Tag Archives: #family

Gasping for Air

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Gasping for Air

What does a writer do when they feel too vulnerable to write? It’s OK I’ll just wait over here until the universe can send me an answer….still waiting……….waiting some more. Well the universe doesn’t seem to be getting back to me so I guess I’ll have to take the steering wheel, again.

I feel like the world has gone fahking mad. How did we get here? The terrorists attacks, the society of rage that seems to be festering all around us……Donald Trump. It feels like one big WTF moment that has gone viral well beyond it’s 15 minutes of fame. So there’s that.

On a personal level I have been watching my kids struggle with tween/teen issues. I feel like my heart resides outside my body in two distinct and always moving places…..and it can be assaulted at any time, unprovoked. I guess that’s how it is when you have kids, forever vulnerable. I don’t think this is a phase we will transition through….sure the teen years will pass, but I will always be vulnerable to their pain, assuming I’m aware of it.

My kids tell me a lot, maybe too much. I’d rather know what’s going on, at least for now. I reserve the right to change my mind on that in the future. My husband thinks I coddle. I disagree. I think I have created a mostly safe place for our children to come to when they need to talk. I say mostly safe because sometimes I suck at this parenting thing. Catch me at 11pm on any given night and I am not at my best and neither are they. Yet that seems to be the time when they want to get close and tell me their fears, their sadness, their pain and of course their joys and dreams as well. It’s a mixed bag but lately the mix is leaning heavy on fears and sadness and it’s weighing us all down.

Raising humans is hard. I mean think about it you are shaping a person into their pre-adult self….enormous fahking responsibility. And I know this…..I’ve been doing the parent thing for over 13 years now…it’s just sometimes that weight just smacks you in the face when you were taking a moment to look the other way. Blind sided, unprepared caught unaware, gasping for air. That’s how it feels right now.

I’m Angry

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I’m Angry

I am angry and sad, disgusted, grateful and happy. So what led me to be this twitching mass of emotions? My past. Old wounds long ago scabbed over and faded are suddenly brought to light. Burning sun on Mercury light. Yesterday I unearthed a message that was buried in the not yet friends message folder in Facebook. It was waiting there for three weeks.

It was from a lovely women living in another continent who stumbled upon my humble blog. She was enthusiastic in her message to me, a total stranger, because we shared a common teenage horror. We were each sent to “The Family” in upstate NY in 1984 when we were 15 years old. We were not there at the same time but our experiences had some unfortunate overlap.

I have written about “The Family” before in some of my posts which describe my first year of sobriety. Here’s where they come in to play in my story if you are so inclined,  https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/05/02/1-out-of-37-part-4/  it was a horrible place to say the least and not something I think about often. Of course now that it has been revisited, I find myself in investigative mode and the stuff under the rocks is pretty gross. Think contender for Dante’s 10th circle of hell and you’d be getting warmer, much warmer.

Tony Argiros and his wife Betty ran “The Family” when I was there  in January of 1984.I’m not sure how long they were in the group home/work farm business at that point but I found some testimonials that go back to 1979. I suppose they tweaked their sadistic craft over the course of several years and decided that they were so fabulous at wrecking lives that they ought to expand their services.

My new online friend informed me that Tony and Betty Argiro founded The Family Foundation School in Hancock, NY. According to Wikipedia The Family Foundation School was established in 1984. In googling the school’s name I came across a website http://www.thefamilyschooltruth.com/Home.html whose sole purpose was to get the place shut down. They sought testimonials from alumni, parents and staff. After a 5 year battle, they were successful and ultimately the place shut down. The Family Foundation School, later known as the Allynwood Academy closed in 2014.

Sadly, in the time that they were open, hundreds, if not thousands of lives were forever altered. I’ll toss a bone Tony’s way and suggest that perhaps a handful of kids were helped along the way. And I say that knowing the ends do not always justify the means. Based on the testimonials that I read, the school shared some common traits with it’s precursor group home “The Family”.

Both places had a strict blackout period during which residents could not even communicate with their parents. Pro tip, if a place says your kid can’t talk to you for 3 months, that’s a red flag. They shared a focus on breaking down the individual.  They did this by removing all personal belongings, providing unfamiliar clothes, cutting hair in a severe manner and horrid meal times where staff and residents would select targets for humiliation and degradation. With the added bonus of sleep deprivation and physical labor to the point of exhaustion.I honestly don’t know how some of these kids made it, some where there 3 or 4 years. To top it off many of the alumni complained they never finished school due to excessive punishment or manual labor. It was supposed to be a school….shouldn’t the academics come first?

