A Reinvention of Myself

This space over the last 7 years has documented my journey from newly married, just-out quiverfull daughter, to outspokenly queer, artistic, techy, advocate for making homeschooling better for homeschooled students. This blog is where I came out as agnostic, bi, & nonbinary; this is where I posted the process of learning who I am and what that means. Chronicling what life looks like for me outside the bubble I was raised in. This has covered a lot of firsts – all the firsts since getting married 7 years ago, actually. Art, cars, moving, college….I’ve documented my growth publicly because I need to be reminded of where I am, where I’m coming from, and where I hope to go. I need to allow myself the authenticity, honesty, and acknowledgement of self that I was never allowed as a child. I need to show myself that it’s okay to be open about flaws, mistakes, and sadness – that it’s okay to get angry and have emotion, and I hope that by doing so, others will take that as permissions for themselves too.
 
I’ve been processing and re-evaluating everything I was taught here. It’s here that I face the stability of the past with the uncertainty of the future. I have uprooted my life and everything I once knew, I’m starting fresh and reinventing myself; sharpening my tools and forging ahead.
 
You’ve likely noticed the name changes that have slowly been taking place over the last few weeks. I’ve been paused, unsure how to talk about what I’m about bring up. Slowly rebuilding and re-naming pieces of my life that have been home since before this blog started. I don’t know how to change course subtly…
I’m getting divorced.
 
There are a lot of weird feelings associated with that, that don’t actually have anything to do with the divorce itself, but everything to do with the things I was taught about marriage, love, and relationships. Bridging the Gap is about evolution – getting from where I am to where I want to be. I won’t be going into reasons or details about the divorce more than to say: we still get along amicably and Alex is a good person who deserves good things. Forever is a long time and sometimes things don’t last through eternity, and that’s okay.
 
The last 7 years I’ve been wearing a name I happily adopted, the 18 before I wore a name I inherited, now I wear a name of my own making. I’m Kieryn Fin Darkwater, and I’m venturing into uncharted waters guided by the stories in the stars and the compass in my soul.

An Open Letter to Hillary from Quivering Daughters

Dear Hillary,
I don’t even know where to begin. You’ve grown and lived and thrived and your life journey is a beautiful work of art, it almost feels wrong to bring up Quivering Daughters even just to say thank you. But I’m not speaking just for me, when I say, sincerely, thank you for writing through your journey, for taking care of us as we left our families, for writing Quivering Daughters and leaving the blog up. Your tender heart and kind words were the gentle encouragement we needed to start moving forward ourselves. You didn’t judge and yet firmly confirmed that abuse was happening, that we weren’t wrong or broken for feeling how we did – you opened up the doors to healing for so many more of us than you know.
And I just really, truly, with all the warmth in the depths of my soul want to say thank you. Thank you for being the big sister so many of us needed, even though it was and is heart wrenching and hard and messy and exhausting. Thank you for moving forward in your own journey towards healing and showing us that it’s okay to embrace ourselves and make our life what we need it to be.
You are a beautiful human being and Quivering Daughters and now your art + life journey, mean so much to me, and so many of us.
Thank you. Thank you for being gentle and kind and healing. Thank you for lighting the way for so many more people than you realize.

NLQ didn't "decide" to take down alumni posts, We demanded it.

Today, No Longer Quivering published a 2016 housekeeping post where they noted that they changed their focus in 2015 (which is true) to be on the mothers leaving the QF movement and as a part of that they decided to remove the voices of the adult children from their website.

excerpt from NLQ
Post excerpt.

