Thursday, December 22, 2011

What Santa Claus means to me

   Something I've learned in my 35 years is that lots of times I don't really make sense.  I say this because I hate Winter with a blinding passion.  But....I really love Santa Claus.  And in American culture you can't really have one without the other.  But it's not so much the current identity of Santa Claus that I love because he has unfortunately become intertwined with commercialism.  You really have to go back to some of the origins of Santa Claus to get why I love him so much....

   And because I love mythology and fairy tales so much, I went and found a couple of internet pages on the origins of Mr. Claus himself.  One is here and another with lots of information on different cultural interpretations of Father Christmas is here.

   In keeping with these mythologies of Santa Claus, I really and truly see the spirit of Santa Claus in those who do good for others.  Just for the good of doing it and for no other reason.  In our culture it really saddens me that so many kids have developed such big expectations for expensive gifts.  Don't get me wrong, I understand why kids want the good stuff because hey, I as a parent would love the good stuff too.  But...most of the time we don't get all the expensive stuff because we just can't.  And during the years when we have extra money I always try to get a little something extra for friends who don't have as much as we do.  Or donate to local charities for kids whose families' can't get them stuff.  

   So when the time comes for me to have the talk about Santa Claus with my kiddos, that's what I'm going to tell them.  Because I do believe Santa is still alive and well for some of us.  I believe that small miracles can happen when you least expect them and that Santa is a great mythological story that helps keep those small miracles alive.  

   But I'm always going to hate Winter LOL

P.S.  I had to post this because LOOK it's Santa Claus in action!!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Cookies

  One of the holiday traditions I have is baking cookies.  Before we had the boys I would bake a TON of cookies to send to family and friends.  Now I don't have as much free time as the 2.5 yr old and 4 yr old have to constantly be broken up from fighting each other.  But....I make the effort to make some.  Because it has become a tradition and it's a way I can give gifts to people I care about without spending too much money.  And this year money has been especially tight because of those evil renters who wrecked out house in New Mexico.

In no particular order, here are the cookies I've made this year:

For chocolate chip cookies I always go with the classic Nestle Toll House cookies, which you can find the recipe for here

Pumpkin Cookies

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned or cooked pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Blend together sugar, pumpkin, oil, & vanilla.  Combine dry ingredients & stir into wet ingredients, mixing well.  Fold in raisins & nuts.  Drop by tablespoons onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.  Yields 3 - 4 dozen

Andes Creme de Menthe Chunk Cookies

1/2 cup salted butter - softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 package (10 oz.)  Andes Creme de Menthe Baking Chips
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour

Blend butter, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, & eggs until mixed.  Sit in Andes chips, and then the flour.  Chill approximately 1 hour in refrigerator.  Measure out about 1 oz. of dough, roll it into a ball, & place on greased cookie sheet.  Raise oven rack one level above middle.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes.  Cool 2 minutes before removing from pans.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Peanut Butter cup cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking sda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12 ounces) semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cups chopped peanut butter cups (about 6 of the 1.6 ounce packages)

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter, peanut butter, & sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Combine the flour, baking soda, & salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips & chopped peanut butter cups.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in apart onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.

Double Chocolate Espresso cookies

can be found here and surprisingly didn't make anyone hyper.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Season for SAD

  Most of the people I know look forward to the holidays.  They love to spend time with their families, wrap gifts, flit from place to place finding that special something for everyone on their list.  I'm not most people.  As soon as the November time change hits my personality takes a dive.  As the days grow shorter and Winter peeks out from it's lovelier sister Fall, I become a grump.  And this has happened every Winter since I turned 18...possibly even before then.  Although I've never been given the official diagnosis, it's safe to say I'm a victim of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.  There's a short article on it here and you can find much more information on it on the internet.

   Because depression affects people differently and SAD is a seasonal form of depression, I can only assume that the way SAD gets to me is not the same way it gets to everyone else.  But basically once that time change hits, I have two moods.  There's the apathetic "I don't want to get out of bed and do anything but sleep" mood and there's the "I hate everything in the world and just want it all to go away" mood.  When I'm in the apathy mood it's very difficult to get even the simplest task done.  My brain feels fuzzy like it just can't seem to grasp ordinary concepts.  When I'm in the angry mood I'm at least able to get things done.  Anger seems to be the more productive of the two moods.  When I get into SAD season I tend to draw back further into myself.  It helps my family in that I'm not snapping at them as much, and it helps me in that there's less of the hectic holiday crap for me to take in.

   Now, in all honesty I have good reason to be worried right now.  We've spent all of our savings account on fixing up our rental home in New Mexico, which is now pretty and sparkly and eagerly awaiting a new renter.  Which we don't have yet.  And if we don't get a renter in there in January we're going to have to default on that mortgage.  That's really stressful.  There's also that I just today found out we're going to be losing $165 a month out of our already tight budget because apparently the military gurus don't think we need as much monthly BAH as we currently have.  (This has since been revised and we won't be losing any money on our BAH *huge sigh of relief*)

   I get to start working on the fieldwork portion of my master's degree in January.  I don't get paid for ANY of that.  AND we have to pay for someone to watch our kiddos while I'm doing my fieldwork.  Which means more money out of our sieve-like pockets.  I have MANY reasons to be SAD right now...but I'm fighting it.  Because I have three kiddos that I love more than anything else in the world and they need their mother.  

  Distractions such as listening to my favorite music, reading a good book, and sometimes watching a good television show can help to kick the SAD away for a bit.  Unfortunately the book I picked up was The Hunger Games which is NOT a good book to read if you're fighting any kind of depression.  And then I decided to catch up on Once Upon a Time and it DEFINITELY didn't help keep the SAD away.  I'm just going to call it a day and curl up with one of my Anita Blake books because even though they're pretty's always the people who deserve to get hurt that get it in those books.

