Saturday, January 17, 2015

Family Torn Apart

You want the gritty details of what happened to us in 2014? You'll get them. It's the hardest year we've ever endured.

For those of you who read last year's "end of year" letter, I declared it was the worst year our family had ever experienced and was hoping this year would be better.  Unfortunately this year was much, much worse.

I mentioned last year that my sister had offered to take our daughter for the summer and she ended up entering school there in the Fall, for reasons I won't get into.  Turns out the offer to host our daughter was an attempt to take her permanently from us.  And that first investigation, where the State was called on her 2nd day in Chicago was in fact made by my sister. Being the trusting person I am, I believed my sister when she said she had nothing to do with it. I mentioned in last year's letter that communication had broken down between my sister and myself and she refused our phone calls, and against her wishes, we were going to travel to Chicago for Christmas and to see our daughter and spend her birthday with her. While we were there, our daughter begged us to bring her back with us, but since she was in the middle of the school year and we didn't have a school lined up for her (she was thriving in regular school more than she had in homeschool), we had mentioned her coming home as soon as school was out that summer.  When we told our sister we wanted our daughter to return, she was very resistant to the idea.   On Feb 1st, my sister called us and demanded we pick up our daughter ASAP, even though it was in the middle of the school year. In less than a week, my husband flew to Chicago to bring our daughter home.  She was so happy to be home and we were so happy to have her.  But things seemed odd with my family members and I told my husband I had a feeling my father and my sister were planning something.  Sure enough, on our daughter's 3rd day here, the State was at our door with a warrant to for immediate removal of all three kids. I wasn't there at the time, as I had taken our daughter to the doctor, where she was diagnosed with having strep throat.  I saw the note on the door from the Social Workers, so when we got home, I went to my bedroom with the door closed and started calling lawyers. I knew we needed representation after our previous experience with them.  Apparently while I was in my room, the Social Workers returned but I did not hear them at the door.

Imagine my surprise to find out that I was accused of drug and alcohol abuse, along with many other horrible things. Anyone who knows me, knows how ridiculous this was.  I even made a copy of the allegations to give to our Pediatrician, who has known me for 15 years and she was shocked by them. I met with our new lawyer, who spoke with the county counsel (who represents the state) and he sent me directly from his office to be urine tested to prove that I was not abusing drugs and alcohol.  My test was negative. They also made my husband leave his work to do the same and his result was negative as well.  The drug and alcohol abuse allegations came from my mother, my sister and my adult niece as well as my father. The state was told by my family that I was bragging about my drug and alcohol abuse on Facebook, which any of my Facebook friends knew was a ridiculous accusation.  However, due to the allegations, a judge granted the State access to my private Facebook account.  It is not legal for the State to access people's private Facebook accounts in many states, but it is in our state. The social worker told us to meet them at their office for my husband and I and our kids to be interviewed a few days later. I did not know they had access to my Facebook account, but once we were there, they told me they had over 100 pages of my previous status updates printed out. The reason they wanted us to come to their office was because they were planning on not letting the kids come home with us.  (we did not know that at the time) However, due to the kids' interviews and the loving body language between us and the kids, they decided not to take away our kids, but instead asked us to volunteer to a six month investigation.  Our other alternative was to have our kids stay in Foster Care until they concluded their investigation.  We took the first choice.  I was to have 6 months of random drug testing (even though my surprise test was negative), attend a 3 month parenting class through the state and have a Social Worker at our house every other week, where our kids would be interviewed each time, 1:1, without us being allowed in the room. The the main Social Worker came to our house for us to sign the contract, agreeing to the 6 month program.  That is where I was able to read all the allegations, and saw exactly what was said about us. It was then that my husband and I learned that each and every one of my family members spoke to the State and made up ridiculous lies about me.  I was sobbing as I read the allegations. I felt so betrayed. Every member of my family of origin had banded together to try to get my kids taken away.  My mother, father, brother and sister.  And their plan was to have our kids removed to Foster Care, where they could then petition to raise them.  However, my father had made up such horrific lies about our oldest child that I don't know that there was any plan to remove him from Foster Care. My father hasn't visited our family since my oldest child was 6, yet he told the state about an alleged event he witnessed where my oldest went after his siblings with a bat and when he tried to intervene, my oldest went after him with a bat. Guess what? WE DON'T OWN A BAT. And my 6 year old only had one sibling at that time. My oldest has the biggest, most loving heart and my father said my son was violent, mentally disturbed and that we were refusing him mental health care.  What the fuck? Funny how we were all in family therapy when he made that accusation.  But you see it doesn't matter because he is a doctor with a law degree, so anything he says MUST be true.  I know his motive. His dogs attacked my oldest when he was 7, and after that I cut him from my life. After a few years we resumed communication, but only via email or text. I never spoke to him on the phone again. Guess he got me back for that. He is a vindictive asshole.