They were not the ones who decided to remove the content – those of us who had written for them were. I was the first to ask that my posts (you can read them here) be taken down after the founder of NLQ, Vyckie Garrison, made a public Facebook post encouraging speculation of what will happen to the Duggar Family this year. It wasn’t long before things took a turn for the worst and people started commenting, speculating, and naming specifically, which of the Duggar children still at home would come out as gay.
Those of us alumni who are queer and grew up in toxic environments similar to the Duggars started posting, alerting people to the danger it puts the children at home in. Christian Patriarchy, Quiverful, and ATI parents shun even the appearance of evil, and if word gets to them that someone on the internet (or anywhere) thinks their child is gay, it’s going to make life hell for that child, or worse. Queer kids living at home are already at a higher risk of abuse, homelessness, and suicide even outside of conservative families. They last thing we need is for people posting wildly in a comment section about the sexuality of children in the public eye, in a toxic environment they did not choose, who will be the ones to pay the price if or when this gets back to them.
As a result, those of us who are queer or allies in the comments section calling out these people were harassed, stalked, and told in not so many ways to shut the fuck up and let the adults have their fun. Caring about children in the same situation we were apparently means we’re bitter and have more recovering to do.
Meanwhile, Vyckie, who decided to let this go on, eventually started liking the comments that were clearly cruel and abusive to the queer survivors of this environment and later made another public post about how she isn’t responsible for anything that happens on her Facebook wall, even though she made the choice to allow this behavior and start off with a public post that everyone in the world can see.
I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with Vyckie in the years since I wrote for her, but this was the last straw. In the last couple days she has made it abundantly clear that her only concern is not for healing and safety of all who are escaping toxic christianity and the quiverful movement, but merely the adults and militant atheists who agree with her and enjoy making the children of the movement into a side show.
I wrote to Vyckie and Suzanne on the first day to have my posts taken down. Others soon followed suit and are continuing to do so – including Love Joy Feminism, and Homeschooler’s Anonymous. While NLQ is attempting to take credit for the elimination of alumni voices on their website, I thought it was pertinent to post the real reason for the removal.
This wasn’t NLQ’s doing, it was ours. We’re tired of being used by a woman who chose the quiverful lifestyle to garner a following and fame while patting herself on the back and putting kids still at home at risk.

First Two Days

Monday was my first day of classes. First time in a classroom with a teacher qualified to teach instead of in a church with a parent armed with a teacher’s guide and too much confidence.
I was overwhelmed and almost cried a couple of times – in a good way. My teacher really wants us to ask questions, creates an environment safe for interacting and won’t teach a subject she doesn’t know. It was so refreshing and scary at the same time. I’ve never been in an actual classroom, I am still not used to raising my hand, but I’m learning a lot. I was really quiet the first day, but the second day I started being more vocal and talking more and felt a lot more confident and safe and less overwhelmed than the day before.
Wednesdays are computer labs, so I’m looking forward to that.
She explained the number line works with negative numbers and it blew my mind.
I think I might have made a friend?
I think going every day is going to get easier and easier. I hope, anyway.


I was really sort of triggered and overwhelmed until I went back to class today. Feeling like an imposter and failure and like all my homeschool was showing, but also realizing that because of my history with math…I wasn’t ready for the attack of the feels. When she brought out the textbooks I almost panicked because the last time I asked a math question I had a math textbook it was thrown at my head…and not too terribly long after that my parents decided I’d never need anything besides cooking and checkbook skills anyway.
She had us write out some answers to questions about why we were there and I sort of vomited up – in as few words as I could – the story of my educational neglect and how I’m anxious about…..everything but mostly upset that my math is atrocious. I was then worried that I said too much, but she really wanted to know, and wanted to know how to teach us better, so…I think that was useful.
The first day I had to face all of my fears and feelings at once and then process that. I was overwhelmed and scared and also happy because I can really tell she cares, and I’ve never had a teacher who cares before, and it feels amazing.
Today was a lot easier. Today I know I can do it, and that she won’t throw a book at my face, and it’s okay to take a break and it’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to do what I need to as long as I don’t give up. And that’s really important.

