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Overcoming Adversity and Reuniting with Lost Family
Episode 152nd August 2022 • Family Twist • Corey and Kendall Stulce
00:00:00 00:35:28

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Have you ever wondered how deep family roots can impact personal growth and healing?

In this gripping episode of Family Twist, we follow the intense and inspirational journey of Stormy King, who navigated through foster care, trafficking, and a relentless search for her lost siblings. Discover the challenges she faced and the triumphs she achieved as she pieced together her fragmented family ties, revealing the complexities and resilience embedded in her DNA.

Overcoming Adversity and Reuniting with Lost Family

Listeners will gain incredible insights from Stormy’s story:

  • Understand the psychological and emotional impacts of growing up in foster care and the power of overcoming adversities linked to early life instability.
  • Explore the significance of family connections and the healing power of reuniting with lost relatives, offering a beacon of hope for those with similar backgrounds.
  • Learn about the use of modern tools like DNA testing in tracing biological family roots, providing a blueprint for others on similar quests.

Tune into this episode to embark on a journey of resilience, discovery, and healing, and witness how one woman’s quest to find her family transformed her life.

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Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

Welcome to Family Twist, a podcast about relatively unusual stories of long lost families, adoption, and lots of drama. I'm Corey. And I'm Kendall, and we've been partners for over 16 years. Thank you for joining us today, Stormy. Well, thank you for having me. Now, you and I had a little chat because I'd only heard a couple of details about your life story.

which I found really fascinating. And so we had a little chat so I could get to know a little bit more, but I'm going to let you take over and sort of give us a little bit of a background on your life and your history. Oh, thank you so much, Corey. I'm Stormy King and I currently reside here in South Tampa, which I absolutely, absolutely love. My life story started out in the foster care system. And I spent the first 11 years of my life in, in foster care and not just

one home, but 28 homes before I found a permanent home. And even before the permanent home, there was three failed adoptive permanent homes that took place. And so that was, you know, how my life started. And then I was adopted, ran away from home later as a teenager, ended up in a trafficked industry.

which is a whole nother, that's a whole nother episode, and prevailed and overcame and completely turned my life around. Went on this mad mission because I knew I had a little brother. And unfortunately, my story is not much different than so many others who come into the foster care system that have siblings.

We go in, we go to a foster home, and then we come back out. So there's this yo -yo that often happens to children that end up in the system. And my brother and I got separated. Chris, we're talking the 80s, I'm kind of aging myself here. In the 80s, and keeping siblings together was not a priority, let alone at that time following different kinds of equal laws. So we were separated. So I had this mission.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

in life to find my little brother. And I kept looking and kept looking and it unfolded in a really beautiful way to only find out I have four other siblings. Wow. Just, yeah, that's remarkable. Well, let's rewind a little bit. How did you end up in the foster system to begin with? So my biological mom, when she met my dad, he was a part of the Hells Angels. And so a very rough lifestyle.

I was born drug addicted, so I caught the eyes of medical professionals and child protective services early on. My parents actually took me from New Mexico to Oregon, like as a drug addicted premature baby, and moved me to another state to kind of keep me hidden. And within about less than a year, I kind of came into the system through

childcare workers and mom's lifestyle at that time, her, Teresa's lifestyle at that time was so unpredictable. So that just kind of started the roller coaster. And when did your brother come along and is he a full brother? He's a half brother. He's four years younger than I am. And I knew about him and he came along and my mom had a habit of, you know, man to man, different relationship kind of things.

And after he was born, it was, oh, I can't handle her because she wanted to focus her energy on my little brother and her new boyfriend at the time. And then I came back, they had split up. And so my mom came and got me back out of the state care. It was just this never ending cycle. She actually, at one point, we were in Redmond, Oregon, and she joined a religious cult.