In the 18 years I've been married, I've probably been back home less than 5 times.  My mother's last visit out here was when our daughter was 2 years old.  My father's last visit out here was when we were in bringing our daughter home from her birth country.  Our last time in my home town (where my parents live) had been 3 years prior. Our daughter had met my sister one time prior to her trip to Chicago.  She had met my brother twice, each time for a few hours.  I've been estranged from my various family members for most of my adult life. When my husband first met my family, he immediately disliked them for how they treated me. I didn't notice I was being treated badly.  It wasn't until a few years later when I returned for a visit with our oldest, who was an infant, that I realized how mean they all were to me.  My therapist helped me see that my family has been mentally and verbally abusive to me long before I left home and very much so after I got married.  It was then that I vowed never to return to to my hometown when the entire family was there and I never did. My current therapist helped me to see that not only was my family verbally and mentally abusive to me before I was an adult, they were very abusive to me after I got married.

My oldest met my mom for the first time (apart from when he was a baby), when he was 3 and 1/2 years old. We invited her to come visit almost a year later.  She has a habit of criticizing me, but she was on her best behavior and it was at the end of her visit that we were finally chosen by a birthmom after a year and 1/2 of waiting.  After my mother returned home, she wrote me an email detailing everything she thought I did wrong as a mother. She even went so far to say if our birthmom knew what kind of parents we really were, she would never choose us to be the parents of her child. I couldn't believe she could be so mean.  I returned the letter full of "It seems like you are saying...." "I feel..." and I'm sure the therapist I saw when my parents divorced would have been proud at how well I responded without attacking back. I did ask that my mom not write me any notes like this after her visits again.  The notes continued after her visits, but unbeknownst to me, she sent them to other family members instead.  In fact, during a brief moment of guilt, my sister admitted that my mother sent those letters and confessed that at each family get-together, everyone would bad mouth me.  Where they got their information, I don't know. All they knew of me was what they saw through Facebook. You've heard the term of someone being viewed through rose-colored glasses.  I apologize for my language, but the only way I can describe it is that they view me through shit-colored glasses, because they really never knew me as an adult or as a mother despite the fact they claim to know me better than anyone else. People who have never met me in person, but are friends with me on Facebook know me better than they do.  I wear my heart on my sleeve and what you see is what you get with me.

I've long been the black sheep of the family and I've accepted that since I have such a supportive husband and circle of friends who really know me.  During times of estrangement, I always sent Father's Day & Mother's Day gifts, birthday gifts and Christmas gifts as well as updated pictures of the kids.  I was drawing my boundaries but felt at peace that I was keeping some sort of connection open.  I'd come to terms with the fact that they vilified me.  I didn't understand it, but I accepted it. I'm not sure what I ever did wrong. I've continued the faith in which I was raised and am raising my children in my faith as well.  I remained a virgin until I was married like I was told to do.  I went to college, had a successful career and then chose to be a stay-at-home mom when my first child was born.  So what did I do that was so terrible?  Well, I have many tattoos and some piercings. Also I refused to return home for family get-togethers.  But that's the only thing I can come up with.  We've been incredibly generous to my mother and sister, by giving them computers, iPads and we even gave my brother a computer years ago so our kids could skype each other.  Which they did only once. One year I even helped support my sister financially, every month for a year, and we spent hundreds of dollars of photography gear and lighting to help our niece to get her photography business started.

When communications broke down between us, my husband tried to reach out to them, only for them to try (unsuccessfully) to make him feel like a fool for staying married to me as well as telling them one day he would see the real me and leave.  As if my husband of 18 years doesn't know me better than anyone! What kind of awful person must they think I am, that I deserve to have my husband leave me and have my kids taken away?!  I don't know. I don't believe I'll ever know. Whatever shaky relationship I had with them has been irreparably broken.  I will certainly never speak to them again.  My kids (all three of them) feel so betrayed by them.  A mutual friend of my mother's and mine asked if there was any way to repair our relationship.  And the answer is no. I couldn't possibly have contact with any of my family members without risking the safety of my kids again. Anything I'd say would certainly be turned around against me and the State would probably get another call.  I learned that game when my parents had a nasty divorce and I found I could never mention the name of one parent in front of the other, lest the other parent get a nasty letter from a lawyer.  As for repairing a relationship, we never really had a non-toxic relationship to begin with.  There's nothing to repair.  On the day I read the allegations and saw what each family member said about me, they all died in my heart.  It was a betrayal I never saw coming and an event that I continue to grieve. Our entire family has been going to family therapy/1:1 therapy to help us get through this.

