Friday, August 21, 2009

Interview with: A previous foster child

Today my interview is with Tamara from Mad Boastings of a Cheapskate Mom. I've been reading her blog for a while and have really enjoyed it. Then one day she had a little comment about being a foster child. WOW! I couldn't believe it. I was so excited to see if she would do my interview. She said she would be happy to and that she is very open with the things that have happened to her. And sure enough she answered every question I asked her. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.


This is Tamara as a baby. She mentioned how hard she had to look for these earlier pictures, because when you are a foster child you often don't have any.

Hold Fast to Me, Mama

Hold fast to me, Mama. Don't let me go.
I love you, Mommy, & you need to know.

Hold fast to me, Mama. Where are you taking me?
I love you, Mommy, With you is where I want to be.

Hold fast to me, Mama. You've left me all alone.
I love you, Mommy, but my anger for you has grown.

You let go of me, Mama. I am abandoned and afraid.
I still love you, Mommy, I need your warmth and aid.

I feel cold, Mama. My love washed away with my tears.
I feel numb, Mommy, not a trace of you after all these years.

I'm holding fast to you, Mama. Searching for you.
I feel empty, Mommy, not even a clue.

I'm holding fast to you, Mama. I refuse to give up.
I feel strong, Mommy, my chin is up.

I've finally found you, Mama. I grasp on tight.
Do you love me, Mommy? Have I won my fight?

You are so lost, Mama. Your eyes are full of sorrow.
Your guilt is overwhelming, Mommy, will you be here tomorrow?

I am letting go of you, Mama. You have left me twice alone.
The wound is too deep, Mommy, I should have known.

All my life I have prayed and searched...only to be rejected and hurt.
By the only person who gave me life, My Mama.

I refuse to fall once again, spiraling into that pit of self destruction.
I am going to keep my head up, and be the best MY son.

He will never feel abandoned and alone. Never will he have to search to find me.
For I will always be there. Right by his side, where a Mommy should be.

Through the sleepless nights, the fevers, the temper tantrums.
I will be there. Holding fast to my son.

Giving out plenty of hugs and kisses. He will never be afraid.
Mommy will be there to give him plenty of warmth and aid.

My son and I are holding fast to each other, and all the while,
That emptiness is slowly being forgotten, as I mother my child.

I love you, my sweet Austin Lee.
Love Always, your adoring Mommy.

copyright Tamara Dawn 1993/Revised 1999

Here is another...isn't she cute!

I read some of your story from when you were younger and in foster care. And I've been reading your blog for a while. You are NORMAL...for whatever that means. To what do you attribute turning out so great?

One of my all time favorite quotes is "I'm trying to be normal but reality gets in my way." That's me. My quote. Yes, I favorited my own quote. What is normal, anyway? I get that a lot "Wow, you are so NORMAL!" What do you think I would be? In a straight jacket? Some days I wonder about that...

I was unfortunate to be in foster care but fortunate to have had a great foster parent during some of my teenage years. No matter what I did to attack her, she would not let me get under her skin. She was patient and apparently saw something good in me. By the time I arrived in her home I was 14 and pissed off. I knew she would kick me out so I was vicious to her and her family. She had other foster kids but they were all comfortable calling her Mom and were a big happy family. I just wanted to get out. As time went on, and she still refused to kick me out I started to allow myself to trust her a little. I found myself wanting her approval like the other kids. One day I was throwing a fit and she grabbed me and sat on me. I was stunned. She looked me in the eye and calmly said "You need to learn to love yourself. You can't accept love from others. You have to love yourself first!" She then got off me and walked out of the room. I was angry, but surprised and I felt hurt that I hurt her, I could tell by her eyes. That moment, it was life changing for me. I never even thought about having love for myself. It sounded silly but eventually I understood what she meant and because of her unwavering patience and love, I really feel that she launched me into a more "normal" existence.

Can you tell us what was the hardest thing you endured during foster care?