Preparing A Visionary Daughter to Do Hard Things (Written in 2010)

When I was 19 I had the opportunity to write out…basically my life story and post it to a website with a lot of readers. It helped me start processing my life and was the catalyst for rethinking all the things I was taught and starting to see my abuse for what it was. I’ve requested the author of the site to take the articles down because I feel the site no longer represents or seeks to aid survivors of abuse like mine – but I still feel like my story – though I have grown and changed massively in the last six years – is important and can maybe still help people like me. So I’m posting it here. It was originally published in 6 parts, but I’m posting it in one fell swoop with handy navigation.
This was my start. I was just out of my parents house and still talking to them, facing a world of unknowns, and clinging to religion and the hope of a healthy family. Where I was then is still important, because it gave me the courage to become who I am now.

  1. Big Girls Don’t Feel
  2. Maintaining Appearances
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Growing Up
  5. Waking Up
  6. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

 
Continue reading “Preparing A Visionary Daughter to Do Hard Things (Written in 2010)”

College isn't For Girls (AKA: Backstory)

It occurred to me that while I’ve mentioned how my sex determined what I learned in school I haven’t really mentioned how that translated into college.

This is actually a little complicated because my parents waffled quite a bit before settling on their decision. When we first started homeschooling my mother’s plan (with no input from me) was for me to go to the local vocational school and double major in cosmetology and culinary arts. Neither of these were things I was interested in and actively tried to make that known, not that anyone cared.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my family it’s that my preferences don’t matter unless they line up with exactly what they want from me, their idea of who I should be trumps the truth of my existence every time – but that’s besides the point.
This was solidly the plan until I was about 8 or so (give or take because the concept of time is a blur). I think part of what they learned in the cult (or maybe it was the one ATI seminar they went to) was that it’s not appropriate for women to go to college. Some people think this but still send their daughters to college to get, I kid you not, an M.R.S. degree. The thought being, college will turn women into evil feminists who aren’t submissive and tell them things that are directly contrary to god’s plan (get married, have babies, homeschool)!
This goes right along with courtship, staying under the father’s head/umbrella/authority until married, and using the in-between highschool and marriage time to learn how to take care of your family. I’m not entirely sure where they got all this, but they did. Anyway, at some point they came to me and said that I wouldn’t be doing college, because god said it’s not good for girls to go to college – and college isn’t going to prepare you to be a helpmeet and mother anyway. This didn’t bother me because my cosmetology and culinary arts future looked bleak to my very young self who was neither into adding more cooking into their life or painting other people’s nails.
I think my family was surprised at how well I took it because they’d been building it up in their head. But anyway. College was out of the question for several years and I kept living my life free of the worry of having to cook and do makeup for college.
Then I discovered politics, speech and debate, and Patrick Henry College. I wanted more than anything in the world to go to PHC, and since it was a homeschool college and very much daughters-under-their-father’s-authority operating school…I probably wouldn’t have to worry about turning into an evil feminist.
Whether or not I could go to PHC seemed like it changed by the day, but I was several years out so I figured they’d come around.
They almost did – after they decided to break Alex and I up (because courtship = parents control all the things) they encouraged me to apply to PHC, sort of as a bribe – like the money and car they offered. I jumped at the opportunity to go to the college I dreamed of and get out of my parents house. I filled out the application and went through all the steps, got my pastor to write a letter of recommendation and all I needed to do was have my parents sign the waiver.
They refused.
They said they changed their mind, they couldn’t support it, they didn’t want to be responsible for me financially (and my living at home not allowed or able to get a job was what? or right, indentured servitude), and most importantly, college isn’t for girls. I’m going to be a wife and mother after all, I don’t need any further education. My consumer math and ability to read, write, and recite their interpretation of scripture back to them was all I would need and college wasn’t going to help me be a better submissive wife.
And like that, it was over.
After we got married I started applying to a school that did distance learning and was marginally less conservative. It involved re-writing my transcript (which is still a mess) and being a private school hot for Dave Ramsey, financially it wasn’t feasible. I was accepted but it just didn’t happen. I was still trying to navigate what being a Wife looked like and panicking that having a summer job meant I would have an affair (because women in the workforce have affairs, that’s why they have to be keepers at home) – the lies my parents ingrained into me were still so very very strong.
This is why getting accepted to a community college and taking the catch-up/pre-college course is so huge to me. I’m finally at a place where I can break that jar and decide what I want to do.

