Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I've been a bit remiss the last few years because I haven't carried on the sacred fruitcake making tradition that I've done for many years. Didn't last year and during my very religious days I altered my family's over two hundred years old recipe by not adding one essential ingredient -  Brandy!

This year there was lots of brandy added, even if I am a bit late starting my fruitcakes. Three or four years ago I was going to go back to marinating the fruitcakes in brandy, bought a big bottle of the same French brandy my great aunt, the previous family fruitcake maker, always used. But it never made it into the cakes or on them. My son, back in that lost year between his moving out of the dorms and taking the three credits he needed to graduate from college, seized upon that bottle with the picture of Napoleon on it, and drank it.

During that year it was obvious that Andy was in a grudge match against his liver, because he was dipping into the family liquor cabinet a little too freely. He even drank some rum that was older than him that I only used a little of for rum balls whenever the mood took me to make them. He drank an old bottle of Midori, all the Amaretto I use for my Cranberry Amaretto pound cake, his father's expensive but rarely touched Bourbon and that cheap coconut lime rum I like to imbibe on the rare hot summer day.

The inhaling ass-whooping hoovering up he used to do to the contents of the refrigerator he switched to the booze, old as most of it was.

Now he's living on his own and treating his liver more kindly now that he has to actually pay for his own alcohol.

Mixing the fruit and nuts with brandy

We're getting ready for Thanksgiving at Margaret's house, or as we love to call it 'Feed a Jew Ham Day' since we're part Jewish and Margaret's in-laws are very Jewish. This year I'm bringing the ham and Margaret is cooking boudin and turducken. I'm bringing the alcohol laden desserts too. Fruitcake and Cranberry Amaretto cake. The others are bring pies, challah and sides.

We're all hoping Andy brings his girlfriend as we'd all quite curious. They've been dating well over a year now and I've only caught a few glimpses of her. She seems sweet but very shy. His younger sister doesn't like the gf because she says the gf bosses him around. But she doesn't seem to get that Andy is just one of those guys that seems to do better when someone else keeps him on track. I have no problem with that.

With a little bit of the fruitcake brandy in me I've been opening up to Laura about my own horrible dating history from before I met her dad. Cautionary tales of the suckiness of dating.

Like the time I dated the NFL player for exactly two dates. Date one was to a nearby Mexican restaurant where we sat around in the South Louisiana heat eating chips and salsa and drinking the best frozen margaritas and talking. Date two was him picking me up in his car, I had naturally assumed that we were going out to eat or something like that. Oh no! He drove straight to the nearest Motel 6 and informed me that we were going to have sex. I got out and called a cab because there was no way I was going to screw this guy I barely knew, even if he was an NFL player. Later I discovered he was also seeing a girl I worked with. We started talking about him, comparing notes, realizing we'd both been played. Turned out he was married with kids and living with another woman. Dodged a bullet on that one. When he was transferred to the Atlanta Falcons we were glad to see him go. I got a best friend out of the deal, who ended up being my maid of honor at my wedding four years later. He got cut from the Falcons later that year and never played in the NFL again. I still gripe about him every single time I hear the words 'Atlanta Falcons'

Or the guy I met at work that took me on a casual date one Saturday afternoon to the Salvation Army store on Airline Hwy before taking me to McDonalds and magnanimously offering to buy me anything I wanted off the dollar menu. That was a first and last date, not because he was a cheapskate, mostly because he was just too weird on the date. Jim and I did the Salvation Army and garage sale things after we'd been together for awhile, shopping, not really a date. Guys out there, taking a girl to a thrift shop and offering her a meal off the dollar menu does not make a good impression on a first day.

But I think the worse of the worse date wasn't even really the man's fault. The UPS man had been shyly flirting with me for about six months when I was working during my college years before he finally asked me out. He seemed like a sweet guy, very nice, very respectful and rather attractive. We made a date and he took me out to a very nice restaurant. We were having wine and had just ordered dinner when his ex wife ran in the restaurant drunk out of her mind and yelling, screaming and cursing. She had all three of their children with her and they were all crying. I felt sorry for the poor kids because it wasn't early, they should have been in bed. They were also dirty and unkempt looking. The long story cut short is that they had been divorced two years and she kept showing up whenever he tried to have a relationship with anyone else and caused a scene. We took his kids to McDonalds that night before we went to his house. I sat there and talked to him quite a while after he put the kids to bed. He wanted to go out again, try again, and I had to sadly tell him that I was not prepared to have that type of drama in my life even though I thought he was a great guy. I didn't want to have to deal with his ex all the time.