Gee I have to narrow it down to one hardest thing? I was abused in a way no child should ever be. It was when I was very young. Most kids don't recall that far back but I remember very clearly. I don't think about it much but when I do it is hard, it all comes back to me. My innocence ripped from me. The injustice of it all. It makes me angry. I hurt for that little girl. It is easier to separate her from me. The boy was in his late teens, my foster mom's biological son. It happened between the ages of 4 and 5. They once walked in. I thought I was saved but they walked out with him. Leaving me there alone and feeling like I did something wrong. They turned the other way and it continued until I was adopted out of that home. He got away with it. I try not to think about the other children he has hurt. I hope that it was just me but I can't blame myself because I did try to tell and no one heard me. I screamed every night before bed for years and had to be put on medication for my behavior problems. No one cared enough to ask why. That is the hardest part of being a foster kid, you have no voice. No one hears you. That is how I felt in many situations.

What was the happiest home you lived in and what made it that way?

Is there such a thing as a "happy" home? There were things from a few homes that I can pick and choose like puzzle pieces and when they all fit together it equals to almost happy. I had an Italian foster mother who we nicknamed "Old Yeller" because she would yell all the time. Even when she spoke it was as though she were shouting. She was quite the Drama Mama too. I had her constantly on her knees kissing the floor! "When you leava my housa I'ma kissa the floora!" I left and then a few months later she would take me back. I was in and out of her home over the course of 10 years with like 6 trips. When I needed a place, she was there for me. Even though I drove her nuts, she still loved me. She was a tough Sicilian woman but she cooked meals fit for royalty and we ate like kings every single night. The foster mom I mentioned earlier, her home was country living. She had an acreage and we lived by horses. We all worked together as a family in the home. It was the first time I felt like a had a place, in a home, in a heart. It was nice to actually feel like I was part of a family. In both these homes I felt like a member of the family, not like one of those foster kids.

How hard has it been for you do undo the programming from the way you were raised?

Gosh, I never really think about myself as being programmed based on how I was raised. I think when I became a parent I knew exactly what not to do so I went with that. As positive as that sounds, it is so hard being a parent. I sometimes understand why my mom dumped me off in that parking lot. There are days I want to run from my children screaming while pulling my hair out. But the difference is I don't. I know within a few moments one of my kids will do something silly or come up and hug me and then pulling my hair out doesn't sound as awesome as hanging out with my boys. I made mistakes with my first child. I was a single mom and it was just the two of us. I wanted him to know how lucky he was to have me and throughout the years told him he has it good compared to what his poor mom went through. Later it hit me that he has no clue what I am talking about (thank God) and therefore he has no lesson to learn by listening to me go on and on about my tough childhood. He thinks when I yell at him to take a shower it is the end of the yeah. I am still learning. I think every parent out there can agree that parenting is like "winging it" You try something, if that doesn't work you try something else.

The biggest thing I had to de-program was being a victim. I had to let that go. I don't want to be viewed as a victim. I like to think of myself as triumphant in regards to the first 20 years of my life. Round 1 - Ding Ding! I was pummeled, exhausted and bruised but still standing.

How did you learn to parent?

Dr. Phil, just kidding. I just wing it! I know I am not at all like my Mother. I strive to be a good parent but I know I have flaws. It's being aware of those flaws and the desire to change them that helps me be a better parent.

Have you ever considered taking in foster children?

The thought has occurred to me, but I know in my heart I don't have the backbone. I can honestly say at this point I have my hands full with my three boys and I don't have the room in my home. I will always have room in my heart. Just now is not a good time for me to make such an important commitment. I do however, hope to adopt a child one day. So many people are adopting out of this country but there is not much interest in adopting foster children. Many people are unaware that through the Foster to Adopt program many states offer minimal adoption fees. For less than $300.00 you can adopt a foster child in the US. Yet people pay tens of thousands to hand pick children off the internet and ship them out here while these children in their own backyard are forgotten.

What advice do you have for someone considering fostering or for current foster parents?

Foster parenting is a huge responsibility. If people get into it because each child comes with a check, that is obviously the wrong reason. You wouldn't believe how many homes I stayed in that treated me like a servant, only they were being paid to keep me there. It was awful. Then there are people that get involved because they want to rescue something or want to show everyone they are contributing to a better society, that too is for the wrong reasons. I think what makes a good foster parent is someone who has room in their home and in their heart to love a child. Someone who knows the challenges that lay ahead like dealing with the courts and social workers, dealing with biological parents and having to see that child injured mentally & physically, and knowing what to do to heal them and earn their trust. I hold good honest foster parents in the highest regard. They should be honored right up there with Doctors, Nurses, Firefighters, and Soldiers. They are true unspoken heroes who sacrifice everything to care for children nobody else wants.


