned, you did abort your daughter.

I hope you get the help you need in therapy. I hope you can actually own up to your actions. I know all you want in life is to love and be loved. We all want that. Your problem is that you need to learn to actually take a long hard look at yourself and find something to love about you. You will never be truly loved until you learn to love yourself. Someone gave me that advice when I was a scared young girl and it changed my life.

I am only going to ask one thing of you from here on out. Please don't write me. I don't know you, and from the few times I have met you I have had my heart broken every time. I don't want a relationship with someone who keeps hurting me. I am happy and fulfilled, and blessed beyond measure and I did it all without a mother.

Because I follow Christ and I believe in forgiveness, I will say that I forgive you, and I mean it.

Good luck in your endeavors.


(*names have been changed)

Rising Above The System

(I wrote this to foster children who were in the Independent Living Skills Program in San Diego many years ago.  They were compiling some words of advice from former foster kids to put into their ILS booklets. I wanted to let them know that even though things may seem crazy right now, it will get better and many of the choices they make now will impact their futures.)

Rising Above The System

Being placed in the foster care system can be a very difficult and heart breaking experience. I was placed in the system by my mother when I was 2 1/2 years old. I was very young and very scared. I grew up knowing that my mother had dropped me off in some parking lot. Although I loved her, I was very angry. I felt as though I was no good, my own mother didn't even want me. I couldn't understand how anyone else could possibly care about me. I felt neglected, hurt, and worthless.
I moved many times throughout my 15 year stay in the system. I had 17 placements, not including the emergency placements. I was even adopted, but the family gave me up because I had poor bonding skills. I knew that I had a mom out there somewhere, and I did not want all of these strangers trying to be my parents, I didn't need them, besides they didn't really care about me, how could they? My own mother didn't want me! I knew that these people would end up throwing me out at the first sign of trouble from me. In fact, I got into trouble on purpose. It became a game to me, how long would it take for each new set of parents to kick me out.
Many of the homes I was placed in were not very nice. Abuse took place and we were treated like housekeepers. I did have a couple of good foster parents but I was so scared of everyone, I didn't want to get hurt so I pushed them away.  When I reached my teens, I was placed in yet another foster home.  I was so messed up and scared that I didn't realize just how special this foster mom really was. I treated her and her entire family like dirt for almost 2 years. I tried everything to get thrown out, but she would not give up on me like most of the others did. After a while I began to understand that I was important, and that even though I was told by many that foster children never succeed in life, I knew that I was "somebody". In fact, I saw my experiences in a whole new light. I used to feel sorry for myself because I was abused, molested, abandoned, and neglected. Now I felt strong. I had survived so much. I made it through. I was not weak. I wasn't going to let myself fail and turn around and blame society for all the horrible things that I had to endure. I conquered the system.

Everything Happens For A Reason

I believe that everything happens for a reason. You have the choice to turn your life experiences into positive strengths. Don't let yourself become a victim of the system!  You have to rise above all the chaos and gather the strength to save yourself from self-destruction. Your life is yours alone. If you choose to make decisions like using drugs or ditching school, you are only hurting yourself. You are allowing yourself to become a statistic. Prove to the others that foster kids can make a difference. Use your knowledge and experiences to help the children that are in the system now, and the others that will enter it in the future.

Destroy the Cycle of Abuse

In almost every family today, there is a cycle of abuse that has been passed down through the generations. This cycle is most likely the key reason why you are a foster child today. Your parents and their parents and so on, have been living the only way that they were taught, through the cycle of abuse. They have passed this down to you. You have a great opportunity right now while you are in foster care. You can step back and look at how you were raised, and ask yourself if this is how you want to raise your own children. Remember the abuse and the neglect?  Remember how hard it was on you and how empty you felt inside? No one would wish the experiences of an abused child on their own children. Learn from your parents' mistakes. You are so special and you have so much strength inside you. You have endured so much, more than most people have to go through in an entire lifetime. You have wisdom beyond your years, use it wisely. Don't let your future children suffer, destroy that cycle of abuse. Be the first in many generations to stand up and shout that you have had ENOUGH of this nonsense. Take that first step, break the chains of abuse for good.

