Breaking the Cycle

Facing Poverty in McPherson, Kansas

I grew up in McPherson and graduated from MHS. My parents weren’t really well-off financially, but we seemed to do ok. After I graduated from high school, I attended Sterling College, double majoring in athletic training and art. I had big dreams. Before the end of my first semester I found out I was pregnant. I got married and transferred to Bethany and changed my major to art. My first child was born and I took the fall semester off, planning to return in the spring. The New Year didn’t start off well. We bought a house and two weeks later my baby daughter had RSV, spending three days in the hospital, causing me to miss my first day of class. On the second day of class, I put my car in the ditch. Then, one month later, our house caught on fire doing $30,000 in damage. Then my husband’s grandfather passed way.

After the house fire, we moved into an apartment. My husband was working nights at a local factory and he started doing meth. I followed along. Being the mother of a baby, I was tired and meth gave me energy as well as caused me to lose all of my baby weight. We moved back into our house after repairs from the fire and our drug dealer lived in our basement.

I had an affair with our drug dealer. My husband found out, his response was to get high. I decided this was getting me nowhere and I quit doing meth – cold turkey. Then my husband quit. We both just walked away. I had no rehab and I have been clean for almost 10 years.

In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I both had affairs. I continued to have self-destructive behaviors- the affairs, the drugs, the fights. I guess I was looking for self-worth. You see, I was molested as a child and at the age of 13, I was raped by a family member-consequently, as a young adult – I slept around. I guess it is true about how history repeats itself because I later learned that my mother and her two sisters were molested as children. I now have four daughters and I can tell you that it will not happen to my children! Again, talk about history repeating itself, my parents were old hippies, they did drugs while I was growing up. Matter of fact, they were busted while I was in the DARE program!

My husband and I split up and I filed for divorce when our daughter was two. My grandma passed away, and while it was really sad, it brought my husband and I back together and we had child #2. I decided to go to counseling to deal with the molestation. My husband had another affair and we split up again. I moved out, but he just followed me. Two days after my husband moved into my new apartment, the woman called and said she was pregnant. Deep down I knew his affair was revenge for my affairs and one night stands… all my repetitive self-destruction behavior. Once his child was born it was undeniably hard for me to accept. I wrestled with all of it.

Just more than a month later and on the same day the DNA test confirmed my husband was the baby’s father, I got a call that my cousin, with whom I was very close, was dying from a drug overdose. We got to the hospital just in time to say goodbye. I was both devastated and angry! I gained a son that wasn’t part of me and lost my cousin all in the same day. I stayed pissed for a really long time after that.

One day, my oldest daughter asked me, “Mommy when are you ever going to be happy?” That simple innocent statement “struck” me.  I decided to leave for a few days – actually ten days. During that time, the woman that my husband had the affair with thought my husband would come running to her, but he didn’t. During the time I was gone, I decided that I wasn’t going to be mad at my husband or his son anymore and after that I fell in love with our new son. I returned and began building our family.

Back to the poverty thing, I guess you could call our poverty is situational. Yes, we were married young, but we both had jobs, but we also had the drugs.  Drugs destroyed our marriage, they destroyed our finances – we had our house for two years before we lost it in foreclose. Yes, the drugs had a lot to do with our money and marital problems. After we cleaned up I went to work for a convenience store and was promoted to manager. After a lengthy lay off my husband got a job at a grain elevator, he is still there today.

We were both work-aholics. We loved to work and we worked hard.

Our marriage finally turned a corner, we were stable and committed. We decided on another child and our third daughter was born. A short year later we had another daughter. Yes, all total we have 5 children. Money got tight and my student loans went into default. My checks started getting garnished at 55% of my gross wages. The rest was going to daycare. I was exhausted and could see no reward in just working to pay daycare and be away from my children, two of which were in diapers, for 50 to 60 hours a week. After five and half years of working for the same company, which I loved…I quit.

My best friend went through the Getting Ahead Class and was an active Circle Leader. She talked me into taking the class. I thought what the heck; it would get me out of the house. I remember sitting in class one night staring dumbfounded at a piece of paper which shed light on the fact that we were indeed financially poor. Honestly before that AHA moment, I hadn’t thought much about poverty. Now I think a great deal about my family’s path out.

Shortly, after being matched with my Allies, a plan developed for me to restart my education. I got my student loans out of default and enrolled in Hutchinson Community College. I begin in January. I have a goal. I want to be a social worker. Having been through so much in my own life, I know I can use my experiences to help others. My kids will hold me accountable for finishing school this time. I truly want more for all my children. They are my life, my reason, my everything and I definitely don’t want my situational poverty to become generational for them. Because I now have a plan and goals, I know together my husband and I will build strong futures for our children.

A Circle Leader’s Story as told to Chris Wiens

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