That poem was beautiful and her story breaks my heart. But really, she has turned out great! Gotta read her blog as proof.

I open the floor for questions for Tamara. She is VERY busy with her own blog. (She has over 1000 followers!!!) But I'm sure she'll have a few spare minutes if you ask her something.


thatgirlblogs said...

I was really enjoying this until she said people "pay tens of thousands of dollars to handpick kids off the internet." I guess that's what she must think I have done, by adopting two kids from china? My kids were ALSO abandoned, one on the steps of a government building and one in a hospital waiting room. My kids both have huge scars down their chests from heart surgeries they had as babies, while in foster care. My kids were also fostered, yes. They are not little dolls picked based on a picture. They each came to me at over two years of age, with the additional trauma of leaving everything they were familiar with. Food, language, everything.

It upsets me that she would belittle them in that way.

Jeff Johnson said...

Thanks for being so open about your life. May God richly bless you ask you seek to be the mother and wife he created you to be.

Twisted Cinderella said...

Thank you for sharing your life with us. Your triumphant spirit touched my soul. You have this pregnant mama in tears.

Tamara aka Cheapskate Mom said...

Let me do some damage control - I emailed the first commenter to apologize ------

First I feel she took my comments way out of context. I never ever meant to hurt anyone with what I said. It is just frustrating to ME as a FORMER FOSTER CHILD to see so many people like celebrities out there paying several thousands of dollars for babies in other countries when there are children who need homes here TOO.

I know the need is great here and abroad. I am not belittiling ANYONE for adopting.

Wow - leave it to my luck to offend the very first person that reads something that I only shared because I thought it would help people....great! :(

ttjenkins said...

I think you did a great job with this interview and as you know it's impossible to make everything you type come across the way you intend for everyone. Your story is inspiring to me. Please continue to share your journey when given the opportunity. And thanks Michelle for posting this!

Stacey said...

This really struck a chord with me. My family took in my cousin through foster care for 6 years. She came out of abuse, neglect, and just a bad situation. My family loved her, took care of her, I felt she was my sister really. But you know what? She's still lost, broken, and headed in a very dangerous direction. How does one deal with that? I just don't even know what to do about it.

Monique said...

Excellent interview! Tamara I think you have every right to voice your opinion, you have lived it!

DiPaola Momma said...

People, some, do pay big bucks to adopt abroad. There is just no way to deny that. And some people adopt like the first commenter did, for the reasons she did. Tamara is one of my best bloggy friends. What you didn't get in that post was she doesn't have a judgemental bone in her body. She is kind, careing, gifted and strong. How many people would have opened up like that to strangers in the mere hope that they might help someone? I dare say not many. I for one am proud of her, and know that she'd never belittle the efforts of someone who truly loved and cared for damaged children. As the child of a woman who grew up nearly the same way that Tamara did, I'm forever in awe of those who step in to give love, unconditionally.

Tamara aka Cheapskate Mom said...

Thanks Laura :)

I did not mention in my interview that I was adopted when I was 6then they gave me back about a year later. I have lived in over 17 placements between the ages of 2-17.

I am working on a book called Seventeen Pillows which chronicles my life as a foster child. I don't know if it will ever get done, but it sounds good to say I am writing a book, lol!

Not all people adopt for the right reasons. It is a forever decision and one that should be done out of love for all children.

Tamara aka Cheapskate Mom said...

Stacey, I am so sorry to hear about your cousin. All you can do is continue to love her and remind her that you are there for her. It is hard to watch someone you love self destruct. I imagine she has a lot of emotions she does not want to face head on. It's easier to walk around angry than it is to look within yourself for change. I did that for a long time. That is why I give SO much credit to my foster mom for sitting on me (lol) and forcing me to look within myself and find something to love. It is so excruciatingly (is that a word?) hard to love yourself when your whole life you have known no one loves you. She needs constant reassurance that she is loved.

Does she write? I found writing to be a huge outlet for me. I have an article posted here called Rising Above The System that you can share with her. I wrote it specifically for former and current foster children. You are also welcome to pass along my email to her. I am always willing to encourage former foster kids.

Here is the article:

Kelly said...