You Are Not Alone

There are times that will always be a challenge ahead of you. It is a very tough road that you are taking and sometimes you may feel as though no one understands what you are going through. There are millions of foster children throughout the world. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help. I would like to be there for you if you need support, or a friend.  Please know that you can write me anytime.  

You Have A Story, Share it With Others

My outlook on life has changed by understanding that I determine my own fate. I now choose to say that I have been blessed to discover that my experiences have given me a gift, the gift to help others that are hurt and confused like I was. I feel good because I know that people listen to what I have to say, and after my speech, or hearing my story, they have a better understanding on how to foster their children.

I encourage you to write your story.  Write it down on paper and when you are done, read it. It will amaze you. Share it with others, they will respect you and learn from you. Send it to me, I'd love to read it! I hope you find the strength within yourself to rise above the system. In just a few years, you will be on your own.  No one will be there to tell you what to do.  Learn now, while you still have guidance. I wish you the best of luck on your journey through the foster care system. Remember that the system was built to help you, if you have any problems, don't be afraid to speak out.

 Let your voice be heard.

Pardon the dust

I'm sprucing up the joint..although I loved the clickable pillows in my previous header, I needed to declutter a bit. 

I'll have my tabs up and running soon!  I have the "home" button up as a tester to see if I like the look and feel of it.  Being creative is a huge outlet for me.  I hope to get all the features of this blog up and running soon so I can make myself comfy and resume journaling in the next week!


This morning I realized it has been nearly a month since I posted here.  I have been enjoying the outdoors as weather permits.  It was a long long winter.  Now, between bouts of rain, the sun shines for a few moments and we are outside soaking it in. 

I've been working very hard to accomplish something that I should have accomplished a long long time ago.  I am almost to where I want to be and I couldn't be more excited and a little proud of my efforts!  Let's just say that I'm wiping out a major label that many foster kids get tagged with once they age out of the system. 

I'm also preparing to travel to Vegas once again as I have another dear cousin tying the knot there this weekend.

Needless to say, I come here when I need to unload the thoughts on my heart.  So, my absence just means that I am light hearted at the moment!

I hope you enjoy this upcoming Memorial Day weekend!

Inward Inventory

I've taken a wee break as I had a rough month in March, and then I was able to travel to visit family this month. 

It seems that the death of anyone you know, whether a family member, a co-worker, a friend, even people you only knew in passing...death in and of itself makes you pause and think.   I've been doing a lot of thinking and inward inventory.  I want so much to better my life, be a better person, teach my children compassion and humility.  I want so much to be the mother that I always yearned for and put a smile on my boys' faces whenever they think of me.

Most of all, I want so badly to be sure that when the day comes that I let out my last breath, I want to have lived a full life.  I want to have a family who is proud of me, and sons that have their hearts filled with loving memories of me.  I want my life not to go unnoticed.  I want to have made a difference and be remembered as someone who touched hearts.

The deepest reason for my pause is because I know death will happen for me one day.   Knowing that I have no way of choosing how or when, is a sobering thought.  Especially when someone I once loved as a mother passes away at a young age.  Even more so when that person died in a way that she never wanted to, leaving behind a son and a daughter who are wrestling with so much sadness.  It makes me pray that I never lose grasp of my blessings.  I pray hard that even though depression and addiction run so strongly in my family, that I will not succumb to either of those afflictions.  It is scary as I am left wondering, how did she get there, and could that happen to me?

Right now the answer to the first question will always be a mystery, but the answer to the second is it could, but it won't.  I won't let it.  I am fortunate enough to have my eyes wide open to the issues in our family and I am not afraid to seek help when I feel down or talk about my problems.  I have been lucky enough to escape any form of addiction.  I think my time in foster care has helped me to adapt to hardships in life as an adult, perhaps a little easier than someone who hasn't been faced with such hardships.  I tend to keep my glass half full as I know being pessimistic will only bring me down, hard.  I am well aware of my blessings, no matter how hard things may become, and my blessings are what keep me going each day. 