 (If you or anyone you know has suicidal thoughts, please get the help you need.  Because there is always someone who loves you way more than you think they do.)

PS.  Saw this on Curious George this morning and had to add it.  "Winter.  It was like a roller coaster of BLAH."  Perfect description of Winter for me!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Double-Chocolate Espresso Cookies

I'm going to adlib along with the recipe because although these are absolutely amazing, they're also not a normal cookie.  They don't act like normal cookies as I found out by baking them last night :)

3 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks, divided
1/2 cup butter or light butter, cubed
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules (or 2 Starbucks Via packets)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a small heavy saucepan, melt the unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate, butter, & coffee together.  Stir until smooth.  (Resist the urge to scoop up the melty goodness in the pan and have a glass of wine instead.)  Remove from heat & set aside to cool.  (I didn't actually let the chocolately goodness cool & discovered the dough is REALLY runny if you don't let it cool.  My next attempt will be to mix all ingredients while chocolate is still warm & then let it cool for 5 minutes.  It thickened up after the chocolate cooled off.)

In a small mixing bowl, beat sugar and eggs for 3 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored.  Beat in the chocolate mixture.  (Sip more of your wine to get your mind off the insanely good smell of chocolately goodness mixing with sugar.)  Combine the flour, baking powder, & salt.  Add to chocolate mixture & mix in remaining semi-sweet chocolate.  

(Grab the biggest cookie pan you have because my medium cookie sheet would only hold 9 of these at a time b/c they flatten out and get pretty big while baking.)  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets.  (Parchment paper works wonders & saves your cookie sheets from spray residue.)  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes (depending on how big your cookies are) or until puffed & tops are cracked.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks.  (This is very important - the suckers fall apart if you don't let them cool long enough.  I ended up letting mine cool for 7 minutes & they did much better.)  

Enjoy your cookies & try to refrain from eating the entire batch by yourself ;-)

BTW, I found out through trial and error that it's almost easier to mix all the dough up (while having your wine, of course)  & then stick it in the fridge overnight to get firmer.  Makes the cookies so much easier to deal with on the cookie sheet ;-)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Enter the Borg Queen

To continue the story of my first encounters with my MIL, we follow our small family to Holloman AFB, NM.  About 6 months after we'd moved and begun to settle in, I made one of the best decisions of my adult life.  I went over to what was then called Life Skills and asked to speak to a counselor.  And during my first appointment with Dr. B, I was very frank and even said, "I need to know if there is anything wrong with me because I don't want to be a danger to my daughter."  

Now, to fully understand this whole situation it's necessary for a bit of background information.  The previous blog entry In the Beginning explains many of the problems I was experiencing with my MIL and why I was beginning to doubt my own sanity.  Because the MIL's entire family to include her son (my husband) enforced the idea that she could do no wrong.  Add to this the fact that bipolar disorder runs in my family (both my father and his mother were given that diagnosis.)  So here I am, wondering what the hell is actually happening because everybody in my husband's family was telling me what I was experiencing was not what was actually happening.  So I go to see this counselor with the secret terror that I could actually not be viewing my life correctly because there was something wrong with me.  (Because this is what I'd been told in not so many words.)  And do you know what he said?  I remember this because it made such an impact on me.  "There is absolutely nothing wrong with you.  The only thing that might apply is adjustment disorder."  I cried tears of absolute relief in that office.

I continued therapy with Dr. B for quite some time, over a year in all if I remember correctly.  Many things happened in my life while I was seeing this wonderful therapist.  One of the many things that happened was the emergence of the name Borg Queen (at least in my head.)  I was really funny the way the whole thing came about.  I was venting about the MIL & her family and how anytime I was myself around them and displayed anything other than what they wanted shown around them I was basically put down or punished passive aggressively.  I said something like "They just want you to be how they are, or they don't want you to be at all."   And Dr. B said "Oh that sounds just like the Borg!  Resistance is will be assimilated," he went on to say in that low, monotone Borg voice that any Star Trek TNG fan knows.  It was possibly the most awesome thing that ever happened in therapy with him, with the exception of him telling me there wasn't anything wrong with me.  And it honestly is just a good portrait of the MIL because just like in TNG mythology, she honestly believes that everything she does benefits the universe.  The Borg Queen absolutely believes that uniformity and bringing every living humanoid into the Collective is the best thing for the Universe.  The MIL believes that everything should fit the nice little fantasy world she lives in and she will do whatever she feels is necessary for that to happen.  And hey, it's a humorous way to deal with a non-humorous situation.  And who doesn't love humor?

Another sequence from film that I use to help myself deal with the sometimes useless feeling of trying to keep my uniqueness in the face of the MIL's absolute need for conformity to her fantasy is from Labyrinth (the Jim Hensen movie.)  It's close to the end of the film when Sarah is confronting Jareth to rescue her brother.  The script goes something like this:
"Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen.  For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great.  You have no power over me."

Because that's what it really boiled down to:  her power over me.  Because until I started seeing Dr. B and talking to someone who wasn't dazzled by the MIL, I had lost my personal power.  And by having a very good therapist and working through so many of the issues that happened during that time, I was able to gain my sense of self and my personal power back.  And I will be forever grateful to Dr. B for helping me find myself again.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The weekend that kicked my ass

I began this weekend by walking into the hair salon to get my pampering & found my hair stylist on the floor in a pool of her own blood with paramedics surrounding her.  It is also now officially Winter and well into the Holiday season, which means I'm associating less with my Brigit goddess and more with my Morrigan goddess.  And my MIL comes in this week.  I really feel like I'm floating out in the middle of this big expanse of nothing & don't really have the gumption to try to find a line to get out.  But....that's part of what this blog is for.  Because the holidays really do make me lose my damn mind.