If you remember what big cult was happening on the West Coast in the 80s, she was part of that. And I lived in the Dalt's at the time. So, you know, you can piece all of those pieces together. And so then I came back into care. Like I was already in and out, in and out. But there were times where mom would just leave me with whoever for days on end. And sometimes I would end up in foster care and sometimes I would stay with that person.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

And my dad at that time as a small child was in and out. I remember bits and pieces and learned so much more over the past five years as my journey progressed in looking, trying to find my history. Were you able to sort of develop a relationship with your younger brother through the ins and outs with foster care and back to mom? Well, my brother was used as a carrot, so to speak. Like, we'll take Stormy.

Because you're proclaiming Stormy is such a difficult child and she's, she's hard to maintain. And we'll put all these services in place to help you with your son. So he was kind of used as a carrot to get her to finally agree to relinquish her rights to me only for him to permanently come into the system six months later. Wow. It's a shame that somebody, you know, in the system couldn't have thought.

you know, let's find a carer who could take two people, you know, two children. But maybe that was just like you said, maybe that's just not the way it was structured back then. So I think there was an attempt, but it was a failed attempt, so to speak. His story, he actually ended up in Shriner's hospital for about a year and a half before he ended up getting connected with his biological dad. And then you look at technology now.

compared to what it was in the early to mid 80s, right? They didn't have computers to do research. They didn't have all the things. So they had to go off of whatever she said, whoever actually responded to a letter. And dad lived a rough lifestyle at that time. And she created this big story that he was an only child. He had been in the Navy. I mean, this really elaborate.

story that later in life I found out was not true, was not true at all. Were you back then hoping to get adopted and kind of get out of this cycle? I did. I wanted a family so bad. I wanted some normalcy. And I remember going from one home to the next, going to the school or to the library and picking up the big yellow pages and going through the white pages and looking for my dad.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

because I had very good memories of the little tiny bit of time that I got to spend with my dad. So I was looking for him everywhere I went. I was looking for him or I was looking for her because really what I wanted was my family and I couldn't understand why I couldn't be with them. So then when it came time for permanent home, I wanted this permanent home so bad, but I never had one. So I didn't know what to expect. I was so used to that when the smallest thing went wrong.

What happened? I got moved. That's what I knew. What made you run away after getting adopted? That's what I knew. I didn't like the rules. I didn't like the things. I didn't all of it. I look back, it was a boy. I didn't like my adoptive parents at the time. It was all the stuff. And I didn't even just run away from down the street like most teenagers do. I...

left the state. Like I was three states over before anybody realized it was missing and was gone for quite some time before I was reunited. I can't even imagine what the trafficking situation was like and we don't have to go into details but how do you get out of something like that and then progress to have a normal life? You know some people will say it's by the grace of God. Some people will say it was pure luck. Determination.

desire, knowing that there's more and this is not where I'm supposed to be. There were many times I didn't think I would make it on it. Just there, there really was. There's many times that I did not think I was going to, I didn't know where my next meal was going to come from. I didn't know where I was sleeping that night or what I was going to have to do or what was going to be done, which created its own set of, of trauma, its own set of PTSD, its own set of environmental things to this day. I mean, I'm almost.

almost 50, I can't believe I'm saying that out loud, but, um, you know, there to this day, there's still moments where a certain smell will take me to that place or a certain sound. And I have to, you know, with all the therapy, all the training, all of the advocacy, all of the things remind myself you're safe. There's nothing to worry. You're safe. When you're going through that, does the thought that, or the idea that.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

You know, you have family out there somewhere. Is that, does that help drive? It does. It really did. For me at the time, it was, I need to find my brother. I knew I had this adopted family brother. I was mad at him and didn't like them. And all the things when I left, I knew there was people out there that loved me. And I knew there was somebody looking for me. So how did you get on the path of trying to find your brother? What were the steps that you took?

It was kind of a yo -yo series of events where I would, I want to find my brother. I want to find my mom. I want to find my dad. I want all the answers. And then I would go, I would do everything I could to look and then I would stop. Like either I would either get too close or I kept hitting a dead end and I was, would say, well, it's the universe's way of saying, I'm not supposed to know. It's the universe's way of saying I'm not supposed to be in their life. Whatever story would tell myself.

