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Big Anniversary… a personal story.


This is a wee bit of my personal history, and why I’m in the mood to celebrate a little. Not a quilt-related story, but I’ll be quilting in celebration over this. Let me set the picture of  for you:
It’s 1996, I’m working as a bartender, and my daughter had just started kindergarten. The two of us had been living in a van for 2 years. I had worked hard to get myself into a 1 bedroom apartment about a month prior. As soon as I had set up a telephone line, I started receiving calls from creditors.

This confused me, I had no credit… not even a bank account at that time. I had been homeless, waiting tables or spare changing for money. I definitely did not have a checking account for any said check to bounce. Then I remembered my storage locker that had been broken into the year before. I didn’t think of it till just then, but among all the things I lost (everything I owned), there was a briefcase that had all of our important paperwork in it. Things like our SS cards, birth certificates, old ID’s, even some of my old resumés. All this, along with the loss of all my photos and artwork. I felt like these thieves had more proof of being me than I did.


All I could do was hang up the phone on the many creditors who called. Eventually I just didn’t answer it anymore. I didn’t know what else to do.

Then one day, while working at a bar here in SE Portland, the police came and arrested me on the spot. They said it was for failing to show up to a court date. Of which I had no clue. I was handcuffed in front of everyone I worked with, and all the people who had come in for drinks. I was dumbfounded, but what could I do?

When we got to the police station downtown, I used my one call to call my apartment manager to ask if she would pick up and watch my daughter after school. It was the only thing I was thinking about: What will happen if I’m not there for my daughter?? I didn’t even know why I was being arrested… I had no support system, family or otherwise. What would happen to her if something happened to me?

Identity theft

I stayed in a holding cell for a bit, then I was fingerprinted and was being processed to go to jail. As this was all unfolding, a detective came up to us and started talking to the officer. They let me know that my fingerprints did NOT match the ones they had on file. There was quite a bit of confusion, but after a few hours it came to light that my identity had been sold at the same time the DMV computers were being updated. Somehow there were 11 different photos to my name.

Many of these ladies had used their forged ID’s to steal things. Some created checking accounts and credit card accounts. Others opened accounts with electric and gas companies. One got a warning for defecating on a car (yuck!), and one got caught with a half pound of meth in a truck her boyfriend was driving. SHE was the one who didn’t show up to her court date. When they searched for her, they found and arrested me instead.


This all sounds terrible, and it was, but luckily, this woman had been fingerprinted and they didn’t match mine! I finally had some proof of fraud to battle the creditors with. It still wasn’t easy! For every credit notice I wanted to debate, I had to send a copy of a letter from the District Attorney describing the fraud with a copy of my fingerprints, pics of my tattoos and new ID, along with a handwriting copy that had to be witnessed and stamped by a registrar. It was one big packet of info, and I had to send out a packet about 3 times a week. This was a bigger expense than you’d think.

At the same time I was being subpoenaed to go to court, as a witness, a couple times a week. This girl and her boyfriend were tried for fraud and meth possession. The courthouse was way out in the suburbs, and I had to go by bus because I didn’t have a car at the time. Between that, a half-day kindergarten schedule, and my bartending schedule, I really felt beat. I was totally exhausted. That was a rough period of time, and I used drugs and alcohol to get through it. I met my husband during this time, and it was with his help that I was able to stop drinking and using.


I couldn’t get a bank account or any credit for seven years. Even for a while, I had to have a manager from work come with me to cash my paychecks. It made getting married and changing my surname so much more appealing!

So… this year is the big 20th anniversary of having my fingerprints taken and having my name cleared of so many terrible things.
… AND it marks 20 years of being completely off hard drugs and cigarettes, and 20 years being with my husband (12 years married)!
YIPPEEEEE – I think it gives me reason to celebrate, and as you may know, I now celebrate with fabric and thread!


6 thoughts on “Big Anniversary… a personal story.”

  1. Another reason to celebrate is that I just found your blog again! My feedly reader didn’t make the jump to your new URL and I’ve missed you for two months. Congratulations on your anniversaries Gail!

    1. YAY — glad you found it! The upgrade to wordpress is nice, but I did lose some connections. I’m happy to celebrate with you Nicole 😉

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