But that's not the worst thing that happened this year.  While we were under investigation by the State (which was started by my family), I accidentally got hurt, requiring medical attention and physical therapy.  It was no one's fault and was purely an accident. But I knew we were going to have another Social Worker visit very soon.  We called our lawyer, who told us we must place our daughter with trusted friends immediately.  We did this to show how serious we are about the safety of all of our children.  However when the social worker found out, he decided to make that a permanent situation, telling us we had to make our friends her legal guardians before they would close our case, and that our daughter can never return home.  As you can imagine, this has devastated us all.  Our younger son was having daily meltdowns, worried that he would be next to leave the house, since he was adopted too.  Our older son was more quiet about his pain but has been able to open up to his Youth Group leaders at church, something we are very grateful for.

Our friends who are raising our daughter have been wonderful to her and now love her as their own. They have helped her try to make sense of what happened and have showered her in love, helping her to heal.  We couldn't be more grateful to them.  Another thing we are grateful for is that we continue to be a part of our daughter's life. We talk on the phone with her, we take her out on dates and we get together as two families, which is starting to become one large family.  If we cannot raise her, I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have raising her than our friends.

In the meantime, we all struggle to get used to our new normal.  My husband and I are most grateful that none of our kids ended up in Foster Care, despite my family's best efforts.  And we are still a family. It may not be typical or conventional, but family comes in all forms and we are still a family and always will be.

Why am I posting here? Because my regular blog is easily accessible to all the members of my family of origin and I don't want them knowing a damn thing about what's going on with our lives. I'll have to decide what direction to take with that blog when I get back to blogging.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Blacks Are Taking Over The Schools!

Hello my friends, guess what?  My in-laws are back in town, staying at their vacation house on our street until the first week in December.  As you may have remembered, they are from The South.  And they suffer from a serious affliction called, "Racism".  An even more serious form of racism because they don't believe they are racists.  They are still pissed off about the outcome of the "War of Northern Aggression" because their ancestors lost all their slaves and the Plantation homes that were in the family are no longer in the family.  Such a tragedy.  Let me get out my tiny violin.

Since one of our children is black, we have decided to limit our kids' access to them and make sure either my husband or I are there when our kids are.  Last night we had dinner at their house. After dinner our kids went in to the living room to play while the in-laws and my husband and I stayed at the dining room table to talk.  And as usually happens, they start bringing up people from my husband's past... people who still live in the tiny Southern town he's from.  They talk of the way things are now. This town that is so small there is not even a police department.  No stop lights.  Only 3 stop signs.  One library, two churches and a gas station.  The fire department is a volunteer one, which my father-in-law is part of.

So my FIL starts talking about how they took the fire engines to my husband's old elementary school.  And my FIL was quite upset at what he saw.  Out of 200-300 kids, there were only TEN white kids.  He stated that number several times, so we know he actually counted.  "The Blacks... (they said) are taking over the school and it's a damn shame."   I was literally so shocked, I was speechless.  Are they aware one of their grandchildren, who was playing in the next room, is one of those "blacks"?  My husband, who was sitting next to me, grabbed my hand and squeezed it hard.  Then they talked about the nearest town over and said how "The Blacks" have taken over that school too. (while shaking their head in disgust)  My husband squeezed my hand again.  A black guy Marshall went to school with is now the principal at that school.  My FIL says, "The blacks probably thought he'd be on their side, but he's not.  Boy I bet they were surprised."  Uh, WTF does that mean?  What does it mean to be on "their side"?   I didn't ask what they meant by that and neither did my husband.  We just sat there in horror, squeezing each other's hands as hard as we could.

The reason why my in-laws believe they are not racist, is that they don't physically mistreat "the blacks" and aren't mean to their faces.  In fact they are polite to their faces.  So that means they're not racists... according to them.

But God help them if they ever say that kind of crap in front of our kids.  Because they will get an earful from us.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Burning Bush

My 12 year old son is at the very beginning of the transition of puberty.  He now wears deodorant and though he won't show it, he says he's starting to get a tiny bit of body hair, which is currently very light.  This is my biological son, who though he didn't quite get my full hair color, he has reddish hair and also has my complexion.

One morning he walked into my husband's and my bedroom and said,

SON: "What color do you think my hair will be when it grows in down there?"

ME: "I have no idea."

HUSBAND: "Probably black like mine."