I've had a lot of loss over the past 8 years and I've learned that I have to let myself draw inward to grieve, to grasp and to be grateful. 

On another note, I am hoping to get my tabs up and running.  If you haven't noticed, you can click the pillows in the header and be taken to each page.  I am working on those pages (and on getting them not to open in a new window...grrr) and I've uploaded some photos on my photography page.  Next I'll be working on my "About" page.  Small changes to make my blog a bit more user friendly, so please pardon the dust around here! 

I'm praying the phrase "April showers brings May flowers..." rings true because it's still cold and wet and dreary here in Wisconsin.  Hoping to finally get some sunshine in the coming days!

Easter Lily

Easter Lily

Bursting through it's pod, a blossom is born. 
Her vibrance cannot be ignored.
She brings happiness, comfort and peace.
Her fragrance is alluring.
She brightens up the darkest of rooms.
She breathes new life into the coldest of spaces.

Time is her cruelest enemy.
The delicate blossom withers under the heavy weight of moments passed.
She longs to shine, but her radiance is a distant memory.

She curls around her center, enfolding her precious cargo as her world goes dark.
Her petals crumble to pieces as the breeze scatters her into the earth.

Time, though a cruel enemy, he is also a great teacher.
Those who listen to his lessons know not to take him for granted.
With time, all things heal. All things renew.
Time gives, but some forget that time also takes.
It is when time takes, that the heart is most receptive to how precious time is.

Bursting through it's pod, a blossom is born...

-Tamara Dawn

*The above photo and poem are my property and cannot be republished without my permission.*

Vegas, Baby.

It has been a while since I posted.  My heart has been with my cousins who lost their mother, my only maternal Aunt.  It is a difficult death as she died too young, and this was a result of alcoholism, which is a devastating addiction.   

I had already had plans in place to visit my cousins, in Las Vegas as one is getting married this weekend.  So even though it is a difficult time, it is also a time to heal and a time to celebrate.  When you have such a loss, you are reminded of how precious and fragile life is.  It is a time to be thankful for each blessed breath.

I have so much to say.  I hope you stick around to hear more.  Until then, I'll be in Vegas betting on red, because everyone bets on black and I like going against the flow.


This is the parking lot where it all began, and where it ended. The day I left Hillcrest for the last time. Pictured in the photo is my friend, Jana, a staff member there.

I know I am sharing bits and pieces with you and they are not necessarily in order. I'm not a very organized person, and when I write, I share what is on my heart at the moment.

The name Seventeen Pillows symbolizes my placements while in foster care. As I get older I tend to lose grasp on exact moments in time and a couple of days ago I was in the shower (it's where I do my best thinking) and I tried to recall the exact 17 placements I had. I ran down the list from the depths of my memory and I couldn't recall a few of my placements, or the order of some. This bothered me enough to dig out my big stack of records and meticulously comb through them so I could correctly document the timeline I posted previously.

I have read through my files over a handful of times in the past and each time I read them, I take away something new.

As my eyes soaked in page after page, something became painfully obvious. I had people in my corner all along. People that were very much a part of my life, who fought desperately to save me from being institutionalized.

I had no idea how close I came to being placed in a 24 hour residential treatment facility...permanently. I was deemed "unadoptable" after the age of 8 due to "behavior problems" and severe mental and physical issues like "schizophrenia" and "soft brain damage." I screamed a lot, especially at night. It freaked people out. What they didn't do was try and investigate why I screamed. Maybe if they did that, they would see why I was so paranoid, scared, and angry.

As a last resort, the courts placed me in a long term foster home. This was Agnese's home. We had our ups and downs, but Agnese was a tough cookie and the things I dealt her she had seen before, so she managed to live under the same roof with me longer than others before her. I will dedicate much more time to Agnese, as she is someone who I feared, mocked, and regularly disobeyed. She was also someone I loved. I didn't know it at the time, but Agnese's home became my childhood home. It is the home I recall growing up in. She is the woman I recall teaching me and raising me as best as she could. When no one else wanted me, she would always open her arms and her home to me no matter how bad things were when I left her home previously.