So, back to the hair salon.  I stayed with the owner of the salon for a good thirty minutes or so to make sure she was calm enough to take care of herself.  It's not every day that you're having a conversation with someone who just falls over.  I've seen it once before and it's just the strangest thing.  And very shocking to the person who witnesses it and has no medical training.  The paramedics who assisted thought she had a mini stroke, but all kinds of tests & things will have to be run to determine what actually happened.  I'm going to go by the salon this week and just check in to make sure everything is as well as it can be.  

So Winter.  The bitch is here and won't be leaving anytime soon.  This is the time of year when I just want to wall myself up in a cave with my books, a good fire, and some really thick blankets.  And I don't want to socialize with anyone.  Enter the MIL (going to have to explain at  some point why I also call her the Borg Queen, but that will have to wait for another blog entry) who just wants to spend as much time around her grandchildren (ie. her granddaughter) as she can.  And my husband who has grown over the years with his boundary abilities, but still can't just say no to her.  He really believes it would be worse for the kids if she weren't in their lives, but I really don't know anymore.  There is so much infighting between his mother and her family that he can't convince me the kids wouldn't be better off without her.  But it's his mother and his decision to make, not mine.  We have our own way of dealing with his mother when she enters our territory and once she leaves we both heave a happy sigh of relief.  So that's later this week.  And the weekend has already beat me down.  I have quite a few "holiday" things left to do, so I'll be trying mightily to concentrate on those rather than the impending dread of another Borg Queen visit.  Maybe the Morrigan will deign to lend me some of her strength so I can get through this week peaceably.  

I'm listening to Sarah McLachlan today because some days she's all I can listen to.  And things become a little more bearable.  Because until February comes knocking I'm stuck in the middle of the Winter death, and it's really hard to be all happy and light.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blessings and Thanks

I got a tweet from someone I follow today that had the most wonderful blessing in it.  "Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way" - Native American Saying.  This was a really wonderful tweet and made my day :)

In the spirit of Thanksgiving here are some things I'm happy to be blessed with -

  • Happy and healthy kiddos.  This is a big one for us since Lightning was born with a heart condition & had open heart surgery at one week old.  
  • Having a husband who understands that while I'm not perfect, I'm just right for our little family.
  • The military has provided us with the ability to create a home in places where we don't know anybody.  And has made sure there are no bases close to my mother in law that we can be PCS'd to.
  • Reconnecting with my best friend from high school who can laugh with me and yell with me as  needed.
  • Being raised in a family where anyone was accepted, no matter how eccentric they were.  Because there are some very strange people in my family...and no one ever asks them to be anything but who they are.
  • Having my husband understand that we shouldn't have to change who we are for his mother
  • For only one weekend duty over the holiday season...the kiddos will get to see Daddy!
  • For the wonderful home we live in.  It has all kind of quirks, and needs a bit of work, but overall is perfect just the way it is.
  • My pets who have been with us since before we had the kiddos.  The dogs are getting older now and I love the time we have left with them.  The cat (who thinks she's a dog) probably has several more years left in her LOL
  • Writing again!  It's been years, but I'm taking the time to get those creative juices flowing again & it is wonderful!
May your home be filled with unexpected blessings this year and into the next :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Etiquette just doesn't cover this one

You know how when you were growing up and your parents taught you to say please and thank you and everyone was happy when you used your manners?  Normal manners don't cover it when you're dealing with a Narcissist.  They crave effusive praise the way an addict craves their particular drug or fix.  And it really sucks for my kids that their grandma is a Narcissist because she expects more than a please and a thank you from them when she does anything for them. 

Bess got straight A's on her first report card at her new school.  We (meaning her parents) were both thrilled, mainly because I was a bit concerned about moving her to a gifted school to begin with.  She had been talking about how much she enjoyed it, but that report card really let me know that she was also doing well in the gifted environment.  So yay, we're all happy for her.

We got a card addressed to Bess from Grandma today to congratulate her for the report card.  Included in said card which is supposed to be congratulating Bess is this line - "A phone call from you letting me know you got the package and what you liked would be nice."  Because it can never not be about the NPD Grandma.  Ugh.  Would it really have been that hard to refrain from mentioning what you had done when you were supposed to be celebrating your granddaughter's accomplishments?  I guess hoping for normal etiquette is just too much...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving favorites

I hate winter with a passion.  But I do enjoy cooking and baking, so I guess it balances out.  There are all sorts of recipes floating around Twitter right now for Thanksgiving, so I figured I'd put some of my favorite dishes here & share.  

This Colcannon recipe is amazing.  I add 8 pieces of bacon instead of 4, and add fresh garlic when cooking the cabbage & onions, but everything else stays the same.

Once upon a time I heard that pumpkin pies made with fresh pumpkin tasted better.  So I searched allrecipes and found this amazing pie recipe that I've used for six years now.  I will never go back to canned pumpkin after this.

The next two recipes come from A Kitchen Witch's Cookbook by Patricia Talesco and are fabulous.

Corn Bread with Honey (Journey cake)

1.5 cups cornmeal
.5 cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
.5 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey
Dash of cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, & salt in a mixing bowl.  In another bowl beat buttermilk, oil, and eggs.  Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients ; mix thoroughly.  Pour batter into a greased baking dish.  Bake for 25 minutes.  While cornbread bakes, blend the butter, honey, and cinnamon.  Baste the top of the bread with the butter mixture during the last 5 minutes of baking.  Serve hot or cold.

Zucchini-Cranberry Bread

2 medium zucchini, shredded
2.5 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
4 eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons grated orange peel (sub lemon if you're out of orange)
3 cups whole wheat flour
.5 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cranberries, chopped (dried cranberries are much easier)
.5 cup chopped nuts
.5 cup raisins (Optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom of a loaf pan.  Beat the zucchini, sugar, oil, milk, eggs, vanilla, and orange peel in a large bowl using an electric mixer.  Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt in a small bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the liquid.  Fold in the cranberries, nuts, and raisins.  Pour into the loaf pan.  Bake until it's done in the middle (use the toothpick trick) about 60 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.

