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.