About Me: My Story

I started blogging back in September of 2006 after I'd made it through my first 2 years of college at a private university without taking a dime in student loans. I was terrified about spending and borrowing money because I watched my parents go through a NASTY divorce involving physical and emotional violence, alcohol, and drug abuse... 

I started blogging as a way to change my destiny and break the cycle. I wanted out of my families dysfunctional drama... and there was no way I could do that unless I was able to support myself 100%. I wanted to keep track and have a record of my progress and the things I learned along the way... You know, those valuable lessons about life, money, and sanity that can't be bought, just merely experienced. 

Over the years the blog has continued to develop and grow as I have... professionally... emotionally... and financially. It was the only place I could be 100% honest without threats or repercussions. I'm now a 27 year old college graduate early 30 working professional with a mortgage... no consumer debt... and I'm engaged married to a wonderful man who has seen me at my worst and at my best. He's truly my better half and I'm glad I get to have forever with him. We've added our now two year old son to the mix and his toddler antics are beyond adorable. 

While I no longer blog about my roommates, I've expanded to the new adventures that come along with age and maturity. My background story is a rather long one and it can't be wrapped up into a nutshell... It's how I got to be me. It's painful, its emotional, and its 100% true. Feel free to read on if you want to... But I thank you for all the years you've allowed me to grow before you... judgments, typos and all...

-South County Girl

My story:

When I was about 5 or 6 my dad started drinking heavily. I'm not sure why, but something in him changed when I hit grade school age... or maybe nothing changed at all and I was just finally old enough to put 2 and 2 together and realize that something wasn't right at home. By the time I was in third grade the drinking turned into verbal abuse and the verbal abuse turned into physical abuse. It wasn't uncommon for dishes to be thrown against the wall at dinner... or for my dad to beat my mom to the point that make-up could not hide his marks... or her bruises... I later learned that at some point cocaine entered the picture and my father chose to rack up lots of debt to support his multiple addictions... To this day I count my blessings that the physical violence was never directed towards me.  

I tried to stay out of trouble as much as I could growing up because it kept me out of the "spot light" at home. My mother drank away her pain and as a result, shut herself off emotionally to me and my sister. I was essentially a shadow in my home and on my way to becoming a perpetual doormat... I didn't have any friends at school and since I was on the chubbier side (food was a comfort to me), I was naturally a social outcast. Despite the torture of friend-less recess, school was actually the light at the end of the tunnel. It offered me structure and absolutes that did not exist in my home----problems actually had answers and I found comfort in the rules, formulas and facts. Despite the learning disabilities that run deep in my family, I was able to get through though school with good grades. I knew from watching my older sister that bad school grades equaled more arguments... which led to more violence and I wanted to avoid that at all costs. I threw myself into school like my life depended on it... and in some ways it did. 

Sure, there were moments of peace at home... and fond memories when we looked and somewhat felt like a family... I cherish those bright moments, but they never lasted long.

I found myself praying at times that I had been switched at birth and that someone out there would come and save me. That someone would come take me away.... That I would get to experience a hug from someone sober... or a sense of safety when my head rested down on my pillow at night... but no one came to rescue me. To say I still don't walk around with the emotional scars from those years would be a lie, but thankfully I have learned from them. 

It's hard to unlearn the patterns we follow after a few decades have passed. I had made it my business to avoid conflict at all costs... even sacrificing my own happiness to protect the status quo because that was safe.

Eventually and thankfully my mom finally stepped up and got a restraining order... which lead to the long ordeal of getting divorced... My dad filed for bankruptcy, leaving the creditors to start coming after my mom for all his drug related credit card spending. She was forced into a chapter 13 bankruptcy to save the house so we would have somewhere to live (thankfully the house was purchased many years before she was with my dad and was almost entirely paid for since we had never moved)...But we watched the vehicles get repossessed and money got extremely tight as she was sued and counter sued from his creditors and we were living on a waitresses salary. 