Imagine if Jim Jones opened a school except there’s no Kool-Aid. Just a steady barrage of soul shattering punishments, isolation and humiliation. The founders loosely based the school on a 12 step program and inserted their own brand of insane diabolical fundamentalist values. The result was disastrous.

Read the words of the alumni testimonials. Visualize for yourself what these teenagers endured, some for several years. I only spent a month or so during my incarceration at the family farm and in that time I ran away twice. I was successful the second time. Others tried to runaway from the school or the farm. One kid was killed by an 18 wheeler in his desperate attempt to flee the farm. Many attempts were made at the school and at one point they used search and rescue dogs to retrieve the escapees. Another student killed himself by jumping off a second story balcony. During my time I fantasized about breaking a leg just to go to the hospital. I even had a failed attempt at burning the place down. I understand their pain and I want to tell their stories.

 

 

 

 

 

My Girl

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My Girl

My girl is at that intersection of childhood and adolescence. She is sporty and likes reptiles………she also appreciates a good lip balm along with a mani-pedi. For her 11th birthday she really wanted a bearded dragon to which we said hellz no. We negotiated it down to a crested gecko who will be named DJ Steve. My husband is always the bad cop in these scenarios and I don’t do a thing to help him. Truth be told I would host a weird little zoo if he wasn’t such a sour puss. It’s probably good that we both aren’t pushovers in regard to the animal kingdom.

She also wanted UGG boots and to be honest, I felt better about fulfilling the reptile wish. I grew up broke so I would have never dared to even dream of UGGs. In fact I still don’t own UGGs. I feel weird about wearing things with fancy labels. I once had a close friend give me a pair of Prada sandals and they had a big ‘ole PRADA decorative circle in the front, I think I wore them once. Clearly I’m a bit nuts in this regard but I don’t want her to be someone who gets caught up in status and trendy bullshit. I suspect we will do battle over these issues as the teenage years approach.  But for today…..I love this space that we are in…..she loves her friends, isn’t afraid to try things and she likes having me around, still wants to do things with me.  I can see the horizon of teenage drama and the inevitable gap that will develop in our relationship and I don’t like it. So today we eat cake and live for the moment.

 

Keep On Truckin’……….Part 9

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Keep On Truckin’……….Part 9

So in 1983 my world imploded just the tiniest bit. We had been living in the same town in central NJ for about 5 years. Some years were better than others but it was the longest stretch I had lived anywhere in my 15 years so it felt like home. I lived there with my mother and twin brother.

A little background, mom was a drunk until she got sober for good in August of 1982. That is pretty much when I started to drink and “experiment” with drugs. Fortunately for me, I had limited means so it was mostly some pot and an occasional pill. I am pretty sure I would have tried anything put in front of me. We called that a garbage head in the 80’s. I was quite reckless and I put myself in harm’s way on a regular basis. Traded in my long term friends for a sketchier variety that wanted to meander along with me on my path of self destruction.

How did the once good girl suddenly find her self so misguided? Escape. I just wanted to escape from the life I was in. As a young girl I remember looking at the most popular girl in the class and I wondered….what is it like to be Kim? Back then I was a judge-a-book-by-it’s-cover kind of gal and my cover was torn, tattered with some coffee stains and a cigarette burn or two. Kim had a flawless, shiny, smells like a new car cover going on…..I wondered what that was like.

In addition to having the family from hell I also had a fairly long “awkward stage” that’s the stage when the kid is fairly ugly for a few years and everyone hopes it’s temporary. So I basically went from being the buck-toothed scrawny girl to braces straightened teeth, kind of pretty and overly made up. It wasn’t a magnificent transition but it was enough to get the boys to notice me. The ones who made fun of me the year before suddenly wanted to “hang out”. I was insecure enough to not tell them to fuck off. If only I had a time machine…….

So this is where my childhood ends. The story, my story continues in another series titled…..(insert drum roll here) “1 in 37……..”. That series describes my first year of recovery. Spoiler alert I have been sober since 1983. Don’t let that stop you from reading…….some crazy shit happened that first year (and trust me, I know crazy, we’re like besties….smh).

https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/04/28/1-out-of-37-part-1/

 

 

Keep on Truckin’………Part 5

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Keep on Truckin’………Part 5

My mother was arrested in front of me in August of 1977. I was 9 years old. We had just destroyed the mobile home we lived in with her boyfriend, Frank. Apparently someone called the cops. I was put in the back of one police car while mom got taken away in another. It took them a while to figure out where to take me. We didn’t have any relatives in Florida, we were only there about a year.