I kissed a lot of icky frogs before I found Jim. I'm just happy that both Andy and Laura have stable relationships without any of that ridiculous bizarreness I experienced when I was their age or that their dad experienced. Jim has told me some crazy tales of some of his dating disasters before we met. Sometimes I think finding love and falling in love without there being insane drama is a miracle in and of itself.

Wow, I wandered a long way from talking about fruitcake. Too much brandy.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Settling In

Dora is settling in nicely now after a tense day of some feline stand offs between my guys, Mary, Pedro and Kiki. See how nicely she is settling in...

She's not following us around all the time like she did the first day.She's still doing the minute you sits you pets, but I have to laugh. She's done all the things that Margaret says she will not do, eat treats, eat canned food, beg to eat human food and done a quick dash out of the front door like my guys are wont to do. 

Guess cats are a little bit like us, they do whatever everyone else is doing, either because they think they suddenly can or to fit in. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

This Is What Family Does

Miss Dora wanting to be petted 

The last few weeks have been a whirl. I've had to drive out to the Centreville area to drive Laura back and forth to drop off her car at our family mechanic here, back to her house, back to hear, back to the dentist and finally to pick up her car. Between that and my classes there went my entire last week.

I'm not complaining. I enjoy helping out my adult children when they need it, and besides, that is what families do, real families, relatively functional families, they help each other out, they bond together and do what needs doing for the benefit of all the members.

Not the way I was raised, that's for sure. In fact, I've been more than just a little mentally grumpy thinking about how my family of origin in Louisiana just never did that, you were on your own, jack. I was on my own virtually from the time I was about 13 years old when my parents divorced, my father moved to another city and my mother moved in with her boyfriend-boss. I lived alone, first in the family home and then later in an apartment, only seeing my mother about once a week for food and money.

At the time I thought that was normal. For me having children has been a learning experience because I had no frame of reference as to what a 'healthy' relationship and boundaries are. It was only when realizing that my mother having a huge styrofoam cup of whiskey in the car at 8 am as she drove my baby, my toddler and my teenager around that it dawned on me that this was toxic parenting. I've had to realize how so much of how I was raised, or not raised was just horribly wrong. I love U2's new song "Raised by Wolves" because it sort of fits my thoughts and feelings about those days when I was completely unparented by parents too busy chasing their own happiness to have a care for me.

This week has been filled with 'This is what family does' too, it wasn't just last week, but it was much more dramatic and hard. My eldest daughter Margaret's 13 year old daughter had a Person in Need of Supervision hearing and admitted she had thoughts about killing two of the family pets. Loundon county animal control came out to her house because of my granddaughter's statements during the hearing and seized all my Margaret's pets, all 6 cats, 2 dogs and the sugar gliders, charging Margaret with failure to protect her animals. She had to go to court and the court dismissed the charges on the agreement that the two animals threatened by the child go into foster care homes. The rest were returned home that day.

I took the kitty after my vet and my county's animal shelter I do fostering for got a hold of that county's people and they approved me. Yesterday I drove up the 75 miles from my house to the shelter holding my granddaughter's cat Dora.

Poor Dora. She's most confused and was wailing and crying when I was driving down the road with her in the cat crate. I had to stop the car in a parking lot, take Dora out of the cart and pet her for a good twenty minutes until she was calmer. She knows me and always clings on to me for petting at Margaret's house. Stopped by Margaret's house just so the kids could see their beloved kitty Dora before taking her into my home. Those children love Dora.

The court has given them three months for my granddaughter to address the animal harm idealization in her therapy sessions with her psychologist before the court will allow Dora and the puppy home. If that doesn't happen then it's likely Dora will stay here, with my other three rescue kitties. The more the merrier.

I tend to think that it would have been fine to let both animals come home with the others, but I understand they are erring on the side of caution. In the meantime poor Dora is following me around wanting to be right there with me or with Jim, scared to let us out of her sight. She slept with us last night. She's so grateful and happy to be with people she knows and loves again.