Despite everything that happened, my dad still had visitation rights since he never hit my sister or me. It was his "gift" for not making us get on the stand in front of the judge and testify about my mom's drinking and in turn the real extend of his violence towards her... 
Post divorce child support payments didn't always "make it" because my dad occasionally used a fake Social Security number. He would pay my mom what he thought was right and fair and she took it because any money was better than no money if they stuck him in jail... 

I watched my mom continue to drink her sanity away despite court orders demanding sobriety... 
and when I was in middle school my dad got cancer. When he was sick, he actually started owning up to his short comings and started to come around... I remember him sitting on the porch with my mom, apologizing for all the things he put her through. About a year after diagnosis and chemo, he died.

It was the summer before I started High School and with the official "Aggressor" role now vacant with my father's passing, my sister stepped in to fill the void... and this time around I was to old to hide from most of the fighting. She argued with my mom over her continued drinking among other things. In essence, my family became a Triangle and I was stuck holding it together... I was either the problem for rage to be directed at... or the potential ally and there was never any way to win. 

Needless to say, I started high school really bitter, cynical, and just plain angry. I wondered if the world would really care if I just checked out and left. There was never a free moment in my home. Every action was either fuel for the fire, or used against me later. 

Some how during this time I started going to a church youth group (you can read more about my religious journey here)... and then out of the blue I also got a boyfriend. He seemed nice at first but as we continued dating I began to notice that he started getting more controlling and possessive of me... about 3 months into our relationship he grabbed my arm and told me I couldn't leave his side. 

That day something snapped awake inside me. I jerked away from his hold, spun around, and told him flat out that we were done and then I proceeded to put an entire campus between him and I as I stormed off... it was the first moment I really stood up for myself... and it's a day I'll never forget. It was the day the pattern began to stop and I began to become my own person.

Later that year I was given the opportunity to switch high schools and go to the new school that had just opened up. In truth, I did to get away from my sister. Our friend circles were getting closer and that meant more issues for me to deal with at home if I didn't do and say everything she wanted me to... and I couldn't take the constant controlling threats of violence from her. I took a leap of faith and went to the new school and i'm thankful every day that I did. Despite the drama that continued at home, I managed to make some friends and church became my only sanctuary. Once a week i'd go and feel safe. I'd go and feel better and get the strength to go one more week. I learned to be stubborn and determined and it was enough to get me through to graduation... where I somehow walked as one of 20 Valedictorians. 

I had no plans for college since there was no money for it, and no one in my entire family had ever even gone to college... it just wan't done... But my academic adviser wouldn't take no for an answer. Apparently you can't graduate with a 4.0 and not apply, so I picked 2 schools and applied... Just 2 because of the application fees and two was the minimum she would accept from me. I picked the college my youth pastor had gone to site unseen, Hope International University, and then a state school, Cal-State Long Beach....I got in to both schools... with the promises of scholarships. I never imagined I've ever go to college, but the reality of being accepted gave me hope. 

When it came time to pick schools I found out that Cal State Long Beach lost all my financial aid papers so besides need based grants, I was out of luck. When I called the Private college and asked about scholarships and other aid, the woman in admissions overnight-ed their forms to me and said they could extend their deadline... She called me the next day to make sure I got them... and then helped me fill them out over the phone--line by line. That woman will never know how much that phone call meant to me. I didn't have anyone to answer those questions and she helped me through it all. She signed me up for my scholarship interview on their campus preview day which was just a week away... It seemed like fate. 

I went to campus ALONE for preview day, which apparently isn't done by the hundreds of parents that I saw flocked around their children. Someone from the admissions department sat by me so I wasn't alone for the orientation, but by the end of Preview Day I had friends. I ended up getting a presidential scholarship for 4 years of undergrad. That mixed with grants and one time scholarships I received from high school covered the expenses for my first year, including room and board. It looked like come August I would be finally free.