We always have our Thanksgiving meal in the evening & for lunch I do meat & cheese & fruit trays.  The kids get a kick out of them because they get to "pick their own food."  We're doing a brine for the turkey this year, so I'm hoping it turns out well.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Monday, November 14, 2011

In the beginning

I've thought about doing this for some time, but wanted to be in the right frame of mind for it.  These experiences I had with my mother-in-law have significantly influenced my life.  Indirectly, they are responsible for my decision to become a marriage and family therapist.  I've learned what I can from them and will continue to learn from the interactions my family has with her.  And I will never, ever forget that whatever happens with this woman, I am important, I do matter, and she can't take that from me.

If you don't know what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is, it's not an easy thing to describe.  Sure, you can grab a copy of the DSM-IV-TR and it will give you a list of all the necessary ingredients to clinically prescribe the diagnosis of NPD.  What it won't tell you is the feeling you get from being around someone who has this.  And let me just say at this point that my MIL has never been officially diagnosed with NPD.  My therapist of several years ago suggested it (and he had met her) and I'm 90% sure from my schooling that she has it, but it is not official.  Being around someone who has NPD can make you feel like you're losing your mind.  Which is how I ended up seeking counseling and additionally how I ended up pursuing a marriage and family therapy degree myself.  

So....what was it like?  When my husband and I first got married I didn't even notice anything was off with her.  She wasn't at our wedding for personal reasons, but did come to the reception which was several days later.  Looking back at the pictures from our reception, she had her arm wrapped around her son in every picture.  She was very threatened at that point , and the very first thing she said to me after we'd arrived in town was "I hope I like you better than his first wife.  I hated her."  Happily for us, we lived in California and she lived in Kentucky.  The Air Force doesn't particularly care where your family lives as your home becomes wherever they send you.

We were pretty much left alone for the first 2.5 years of our marriage.  When I asked my husband later why that was, he replied "She just thought we were going to get divorced."  Then I got pregnant.  This was a very weird time for me because throughout our entire marriage my husband had wanted to have a baby, and I was the one who kept saying no.  I honestly thought I'd be a horrible mom, but looking back on it I really think this was from issues with my first boyfriend who was horrible.  Anyhow, I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was pregnant, and all these hormonal changes were happening to my body, and my mother-in-law all of the sudden would not get out of my life.  I swear she shared my pregnancy, which made me extremely uncomfortable because I wasn't comfortable with being preggo or with her.  Each week she's send some new baby thing and she was talking to my husband all the time about what she was going to do with the baby once she was born (yes, we knew it was a girl.)  I really did wonder sometimes just who was pregnant.

When I was six months pregnant we found out my husband was going to Korea for a year.  Yes, you read that right - a year.  He actually left when Bess was 6 months old.  He and I made the decision that I should go and stay with my parents while he was overseas.  We both thought it would be better for Bess and I to be around family while he was gone.  If I could get a do-over on that we would have kept ourselves in California.  However, live and learn.  

Living with my parents was actually pretty great.  The problem was that I was only 1.5 hours away from the MIL.  And in her world any time away from Bess was too much time.  At first my parents invited her to our house because it was easier on everyone for her to come to us.  And then the weird started.  The MIL has a heart condition that she was born with and occasionally she has to get tests and things done for that.  It doesn't help that she is severely overweight - it only puts more pressure on her heart.  Anyhow, she was talking about this procedure she had to have done.  "I hope everything goes well because if it doesn't, who will take care of Renee (her sister), and Mom, and Bess" she sighed dramatically.  My mother and I looked at each other, both wondering if she was serious.  Thing is, she was very serious.  Because people who have NPD have an image of themselves that must be upheld at all times or they devolve. And they are not happy people when they devolve.  And in her world, everybody revolved around her.  So it made sense in her head that if something happened to her, her world would fall apart.  Can you see where this is leading?

So I had to deal with the MIL who very much believed that Bess' world would fall apart if (1) anything happened to the MIL and (2) she didn't get to see enough of the MIL.  I also got to deal with her calling my husband overseas anytime she didn't get the answer she wanted from me, and brow-beating, guilt-tripping, and sometimes just shaming him into giving her permission to do whatever she wanted.  With my baby.  There were times I wondered why I was even there because my husband was unknowingly taking away my motherhood while he was enabling her NPD.

There was one truly horrible thing that happened while he was still gone.  And at least part of this was the MIL's fault simply because she put her needs ahead of what I think of as manners.  The MIL is an LCSW (licensed counselor of social work) and she sometimes has trouble taking that hat off when she's not at work.  I had made plans with her to bring Bess up for a long weekend so that she could see the baby.  Unbeknownst to me, she had a friend in town who was de-toxing from alcoholism.  This friend calls her unexpectedly and tells her she can't stay where she had been & needed a place.  MIL says come stay with me.  Which would have been fine except this is the same weekend that my baby & are I staying with her.  She told me NOTHING about her friend until I'd already driven the distance to her house.  It was close to evening time and I didn't want to go back to my parent's house because Bess traveled horribly in the car after dark.  So we stayed that night & the next day I told her, and other of my husband's family members that I wasn't comfortable with the situation.  Everyone basically blew me off, told me it would be fine.  My husband was at the time still in the "You need to try harder to get along with her" mode so nothing I said to him really made a difference at that point.  The next morning I woke up, was getting cereal for Bess, and noticed the MIL's friend talking to someone in the bedroom down the hall.  I went down to say hi to whoever it was & there was no one in there but her.  She proceeded to tell me she was talking to her children who she thought were playing hide and seek in a chair and somewhere else in the room.  Every freaking hair on my head stood up.  I didn't know this woman, I didn't know what she was capable of, and my damn MIL was nowhere to be found.  I put the dog outside, grabbed my cell phone, locked myself in the bedroom where Bess was & started calling people.  Because I only had the MIL's house # and not her cell #.  I got in touch with my parents who told me to leave and leave at once.  If I had that probably would have been the end of my marriage.  I got Renee's phone number from them & probably a bit hysterically told her what was going on.  She called the MIL who then called the house & left a message on the answering machine that she was on her way back.  And my hands are really shaking right now while I type all this up. was scary as hell, and when it was all over the MIL sat down & told me I should trust her.  I had no words.  I just wanted to be far and away from her.  While none of us could have known that a drug the friend was on could cause psychosis in detoxing alcoholics, I still blame the MIL for just not cancelling that weekend.  We could have rescheduled.  But she always puts her needs in front of everything else, and that time it ended really badly.