It's hard watching my eldest child struggling with a mental health system that doesn't have any good solutions for her situation with her daughter. The doctors and psychologists all say that my granddaughter needs to be inpatient in a childrens residential treatment center, like the one I used to work at, but the schools are saying no, they don't think she's at that point. Oh yeah? CPS had to put her in respite care this weekend with a trained therapeutic foster home just so the other child and parents could get a breather in this terribly tense time. Margaret is just destroyed by all that has happened recently. It's heart breaking to watch your own child go through something horrible and not be able to jump in and solve the problem.

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Facebook 'Friend' Rant

Dear 'Friend',

Imagine my surprise when after almost seven years of not hearing from you I opened up my Facebook account this morning and found your 'friend' request.

You are now wanting to be my 'friend'?

What happened to you telling me seven years ago that because I'd left Poison Creek Church for the mainstream church I was clearly 'not' in 'The River' so you could no longer be my friend. Remember all those times I ran into you in the gym dressing room and you either said cutting things to me or refused to speak to me. It also got back to me that you were joining in the prayer gossip about me. Why now?

Oh, is it because you yourself were run out of Poison Creek on a rail, emotionally tarred and feathered, railed against, gossiped about and treated lower than dirt? So now you want to pal around because we're both kicked out of that church like some sort of drunken tattooed scooter-trash?

It's not going to happen. I will never approve you for my friends list. I'm not holding a grudge against you. I've had to forgive you long ago for my own peace of mind. But forgiving doesn't mean forgetting. It doesn't mean opening the door and allowing you a second attempt at knifing me in the heart. I wish you well, I just wish you'd stay away from me.

When I left the church all those years ago I left a broken woman, pulled between what I knew in my heart was right and my friends, like you. If anyone had ever told me before I left that you would cut me from your life with the same ease as someone throwing away an old newspaper I would never have believed them. We were tight, we were sisters.

You and I, we spent so much time together. I took your kids to Canada with me on vacation, you took mine with you to Pittsburgh. The two of us did all the heavy lifting at the church for the potluck dinners, we did the planning, execution, cooking, dish washing, decorating, etc, etc, etc. I have cherished memories of the two of us so exhausted we're laughing like lunatics while we wash up the mountain of dirty dishes from a church banquet. I helped you paint one wall of your bedroom purple and you brought me meals after one of my many miscarriages/d&c's.

Remember all the conferences we went to? The wine and chocolates? The motorcycle ride up to Toronto one summer for the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship annual Party Conference? Do you remember the imaginary tea party we had one day while cleaning up the TACF church for the conference? I do.

Which is why when you turned against me for leaving our mutual church it hurt so badly. If you'd had just been someone I had an acquaintance with I wouldn't have been much bothered. But you were like a sister, a sister that seemed bound and determined to punish me for daring to do something different, to leave because my husband insisted we leave.

You say in your message to me that you want to know all about my children, mostly because you feel like they are part your children too because of those years. If they are 'like your children' then why did you feel it necessary to abandon them for all those years?

Here's the aftermath: My son is now 26 years old and he thinks all Christians are evil insincere hypocrites because of the way he was treated when we left. That's with therapy and exit counseling. He's forged himself a good life, holds a degree in film studies, works full time and has a number of freelance commercials and indie film interests. He managed to channel his hurt and grief over leaving the church into his senior film project, a film about Christians doing the work of Satan.

My youngest, my daughter who is 23, is engaged to another refugee from the world of Fundamentalist homeschooling evangelical Christianity. She is working on her MBA and still gags when confronted with anything smacking of religion. This is also after therapy and exit counseling.

If you had really cared about them like you claim you do you would have at the very least tried to stay in touch with them and been a loving presence in their lives.

They see through your hypocrisy now and so do I.

I wanted to stay in touch with your four children because I loved them too. But you told me not to call, to stay out of their lives with my corrupting apostate presence. I did. 

I only have whatever time I have left on this planet and right now that means I'm concentrating on my family and those people who are my real friends, that have been there for me when the going wasn't pretty. Not those that are only my friends when it suits them. Friendship doesn't work that way.