The College Years

I worked two jobs the summer before I started classes (Lifeguard and Waitress) and saved all the money I could. Between my various odd jobs I was seldom at home. When I finally made it to college I got an on campus job and I continued driving to my life guarding job on the weekends (always managing to miss my family when they were home). I took 18 units to get my money for the semester... and passed all my classes. I couldn't afford the summer housing if I wanted to pay the next years tuition, so I was forced to go back home. When I came home for the summer I found that the fights had escalated in my absence. I tried to spend as much time away working as I could... but about a week before school started again, I reached my breaking point. I was about to ask for a couch to sleep on when fate stepped in. 

The day I started calling friends to see if I could crash with them was the day I got a call from the University. They forgot to book a sound Technician for NSO week and asked if I could do it, having assisted with sound for chapel services as an on campus job. They said they could give me free room and board for the week so I packed everything I owned within 2 hours and drove away. I taped a note to the door saying I'd left for college and that I just couldn't come back and stay there anymore. 

I used all my savings from my minimum wage jobs to pay for another year of housing (my classes were covered with grants/scholarships). I went and saw a few free councilors at the college who were working on their psychology degrees to talk about my anger and my family issues... They encouraged me to go home and try to make things better with my family and after spending Christmas break alone in the dorms stacking "J-session classes" in an effort to graduate in 3 years instead of 4, my mom offered me what seemed like a compromise. She promised to stop drinking, attend AA meetings, and talk with my sister about moving out. We tried to do lunch a few times and it seemed to be going well so when summer came around I moved back home... 

and was met with Hell...

My sister wasn't living there when I moved in... but, within a week or two, she moved back in. I was stuck since the summer housing was already in place and I didn't have any options. At summer's end I didn't have enough money for a third year of housing and I didn't want to take out school loans because I saw what debt had done to my family... and fate stepped in again. a full time job opened up where I was life guarding and I got the nerve together to apply...  

The job was local and 10 minutes from my mom's house -- and they hired me. The youngest full time employee to ever be hired in my department. Now I had an income, but the need to stay local for work. Since I didn't have the upfront money for housing, I decided to commute to school and stacked 18 units around my full time job. I slept and showered at my mom's house, only there when the place was empty or everyone else was asleep. After work I either went to the church and hung out in the building, spent time at the local library on school work, walked around a park if the weather was nice or spent time in my friends dorms between classes.

Since I was commuting to school and driving the same clunker I had since I was 16, I knew I needed to replace my car sooner rather than later to ensure i'd actually make it to class. I gave in and went to the dealership and haggled my way into a newer Camry and took out my first loan now that I had real income coming in... I was scared but I had no other bills at the time to pay but car insurance and my cell phone... and with the full time job I knew I could afford it.

The Blog 
A little while later I began this blog... I realized I couldn't afford to move out and rent an apartment and pay for a car simultaneously so, the blog was born as a way for me to connect with strangers and figure out how to use money wisely. 

Before that year of school was up I paid off the car in full and managed to move into an apartment with a roommate... I occasionally saw my mom for lunch here and there. Things were always better when I wasn't living there. 

One semester later, I graduated from college with the highest of honors possible, finishing my bachelor's degree in 3.5 years. When my lease ended I remember almost taking my mom up on the offer to move in and save money to buy a house... (I even got to the point where i painted my old bedroom a new color and had all my boxes packed to move in and told the apartment office my intent was to vacate...) but that was before I found the booze bottles under her bed and realized she wasn't sober and had never been to an AA meeting... 

Within a weeks notice I got a new roommate and convinced the apartment manager to let me keep my apartment at my old rent price and signed a new lease. I then sat down for the hardest conversation of my life. One of my best friends sat with me while I asked my mom to get help and go to AA... At the end of the conversation I gave her the copy of her house keys back and told her that I wouldn't be needing them because I was done living this lifestyle... regardless of what she chose to do-- she could get help or keep drinking---but either way I was out. I refused to hide and lie about the problems and I needed to move on with my life. 

