Friday, September 26, 2014

The Prodigal Daughter Returns?

While the title of this post might seem a little odd because I am Jewish, I still thought it somewhat apt, given the circumstances.

I've heard secondhand that Danielle plans to return for a visit.  At last word, she'll stay with FosterEema for a few days.  After that, my understanding is that she plans to move back to my fair city.

No, she will not live with me.

At last word, Danielle was hoping to move in with a male friend she knows from her time at the charter school.  I don't know who he is, or anything about his living situation, but I fear this could be a recipe for disaster.

Just the idea of Danielle moving coming back to town has stirred up a lot of big feelings for me.  The truth is, I'm not entirely sure I want to see her.  While it's been nearly a year since we've had any face-to-face time, I feel reluctant to bring her back into my life.

While I've done my best to forgive Danielle for her final explosion in 2013, I haven't been able to forget what she did.  She caused hundreds of dollars of damage to the house and hit me hard enough the police arrested her and sent her to juvenile hall.  It was the sixth time we had to call 911.

I'm not without sympathy or empathy for her and her problems.  I also see that a year hasn't been enough time for her to change in any meaningful way.  Danielle hasn't completed high school or gotten her GED.  She's not working.  She's spent the last 11 months bouncing from one birth family member to another.

My stepmother often repeats the phrase, "Wherever you go, that's where you are."  I think Danielle has moved about thinking that all her problems are caused by the people around her.  Before FosterEema and I split, she blamed me for her difficulties.  Once she and FosterEema had their own place, suddenly everything was FosterEema's fault.  As she travels from home to home, the same problems reoccur, but Danielle doesn't understand her role in them.  People are, it seems, grossly unreasonable for expecting her to contribute in a meaningful way to the household.

I fear that Danielle will move in with her male friend, only to discover that all the problems she had living with me, FosterEema, and her birth family are still there.  Sure, there will be different people, but the difficulties always seem to be the same.  She hasn't learned the world doesn't owe her a living.

It's sad.

My biggest worry is that she'll end up blowing out of her living situation and end up on my doorstep, homeless.  My sweetheart and I have discussed this possibility, and we both agree that we cannot allow Danielle to live with us.  While my man is a very sweet and generous soul, he isn't ready to take on the role of stepfather to an extremely troubled, and sometimes violent, young adult.  I do not wish to again live with a young woman who verbally and physically abused me.

If she ends up homeless, the most I can do is be a sympathetic ear and to offer the best advice I can in the moment.

I hope it doesn't come to that.

Even my father and stepmother, who have long been Danielle's most ardent supporters, feel the same way.  While they are okay with her visiting for a few days, they've made it clear they aren't willing to live with her.  My stepmother remarked that Danielle clearly needs help, but she won't take even the smallest steps to help herself.  We've suggested she enroll in programs like Teen ChallengeJob Corps, or return to high school, but so far she hasn't shown any interest.

Without a diploma, GED, job skills she has guaranteed herself the hardest life possible.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Who Got the Goldmine and Who Got the Shaft?

In response to An Overdue Update, r. asked:
So on to the important stuff-- Who got the birds and the show car?

The short answer to this question: I did.

Our African Grey, Sir Spudly, died in February of 2012.  Moonie, our blind macaw, has had several massive seizures over the past two years.  Her balance is affected, so she tends to be pretty inactive.  Cognitively, she's just not the same bird, though in some respects, she's more easygoing now. Chicken, our small cockatoo, is Chicken.  She's fine.

Since there was no talk of splitting up after Sir Spudly died, we ended up getting a new baby African Grey.  Almost immediately after he arrived, my mother needed surgery and I had to stay with her to help out.  While I was gone, the bird bonded with FosterEema.  When I returned, I was given the position of least favored person, and he'd try to pinch me every chance he got,

A few months later, while I was out of town attending a parrot training seminar, FosterEema asked me for the divorce.  The plan was that she would take some (or even perhaps all) of the birds.  In the end, she wasn't able to find an apartment that allowed pets, so they stayed with me.

Chicken and Moonie, while they missed FosterEema at first, seemed okay with the changes.  The baby grey, however, continued to be nasty to me for a very long time.  His attitude improved when I took him on a road trip.  He decided, once we were in unfamiliar surroundings, that I wasn't as bad as he'd made me out to be.  We still aren't really buddies, but at least we have something of a truce. The truth is, I need to spend more time working with him.

As for the car, it's no longer worth showing.  While it was shiny and new when we bought it back in 2006, now it's just an eight-year-old import showing your typical wear and tear.  FosterEema and I dropped out of the car club years ago. Our weekly nit-picky wash, wax and detail sessions have long since become a thing of the past.