So I would go through this yo -yo about every seven or eight months. I'd get on the computer and I'd start looking. I had a case file that had a lot of redactions in it where, you know, you could hold it up to the light to see, make out the names and stuff that my adoptive parents, thankfully, were.

smart enough to ask for. Like it wasn't my entire file, but it was enough to give me enough information to searches before the internet became really big. But it kept getting hit with kind of these stumbling blocks. I had found on the internet someone who I thought was my mom, but I kind of was like, no, that's not her. There's no way.

that this woman could be my mom just based on these pictures. I was like, there's no way. So I kind of put that aside because really at the moment I was like, no, that's not her. And I went back to looking for my brother and that unfolded really beautifully. It really did. So talk a little bit about what that reunion was like.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

It was magical. It was literally, it was magical. So I was working for a program called CASA, which is Court Appointed Advocates for Children in Foster Care. And I was the director of the county that we lived in in Oregon. And they had done a big article kind of about my story. And my brother's wife had come up, put my mom's name in.

to Google and up popped this article and she found me on Facebook and it was really early in the morning and I woke up to this message. Hey, I think your brother is my husband. And I was, I was like a little kid. I was, you know, you almost could have pictured it in a movie. It was jumping up and down on my bed going, oh my God, I found him. I found him. I found him. And then I had to pause because I had to give him time to.

deal with his own wounds of what he had gone through. And so we would talk on the phone and it unfolded perfectly. We gave ourselves a few months to have conversations and get to know each other. Lo and behold, he was only five hours away from where he was. Like still, he never left. He was still in the same, in the same state we had been adopted out from.

And so I got to spend a beautiful weekend with him and his wife and my nephew and my niece. And I was content. That was full on contentment for me. By this time I had already knew my dad had passed away in the early eighties. So I kind of put that side of the family at the moment aside because my record said he was an only child and there was no living relatives. So I took that.

for what it was. And I let it go. And I was so content that, you know, I found my brother and that was all I ever wanted. Like it was all I ever wanted. One of my girlfriends was doing some work on ancestry, Dana. And she said, give me your dad's information. And I said, why? She's like, just give me everything you got. And within minutes, she had me connected with cousins that I knew nothing about.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

that next thing I mean, it was like, just almost like a domino went off within minutes of this, all of these things that were happening over and over and over. And I'm on this phone call with a cousin who says, I'm so sorry, I put that you dirt. And I'm like, what? What do you mean fed me dirt? Like, what are you talking about? She's like, you were three years old, we were in such and such place in Washington. And I got my butt beat because I fed you dirt. I'm like, I remember.

the place. I don't remember that incident, but I remember the place. And then I'm having these other conversations with these other cousins and I'm meeting his, his brothers. And I'm like, wait a minute, brothers, my stuff says he was an only child and I'm unfolding, unpacking all of this stuff. And someone says, you're sitting down because you have more siblings. And I'm like, no way. So lo and behold, I had a bunch of older siblings on my dad's side.

that I had no idea about. Beautiful. I got to meet my sister before she passed and that was absolutely amazing. And my older brother and then my older brother and I decided, let's do 23andMe. Dad lived the life, right? Like first hockey in 60s, 70s, Hills Angels, everybody loves everybody. Everybody's doing all the things. And I had that test probably on my desk for almost a year before I did it.

Like I could not bring myself to do it. What was holding you back? I almost didn't want to know. I almost didn't want to know. Could I hold space for another sibling that may have gone through something similar to I did? Or did I have room in my heart to add someone else to the family? And what was their story? And part of me just didn't want to know. And then there was the genuine part of me that was like, all right, how many of us are there?