This week that means I'm in class on two days, one day helping out my baby, another day going to court with my eldest daughter over my granddaughter's allegations and PINS (Person in need of supervision) hearing. It means tomorrow I'm spending the day with my husband and few other mutual friends who are veterans. There's not time for you anywhere in my life now.

I could have really used a friend eight years ago almost to the day when we left the church. I cried for several years while you and others decided that I needed to be punished till I came back into your narrow fold. It's too late now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dysfunction Junction, What's Your Function?

I swear I just do not get it. I guess it's time I start going back to Ala-Non again or my long time therapist Elisa.

Yesterday afternoon after I left class I tried to call up my missing in action Auntie Jo to ask if she wanted me to take over paying the taxes and insurance on the farmland her, my mother and their various brothers and sisters inherited after my grandfather died many years ago. I didn't get through so I left a message. Nothing drastic, just, 'Hey, would you like it if I took over paying my mother's share of the real estate taxes and insurance on the family farmlands? It's not really fair that you guys have had to pay her share all these years, so I'd like to help out. If you need me to reimburse you guys for back taxes and insurance I could do that too. Let me know.'

For years and years now Jo has complained about the fact that my mother has never paid her share, claims she'll send a check and never does, plus Mom makes regular attempts to force the others to either buy her out or sell the entire place. I do know that my mother likes to regularly complain about one of her brothers living there rent free in the family dog-trot farm house. Mom is the only one in the family that seems to have an issue with that. No one else does. That uncle and his wife have nowhere else to go, they've had money issues for many years now.

In my tax classes, real estate classes I have taken and during that week long retirement seminar I learned that whenever there is a piece of property held in a tenancy in common that when one of the owners does not pay their share of the taxes/insurance and the other owners do over the period of fifteen years then when they go to settle up, be it by sale of the land or transfer of ownership due to death, then the person that has not be paying will lose their portion of the land.

So I'd put on my list of things to do to call Aunt Jo and make the offer to pick up my mother's portion of the taxes and insurance. I didn't mention that I was going to do this to my mother because I knew it would just upset her, she wasn't paying what she owned anyway and Aunt Jo and I had discussed the non-payment many times now, the last time being about three years ago. That conversation was in front of both of my daughters. Keep in mind there are witnesses to this conversation.

My phone rings and it's my mother, rip roaring drunk and ripping into me for daring to call Aunt Jo about this. She seems to think this is some move of mine to make off with her mythical millions, when it's an attempt to provide a small measure of financial relief to my disabled aunt and protect one of my mother's assets.  Never was I thinking about how I was going to financial benefit from this. I was trying to do something to help both of them!

She sneeringly told me she was going to cut me out of her will. I don't care, I never cared about that. It's not like she has much to leave anyone in the first place, but she always makes it all about who she's leaving her money to. Somehow I managed to avoid telling her where to shove her 'estate'.

Add in that I've been asking all sorts of questions, requesting to know if she had a will, who her attorney is, to know if she had long term care insurance, was there enough coming in from her retirement and social security to allow her to pay her bills and she's sure I'm after some sort of payout. I visited her to ask those questions only to determine if she was financially secure enough for the rest of her retirement. It had nothing to do with nosing around looking for money. I wanted to make sure everything was set up properly after having gone to the retirement seminar. We set ours up, each of our kids has a copy of our plans and all important documents on a thumb drive and our wishes. Jim's mother has done this too. Margaret's in-laws have done this. This is what responsible
normal families do as people approach retirement age!

The thing that seemed to upset her the most was my telling her that Aunt Jo had been telling me that my mother had never paid any taxes on the property. She accused me of lying about this! Like I really wanted to take on another monthly payment for fun or that I was playing some sort of game.

By the end of the conversation I realized that Aunt Jo was the game player, lying to my mother that she'd never said that to me. I know that the three of us that remember that conversation about the non-payment of the taxes aren't all hallucinating at the same time.

I told her never to call me when she's been drinking. I mean it, I've put up with her rages and rants at me while she'd drunk since I can remember. Remember The Fourth of July Tea Party rant phone call followed by her car accident? I still cannot figure out why the investigating state trooper didn't give her a breathalyzer test.

 In the last four or five years her yelling drinking rages have decreased to only a couple of times a year, but as I've gone through therapy for my abusive childhood and leaving toxic religion any instance of drunken abusive displays are unacceptable.  I attended Ala-Non for more than a few years trying to come up with a way to live with her alcohol abuse.