Through my young, ignorant perspective, Agnese was one of them. Those people who were out to get me. She only took me back because she wanted the money. She only wanted me in her home so she could scream at me and make me do chores. She was a mean old bag and I only went there because I knew I could. She used to tell me all the time I needed to shape up or I'd end up in a mental hospital. I thought she was full of it...turns out she was telling me the truth.

What I didn't know at the time was how much I trusted her. How safe I felt being in her care. Her home was my home. I loved her cooking. I loved having dinner, all of us at the table together. Agnese provided me a sense of security I had never had before. By allowing me into her home, through the thick and the thin, she gave me something I wish I had treasured more at the time, she gave me a family.

In the court documents, I see the ups and downs we had. Some reports say I was doing very well, and others say that I am out of control. We had a tumultuous relationship. I was the main offender. I used to think she exaggerated how difficult I was because I never perceived myself that way. I had always felt I had a pretty damn good excuse for my behavior. Now that I am raising a teenage son, I have to say that I completely understand Agnese's pain and suffering. I am being gifted my awful behavior tenfold through my son, and he has had a life filled with love, and family and a solid foundation. I can't help but think that the late Agnese is up in Heaven laughing hysterically at me as I plead with God to please help me get through to my teen once and for all...

One thing about Agnese is crystal clear in these documents. Without her, I would not be where I am at today. She opened her home to me, even though I was not exactly fun to live with, because she knew that if she didn't, my life would have been destroyed. She saw something in me, enough to believe that I didn't belong in those places. She saved me.

Agnese wasn't the only one advocating for me. My social worker really struggled and fought with the courts to keep me out of residential care. With each placement she made sure to bring up the good points even in bad situations. My grades were better than they were in a long time, my therapist has seen some improvements, placing me in institutionalized care would only cause me to spiral out of control. She frantically scraped the barrel to make sure I had an alternative placement before heading to court so they wouldn't lock me up and throw away the key.

I recall on numerous occasions, how my social worker, Diane, would plead with me to please try and get along with my foster family. I remember looking into her eyes and seeing such emotion in them. I was so stupid back then. I looked at everyone, including my social worker as people who didn't care about me. I simply felt she was doing her job. The couple of visits I had each year with her were part of her job. Otherwise she only came when I was in trouble. She was the person who had to fix it for me. I knew she was very busy and had a lot of other kids like me to work with. It really didn't dawn on me, how much she cared about me. One constant on each court document can't be denied. My social worker played a crucial role in protecting me and ensuring my future.

Shortly after I reunited with my family, I started to write my autobiography. I had a considerable amount completed, when something told me to put the brakes on my project. When my grandpa asked me about my book, I told him that 18 was too young to write a book (do you hear that, Justin Bieber?) and I wanted to wait until I was an adult, maybe after I had kids of my own. That was a very smart move, if I say so myself.

Back then, I looked upon Agnese with distaste. I didn't treasure her for the amazingly unique and generous person she was. I would not have honored her in the way she deserved.

Long ago, I decided to stop looking at myself as a victim. This was a huge step for me because all my life I had been a victim. Somewhere along the way I came across something that said that victims tend to be victimized repeatedly throughout their lives because people who victimize others prefer victims because they are weak. They know the signs to look for and they seek out victims by identifying these signs. I recall the paper said something about not looking people in the eye, and walking with your head down. There were physical signs, but a section focused on emotional ones as well. The main thing was to stop calling yourself a victim. I worked very hard on erasing the victim from within myself. I never ever wanted to be someones victim again, so this meant a lot to me. I thought I did a pretty good job until just the other day...

I realize that even though I had successfully erased being a victim outwardly, and healed the victim inwardly, I forgot to look at the people in my past with a victim free perspective. I still perceived Agnese and Diane through a victim's eyes.

Looks like I have a little more work to do internally.

In the meantime I want to say a huge heartfelt thanks to all the hard working, dedicated social workers and foster parents out there. I know most times you feel under appreciated, and I want you to know that you are touching these lives in ways that you may never understand, but in doing so, you are changing lives for the better. Thank you for all you do. I appreciate you.