And then you hear horror stories, right? I was one of the ones that was lucky that got welcomed with open arms. And I've had girlfriends and even guy friends who found their biological family and didn't get that. And so I internally wasn't sure if I would be okay having any kind of rejection. Plus just shortly before that, my older sister had taken her life right before Christmas.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

And so I was still dealing with that wound and it was still very, very fresh for me. And so I wasn't quite sure. There's speculation that she didn't and it was an accident and she fell, but nobody really truly knows exactly what transpired except for her. But losing her was really hard for me because she was the sister I always wanted. And we'd get on the phone and speak for hours, even though.

and lived not very far apart, but we couldn't spend the time together at that time because our lives were so different. And I felt guilt because I didn't. And so there was some pieces of me that was like, am I ready to open space for somebody else to come in my world? Question about your younger brother. And this is going back, I know, but did he remember you? Yeah. Oh, good. Good. Yeah.

Yeah, not only did he remember me, he actually had pictures. So that was something that was just amazing. He had, he had pictures of both my mom and pictures of me and he got to live with his dad. Unfortunately, his dad passed when he was young, but he remembered me very much and he shared his story with me. He said, he was the last time I ever remember seeing you is looking out the back window of a car with tears.

crying down your face because I remember the day they came and got you and put in all your stuff in garbage bags and taking you away and not understanding what was going on. And he was quite small. Well, so since we're kind of going down that path, is your mother still alive? She is. She is. Wow. And I had to make a very hard decision not to take her on as a responsibility. So that picture.

that I found on the internet was actually her. And it is actually a picture that you see quite often go around as like most hilarious mugshot kind of thing. And she is in a state institution down here in Florida, has a lot of mental health, psychological damage and is basically

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

indigent to the sense that she can't hold us a full -on conversation. She has very, they say her brain capacity is almost next to nothing. She, after she had lost both my brother and Arne, she fell to the streets and lived on the streets the rest of her life and would go back and forth between Oregon and Florida. And she has a guardian at light them over her. And they had asked me,

you know, to, for information when I, when we found her and I gave them what I had, and then they literally wanted me to take responsibility for her. And as a mom with a small child at the time, I couldn't make that decision. I couldn't bring that into my environment and subject to my, my son to that. Or my other, my older children. Right. I think that's totally fair. I mean,

course, it's a horrible position to be put in. And I think that was part of my resistance with the doing the DNA test, right? Was you're opening up a door to not knowing.

what's going on in their life or where they're at in their life. Are they good people? Are they bad people? Are they, you know, all of the things and being faced with that, having to make that decision about my mom and even, you know, my younger brother and I had many conversations about it. Like, do we go? What are we doing? And neither one of us could, we just, we have children and we had to protect our children.

what ultimately made you decide to go ahead and do the test? Curiosity got the best of me. And I was sharing my story and how to step into purpose when your self -image is just untorn and how you can be angry and mad about the history that you've gone through, or you can share it with purpose to inspire other people to overcome.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

And overcome the fears and step into, you know, as we step into our goals, we're stepping into our purpose, which are both the same thing. They just look a little different. And I would, it was a courage moment. So I did the test about two weeks later, my brother did, did his sent his in at the same time, but two weeks later, it was 6 .30 in the morning on a Saturday morning. And I called him and I said, did you get the results? Cause I had a, we have a sister and backing up a little bit.

When I first met with, talked with David, he called her sister Connie and he said, you're never going to believe who I'm talking to. And that's our sister. And she said, Oh my God, you found Stormy. He didn't know I existed. My older sister did because she had heard stories throughout the years from the family. And I would kind of pop in and pop out as a small child, but nobody really had the truth. And.

So we found her on Facebook and we connected and then we did a family Zoom because by this time COVID was in full effect and nobody could go anywhere. Come to find out she lived in Reno and she didn't know anything about dad. Her mom had passed away and refused to speak about her dad. So after her mom passed away, she's like, I'm genuinely curious and want to know.

And we all have our own speculations around it, around how she came about, but so of Tif 'ko 'pik, I mean, like, the most beautiful human being and to bring into our world.

So just for clarification, just for everyone listening. So if we could just get everybody's name straight. So Connie is your younger sister. Connie is my older sister. Okay. David is an older brother. There's another brother in the middle of there. And then Sandra is my oldest sister. Okay. And Sandra is the sister nobody knew about. And we are pretty sure there's more just because of that life and the promiscuity that happened. But every time we get...