This stops. She cannot call up and behave this way to me any longer. For years I've forgiven much and sought to have a relationship with her to no avail. As long as you're doing what she wants when she wants it my mother is willing to have a sort of one-sided relationship. But the moment you don't go along with her it's all drunken cursing, accusations, and name-calling.

My week with her was pleasant, but I should have known that once she started drinking again there would be hell to pay for asking my secretive mother any information about her retirement.

Ironically the person that helped me calm down the most and talked to me after it happened was Margaret. She happened to call right after my mother because she needed to talk about an IEP meeting they'd had with their daughter's teacher. There are plans being put in place to put my granddaughter inpatient at a child's residential treatment center. Margaret knows this is one area of expertise I have and has turned to me for advice many times now.

Margaret pointed out something so obvious about our family of origin and how secretive all of them were that I'd never realized before, how once we left South Louisiana for Germany followed by Virginia that none of them had made any effort to stay it touch. It's always us reaching out to them and how unhealthy, straight out of alcoholic family behavior, those interactions are.

I realized how right she is. They only want anything to do with our side when we've got something they want, and the rest of the time it's like we're not family. That's not the way healthy families operate. We both agreed we'd struggled to overcome all the crazy alcoholic behavior and reaching out to the Louisiana family was toxic.

I hate to cut off relationship with my elderly mother but I can no longer deal with her episodes. Let Jo and the others deal with her. I'll be concentrating on my own children and grandkids.

Margaret and I laughed when I told her even if I hadn't been the best of mothers at least I have never been prone to calling her up while drinking and cursing her out. Be thankful for small mercies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Well Whatta You Know?

Been an odd sort of a day. First in my tax class several of the students brought in copies of the self-published romance novel/government conspiracy novel written by the wife of a rival tax office owner and read aloud from passages of it for our amusement. We were laughing and cutting up at the ridiculous dialogue and mistakes made by the author.

I do NaNoWriMo every year but I know that most of my output is crap, really crappy, so I don't go around self publishing bizarre novels. But I am amused at those that do and do it with utter sincerity. Sometimes I'll accidentally download a pretty terrible novel and realize it's someone that hasn't had it edited, can't spell and mangles their grammar even worse than I do. The last one I made the mistake of reading was about the Tudor era and had the main character, Lady Rocheford, speaking like a California Valley Girl from the mid-1980s. Nope, it wasn't meant to be comical either!

It's taught me one thing, if I ever decide to publish one of my crappy-slappy novels it would be best to hire a professional editor for the thing, or risk the hooting derision of the public. Don't be so in love with your characters and your words that you cannot bear the idea of anyone else changing them.

This evening Jim and I attended a local political event for one of the gentlemen running for Eric Cantor's vacated Congressional seat and I was in for my second big hooting laugh of the day. The candidate's wife is someone I used to go to church with, someone I used to know all too well, in fact, I'd written about her in my story of how I'd come to join and then leave The Creek of the Possum church. When I'd known her she'd been having a relationship with a man that wasn't her first or second husband and had told her current husband she'd gone with me to a Van Gogh exhibit in Washington one weekend. I knew nothing about the possible affair or that she'd used me as a cover for her weekend away. When the husband asked me how I'd enjoyed the Van Gogh exhibited I'd shrugged and not said much because I didn't have a clue what the heck he was talking about. She and her husband then kept splitting up and getting back together. Lots of not good things happened and the pastor asked her to leave the church. I haven't seen in her at all in the last fourteen years. I had heard she'd divorced and left her pile of children with her ex.

Saints alive! Quite a change! She had to know if we were still attending our old church. We said little to her beyond confirming that we'd left. Said nothing about the church split or the the Smith family. Got the heck out of Dodge and came home laughing at how funny life has turned out. Glad she got away.

Monday, October 20, 2014

In Only Seven Days

I'd only been gone a week to my mother's house and I've only been back a week now, but I'm fully back in my old rhythms.There was a huge pile of laundry awaiting me, the cat box was overflowing and the birdies let me know the second I came into the house that they needed me to attend to their cage, plus cuddle with them.