Wow, ok so umm the 1st commenter has decided to post ONLY the sentence that she didn't like on her blog. I am very disappointed (but of course not surprised) People can be ignorant, but I don't mean the our guest poster here. I know exactly what you are talking about Tamara, and I can tell the spirit you are writing in. I also agree that America should be taking care of it's own. It really aggervates me when people misinterpret readings then try to get high and mighty. Tamara didn't belittle ANYONE. I'm so sorry for the negative response.

Tamara aka Cheapskate Mom said...

Thanks Kelly for your comments :)

I was hurt at first. I did apologize but apparently she was just looking to argue because she has not even responded to my apology. I have nothing to hide!

I feel she has not linked to this article not out of respect for anonymity as she claims but because then people will see the WHOLE story and then there really won't be a big controversy. I simply won't put her link on my blog because I don't care to send traffic in that direction.

Anyway - I posted my views on what she had to say here:

I stand behind what I said. It may have been worded in a way that made me sound insensitive and for that I am sorry.

Kelly said...

I had NO problem with leaving the link with the comment I left for her. Just in case anyone wants to read the WHOLE story.

Jo said...


Have you had, in your formed and adult years, any recent contact with your foster mom? Particularly the one whom you said exhibited such love and patience? I would just love to know that SHE KNOWS how wonderful and enlightened you turned out to be....

Peace, love and happiness,

Kelly said...

Nice, well she is deleting the comments I made on her page. Guess she really interested in sharing the TRUTH! LOL and she has a Blog with Integrity badge. WHATEVER!

Kelly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tamara aka Cheapskate Mom said...

I had a feeling about that, Kelly. That just reiterates what kind of person she really is. I am mad at myself for allowing her to get to me. I am even madder for telling her I cried over this. Ugh. I didn't cry long two seconds and I am hormonal thanks to weaning baby...oh and I was chopping onions and garlic...yeah so really I have nothing to be embarassed about, right? LOL

Kelly said...

I deleted my own last comment. I am very sorry, that was taking things a little too far. I apologize for anyone that did read it. I just hate it when someone with such pure intentions gets dissed on like that. Again, I'm sorry.

And yes you are right Tamara. You have absolutely nothing to be embarassed about.

Kelly said...

Apparently my comments were caught in spam, but have been approved. Just thought I would update that.

Gotta say, glad my post didn't cause this much!!

Tamara, I never did actually address your post.

I find your strength admirable. I can completely relate to "I sometimes understand why my mom dumped me off in that parking lot. There are days I want to run from my children screaming while pulling my hair out. But the difference is I don't." I have that same opinion of my mother.

puddin powell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
puddin powell said...

WOW!!! I had read a little about Tamara on her blog, which I am a devoted reader now. My story is nothing in comparison to hers. But through the things of my life, I've come to the conclusion that people like Her, have got to be God chosen. I've always believed that people hand picked from God to serve an important purpose, are the ones the Devil seeks out to destroy from the beginning. I love to read stories like this because it just gives more proof to that theory. It's sad to see people go through things like this who never find the hope or the purpose to survive, or to make a better life for themselves. You only have 2 choices with the events in your life, become comfortable with it and continue to dwell in it, or overcome them and use them as tools to become a stronger person. Makes you such a powerful person. Whether people realize it or not, sometimes God allows things to happen in your life, only out of his love for you. I say that, because I had separated myself (notice I say separated myself because he never separated himself from me) so far from God, that it took extreme measures to bring me back under his Grace and Protection. You are an inspiration to many Tamara, and you have a gift with your message. May you be blessed. Thank you.

Chantelle said...

Thanks so much Tamara for sharing your story! I really enjoyed reading it!I hope you realize that what you shared really touched and encouraged lots of people, I'm sure even more than took the time to post!

Kim said...

That was great, Tamara. I was born into the system - from a schizophrenic unwed mother. I was very blessed that the first home I went to was a good home that I was eventually adopted into by the age of 4 years. In fact, I have forgotten at times that I *am* adopted.

I was one of my mother's 80+ foster children over the years. I guess because I lived in a REALLY good home, with a mother (just a mother - she was single most of the time she was a foster parent) who really had a heart for it, that I was kind of oblivious to how bad it is for some. It is heartbreaking to think of children being hurt by people who are supposed to be "rescuing" them from hurt!!

I knew many of my foster brothers and sisters (whom I really did think of as brothers and sisters) had come from less-than-ideal situations, but I was young and never really knew at that time how bad it could be... never fathomed that someone might take in kids and never plan to *really* love them and care for them!