On Books and Bees

I went to the library and found all the best fairy books in the kids section. I came home with one called the Faerie Door and I’m almost done with it. My favorite thing about libraries is that you can just sit there and read and no one bothers you and then you can bring the book home and continue to read it because you can’t pull yourself away. I think the kids section is the best part of the library because all the most fantastical stories are there – the authors don’t have to prove themselves to the adult world and they can be as imaginative and wondrous as they please, and this is why I mostly read YA books.

The kids section is the best part of the library

A photo posted by Kiery King (@kiery28) on


My particular library branch is small, and the dvd and adult sections don’t have a lot in my particular interests, but the teen section is what really stole my heart. They had so many resources – I can tell that my library actually cares about the youth that frequent it and I was trying hard not to cry even though I’m years removed from teenagehood. It would have meant so much to me if my library had emergency numbers, LGBTQ resources, and books dedicated to assuring me that I am indeed okay.
There’s this fiction book, called stronger than you know, about an abused homeschooled girl with PTSD who is rescued from her family, lives with her aunt and uncle and is trying to brave the world. I couldn’t bring myself to read more than the first page without being overcome and also wanting to leave it there for the inevitable person who’d need it after I left.

So I came home with a book I’ve barely been able to put down. I’ll probably finish it tonight and then drop it off at the library before going to explore a waterfall tomorrow. Yesterday I watched some bees pollinate lavender while waiting for the bus and taking in the breeze. I’m not sure how much I like being disconnected from twitter and facebook – half of me wishes I were all the time, and the other half knows it’s not good to be in a bubble cut off from the world forever, either – and the fact is, twitter is a better place for news than the news. I can also easily get lost in my head, and need a way out – sometimes it’s pleasant, a lot of times…..it’s not. I get lost in remembering things my parents said and did and I get upset with little to distract me.
I think the moral of the story is, I need to consciously remember to watch the bees, take in the air, take breaks, but also consciously live outside my head, and pay attention to the world.
Happier? no, less angry, maybe. Calmer? yes. More productive? somewhat. I just need to listen to myself.

Well Then, God is a Shitty Author Part 2

Alex’s dad called mine because he wanted Alex not to be crushed if he asked and dad said no. Or so the story goes.
Anyway, not long after, maybe the next day or later that night, Alex called and asked dad The Question (because asking to court is basically asking to marry me. I’m not joking either, courtship is “dating with the intent of marriage, and also with no privacy, and your parents controlling everything” but I think in the actual quote they use the word accountability), and to my surprise, my dad said yes. My mom was ecstatic, because her life-long dream of being pregnant with me simultaneously might actually be a thing.
We started courting (marionette dating) when I was 16 and he was 18, my mom heard wedding bells immediately. We had maybe a month of courting in peace before my parents (mom) started asking when he was going to propose if I really wanted to marry him or not. Something along the lines of, you graduated high school, now you can get married! was said, to normalize, I suppose, the pressure they were suddenly putting on their 16 year old to….tie the knot. And I told them then, and I said this before, it’s not that I didn’t want to marry him, eventually, but neither of us were ready.
To their detriment, in their eagerness to marry me off, they spent the last half of the year I was 16 drilling into me that I was an adult and capable of making my own decisions even though I was still technically a minor.