SON: "Whew! I hope it's black because to have red hair down there would be FREAKY. *turns to me* Uh, no offense, Mama."

ME: *faceplant*

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Mama, What Does Sperm Look Like?"

Last night my 8 year old son got a little curious about sperm. 

SON: "So what does sperm really look like?"

ME: "uh... uh... kind of like a tadpole." *pulls up pic of tadpole on iPhone*

SON: "Yes but do you have a picture of sperm?"

ME: *pulls up drawing of sperm on iPhone*

SON: *eyes wide* "That looks like that hurts!"

ME:  "It's microscopic. You can't even see it without a microscope."

SON: "Well that's a relief, otherwise it would hurt coming out. So you can't even feel it when it's coming out, can you? How do you even know it's coming out?"

ME: *turns to husband* "Uh babe, would you like to take over the conversation from here?"

HUSBAND:  *turns to me* "Nope! You're doing just fine by yourself!" *grins*

ME: *facepalm*

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What's Love Got To Do With It?

My husband is one of the most loving and affectionate husbands and fathers out there. However he feels no attachment whatsoever to either of his parents nor toward his only brother.

It's easy to understand not feeling attached to your brother if he beat you up every time your parents weren't looking, and your parents were almost never watching you.  In fact my husband's brother would enlist his friends and their cousins to taunt and beat up my husband as he was a young boy.  At the bus stop, he'd throw rocks at him.  Call him names.  Belittle him.  And this brother wonders why we don't want anything to do with him now.   What about his older brother? Well he's on his 2nd marriage since he's a carbon copy of his father and his first wife wasn't about to put up with being treated like that.  He and his 2nd wife have no kids (so far) and we're desperately hoping they never do, because he will be the same kind of father his dad was, messing up another generation of kids.

So back to my husband having no attachment to his parents. He doesn't even have extreme anger toward them... just indifference, which is kind of weird.  I've spent the last 16 years trying to figure out the family dynamics and how my husband turned out so differently from his family.  How he can be so loving and come from such an unloving family?  How he can love his black children so much, and come from a racist family?  How he can put his family first when his father put their family last?  How he can have such a great sense of humor when anger seems to be the only thing his family is good at?

There was no fun in his family growing up.  No hugging.  No games.  Just chores.  And whippings.  Once my brother-in-law made my FIL so mad that after he got done whipping him with a belt, he went into my husband's room and beat him too.  FOR SOMETHING HIS BROTHER DID.  This was a "Children Should Be Seen And Not Heard" kind of household.  My husband has no memory of what his mother (a stay-at-home mom) was doing while he was growing up.  He says she definitely wasn't cleaning or cooking.  She never even got out of bed to see them off to school.  She clearly was very depressed.  My FIL never really showed love to her.  No gifts to her for their anniversaries, or Valentine's Day. No flowers given to her.  He's the kind of dad who said he loved her on her wedding day, so why should he say it again?

Earlier this year when his parents were visiting, they asked to go out to eat with just my husband and I.  (i.e. no kids)  Somehow my husband started talking about his journey as a father and how he's learned to put them first, not to yell at them, and to enjoy them every chance he gets.  He's such a fun dad.  That's why we homeschool.  Just so we can adjust to his unusual working schedule and maximize his time with the kids.

SIDENOTE: My FIL has always had this thing where he tells us he was such a lousy dad. And then my MIL immediately says, "No honey, you did the best you could."  My FIL isn't really confessing anything.  Because his boys are still alive and so are his grandkids and he doesn't try to do any better with them.  No, he says it because he wants someone to say, "Oh no... you did your best."  By the way, every time my FIL does this, it drives us INSANE.

Back to this dinner.  My husband explaining his journey as a father. His dad interrupted about 6 or 7 times and said, "It's because I was such a bad father, wasn't it? "  My husband quickly said, "Yes" and then went on to what he was saying before he was interrupted.  I was SO PROUD of my husband for this.  Of course since my FIL didn't get the answer he wanted, that's why he kept interrupting, asking the same thing.  Each time my husband quickly said, "Yes" and went back to what he was saying.  I really don't think either of his parents actually listened to what my husband was talking about because they were so shocked that my husband acknowledged what a crappy parent his dad was.

Then his parents felt the need to respond and defend their past sins as parents.  My FIL said, "Well I never hugged you guys or said I loved you because my father never did those things with me.  I didn't know any better because I wasn't shown any better."  Neither my husband or I nodded in acknowledgment.  We just stared at him.  Then my MIL said, "I too never hugged you guys or told you I loved you because my parents never said those things to me.  I just didn't know any better."