And my husband's first words to me after all that were "Are you & Bess okay?  You know it wasn't Mom's fault, right?"  

It has been a very long and trying road for us.  I'll write some about what happened after he got back from Korea and we moved to New Mexico another time.  It does amaze me in a good way that we've been able to work through most of this issues with his mother in our marriage.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Torin's Tale

Here's a story I began on a whim that developed into something other than I had intended.  I'm rather pleased with the way it turned out and would love any comments on it.

            Torin steepled his fingers and contemplated his options.  There were few choices left to be made for the good of the kingdom; most had already been carried out.  It had taken him years to set all the pieces in place to overthrow the current ruler.  Making deals with smaller groups he’d once thought beneath him has become second nature for Torin.  Realizing that he had been on the same path as the ruler he meant to overthrow had been an unwanted revelation, but it had made him change for the better.  It would make his country better.  And the pain his mother, the current ruler of the Trollkin and the most vicious creature he’d yet to meet, had inflicted on him in his younger years had driven him to do what would eventually bring freedom to his people.  Torin looked out toward the distant mountains and remembered what it had been like, before his mother had viciously torn him from happiness.
            Ten years ago Torin had taken a chance and left his people.  He’d learned that over the distant mountains there were another tribe of people who had wondrous powers.  There was a mystical veil at the base of the other side of the mountains that separated the two worlds, and only very powerful or gifted members of the Trollkin could pass that barrier.  Every so often one of the Others passed through the veil into their land.  The Trollkin and the Others looked surprisingly similar, but the Trollkin were larger and more apt to use their fists rather than their words if those rare encounters happened.  The Other who had passed into their land and eventually became an accepted part of Trollkin society was named Ryan.  He could see things before they happened and therefore became very important to Greksal, the Trollkin ruler and Torin’s mother.  Ryan was never allowed to travel on his own without an escort, but many times Ryan would be left with Torin and his siblings while Greksal dealt with the warring clans of the Trollkin.  Ryan had told many tales of the magic of his land:  flying vehicles, very fast carriages, medicines that could cure virtually anyone, and little boxes that could show you anything.  The part of the stories that appealed to Torin were those in which anyone could go to universities and become whatever they wanted.  If I could only escape to Ryan’s land then I could go to the schools and learn instead of being told how to kill other Trollkin he mused.  For that was the extent of his learning so far – Greksal had no intention of giving up her position of power to her son and was training him to lead her hoarde.  Torin was an accomplished warrior, but he felt no joy in what he was taught.  He began his plan to abandon his people and begin life anew.
            It took a year to perfect his plan, but with Ryan’s help Torin was able to escape.  Ryan had written letters to his family and had asked Torin to deliver them for his help in creating the escape plan.  While Ryan was relatively happy with his life as a sage amongst the Trollkin, he regretted being unable to say goodbye to his friends and family.  Ryan carefully wrote out the addresses of his people and told Torin not to deliver the letters until he understood the world of the Others.  Ryan also helped Torin perfect his glamour so he looked like an Other instead of a Trollkin.  Without his disguise, Torin would never have been able to exist in the Otherworld without raising questions.
            The journey across the mountains took two weeks.  It took Torin much longer to begin to understand how the Otherworld worked.  He was able to find a person Ryan told him to contact who helped teach him the ways of the Others.  Eventually he understood enough to apply to a local school the Others called a University.  He had to make up much information to get accepted, but with his magic and the coaching of Greg, who had begun to look on Torin as a younger cousin, he was able to begin attending classes.  After some time, Torin began to work at a library in the town where he took classes.  He took buses as he did not want to drive a car himself, even though Greg had offered to teach him.  The bus made it much easier for him to observe the world of the Others and it never failed to amaze him.
            One night while he was working at the library Torin met a lovely girl.  The talked and both laughed over their unusual names – she was known as Talia.  They began spending more time together and one night Torin brought Talia over to the home he lived in with Greg.  The three had a wonderful night watching movies and talking.  After Talia had left, Greg looked over at Torin.  “You know, I think you’re ready to try living on your own.  I’ve been checking around and I found this great little apartment that isn’t far from the University.  You make enough money for it and it would give you more time to spend with Talia…if you think you’re ready for that…” Greg cast a questioning glance toward Torin. 
            Torin sat down on the couch and thought for a moment.  “If I move out into this apartment does that mean I no longer get to see you?  I’ve grown very fond of your advice and friendship and would hate to lose it.”
            Greg smiled and shook his head.  “Are you kidding?  You’ll probably see me all the time.  You’re the closest thing to family I’ve had since Ryan disappeared into that netherworld of yours.  Speaking of which….are you going to tell Talia about where you’re from?  Because if that ever came out without her knowing about it, there could be a problem.”
            Torin clenched his fists and sprang up from the couch.  “I left that life!  When I crossed the barrier I used enough magic to confuse even the most adept of my mother’s mages.  Talia does not need to know where I came from!  The person I am now is the one she knows and that is all that matters.”
            Greg sighed and shook his head, “If you say so.  But I just don’t see how you think they’re not going to look for you.  You’re a prince in your world.”
            “My mother has never seen her children as princes or princesses.  She sees them as little pieces she can use to further her power.  She will not care that I have left, but I do wish I had been able to help my brothers and sisters.  They don’t deserve what she could do to them.”  Torin’s shoulders slumped and his glamour dropped.  It always amazed Greg that Torin really didn’t look much different from anyone else.  The height and sheer size of him gave way that he was not human, but Torin was so adept at his glamour that he rarely dropped it.  “Do you really think Talia would want to be anywhere near me if she saw me as this?  No, I am not going to tell her anything.  And neither are you.” 
            Greg held his hands up placatingly.  “Okay, if that’s what you really want to do, that’s what we’ll do.”
            More time passed and Talia moved into Torin’s apartment with him.  They spent two years living together, spending time with Greg when they had free evenings, and being a normal young couple.  Torin was close to attaining his degree and Talia had two semesters left when his two worlds collided. 
            “Are you sure he’s in that building” Greksal growled to her senior mage.  “It took you so long to find a trace of him that I am beginning to think you may be growing too weak for your position.”
            “He’s there,” the mage replied.  “I would not be foolish enough to waste your time with this if I were not sure.”
            “Well then, it’s time I brought my son home.  And he will regret running away and leaving his position.”  Greksal smiled cruelly and the mage silently clenched his remaining fist.