Sneaking around the SR rules
Sneaking around the TeenPact “Special Relationship”  rules at the FRC Action conference 2007 (if you can call having permission “sneaking”)

I ended up being in the general vicinity of his college a couple times that fall, due to campaigning and TeenPact events, so we got to see each other a couple times, though, never alone (obviously). Which was so nice. We even gasp held hands a couple times. This was happening simultaneously with my leg infection, and one of the campaigning trips I was on (where I walked for 10 hours with an abscess on my knee) was the one he was at, and he hung back and walked at my pace with me, while I hobbled along. Why didn’t he just carry me? because RULES YOU GUYS. RULES. Nonetheless, while everyone was miles ahead and oblivious, I didn’t mind having the company…and the relative privacy.
–aside– My brother went with me on one of the TeenPact trips (the one pictured) where Alex got a pass from his school to go because it counted for some class or other, and at first I was annoyed, but then figured out that siblings can totally piggyback and no one cares. So that was the best. Honestly, I feel bad that I didn’t want him to come, because it was actually fun to have him there (not just because I didn’t have to walk in heels the whole time). Go figure.–/aside–
The first time we held hands, it was like trying to put together a puzzle while blindfolded. It took us a while to figure it out. I’m not kidding. It was awkward and weird, and we were trying to be sneaky, and anyway. We eventually DID figure it out, but man, fingers, guys, they are complicated.
I went up to meet his family in December. It was intense because my parents and his parents (who to this day, have never met) were already starting to have issues with each other. Mostly because his parents were like, no, you can’t get married yet, and my parents were like, YEAH HUH THEY CAN. And they pressured Alex into buying me a promise ring, if not an engagement ring, because…my parents really wanted me married.
First Maine visit
The ONLY reason I’m not wearing a jacket is because it was 70ºF that day, weird, right?

 
 
Being as excited as they were, however, they wasted no time in taking me to turn in my bonds and fully stock my hopechest.
You know, because two months into courting is totally the time to fully prepare for your future together.
When I came home from Maine and I wasn’t engaged (keep in mind, we’d been officially a couple for barely 4 months) my parents were disappointed. There was other drama, that at the moment is sort of blocked out. Needless to say both sets of parents were draining me and I wasn’t thrilled with them. My parents started questioning his commitment to me because he didn’t ask me to marry him that trip.
They started being more outspoken about their reservations when he still didn’t propose after he came to surprise me for Valentines day. Not that he would have been able to anyway, because I and everyone else had the flu and I sort of willed myself better to hangout with him but still. Funny though, because it was a surprise, so I didn’t know, so I was chilling on the couch being sick and my mom kept asking me if I wanted to brush my hair. All afternoon she asked me this, and I was like no, I don’t want to brush my hair, I’m sick. I don’t care if it’s messy. And then Alex came and she was like THIS IS WHY I SAID YOU SHOULD BRUSH YOUR HAIR. And I was like, eh, he won’t care. He didn’t.
Alex came to visit me over spring break 2008 (we’re 17 and 19 at this point), met my paternal grandmother, who’s still the strongest woman I know and it was one of those weird trips where it’s like, well, Gramme has to like him, and she did, even though she was like, months away from parting. At the time, both sets of my grandparents lived in Florida, so that meant a 10 hour car ride south, Alex, my brother, and I in the back seat of the 15 passenger, to meet my grandparents and go on our annual “vacation”/fulfill some of our residency requirement, to Florida. I showed him around the city I grew up in sorta. We went on an incredibly awkward and overdressed date, but we looked cuute.
We went to Ruth's Chris, it was a bad bad idea.
We went to Ruth’s Chris, it was a bad bad idea.