My twin brother had been sent back to our home state of New Jersey in June. He was staying with relatives. I stayed with family friends for about 3 weeks while my mom and brother made the trip back home. My brother stayed in New Jersey and mom came back but not for long. She attempted suicide shortly after she got back to Florida.  Because of that, I was sent to a foster home for about 5 days in early July. When she got out of the Psych Ward we went back to living in a mobile home with Frank. Mind you at the time I didn’t know she tried to kill herself, I was told that she needed to rest.

Things were rocky to say the least. Frank and my mother fought constantly and I saw my mother get physically abused by him. He dragged her throughout the home and she was crying. I was chasing after him and screaming for him to stop. My mother tried to say it was fun, that they were just goofing around.  The rug burns on her arms and legs told another story and I can still picture them in my mind.

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The night my mother got arrested I stayed with a childless couple that were friends with our once foursome. They seemed like nice people. I remember sitting on their couch and talking but I don’t remember what we talked about it. I think they took me snorkeling but the memories are fuzzy. At any rate I probably wasn’t with them more than two days. Frank had to buy me a first class ticket to New Jersey. I guess that was the rule then for a minor traveling alone. It was my first plane ride. I don’t think I was afraid of flying but I did challenge myself to get a candy bar out of the guy before I boarded. That was a personal victory, it was a mounds bar in case you are wondering. I remember being encouraged to chew gum during take off so I was totally fine with flying.

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My maternal grandparents and my twin brother met me at the airport in Newark, New Jersey. I remember that my grandmother fell on the escalator…..as if my homecoming needed more drama. My grandparents were probably close to 70 at the time so a fall could have been a real game changer. Thankfully she recovered. I’m not sure how long it took my mother to get back to New Jersey but my brother and I lived with our grandparents for a year while my mother got back on her feet.

That’s pretty much how it was explained to us. My mother was busy getting her life in order; getting a job, finding a place for us to live, etc.,. So while she did that we lived with our grandparents in Waretown, New Jersey. Sometimes we wouldn’t see her for weeks and that was really hard. When you are a kid you tend to believe what the adults around you tell you but I was getting cynical.

We were in 4th grade that year and my brother and I both had issues with kids. He was tormented by some jerk on the bus and I was the second least attractive girl in class. In the 70’s no one gave a shit if you were bullied you just dealt with it. I remember feeling conflicted about the other least popular girl in class. I simultaneously felt sorry for her and was grateful there was someone under me in the 4th grade food chain.  I recognized that made me a bit of a jerk.

Her family lived in a trailer and had less than we did. She didn’t seem to have a good handle on hygiene but I suspect that was because she only had sporadic access to hot water. In the spring we were picking buddies for a field trip and no one picked her so I offered to be her buddy. Looking back I don’t think I had a lot of offers.

One time a kid found milk bone dog biscuits in my desk, that was unfortunate. I had an explanation…….there was a dog I passed on the way home from school and I regularly brought treats for it. That wasn’t the take away that the class latched on to….no from that day forward I was referred to as a dog. That was a thing when I was growing up, ugly girls were referred to as dogs.

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To be continued…….https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/11/07/keep-on-truckin-part-6/

Keep on Truckin’……..Part 2

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Keep on Truckin’……..Part 2

There were a few incidents that I remember from before our trek to Florida that made me think my mom had some problems. There were fights with my father. I remember he got physically violent with her once. I swear I was crawling at the time and people say you can’t remember that far back but I can picture it. Had to be under 2 years old. I remember seeing my father hit my mom across her face as she slid down with her back against the wall. I also remember the verbal assault when my mom was screaming at my stepmother outside of the house where she lived with my father.What a tricky situation for a kid. Three people I adored and my mom was out of her mind, most likely drunk and making a scene on a block where we knew everyone.

Then there was the night when were couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. Our mom woke us up in the middle of the night, she had a bandage on her chin. She told us that she was in a car accident and she just wanted to hug and kiss us. I later found out that she was driving drunk. The cops let her off because it was the 70s and she was pretty. So, drunk driver turned into driver swerved to avoid hitting an animal.

There were of course the family holidays which were an excuse for the adults to get wasted. That always guaranteed some level of dysfunction. I learned at an early age that topics of religion and politics were fine because if they focused on that they left the kids alone. When they tired of those topics the kids became targets. I was smart, kept my mouth shut and generally stayed under the radar….the ones that stood up for themselves got the most abuse. I learned how to blend in like a chameleon.

During our send off/8th birthday party the drunkenness was at expert level. A few people stayed over in our small apartment because they passed out. I shared a bed with one of those. Her name was Eleanore and I adored her. We met Eleanore and her husband Frank when we lived at a boarding house in Point Pleasant Beach. We had one room for the three of us and they had an efficiency which was basically the penthouse in that place. They were kind to us and were very close friends of ours. Anyhow, I woke up the day after the party and the bed was wet. I was mortified. How could I have wet the bed……..wait a minute….I realized my underwear was dry though the sheets next to me were wet. Took my 8 year old brain a minute to realize Eleanore had wet the bed.