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

I actually put into our family chat, like, does anybody else get the jitters when 23andMe announces, you know, new DNA relatives? Like, what are we opening up today? I can relate to that because there's a joke with my dad's other children and I joke about that we feel the same way because he was so promiscuous that, you know, you know, crone. It was the age, right?

Right. It was, you know, that was just the way life was. And then, you know, I guess it's not much different than it is now, but yeah, we didn't have to do technology back then. Secrets were easier to keep back then, right? Yes. Very true. Well, and that's the thing. And I think you touched on this is that you can, you know, back then you could essentially lie about somebody's history or things can be redacted.

You can't lie about DNA. No, no, you can't. Unfortunately, grandmother had passed away on my dad's side and she had spent many years looking for me and, and some of the other family members had too that had already passed. But I got to go spend some time with my uncle and his wife and view and see all the pictures and see pictures of my father and how much my dad looks like my boys now. Like, and I have.

If one son who is just, that was my grandpa and that is the coolest thing next to sliced bread. This is like, look at how much we look alike. And it was kind of a way to just allow myself to heal and close the door instead of just, Oh, dad died. I don't know anything. You know, this story, like you said, the redaction, the story my mom wrote when I asked my uncle, you know, wasn't my dad in the Navy? He was like, what are you talking about?

Like, no, your dad never served in the Navy. I was like, what? Like, I'm looking through my papers going, what? But it says. Right. What has this journey been like for your husband and kids? So I think it's probably affected my older kids. So I have three older children. They're all in their twenties, more so than my youngest, who is 13. Because I didn't start really sharing until this past few years, about...

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

what my life was like.

and what I had been through because I was so ashamed of it. They knew I was adopted. Then that was about, you know, kind of the extent of it. They knew bits and pieces, but it wasn't real. It wasn't really talked about much. Why were you carrying shame? Environment, right? Because society said it was bad. Society said I was this bad person and I could have never amount to anything. And so I took on this mission.

to be the best of the best of the like, I'm going to rise to the top of my network marketing industry. I'm going to rise to the top of corporate America. I'm going to rise to the top of working for the government. I mean, I did them all because that society had labeled me and even in my adoption records labeled me as the throwaway child. She has been referred to as, you know, the state's throwaway child because there were times where I didn't stay in a foster home.

more than a couple of hours. Like I was the throwaway. So I had this determination. Well, you watch me and you'll never know about my story. Just watch me prevail and not honoring that that was part of my journey at the time. So in past episodes, you know, we've talked about nature versus nurture, you know, with Kendall's story. Now that you've gotten to know your siblings, are you finding?

similarities and that perseverance, that strength, what are the similarities? What are the differences? So funny. So my, my older brother, David is very tacky and writes lines of codes, IT, the whole, the whole nine yards. And that is actually something that I often refer to as my nerd. So when I am avoiding.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

doing anything that I should be doing, like sending messages, follow -ups, sending emails and stuff. I'm over creating and doing all of the tech stuff. I mean, in my natural network, my girlfriends, you know, if they have a technological issue, they're like, well, just hashtag Stormy it. Just, you know, that's kind of an ongoing joke. So we share very big similarities, although that's not my career field. We share similarities there.

And my younger brother, we share the love for the outdoors and stability, the crave for stability. And he's been with the same company for many, many years. He has a beautiful wife and two beautiful children. I'm so just proud of him and what he's overcome. And my oldest sister, Sandra, didn't know.