Short trip to my hometown and to see my Gramme aside, most of what happened was Disney World and Sea World which sounds like it would be THE BEST THING EVER, but in reality was…not. My parents had unspoken expectations of things they didn’t communicate (not unlike the time the year before, they said we could do whatever at a GA park thing and were livid that we didn’t hang with my brother, despite not having told me to), said we could wander and got upset over stupid stuff that wouldn’t have been an issue if they told us ahead of time. Were mad about my phone dying, and mad about Alex and I talking (just talking, not anything questionable) at the timeshare my grandparents had gotten for everyone, and about us getting stuck on a ride (mechanical failure). Generally, it was a horrid trip, my parents were insane and tense and ready to explode at any given thing – even the kids were on edge and anything they or I did just……it was bad. I don’t remember a lot of details, just a lot of awfulness.
I need to go back to Orlando without my family there to enjoy it again sans the horrid baggage and guilt that came with that trip.
The ride back to GA was even worse. My parents stopped at chick-fil-a near the GA/FL border and sent the kids to the outside climbing area and sat down with Alex and I and gave us a stern talk, because we had fallen asleep in the back seat. All three of us had (my brother was there too), and my parents were like, WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO SEE YOU, YOU COULD BE DOING WHO KNOWS WHAT BACK THERE. And we were just…aghast at the violent outburst in such a public place. My parents were angry, because Alex, my brother, and I fell asleep on a 10 hour car trip and all three of us were leaning on each other. They said we were doing foreplay and didn’t listen to us when we said 1) no, we weren’t and 2) we didn’t even know what that was. Which was TRUE. Because we were homeschoolers who’s parents thought it best to give NO EDUCATION TO AT FUCKING ALL and decide that meant we were equipped for life.
Your teenager hearing the word foreplay for the first time during a lecture from you in which you are mad at them and then you refuse to explain what it is and also disbelieve them when they tell you they’ve never heard of it. Just no.
I didn’t learn about what foreplay was until months later, on fucking wikipedia thank you.
Things went south (even more) quickly after that.

Well Then, God is a Shitty Author

cracks knuckles
So, I was looking in the archives and realized that in the ~5 years I’ve been blogging here, I’ve only mentioned courting like, 4 times (swear it feels like more though), and it’s such a huge part of my story….but also an intensely emotional and painful one, which is why it’s referenced but never really talked about. This is going to change. Probably. Maybe. If I can stick it out long enough to finish it. My locally crafted whiskey and moonshine may be coming in handy for what will most likely become a series – so I can’t promise the best writing ever (which, actually isn’t something I ever promise), but, I think it’s time.


We met at TeenPact National Convention, but we’d followed each other’s blogs before that. He was SmartHomeschool and I was Politically InCorrect. We and a handful of other people were first timer’s at the camp and everyone else we knew had run off to hang with their already established friends, and as we wandered, we kept running into each other and finding a handful of other loners at random times to make our group more TPA. We called ourselves The Magnets, because, we just sort of all ended up at the same place at the same time, snacking on skittles and starbursts.

The Magnets 1.0
We had *all* the homeschool moms concerned about us.

 
Alex, I will have you know (the tall one in the middle FYI – I only look appropriately scaled because I’m 12″ in front of the dudes. IRL I was shoulder height to them), was a tough cookie to crack. Super shy and awkward, I made a point to open up his little clam-shell-self that week, because I just REALLY wanted to know what was inside his brain. Which sounds weird, but I’ve never really felt that much curiosity for anyone else. Plus he was cute to boot, but I would never have admitted it. boops baby alex’s nose SO I MARRIED HIM. THE END.
Just kidding.
If only it were that simple camp love story.
Anyway, back to reality.
Alex was a cool person, we became fast friends, not just because we were more or less stuck together for a week, but he was thoughtful and smart, and interesting to talk to. He argued with me when no one else would, and didn’t just take whatever I said and leave it. We were equal. Which is sort of an unheard-of dynamic in our circles. When we went back home, we would spend hours every night IMing each other about everything under the sun. We had a lot in common, and we had a lot not in common. Eventually he brought me on the board of the magazine he started with some other homeschoolers and everyone basically started shipping us immediately.
We, of course, didn’t see it. We were friends, best friends, equals, that’s it. Everything we knew about marital relationships involved whatever sex was and submission (and not the fun kind), so, we went about our lives as best friends.
Alex came to visit me for my graduation party the week before TeenPact National Convention 2007, and that was when things started changing.
That visit was intense for reasons that actually have nothing to do with Alex and everything to do with my extremely pregnant mother.
It was that trip that Alex learned things weren’t sunshine and rainbows with my family. The day or two before National Convention, my parents sat me down upstairs and started yelling at me about laundry and shirking my responsibilities (Alex, who had been staying in my room while I camped with my sisters, heard everything from the basement). I came downstairs in tears to do the laundry they had exploded about – really the whole thing was a miscommunication, as was…..well, usual. I hadn’t done the laundry because I had to take a shower, mom had told me to do both without specifying the order, but then I had to make dinner and get the kids to bed and do all her other work, so I was going to get to the laundry, but apparently I hadn’t done it fast enough, or enough of it.
I got downstairs to the laundry which was adjacent to my room, and I just collapsed into a pile of tears. I forgot Alex was there and he came over and I tried to brush it off like everything was fine. I think I told him I deserved the verbal abuse my parents had just thrown at me, loudly, for an hour. I sat there and took it and apologized to them. I apologized to him for crying in front of him, and told me it was okay (to cry). He helped me with the laundry (he actually attempted to help me with all of my chores that week, but as soon as mom noticed she’d give me more shit to do), and was just there. I….never had anyone do that before. I always tried to never cry, because my mom told me crying was weak and would get me made fun of. Alex didn’t make fun of me, he was just present and calm and…helpful.
Anyway his visit with my family was full of shit like that happening, it wasn’t really awesome and I felt really bad about it, but then we went to camp again and I got to escape it for a while, even if camp was full of religious guilt that just reinforced that my parents were right about me.
TPNC 2007
Oh yes, The Reb pose. Very edgy. WE WERE ALMOST TOUCHING.