Jim, and my Siamese kitty Pedro, were the two neediest. Jim was so grateful I was home again that he immediately suggested we go out for steaks. On a Sunday night! Not something we would ever usually do.

The next morning I found that all the salads and meals I'd prepared and packed into the fridge, labeled and organized, were untouched. He didn't even eat the homemade yogurt I'd fixed with raspberries from our garden and he loves that stuff. I had to ask what he'd been living on and it turns out he'd been eating potato chips and peanut butter straight out of the jar.

When I was recounting this to a girlfriend last week she exclaimed, "What, is he twelve?" Well no, he's not twelve, exactly, but he is very boyish even at 63 and I love that about him. He'll giggle when I torture Siri on my IPhone, he doesn't mind doing fun crazy things like water balloon fights and go-carts and he *gets* me.

Having someone that understands you, really *gets* you is to me is more important than things like man that holds the door open for you, or makes a zillion dollars. To have that connection with another human being is just awesomely essential to me.

On the other hand he knows where all the buttons are and has more than a few times pushed a few of them, like almost exactly a week before I left on the trip. He came to bed around midnight after losing all of his fantasy football games (four). He woke me up and proceeded to try to pick a fight with me because of his angst. I turned over in the bed, told him I wasn't going to fight and went right back to sleep.

You can do that when you've reached many years and a deep knowledge of each other.

Jim's hobby is fantasy sports and I like to sometimes tease him that he sounds like a wounded howler monkey when he's watching sports. Just like I love to tease him when he watchs MMA that the only difference between MMA and gay porn is that the guys are wearing shorts and there's not a bottle of lube in the ring. Always makes him laugh.

Funny, on the trip I got together for lunch one day with one of my old friends and she said something about me having married an 'old man' and I had to laugh. Apparently none of my friends understood at the time that his being 9 years older than I wasn't a big deal, that our bond was deeper than it looked. She and I giggled over the fact that we'd both been married now for quite a long time with no divorces, old man or not.

But getting back to the after the trip. I was surprised how mostly clean the house was, besides the laundry and cat box. I just needed to sweep/mop/vacuum instead of do an entire house scrub. I'd been geared up to do a complete cleaning, dreading that part of returning home since I hate, hate, hate housework.

The other part of my week consisted of a class I'm taking and the great fall shoe hunt. Every fall I get a pair of fur lined house slippers, a pair of casual leather clogs and a pair of dressier winter shoes. And fall has arrived here, it's quite chilly. The problem with the shoes is that it usually takes me a number of days to get them because I have super high arches on my feet, which means my choices are very limited. It's always going to be something like a Dansko, or a Clarkes or some other foreign made too expensive shoe with high arch support because those arch support inserts you can buy do nothing for me. I have a set of custom made orthotics from my doctor but those are like walking on concrete. Huge waste of money.

But the best part was coming home to a huge, HUGE, H-U-G-E check in the mail from the federal government. The IRS finally settled with us over their claims I flubbed up the 2010 taxes. Yeah, the IRS is that far behind in examining returns. I did screw it up, but only because our broker neglected to send us all of the pages of our statement, so I had four pages of stocks not listed on our return. It's been a huge mess to straighten out and the IRS even lost our amended return the first time I mailed it.

Having this hanging over our heads for the last two years has been like walking around with a sword overhead, a sword that could fall at any moment. They withheld two years of tax refunds from us so it was like Christmas in in October!

I needed it to be resolved because it was just one part of the nasty stew of stress I've been dealing with the last four or five months. It takes some of the pressure off. Now if the rest of the situations would resolve life would be the best it's ever been.

Margaret and I have reconciled, we've laughed and talked about her various issues and the things I don't *get* about her and her husband's relationship. I did tell her I still didn't approve and some cautionary tales from my marriage to her father, how triggered I'd been by the old memories of his emotional abuse of me. I even told her I'd posted about it on my blog and been soundly spanked. She laughed even harder and told me she knew I would likely blog about it since I've been blogging on one site or another since 1998. She *gets* that I don't hold back, that I speak my mind and she's okay with that.

That class I'm taking? It's a tax preparer class. I don't intend to actually do taxes for anyone else, but I do plan on understanding the changes this year and making sure we never get in trouble with the IRS again. I'll use what I learn to do our taxes. Gotta get going as I have to be there shortly.