While it might sound like I got the goldmine and FosterEema got the shaft, I think our settlement was fair. We hammered it out on our own, and came to an amicable agreement.  While it is true I received a larger share of the material goods we acquired during our relationship, I  also took on all of the debt that went with it.  The house was, and still is, underwater.

FosterEema left with her personal possessions, an equal share of our joint bank accounts, and one car. She lived in the house for a year, rent-free, after asking me for the divorce.

While I suppose it's tempting to sing Jerry Reed's She Got the Goldmine after most divorces, I don't think it needs to be sung for our divorce.  We divided things up as fairly as we could, given the circumstances.  While it might have been easier to sell everything and split the cash, it's not possible to do when you have assets that are indebted to a level that's higher than they are worth.

If there is such a thing, I think FosterEema and I have managed to have a good divorce.

Friday, September 5, 2014

An Overdue Update

A couple of days ago, Decemberbaby left a comment on my post Family Relations.  I just got around to approving it, and realized that it has been a very long time since my last post.

You know the old saying, "the more things change, the more they stay the same?"  I would say it's pretty applicable to what's going on.

FosterEema and Danielle moved out well over a year ago now.  When they left, Danielle was confident that her life was going to be perfect once mean ol' FosterAbba was out of her life.  Danielle started having problems with FosterEema immediately.  There was no honeymoon at all.

The day Danielle turned 18, she withdrew herself from high school.  The next day, she boarded a train and then a bus to travel out of state so she could reunite with her biological half-sibling.  Less than a week later, she was on the phone to FosterEema asking to come home.  FosterEema said no.

Other than a couple of messages on social media, I have spoken to Danielle only once since she turned 18.  We only chatted on the phone for a few minutes, and it seemed like neither of us were happy about being pushed together.  My father, who was trying to be helpful, tried to "surprise" the two of us when I called his house and Danielle happened to be visiting.

These days, all of the news I receive about Danielle comes secondhand.  From what I've been able to piece together, things didn't work out with her first half-sibling, so she moved in with another.  That didn't work out either.  Now she's living with her biological mother and aunt in another country.  From what I've heard, she's not entirely happy with the living arrangement, but she has few options.  She never finished high school nor is she working.  I have also heard that she is "desperate" to have her birth control implant removed, and that she would very much like to get pregnant.

FosterEema is living in a city about an hour away, working at the same job she found after she asked me for a divorce.  While I rarely speak to her directly anymore, we stay connected on a social media site.  Her posts there seem to indicate she's happy.  I'm genuinely glad for that.

While I never would have asked for the divorce, and it was certainly unwelcome at the time, I am much happier for it.  My life has a lot more joy and substantially less turmoil than it ever did in "the before."

I am still working the same job, and living in the same house.  With the exception of my mortgage, I am debt-free.  My house, though in need of some significant repairs, is clean and tidy.  I have written, and published, a couple of novels.  I am still with the gentleman I mentioned earlier.  We have become quite serious, and he recently moved from his hometown to come live with me.

It has been:

  • 8 years since Danielle came to live with us
  • 2 years and 2 months since FosterEema asked for a divorce
  • 1 year and 5 months since we signed our get (Jewish religious divorce)
  • 1 year and 2 months since FosterEema and Danielle moved out
  • 11 months since Danielle turned 18

I am still in contact with a handful of people from my active blogging days.  Some of those folks are still parenting very difficult children.  When I speak to them, I hear and empathize with their stories.  I remember what it was like to feel so trapped in a situation where there was no real help, no respite, and no relief.

I can clearly remember the absolute irony of spending Valentine's Day 2012 with my soon-to-be-ex.  On a day when I desperately wished I was exchanging love notes and chocolates, we were sitting in juvenile court dealing with Danielle's most recent violent outburst.  Days later, we were again under investigation and had a pair of social workers interviewing us and inspecting our home.  Just like the previous five times we were investigated, we were cleared of any wrongdoing.

All I can say is that it does get better.  While it might not seem like it while one is living it, these kids turn 18.  They grow up.  Many want to return to their birth families and they do.

Despite what social workers will say, adoption isn't necessarily forever.  While it seems like the destruction, turmoil and emotional impact of traumatized kids will continue indefinitely, it eventually stops.  They move on.  They take their turmoil elsewhere.

Now I can sleep with my bedroom door unlocked.  I no longer have to count knives and scissors.

I'll close this post with a musical quote that comes to mind whenever I reflect on the past eight years:

Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it's been.

~ The Grateful Dead