After he went back to Maine, and the life of being a mother resumed for me, things just….I felt halved. I powered through one of the most intense pregnancies my mom had ever had, probably the most intense actually, because she had an emergency c-section after having essentially a one-month long contraction. I had slept everywhere but my room for a large part of June (NC was end of may), including often the floor or a couch upstairs so my parents could wake me to man the house if mom went into labor.
But that’s another story. Anyway, time to myself after that was really scarce, I would be up until 2am because the only time I could talk to Alex was after everyone else had gone to bed and most of it involved him trying to tell me I wasn’t loosing my mind because of everything that was happening.
rewind When we were saying our goodbyes at camp, he told me to look under the coffee cup full of Reece’s in my room (his graduation present to me. Seriously, best. ever.) so that was, naturally, the first thing I did when I got home. He’d written me a letter that…reading it now, basically just said I love you for two pages, but at the time mostly was just the most validating thing I’d ever heard and desperately needed. That I wasn’t a horrible sister, that I was really strong, that what my parents were asking of me was insane and I didn’t deserve to be treated poorly.
I miss you” was said with all the weight and meaning of “I love you” when it’s said for the first time.
blah blah blah pregnancy, june, july, GenJ camp, CPS visit, all other stories….September.
Alex and I had written each other letters by hand over the summer because it was fun and….I don’t remember why we started, but anyway, he was heading off to college in the fall and I was worried he’d fall off the planet and I’d be alone without anyone I could talk to about life who would really understand. All naturally platonic, stupid shit, jokes; we were basically pen pals who were madly in love with each other and refused to acknowledge it (but secretly hoped).
So one day in September, out of the blue, Alex’s dad calls my dad, and asks what his answer would be if Alex asked him for permission to court me.
And so it began.
 

Giving Too Much part 2

When I was 11 we came home one day to find someone we’d met at a homeless shelter/food kitchen/church thingy on our doorstep, with her infant. We’ll call her Missy.
I don’t know how she got our address, or why she was there.
But she was.

And I gave up my bedroom and moved in with my sisters and Missy stayed with us for a very long time.

She stayed with us through the aforementioned foreclosure, where my parents stopped paying their mortgage in lieu of paying someone else’s.
She stayed with us so she could get her two other kids (and nephew?) back in her custody.


Our house was foreclosed on and we were facing homelessness – not just for our family, but for Missy’s as well.

My parents traveled all over the city, and even a few hours north of where we lived, trying to find some place to live, but because we were being foreclosed on, no one was taking my parents + another family, because they didn’t trust they’d pay.