- Found walking alone on a sidewalk. Taken to Hillcrest Receiving Home by police. Eventually released back to my mother.

7-19-1979 - Mother incarcerated, taken back to Hillcrest Receiving Home. Released back to mother.

10-17-1979 - Mother abandoned me in Hillcrest parking lot. I was 3 years old. Pillow 1

Exact date TBD - Entered my first foster home placement (Janet)
Pillow 2

9-4-1981 - Adopted
Pillow 3

10-7-1983 - Adoption relinquished due to poor bonding and behavior issues

Date TBD - Assessed at County Mental Health for 30+ days
Pillow 4

Date TBD - Entered New Alternatives Rainbow House (Group Home)
Pillow 5

11-28-1984 - Placed in foster home (Agnese)
Pillow 6

2-11-1988 - Placed in foster home (Elaine)
Pillow 7

9-1-1988 - Back to Hillcrest
Pillow 8

Date TBD - Emergency foster care placement
Pillow 9

10-13-1988 - Foster home (Agnese) takes me back
Pillow 10

2-2-1990 - Placed in Casa de Amparo a juvenile facility
Pillow 11

5-10-1990 - Placed in foster home (Maria)
Pillow 12

11-13-1990 - Placed in foster home (Joan)
Pillow 13

Fall 1992 - Placed in foster home (Sherry)
Pillow 14

Date TBD - Back to Hillcrest
Pillow 15

Found my family via letter to adoption reunion in April 1993.

5-1993 - Foster home (Agnese) takes me back
Pillow 16

July 1993 - Maternal Grandfather files for legal guardianship of me and becomes my legal guardian. I am 17 years old. Pillow 17 - Home at last.

* Some placements were not included in this timeline such as temporary foster placements (less than a week) and the brief times I spent in a foster home before my mother abandoned me.


My toes hung off the edge of the toilet seat, my arms folded tight against my chest. I'm shivering though it's not from cold. The walls are pea soup green and the wallpaper is coming apart from it's seams. The bathroom is bathed in dim yellow light. My Mama is kneeling in front of me, her face stricken with panic, her eyes wide with fear. Her hand shakes violently as she grabs me and puts me over the sink. She brings an empty spoon to my lips and I purse them shut. She screams at me to open my mouth, then her screams turn to desperate pleas.

She jams the spoon into my mouth and down my throat, causing me to gag. She pleads with me to please throw up. I don't know what is going on, but I know I did something bad. Bud is going to be angry with me. Tears stream down my mother's face as she goes in again with the spoon...

Bud was my mom's boyfriend. He was not my daddy and he made that very clear. I was terrified of Bud. He made my stomach flip flop every time he was near me. I felt like I wanted to run and hide. Most of the time he left me alone. He and my mama both left me alone. They liked being with each other but didn't care too much to have me around.

Bud was sick a lot. He had lots of medicine bottles laying around. I was not supposed to touch them. Both he and my Mama liked to sleep, a lot. I really tried not to touch everything, but I'd get bored. Sometimes I would do things I wasn't supposed to because it was the only way they'd talk to me...

My Mama had a beautiful smile. She had soft hair that I loved to run my fingers through. I loved to sit on her lap with my ear pressed to her chest and listen to her voice as she spoke to me. That was the only time I felt comforted. She didn't hold me much, so I really embraced her during these moments. My heart was full of love for her. I wanted so badly for her to love me back. She was always so tense, so angry. When she wasn't angry she was sad. When she wasn't sad she was sleeping hard. So hard that she wouldn't wake up when I called to her.

When I got hungry, I'd climb out of my crib and up on the counter to where the food was. I'd eat whatever I could find and by the time my mom woke up there would be a big mess. I'd get spanked and yelled at. Sometimes they would sleep during the day. I'd get lonely and go outside to talk to the neighbors. I had real nice neighbors. Most of them knew me and would smile when they saw me. Some of my neighbors were moms and they would hug me and hold my hand. I'd want them to take me home with them, but most of the time they would walk me back to my house.