            Talia was in the kitchen when she heard the front door being knocked on.  Loudly.  She went to the door and smiled politely at the tall woman standing on the other side.  “Hello, is there something I can help you with?”
            Greksal stared at the Other standing in front of her.  A growl emanated from somewhere deep in her chest.  “I am looking for Torin.  Where is he and why are you here?”
            Talia took a startled step backward.  “I live here!  Who are you and what do you want?!”
            Greksal smiled and tilted her head to the side.  “You really don’t have any idea who I am, do you?  That explains why you’re still standing in front of me.  My dear son has much to answer for,” she growled as she pushed into the apartment as if Talia weren’t even there.  Once inside the apartment Greksal glanced around with disgust.  “As if anything this world had to offer would ever replace the position I granted him.  He has made a grave mistake in thinking he could ever escape his duty.”
            Talia was shaking in fear and outrage.  “What the hell do you mean, you’re Torin’s mother?  He told me his parents were dead!  And what world are you growling about?  And why the hell are you so tall?”
            Greksal turned her back on Talia.  “You are no longer of any interest to me, Other.  WHERE is my son?” 
            Torin walked into the open apartment door as Greksal was speaking.  He immediately grabbed Talia, placed her behind him, and raised the baseball bat he kept in the living room as a weapon.  “You cannot be here Greksal!  I left you and that world far behind and I will not go back!”
            Menacingly, Graksal advanced on the two.  “Did you really think you could leave?  With no consequences?  You are my son!  You have been trained to lead my hoarde!  There is no leaving that.  Move aside and I will dispense with this Other so we may return.  There is much training you need to properly lead the hoarde now that you’ve gone all soft in this Otherworld.”
            Talia was terrified and didn’t understand what was happening.  Torin was doing his best to keep himself between her and Greksal, but she wasn’t fully cooperating.  “You cannot DISPOSE of people here like you do the Trollkin, Mother.  There are laws here that protect people.  If you tear her to pieces like you usually do in court, the people here will shoot you with weapons that WILL kill you.  I am no longer the leader of your hoarde.  Surely in all this time you found someone else to kill for you.”
            “Of course there are others, but I did not appoint them.  I appointed you,” Greksal snarled.  “And NOONE who I have appointed is given the choice to leave.  Your life is MINE, boy.  And now, so is this one’s” she added with a cruel smile at Talia.  “I give you a choice since you say the Others here will kill me if I harm her.  You come with me and take up your duties again and I will not harm her.  But, you must wipe her memory of all the time you spent together.  If you choose to stay here I will bring my hoarde to the barrier and our mages will find a way to invade.  It is your choice, my son.  Erase her memory and leave or stay and watch many, including her, be ripped apart.  You know I will do this,” she added with a smile.  “I have no reason to fear retribution and I so love a bloody battle.”
            Torin had made the decision to keep Talia safe.  He had erased her memory of him as she pled with him to tell her what was going on.  He had laid her on the couch, locked the door, and walked out with the person he hated most in both worlds.  And he vowed to end his mother’s reign.
            It had taken him five years to pull the plan together.  During that time he was able to protect his siblings and get them into positions far from their mother.  He now had many allies who would lay down their lives to end Greksal’s.  Because in the end, it didn’t matter what happened to him.  As long as Greksal’s reign of terror was ended, Torin felt his life had been worth it.  He fully expected to die in battle.  And a bloody battle it would be.  But he had also created a secret group of mages who would help Trollkin who wanted to learn of things other than war get through the barrier.  He had created a world for his people where they could choose their own positions.  It was the best thing he could hope for. 
            Sighing, Torin got up from his desk.  He strapped on his weapons and left his room for the last time. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Creative solution

My fieldwork packet has been submitted to my school so I'm now in "hurry up and wait" mode.  Blech.  Since this is never a really good place to be mentally, I'm going to do something constructive to help get my mind off the waiting.

A friend of mine on Twitter posted this link to a blog on creativity -
After reading said blog, and since I've also been playing around with the idea of self-publishing a short piece of poetry and short stories through smashwords, I decided I needed to start writing again.  And this morning I had a hilarious idea for a short story that will fit into the collection I'm thinking of & serve the added benefit of self-care.  Woot!

Providing I can get the boys to settle down this afternoon I should be able to get started on said short story.  Actually pretty excited - I think it will be fun :)

Also, in the interest of keeping my marriage sane I'm going to keep all my venting of the MIL/Borg Queen (which I will end up writing about on here for a full explanation on WHY she has that nickname) to this blog and Twitter.  I need a venting space, but it would be easier for my husband if that space is far from Facebook since most of his relatives have accounts there.  And while I really don't care anymore if the entirety of his mother's side of the family hates me, it does make it easier for him to keep that sort of venting off Facebook.  So....hopefully that will make things easier for him.  We'll see.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Chip Cookies

I wanted to make some pumpkin cookies with white chips, so I went to and found this - wasn't what I was really looking for.  Because I wanted to taste the pumpkin as well as the white chocolate chips.  So...I modified it a bit.  