Like, but she has this love of the outdoors and plants and love of family. And then my cousins were all, all of us are kind of artsy fartsy in a weird eclectic way. Um, you know, very, very eclectic, I would say most of us are all in our own way. So we're still dealing with COVID obviously. Um, but have you all talked about a big family reunion, getting together in person? Yes, we would like to do one. Um,

We were actually going to try to do one this summer and things just didn't line up the right way for us to be able to all fit there at the same time. But we are hoping to do one out in Oregon soon. What would be your dream vision of that? Like, what does that look like to you? My dream is to stay in like the RBO cabin type place and have all the siblings come together with their children or their grandchildren if they have them.

sit around a big, huge bonfire next to a lake or a river or the ocean or something and, and just be just in it, cook together. Like that is one thing that we all share is the love of culinary arts. And we all share the love of cooking and being a, you know, share a kitchen and cook together and spend intimate time of getting to know each other.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

nothing super fancy and over the top, but just something that was just natural. Like I think in my head. Yeah, that sounds wonderful. Wow. I know we don't know each other well, but your strength is very inspiring. Just a little bit of time that we've been able to spend together. And I've gotten a little teary eyed a couple of times as we've been talking today, but it's just, this is why we're doing this. You know, this is, we want to be able to help.

people tell their stories. And obviously you don't need any help telling your story, but we really appreciate you coming on and sharing it. I am so honored that you guys allowed me to be a guest with you guys and what I think what you guys are doing, giving other families and place to be able to have this open conversation. Because not everybody can't. The joyful ending is so beautiful to be a part of. This is why we're doing this. We want to be able to help.

people tell their stories and obviously you don't need any help telling your story, but we really appreciate you coming on and sharing it with the Family Twist audience. It's, you know, it's just remarkable. It's healing for us too. Absolutely. And, you know, we'd love to have you back on and especially, you know, when I'm thinking about your getting to meet.

your, you know, brothers and sisters and having that experience. I would love to hear how that goes. Absolutely. I would love to be a part of that. Absolutely. Cause you know, I found six half siblings and I've met five of them. And, you know, so I, I just know how special that can be. And in fact, um, in two days, my one of my sisters, um, my half sister from Arkansas,

She's coming to visit for a week. So, you know, it's just, um, you can't, you can't put a price tag on that. It's just amazing. Oh, how exciting. How exciting. You must be like full of bubbles and, and joy and kind of that giddiness like, okay, we got to do all of these things, but I just want to be. Yep. She's great. We've just connected so well and, uh, so quickly, you know, when I think about it, really, I feel like the first time I met her, it felt like I had known her for.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

years and years as I should have, but you know, it was wonderful. I'm so glad you guys got to connect. Thank you. Well, Stormy definitely keep us in the loop as to what's happening with your story as it continues to unfold. Absolutely. We, as Kendall sort of half joked, like we don't know if he's going to have another half sibling pop up. I've done Ancestry and no surprises, but I am toying with the idea of 23andMe just because there could be a possib -

Maybe for a scrap sibling to pop up on my end too. There is. And sometimes they like it. I have a friend who is actually is a, is a genealogist and that's what he loves to do. And he said, you know, you really got to look at some of those ones that pop up as first and second cousins, because sometimes they end up being siblings that you didn't know about. And I was like, what? You know, I'm going through my first and second cousin list going, Oh, wow. Right.

All joking aside, we'll have to post a picture of my father's brother with me. I look so much like my uncle Sean that I joked with him. I was like, you never met my mom. I mean, he didn't meet her, but you know.

Uh, it was just, it was like his open joke because I look more like uncle Sean than uncle Sean's children look like him. So it's interesting, you know? Well, it was similar with that, with our family. Um, my, my older sister and my daughter look like they could be, could be siblings. And then my, um, both my brothers, um,

My youngest brother, who is from my mom's side and my oldest brother on my dad's side, look like they could share that. Like they look very, very, very much alike. And for my brother, my youngest brother has not done the ancestry and it's, I don't think he wants to change what he knows right now. And I respect that on every level for him. Every level. Because I know how emotional it was for me. Wow.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

Wow. Well, this has been a really great conversation. Thank you for being so forthcoming, you know, about your journey, your struggles. And it's just amazing to see what you've come through and where you are today and how you're helping other people. So thank you. Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

This is the Family Twist podcast hosted by Kendall and Corey Stulz with original music by Cosmic Afterthoughts and produced by Outpost Productions and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing Communications. Have a story you want to share? Visit Family Twist Podcast dot com. All our social media links are there as well.