This one time, I was out walking and it was getting dark. I didn't know where I was and this police car drove up. I was frightened but a nice lady got out and came over to talk to me. She was really pretty. She had blonde hair and it was up in a bun. Her uniform was black and she had a neat shiny badge. She crouched down to meet my eyes and asked me my name and where my mommy was. I hadn't thought about where she was. I started to get scared because as I looked around I didn't know where my home was. She scooped me up in her arms and got back into the car. She had me in her lap as she and her partner talked on the walkie talkie. She told me we were going for a ride and laid my head against her chest as she whispered to me. I pressed my ear tight against her and as I listened to her voice, my fear was replaced with a sense of longing. I grasped her tightly and held her with all my might. I wanted this officer to be my Mama. I wished my Mama were there holding me.

One morning, Mama woke me up and she was already dressed. She had picked out an outfit for me and combed my hair. As she combed my hair she told me she loved me. We were going somewhere just for me. She turned me to face her and her eyes were big and wet. I raised my hand to wipe the tear that fell out. I didn't like seeing my Mama cry. She wiped her eyes and told me to get into the car.

On the car ride over she told me that I was never not to go home anymore. That there was a nice family waiting for me and I needed to listen to these people so they could help take me to the new family. She said there would be a Daddy and a Mommy and maybe even a puppy. I really liked puppies and I giggled at the thought that the puppy might be as big as Barkley the dog on Sesame Street. We pulled into a parking lot and there were buildings all around. She pointed to the building next to the car. Mama grabbed my arm and told me that this was what was best. She told me to get out of the car, and I didn't want to. She screamed at me to get out, but her eyes told me to stay. I didn't want her to go away. She reached over and tugged the handle, the door swung open. "Get out!" she yelled. I scrambled off the seat and stumbled onto the pavement. The door shut behind me, and my Mama drove away.

My stomach flip flopped as I looked around. I couldn't move. I saw the tail lights turn away and I waited. Mama's coming back. A man ran out of the building and quickly approached me. I shrank away from him, and he slowed his pace.

"Little girl, please wait." He said. I froze. "Baby girl, it's ok." He knelt down to my level. I searched his face to see if he was mad. He was really dark, and I was kind of scared, but then he flashed this wide smile and his whole face lit up. "My name is Mike, what is your name?"


"Where is your mama, Tammy?"

I looked around, and my stomach ached. She wasn't there. "Gone."

"Where is your home, Tammy?"

My heart started to pound real hard as I recalled what Mama told me, "I am never not to go home anymore..." my eyes filled with tears and I grasped my hands.

The nice man named Mike gently scooped me up and brought me inside the building.

Daddy: Reunited

You can find the first part of this post HERE

I sat in my room, the phone pressed to my ear, frozen and unable to grasp how profound this moment was. All I could think about was this was a joke, or maybe there is some guy named Lee there that knows a Tammy. I heard rustling as the phone was passed over to this man.

"Hi Tammy."

His voice. It was soft, almost shy. He stammered a bit, as though he was unsure of what to say. I could only muster a weak "Hi."

As soon as I heard his voice, I felt comforted. It's hard to explain. I just felt right. "Wow, Tammy. You don't know how long I have waited for this day..." His voice broke, and I knew he was crying. I had no idea what this man looked like, but I had never seen a man cry before. I didn't want him to cry.

We talked for a while. He told me he thought of me every single day and that he wished he could have taken care of me. He told me he tried real hard to get custody of me when I was living in my first foster home. He fought for a long time, but the county told him they had a wonderful family waiting to adopt me and with him being a single man, a truck driver who was on the road a lot, he could not care for me the way I needed to be cared for. It took him nearly two years to sign his rights over. He demanded they let him see me, and also asked for photos once I was adopted so he knew I was ok.

That explained why my first foster mother knew who he was. I was sad I could not recall his visits.

I felt his sadness in every word he spoke. I told him it was ok. That I am ok. He started asking about my life and I told him briefly what it was like. This only seemed to upset him more. He had expected me to be in a loving home, not being kicked around from place to place. I tried to assure him that I wouldn't be the person I am without my life experiences, so I was a better person for it.