First off, I cooked down a small pumpkin pie pumpkin.  If you don't know how to do this, you preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the pumpkin in half from the middle, not through the stem.  Take out the guts & seeds.  Then get a cookie sheet & put some aluminum foil on it.  Rub some oil onto both the foil and the inside of the pumpkin (don't forget to get the parts that will be touching the foil.)  Then stick the pumpkin onto the cookie sheet & put it into your oven for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of your pumpkin.  You will be able to smell the pumpkin when it is fully cooked & it's ready to come out...also the flesh will be soft.  You can scoop out your freshly cooked pumpkin with an ice cream scoop & freeze whatever you don't use.

Here's what I put into my cookies versus the original recipe -

1 cup light butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cooked pumpkin
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces white chocolate or vanilla chips
1/2 cup pulverized pecans

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until firm.  Remove to wire racks to cool.

I didn't use the frosting because some of these cookies I'm sending as gifts to other people.  They turned out really yummy and I think at least a bit healthier than the original recipe.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Blur

This is a very short story that I wrote tonight while fighting the effects of a migraine.  I think it turned out well given the length & state of my head at the time :)

     Returning home from work early with a burgeoning migraine was not the way Marci had planned on spending her evening.  Still, with the migraine busily pounding away at her skull and no other options available, she decided heading to bed was her best bet.  As she slowly made her way from the front door of her apartment to the bathroom, that blur moved past her again.  Marci sighed.  Really?  Do you have to do your blur thing right now when my head is trying to detach itself from my body?  
The blur had been making appearances in her apartment for about two weeks now.  Talking to some of her pagan friends had given Marci the information that right now was the time when the veils between the worlds were the thinnest.  Apparently in October the spirits of the dead found it easier to come back and say hello.  While Marci found the pagan community interesting, and had many close friends in it, she didn't really want to experience any paranormal activity herself.  
Since concentrating on anything right now made her head throb even more than it already was, Marci did her best to ignore the blur and continued on to her bedroom.  She finished her nighttime routine and climbed into bed.  Alright you blur, she thought at it, if you leave me alone to sleep off this migraine, I'll ask my friends about you tomorrow.  Deal?
A strange shimmer seemed to happen next to her bed, and then the room because strangely comfortable in a way she hadn't felt before.  Taking that as a yes, Marci drifted off to sleep.
The next morning Marci called Jenna, who happened to be researching quite a bit of paranormal material.  Jenna asked a slew of questions, to which all the answers were no.  "Well it doesn't sound like this ooga booga wants to hurt you," Jenna announced.  "You said you thought it heard you last night....what did you do?"
"I just kind of thought at it," Marci replied.  
"Well, if you want to know what it's doing in your house, maybe you should just ask it," was Jenna's reply.  "Maybe it needs your help or something."
"Okay, I guess it can't hurt to give it a shot.  Thanks, Jenna" Marci said, then hung up the phone.  She had the morning off from both work and school, which made it an ideal time to try to contact the blur, or whatever it was.  Marci took a deep breath, let it out and then tried to focus on thinking at the blur again.
My friend says you probably don't want to hurt me, and I'd like to keep it that way.  Can you tell me why you happen to be here, in my apartment?  And maybe even what you want so you will leave my apartment?
For a few seconds nothing happened.  Then, that same shimmer from the night before happened in the hallway leading to her bedroom.  The shimmer stayed where it was, perhaps so it wouldn't frighten her.  In her mind, Marci saw the image of a young boy form.  She figured it must be what the blur/shimmer/spook was.  Then she heard in her head, but not out loud You look like my sister.  And I can't find my mommy.  And I don't want to be alone because it's scary.
Marci sat in her bed and blinked.  I just talked to a ghost.  And he talked back.  Holy crap.  Marci tilted her head at the ghost and thought back at him Well, I'll make you a deal.  You can hang out with me until you find your mom or sister.  But, you have to behave yourself and not scare any friends I have over.  Deal?
The shimmer waved a bit in the hallway and the image of the little boy clasped his hands together excitedly.  Yes!  I don't like being lonely and then the little boy smiled at her.  The image in Marci's head faded as did the shimmer in the hallway.

Marci had her unique roomate for almost two years, and then one day she noticed that he was gone.  The apartment felt strangely empty without the little ghost, but Marci hoped he had found his family.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The ego of the narcissist

It's been awhile since I hit up my blog, and I really have no excuse if you don't count the fact that I occasionally like to eat and sleep.  I just discovered this very awesome blog called Surviving Narcissism (which can be found at for anyone who's interested) which reminded me yet again that I've been subconsciously caving to the damn Narcissists in my life.  By not writing on my blog about the issues we've had with Alan's mother and brother lately.  Cuz they might somehow read it and get offended :-/  No, seriously, I didn't want to write it because of that.  Because the last time I expressed outrage on Facebook that my  Narcissist MIL was coming for an unexpected visit (because my husband got all stressed out about work & forgot to tell me) his brother went all enabler and told me I lacked manners.  I can't make this shit up. MIL announced that it was one of my favorite author's fault that someone else's marriage broke up.  Not going to mention the author because I want to respect her privacy, but the MIL is convinced that because said author may not have the societally correct monogamous relationship with her husband, she is responsible for the breakup of someone else's marriage.  Because this makes sense in the world my MIL lives in.  Although my MIL is a licensed counselor of social work, it would never occur to her that said marriage may have had problems before author was ever introduced to the situation.  Because it doesn't fit with her worldview.  This is the same woman who tonight announced she wanted to start a grass roots movement for school reform in Kentucky all by herself because she's such an expert on autism and the schools aren't.  She gave much more detail on her idea for change, but the key aspect seemed to be her profound belief that people would follow her.  Because her ego is bigger than she is (and that's saying something cuz she's about 300 pounds.)  