HOLD UP.... wait a minute.  His mother didn't tell her boys she loved them when they were growing up? No hugs?  How effed up is that?  Well that's my answer to why my husband is so different.  He never formed an attachment to them.  Which is why he never felt compelled to be like them, follow their beliefs, etc.  And thank GOD he's not a Mama's boy!

But we're so SICK TO DEATH of their stupid excuse that they were crappy parents because they had crappy parents.  How exactly does that explain how my husband has become such an outstanding husband and father?  That's right... it takes away their excuse because they have NO EXCUSE.

I've since talked with my husband about his parents never saying they loved him.  This just blows my mind.  He said he thinks they probably never really felt that way toward them.  Raising kids was all about chores and discipline.

Now that the boys are adults, both his parents regularly say they love him (and me too).  Oh how it makes me squirm to do the expected, "we love you too" responds and I often try to change the subject so I don't have to say it.  I try to position myself so I am not forced to hug them when we say hello and goodbye.  Often I'm not successful and their hugs feel icky.

If you were to meet them, you'd feel they were nice and friendly (perhaps a little dumb-sounding with their deep country accent) but they would be pleasantly nice to you.  But if you were to dig a little under the surface, you'd find a seriously effed up family.

And I couldn't be more happy that my husband feels no attachment whatsoever toward his family.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Beware of the Coal Shovel!

Did I ever tell you about the time my Grandmother fell on a coal shovel and got pregnant?  Well that was her official story, anyway.

Now my Grandmother was mentally ill (through childhood experiences, not genetically) and my Grandfather was Autistic.  My dad was their only child. (together, anyway)

My dad said many men used to come over to the house when he was young and his father was away working on the railroad. He remembers my Grandmother would sit on their laps.  Especially one guy in particular.  Jim McGillicuddy.
My dad remembers him so well because he wished this guy would be his new dad, since his current dad was a little lacking in the social skills department.

Anywho, my Grandmother got pregnant.  So when my Grandfather returned home from working on the Railroad, my Grandmother told him she was pregnant, BUT she did not cheat on him.  NO!  She was out in the yard, fell on a coal shovel, and somehow got pregnant.  And you know what? My Grandfather BELIEVED HER!

Now I've known this story most of my life.  I only now looked up what a coal shovel looked like for this post.  My first reaction to hearing this story was WTF? But now, after seeing a coal shovel, my new first reaction is "OWWWWWWW".  That's GOTTA HURT.  Though did she fall on the handle or the shovel part? I don't think anyone ever asked her.

Sadly, the baby was a stillborn and was malformed, but as my dad always said, "What did you expect? It was half-coal shovel!"

I'm eternally grateful my dad turned to humor instead of say... serial killing, to help him deal with his childhood.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Physical Affection Ends At Age 13

My father-in-law proudly told my oldest son one evening that in 6 months when he turns 13, he will start greeting him with a handshake instead of a hug.  Uh... okaaaaay. #weirdo

As soon as I came over to their house, my son approached me in another room and told me what his Grandfather had said to him.  He then said, "Uh, that's really weird.  Is that how they do things in The South?"  To which I replied, "I have no idea. Yes that is weird."

My eldest son is very physically affectionate. He still loves to cuddle with us.  He makes sure he hugs and kisses every member of the family (including the cats) before he goes to bed.  He loves hugs.  So he sees it as his grandfather will stop being affectionate with him when he becomes a teenager.

At dinner, while the kids were playing outside, my FIL proudly announced to us that he had told my son that.  Like it's some rite of passage that we should all be excited about.  *rolls eyes* I looked at him with a confused look on my face and said, "Is that a Southern thing?" and he said, "Yes!".  And I replied, "Okaaaaaay." My usually oblivious MIL actually could see that both my husband and I thought it was weird.

As we were leaving their house later that evening my son said to his grandfather, "Am I still allowed to hug you goodbye?"  Hahaha I love that kid.

Since that time, my husband and I have brought it up several times in front of the in-laws.  "Hey, make sure you get your hugs in now, because no hugs from Grandpa when you turn 13!"   And while my MIL gets that we think it's weird, my FIL is clueless.  He just proudly says, "Yep!"  And my MIL will follow up quietly (so the FIL won't hear her) "Well, rules were made to be broken."  (Heaven forbid he actually hears her stand up to him!)

When the actual time comes and my FIL greets my son with a handshake instead of a hug, I think my husband should also refuse to hug his dad and instead offer his hand for a handshake.  After all, my husband is over the age of 12 as well.  As a matter of fact, I think I'll offer my hand as well.  Anything to get out of the obligatory hug!