He told me he was married a few times, but that his third wife is the charm. He didn't live too far from my foster home, and he wanted to make plans to see me. I told him I had to go through my social worker, and I would have her call him. He said he actually called my home and spoke to Agnese earlier. Ahhh ok that explained her behavior.

He promised to never ever lose touch with me again. We said goodbyes for now and as I laid the phone back in the cradle, I felt complete.

I clasped my hands together and thanked God for everything. He had been so good to me. Just a couple of months ago, I had no one. I felt so alone and helpless. It was so hard to believe I was on this journey, now with my mother and father next to me. I felt like the clouds had parted and warm rays shone directly on me. After feeling so unworthy for so long. I finally felt like I belonged here.

That weekend, my dad was on his way to meet me for the first time. He was bringing his wife with him as well. As excited as I was, my nerves consumed my excitement. One huge hurdle for me was the fact that men had often been bad to me. My past had been filled with abuse and most of that abuse had been by men. Any man I had come across, I knew not to trust. It was a built in defense mechanism, one I could not control. I wasn't sure how I would greet him, and the anxiety started building up when I thought he might hug me.

My fears were pushed to the side for a moment as one of the younger foster kids came up to see me. She was around 8 years old. Blonde, frail, with big blue eyes, she often liked to hang out with me. "So your daddy is coming?" she asked. Without even glancing in her direction I shook my head yes. "Can he be my Daddy too?" I whipped around to meet her gaze and anger bubbled up in my throat. "NO!" I yelled at her. "HE is MY Dad NOT yours! Stay away from him you brat!" She quickly ran out of my room and I slammed the door behind her.

I had never screamed at her like that before, but the feeling of ownership had overcome me, and I had to stake my claims on this man who was my father. I didn't want anyone taking him from me. I just found him and he was mine, I was not going to share!

I sat by the window in my room and waited.

The thoughts that raced through my mind all had one thing in common. What if he didn't like me? I was scared. Scared of rejection. Scared of acceptance. Scared he would need me. Scared I would need him. I knew I didn't want him to hug me. I was excited underneath all that fear, but in all honesty I didn't know what I was doing or how to behave. All I knew was something wonderful was happening, something I hadn't had in a long time, and I had to try not to be afraid and just be happy for the moment.

A blue sedan pulled into the driveway. My breath caught in my throat. Like a curious kitty I perched near the window and pressed my face to the glass so I could get a good look at these people. A man gets out of the driver's seat. He is huge. Like super tall and a bit heavy set. He has dark hair but it is greying. He told me on the phone he had a beard and people told him he looked like Kenny Rodgers. I thought he looked much more handsome than Mr. Rodgers. He walked around to the passenger side and helped a woman get out. She was much shorter than him and had reddish hair. They both looked like nice people. Holding hands, they both walked up the driveway and out of my view. Seconds later the doorbell sounded.

My heart jumped into my throat. My palms got sweaty and I ran to the mirror to check my hair and makeup again. I wanted to look pretty for my dad. I wanted to make a good impression. I wanted to race down the stairs, but fear kept me in my place.

"TAY-MEEEE!" Agnese called me to come down stairs. She too, had been making big plans for this day. Agnese loved having company. She was an amazing cook and she made an Italian feast fit for a king. Aromas of basil and tomatoes filled the house. My stomach grumbled, but not because I was hungry.

I swallowed hard to try and get rid of the huge lump in my throat. I opened the door and heard voices in the front room. Careful not to step on the creaky parts of the floor I quietly slipped down the hall so I could hear what they were saying. I heard my Dad's voice and his wife was talking to Agnese. I tiptoed down the stairs careful not to make a sound. There was a wall blocking their view of me and just a few more steps and I would be exposed to everyone. Right now I had the choice to remain invisible, to try and calm the fears in my head. The moment they saw me, there would be no turning back.