After the realization hit me that I was enabling the family's behavior of "the MIL is always right" by not blogging about issues that have happened recently (because the Gods know I'm the root of all their problems, just ask them) I decided to go ahead and write this slightly inebriated blog entry and post it on Twitter.  Because I do have the right to my feelings and I do have a right to express myself and dammit I do matter.  

The hubby and I are at a really good place right now and while he doesn't always agree with me about his mother, he has come to understand that she's not right.  And that's really all I need from him.  She is his mom, after all, and no matter how manipulative and controlling she can be, he loves her.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hurri-VAC coming your way?

It occurred to me earlier this week while I was watching Hurricane Irene develop that I've yet to see a blog that tells military families some important things they might want to do if they end up needing to Hurri-VAC.'s my small attempt to help out other military families with some helpful tips that our family has done & some stuff that families Hurri-VACing for the first time might not have thought of :)

Evac site
Most military families living on coastal bases or posts will already have chosen an EVAC site and provided it to their chain of command.  Make sure you also give this information to extended family as well as phone numbers to reach you at if you do have to leave.  Another really important thing to remember (as my neighbor told me last year, bless his heart) is that if you are going to leave, leave early.  If you wait until the night before a hurricane is supposed to hit your area, the interstates and surrounding highways will more than likely be clogged with people doing the same thing.  Leave at least the morning before the storm is supposed to hit if you're going to Hurri-VAC

Important paperwork
Yeah, I know you're trying to get your family to safety and paperwork is the last thing on your mind.  But, if the worst happens you're going to want to have it with you.  If you don't already have a small portable fire safe, this would be the opportune time to get one.  Inside that safe should go things like Powers of Attorney, Last Will & Testament, any type of trust fund set up for the kiddos, DD 214 copy 1 & 4 if the spouse is a Veteran, social security cards, savings bonds, car titles, older copies of military orders if you still have them, etc.  You might also at this point want to consider backing up your desktop computer on an external hard drive & taking that as well.  One last thing that is really important for our family since our only income thus far is my husband's TSgt pay....if you have any tax documents you've kept for filing bring those with you.  We really need the tax deduction we get each year, and I'm sure other military families do as well.

If anyone in your family is on prescription medication & is running low, get those filled before you leave.

Go bags
I call them Go bags from back when I was enlisted & my husband calls his emergency bags Go bags, but they're really just bags with your clothing & toiletries.  For a Hurri-VAC I usually pack about 3 days worth of clothes for everyone & throw them into duffels.  Much easier than lugging suitcases & you can always do laundry if need be.

If you're Hurri-VACing & have pets taking at least 4 days worth of food is probably a good idea.  If your pets are like mine & are on prescription food, take the prescription with you in case you need to buy more.

Some other just general things that might be a good idea -
*Take pics of your home before you leave with a digital camera in case any damage occurs so you have them for insurance purposes later.
*If you have valuable stuff close to windows, either move the stuff away from the windows or get small tarps to cover & protect them as best as you can.
*Take a copy of the military member's recall roster so you have important numbers if you need them.

That should just about do it.....hope that helps & please feel free to add additional comments :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Switching Things UP

So it's been a bit since I last posted and I'm happy to say things are much better.  They stayed pretty *Blech* for awhile, then Alan forgot to tell me his mother was coming for a visit.  He remembered the night before to tell me.  :-/  After the fight was over we had about an hour and a half long talk.  We talked about getting divorced & living in separate homes.  We talked about how the only thing we ever fight about is his mother.  We talked about how we didn't want to get divorced cuz it would be horrible for the kids & in general we do tend to like each other.  And I think since we got to that point things have been better because we both understand where we're coming from.  

Anyhow, looks like we've got a Hurricane inbound, so I'm thinking of writing a Hurri-VAC blog on how to get the heck out specific for military families.  Guess it will be up in the next couple of days if I go ahead and do it.  

Oh, here's a pic of Alan and I all dressed up for his cousin's wedding :P

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Just Keep Swimming

I debated on writing this entry.  But because I've been depressed, stressed out, and generally not my happy self lately I thought it would help to get it out.  And just the decision to write this did help, so here goes:

I can see the end of my marriage.  I've fought for this marriage for 10 + years and it is just not going to make it.  Mainly because there are three people in this marriage - myself, my husband, and his mother.  Yep, I married a momma's boy.  Now, to be fair, he has improved somewhat since we married.  But not enough to be able to recognize and accept that his mother is much more mentally and physically ill than he thinks.  And since he is incapable of  that realization he can't protect his children (our children) from that aspect of his mother.  Now, it would be different if I were the only person who recognized this problem with his mother.  But I'm not.  Many mutual friends also see the problems that he cannot.  Two close friends share the same concerns I have for my children.  I really haven't talked to many people about this much because of the obvious marriage crisis.  

Anyhow, our oldest child is 8 years old.  I've been trying to help my husband deal with the issues he has with his mother for 8 years.  After he sat and told me he doesn't think there's really anything wrong with his mother, it became glaringly, horribly obvious that I couldn't do anymore to help him.  

So now I'm doing damage control.  Because I have no income of my own.  Because if I say anything to him now I have to choose between finishing my master's degree (which requires 9  months of unpaid fieldwork) or getting a job now & perhaps never finishing that degree which I will have to pay for in six months.  And because last time his mother came between us, my husband tried to get sole custody of our then only child.  

I want this to go as smoothly as possible.  I want to protect my children and keep them from being hurt and pulled between parents.  I'm very afraid that things will get very ugly very quickly and there's not much I can do about it.

In the words of Dory from Finding Nemo....Just Keep Swimming.  Because right now that's all I can do.