Shortly after that party we found ourselves in Florida with my mother’s boyfriend Frank. He was an inventor and he was working on a product that would conserve water in toilets. Sounds boring but the guy was so damn charming, I was in love. We were in Florida for about two weeks when I made the conscience decision to be an adult. Not sure what made me take that mental step. I’m sure I heard bits and pieces of conversations and somehow decided that was the best way to help out.

So I started that day. The four of were living in a Quality Inn hotel room and I started my adulthood by cleaning out the coffee pot. I was going to be a responsible citizen from that point on. Sure enough that year I started to cook family meals, vacuum and do my own laundry. I adored my mother at this point and I wanted desperately to please her. I’m sure that is why I went into adult mode. The adults probably thought it was cute at first and then they realized not so bad this kid can get shit done.

Aside from the Quality Inn we lived in three different houses and went to two different schools. We were in 3rd grade that year. The first house was next to a Drive In Movie Theater…..guess who saw JAWS on the big screen from outside of our house. I’m not going to lie that movie messed me up. We also had a coral snake in our shed once which freaked me out. This house was a bit of a dump if the proximity to a drive in and the snake didn’t already give that away.

The second house was a huge upgrade. We had a lot that went from one street to another. We were near a park and had an orange tree in our yard. We were so complacent we even got a dog. He was a German Shepherd, we named him Duke. My brother and I each had our own room. It was a 4 bedroom house which to me was palatial. I had the chicken pox in that house. I remember taking an oatmeal bath in the brown bathroom. We had a snake in that house once, our cat coaxed it out of hiding and then a neighbor stepped in to finish the job. Did I mention that I really hate snakes?

The third house we lived in was actually a mobile home. For those that are familiar,  it was a double wide which pretty much means what it says. It was a very nice mobile home with new carpeting and I remember I had white furniture in my bedroom. My brother and I had a Jack and Jill bathroom that we shared. Hard to imagine but the downward spiral went quick after we moved in.

To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/10/20/keep-on-truckin-part-3/

Keep on Truckin’……..Part 1

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Keep on Truckin’……..Part 1

When I was a little girl I adored my mother. I suppose that is normal, little girls look up to their moms….miss them when they go away for an hour or a weekend or a month. I remember when I was in kindergarten we made plaster hand plagues as mothers day gifts. Mine was a pink circle with a small white plaster hand imprint in the center. I was so excited about giving her that gift that I spilled the beans about it before mothers day.

She was so pretty. Stylish short blonde hair, gorgeous blue eyes and a petite figure. She would go out sometimes so she dressed nice and did her make up. She was young, pretty and divorced in the 70s so she went out. She also worked as a cocktail waitress at a couple of popular Jersey Shore bars and she had a great uniform for that. One of her cocktail waitress uniforms was a block style mini dress with alternating black and white blocks she wore high white boots with it…..I can still picture that dress hanging on the bathroom door in our apartment on Beaver Dam Road in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

I can remember her making things fun when we were young. We moved a lot probably due to a combination of equal parts financial hardships and poor decisions. She always made it feel like an adventure. I remember there was a poster in the living room in the place we called “the shack” it was an old guy walking down the road with “Keep on Truckin'” across the top. I remember listening to music – Neil Sedaka, The Rolling Stones, Diana Ross even some Janice Joplin. She read to us at night – Horton the Elephant by Dr. Seuss that was our favorite and she must have read it a thousand times. She was patient, pretty, cool and fun. That’s the mom I miss.

I can pretty much pin point the day that I realized she was in over her head. I was eight years old. We had just traveled from New Jersey to Florida and we were temporarily staying at a Quality Inn. It had a pool and there were little lizards all over the place so basically a kid paradise. But underneath I knew things were f*cked up.

We left the state of New Jersey soon after my twin brother and I turned 8. There was a big party….I think it was promoted as an 8th birthday party for the “twins”. But it was more of a drunken debauchery send off for my mom and I suppose us. My mother had recently won full custody of my brother and I. My father and step mother tried to get us to live with them but they lost in court. So my mom wanted to celebrate by moving us to Florida with her then boyfriend, Frank, who was an inventor and could easily sell ice to an Eskimo.

We drove to Florida in a convertible Cadillac and when we crossed the state line there was a huge sign that read “Welcome to Florida, the Sunshine State.” Even then I appreciated the irony or perhaps it was foreshadowing, it was raining like hell.

To be continued…….https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/10/17/keep-on-truckin-part-2/