I decided I was comfortable sitting 5 stairs up from the end of the staircase. The more I heard their voices, the more I wanted to make my big entrance, but fear kept me from moving forward. My hands ran along the wall, Agnese had such shiny fancy wall paper. The texture was distracting. I ran my hands along the wall as I stepped down another stair. Just one more stair and I could see this man, my father.

Curiosity won over my fears and I peeked my head slowly around the corner. He was wearing a dark blue shirt and he sat in one of Agnese's big fancy chairs. She was doting on my dad and his wife, making sure they had plenty of coffee and cookies in front of them. His wife looked up and met my eye. Mid-sentence, she stopped and exclaimed "Well, there she is!"

Caught. Damn!

I began to shake like a leaf and my legs grew wobbly as I walked down the last three stairs. They stood up to greet me. My dad extended his arms and I walked up and gently grabbed one hand and shook it.

"Hi. Um Nice to meet you."

Tears in his eyes, my dad laid his free hand on the top of my shoulders. His wife walked up and said "Oh girl, I'm going in for the hug!" She hugged me tight and then stepped back as she held my arms. "Wow, Lee, she looks just like you!" Hearing that I looked like someone was very new to me, and I relished the thought that I had people that shared my features. It helped to know that not only were we bound by the blood running through our veins, but also by familiar traits passed down from family member to family member in the gene pool. This was a beautiful moment for me. I wanted so badly to be a part of a family for so long, and here I looked like a man who actually was my father.

We all sat in the formal living room and talked for a little while. Agnese excused herself to finish getting the meal ready for all of us. My dad was very open with his emotions and wanted me to know the he was there for me now and forever. He told me about my brother, his son. He told me I had an Uncle and Aunts and a Grandmother that were eager to meet me, but they all lived pretty far so one day we could travel to see them. It was a lot to soak in. I liked him, but years of abuse made it hard to trust him. I for sure wanted to get to know him, but on my terms. As long as he didn't try and touch me then we would be ok.

Agnese called us to dinner and I felt extra special because I got to eat in the formal dining room where only the special guests were allowed to eat. The other kids were seated at the kitchen table, and I was at the head of the fancy table. My dad was seated on my right side and my step mom at the left. Agnese was bustling about serving everyone. We talked between bites and then Agnese joined us. I was relieved because they all started talking and I was happier just observing. Halfway through dinner, my little foster sister came up to my Dad. She had a bear and wanted him to hold it for her. She crawled up on his lap and I jumped up and told her to get off my Dad. "He's MINE not YOURS!" I screamed at her. She grabbed her bear and ran off crying. I was surprised at my anger, but I couldn't help it. She had no business talking to my dad. My step-mom looked at me, surprised. "Tammy, it's ok if she talks to him. She doesn't have a Daddy, you should know how that feels." I looked down at my hands. I knew I was wrong, and I was acting really immature, but I couldn't control my feelings.

The rest of the visit went well. Lots of small talk, I shared some of my poetry. My dad told me he liked to take pictures and asked if maybe the next time he came to visit, we could find a place to take pictures of stuff. This was good, because if he wanted to see me again, I didn't scare him off!

We set up another visit for the following weekend. I walked them outside and thanked them for coming. My Dad stood in front of me for a moment. He was so tall. He said he was over 6 and 1/2 feet tall. As tall as he was, he wore his heart on his sleeve so I wasn't scared of him like I thought I would be. I was still guarded and my body language was stiff and uncomfortable during moments like this, moments where a normal girl would hug her father.

Unfortunately, I was far from a normal girl, and this man may have been my father but he didn't know me.

We said our goodbyes and made sure to add "for now!" I shook his hand again and Faye, my step-mom went in for the hug even though my hands stayed planted at my sides. I could tell my dad was hurt because I wouldn't hug him. I didn't know how to fix that. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I don't know how to describe this fear to you in words except that I was terrified at the thought of this man, or any man hugging me at that point in my life. I was damaged and even though this reunion was a huge positive moment in my life, I didn't know how to drop my guard and allow myself to be vulnerable.

As I watched his car back out of the driveaway and head down the road out of site, I prayed that I would see him again, like he promised.