I have thought of fostering many times myself, but what you said applies to me too - I don't have the backbone. My husband and I have considered adoption as an option and I thank you for pointing out the fact that there are SO many kids here at home in the U.S. in need of good homes,

Milburns' said...

I hadnt commented yet, but just like Chantelle mentioned, I bet there are many that were touched by this (as I was) and hav not commented. Just know it did touch me too. I am fortunate that I was adopted straight out of the hospital and never had to go into foster care. Though I never fit in my family (and I STILL think its b/c I was adopted thoguh they wont admit it) I appreciate that I was clothed, fed and SAFE... something a lot of my fostered friends were not. Praise God you were able to let go and learn to love and be loved!!! :-)))

Nickimum said...

Tamara, As a fostermum I so love reading your story(even if I wanted to go find that fosterfamily that allowed your abuse and grhhhh shake them). I think everyone follows Gods plan when adopting(even if they don't know God), sometimes that is to adopt from the US and sometimes it overseas, I understood that you where not devaluing any child, or saying someone was wrong for adopting overseas. I too look with dispair at the US waiting children thinking if everyone one just considered adopting one child from a wait list a generation of fosterchilds lives would be changed forever.
I support all adoption, ITS making our world beautiful.
BUT I so get what your saying.
Honey you have every right to voice this, if anyone has a right YOU DO as someone that has lived it.
OHHH GOSH I so have to comment on the photo thing, I help train new carers and I teach them to take at least 365 photo's a year(one a day) and when the child moves or returns home apart from the printed photos you send home also make 3 CD's/DVD's one to keep, one to send and one to put in the child DFC file. 1 out of 3 has some chance of surviving...its so sad when kids in care have NO record of their life.
My good friend who is a carer recently had a child(now a adult) she cared for 20 years ago track her down and ask her if she had any photo's, she had a album she had kept for him knowing that one day he might come looking, HE a grown man cried when she handed it to him....that speaks volumes to me and stays with me.
I have a child leaving my home soon and have counted 3 and half thousand photo's in just under 12 months....I think I over did it a bit but she deserves it!

Hugs Nickimum

supah ~d said...

Michele, I sent you an email.. you won a book off of my blog.. need your address. :)

Grissell said...

Thank you Tamara for leaving me the link. After i responded to her post I thought oh wow maybe I should have read the article.

So sorry, I hope you are doing better. I am so new to blogging and this was first EVER experience of comments back and forth. WOW is all I can say.

Thanks again, now I understand what you were saying now that I have read the article :)

Tamara aka Cheapskate Mom said...

Jo - I did tell my foster mom how much she helped me and how much she means to me. She knows the impact she had on my life. She is a wonderful mother and the many children she raised all still keep in touch with her.

Grissell - thank you SO much for giving me a chance to show you my side. I try to stay away from drama but in this case, this woman did not allow me to have a voice and I felt the need to defend myself.

I really appreciate all of your great comments! I am glad to have shared this with you :) Please feel free to email me or comment if you have any questions and I will be happy to answer them!

bluecottonmemory said...

Hi Tamara,

What an amazing story of strength and determination. The foster mom who sat on you loved you like a mother--I've felt the need to do that a few times with one of my sons. A mother NEVER gives up, even if she has to sit on them.

What struck me was your discussion of being "normal." I, too, desired nothing more than to have a normal family all my life--my parents were divorced and I wanted nothing more than to be surrounded by two parents, cocooned in their love and support. I hope to do that for my sons.

I lost a little girl half way through a pregnancy. I doubly crushed me-one because I lost a child, another because I had it in my head that, though I couldn't be whole, I could raise a daughter to be whole in a way I couldn't. God got my attention immediately--He let me know that I could be healthy and whole emotionally and spiritually, and set about healing me inside and out from a history of rejection and unconditional love.

You, too, can be completely healed, completely whole, not haunted, not tormented in blinding moments of pain.
I talk about this in a program I developed:

Your poem hauntingly, painfully brought home the plight of not only foster children, but children in divorce and dysfunction.

Thanks for sharing such a testimony of personal victory and determination! I think both blogs discuss such redemptive opportunities and experiences. You both really are on the same page--word choice can sometimes drive a wedge where there really isn't any separation. Both stories so encourage! Both stories show such a desire to protect, love, and nuture--a true celebration of motherhood!