I didn't talk to her for 2 years... 
No phone calls, no nothing. In that time I moved apartments and started dating a guy seriously. Then I bought my condo. Eventually my island of solitude was less appealing as I found myself around more and more families. Since time and not living with one another had already sort of helped my sister and I make amends, we began to spend more time together. 

Eventually my sister wore me down and I accepted an invitation to Easter Brunch in 2010 with my mom... Little by little we have been trying to find balance over the years... Some days I regret the re-connection and other days its nice. She still drinks, but not as much as before, and not so much around me.

The man...

I re-connected with South County Boy (he was one of my best friends freshman year in high school when I stopped dating that possessive guy).

He lived in Utah and we began to talk every day over the phone and through Skype. I finally road tripped out there to in May and we spent 2 weeks just hanging out going camping and seeing the sites in Utah... 

I came home and we kept talking... every day. In August we officially started dating and over thanksgiving he proposed. When we got engaged my mother and sister couldn't have be more unhappy about it. They knew when I went out there that I was coming back with a ring and when I called them to let them know, it was another one of those great moments in life that was ruined by someone else. 

Getting Married...

When South County Boy moved out to California in February of 2011, I asked my mom if I could move in with her so we wouldn't be living together before we were married (I know... it's the 20th century... but we both wanted to wait for all things marriage related until we were actually married and I never planned to live with someone until I was married to them)... But she told me no and I ended up living and moving in with one of my ex-boyfriends parents who happened to attend my old church at the time and were more than willing to step in and help me live the life I was aiming for. 

My sister was never thrilled with my engagement... or my decision to get hitched. You can read about some of those events here:
Lies and Religion
South County Boy and I got married on 7.9.11. Since my husband was at the time, an inactive member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see why my husband was inactive here), my sister made it her mission to try and ruin our relationship. Over the course of the first year of our marriage she began to tell my mother lies about the church he belonged to and tried to do everything she could to make my mother dislike my husband. 

They even left our wedding reception early to go drink in a bar just to hurt me for having a dry wedding (not because my husband wanted it that way, but because I didn't want them drinking at my wedding). 
I could post more but I won't... We put up with it and continued to put out the little fires along the way... but then I started getting interested in my husband's church. 

My church had shut down and I was tired of looking for a new one so we went to his. I had some questions so I started meeting with the missionaries and just hanging out there on Sundays. After about 10 months or so I decided to join and become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (You can read more about my decision to join the church Here...) My decision to join the church stirred up some interesting family drama to say the least. As I continued going to church, my husband started getting more involved again and we saw our marriage get stronger and we were all the more happy for it. 

It was also around this time that my sister started getting really nasty. The story is quite elaborate, but you can read more about it below:
In September of 2012 I stopped talking to her...Every attempt to placate my mother has backfired in my face and to be really honest, our lives couldn't take the stress. I tried Thanksgiving in 2013, but that was just too hard to deal with. 

My mom and me still talk-- but I play second fiddle to my sister. It's not uncommon for my mom to talk to my sister every day and for them to see each other every week. They vacation together and do BBQ's... but I'll call her just to say hello and its not uncommon for  her to "forget" to return my call. She's gotten a bit better as I keep trying to reach out, and when we do see each other its always pleasant but those moments are few.

Little Dude
Eventually my sister realized my husband was going to stick around and stay, especially after she missed out on the announcement of our little baby boy. Toddlers do amazing things. They melt hearts and build bridges. 

My sister apologized. We mended fences. It's not perfect, we keep boundaries.  My family still makes me feel sad and abandoned at times by their lack of involvement in my son's life... or that my mom falls all over my sister's new baby in ways she never did for my son... but years and maturity has taught me to keep trying but to also remember my absolutes.

I've learned it's better to spend time one-on-one with them, and only do "family" things in public or for holidays when other people are there... We still invite and offer, but I do so knowing they will say no...

South County Girl (July 2017)

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