On the day we had to be out (the people who bought our house granted us an extra week or two on account of they were nice and we had a shit ton of people to move – although, Missy did most of the packing because….I think mom and dad were busy looking for houses and also hanging on to “god saving our home”) we had nowhere to go, we were looking at being homeless, and Missy was still going to follow us around.

The plan was for me and my siblings to stay at my grandparents while my parents continued to travel anywhere to find somewhere who’d let a two-family-one-income household rent from them. It was a really terrifying day. Not knowing where we were going to sleep, or live, or if I’d see the people in my homeschool group ever again…

But then my grandparents mentioned that the house next door just went up for rent, and so my parents went over and the guy who bought the place just wanted the land, so he didn’t ask questions and said as long as we’d paid the rent we could stay there. So we did.


When I was 12 mom got pregnant again, which meant that pubescent Kiery got to take over everything again, except this time….not only was my mom telling me what to do, and having me run the house, but Missy was too.
I was cooking and doing chores not just for my family, but hers as well.

Let me mention this again: I was 12 years old.
I was taking care of two families single handedly.
I was not okay.

Eventually my parents confronted Missy about using me as her slave too, and set up a chore list so other people had to also cook and clean and do laundry. Mostly, just that Missy had to take care of her family’s stuff, and we alternated cooking days. Zero introspection on the part of my parents regarding…I don’t know, placing too much responsibility on a twelve year old.


My parents got mad at me for my “attitudes” (because I was adolescent, exhausted, run ragged, burnt out, and barely keeping up with everything, including school), and blamed it on Missy’s 15 year old daughter’s influence (because I shared a room with her – even though we weren’t close). Very little came of this besides my trying extra hard to be totally happy all the time.


It was Missy’s older child who alerted me to the fact that my period had started when I was studying in a tree with my brother, her cousin, and some of the other kids. My brother was very concerned, and I panicked. Missy had then asked me, at random, if I was pregnant or not because I would sometimes wrap my arm around my abdomen (because cramps. and no meds.), and I was mortified. Half because I didn’t know what sex was or how to do it, and half because that’s not something you ask an isolated twelve year old who just started having periods.
 


My parents paid Missy $40 a week to stay with us and homeschool her kids. That way, she could say she had a job to the CPS people, while still fulfilling her god-ordained plan to be a stay at home mother and educator. I…don’t remember this going well. To be honest I’m not sure if she even did anything more to educate her kids than through books at them, like my mom did with me, but I don’t remember. I was otherwise occupied.

Missy was, however, a far superior cook than my mom, and fish and frog-legs aside, she made some really good food. This is the only pleasant memory I have of her. Graham cracker cake and home-made Chinese food.


Shortly before/after my 13th birthday, my parents discovered that Missy had been abusing pharmaceuticals and kicked her and her family out.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved that I only had one mom around any more, and my own room. Also, my brother got to move out of the closet and into Missy’s alcove, which was nice…and I was maybe jealous.
The second stillborn happened two weeks before my 13th birthday.


After Missy, my parents decided not to let random families live with us again. Turns out my mom didn’t like having another lady in the house either.
 


2003 dance recital

My mom got pregnant almost instantly after the stillborn and I had to get my own rides to ballet (which meant asking my teacher to pick me up and coming home with my grandma). My ballet teacher was a wonderful adult to have in my life at the time. She made me feel valued and cared for at a time when I really needed it, because I wasn’t getting that from my mom.


In fact, that was often one of the things that hurt me so much as a child – I never had time with my mom, and I’d get upset and we’d have a mother-daughter day, but that would happen all of three times before she would get pregnant again and it would end and I just became an object. I tried to explain this to her once, but she never really understood it.


She spent so much time talking to and being there for other people, acting like she knew all the things about being a good wife (helpmeet), homeschooling, and parenting – but was never there for me, never there for her kids.

I never doubted my parents heart for giving.
I’ve always doubted their love for me.