Ex, holidays, narcissists

Christmas time is coming… you know what means, right? Here’s the best Christmas gift…

Before I get started… this isn’t going to be a super lighthearted post. It might be funny or interesting to some readers who know our story, and it could be helpful and informative to others… I just want to warn anyone who’s here looking for festive glad tidings that this post ain’t it.

Still with me? Mmm’kay…

When I was really young, I loved Christmas. I loved the food, the music, staying home from school, and getting Christmas presents. I loved being with my family, too. As I got older, Christmas became more of a burden. I found out that Santa isn’t real, not that I was ever a big believer in Santa… I recognized my mom’s handwriting on the packages. Then I felt like I had to buy gifts, and I never had any money. I also realized I didn’t know the recipients well enough to get them something they really wanted, so it felt like I was wasting money that I didn’t have.

As time went on, I came to realize that Christmas had lost its magic for me and filled me with apprehension and stress, rather than the touching family moments depicted on the Hallmark channel. It wasn’t until I married Bill and swore off family gatherings that I started to enjoy the holidays again. So… from about 2005 onwards, Christmas became fun for us… I now enjoy Christmas. I like shopping for Bill, because I know what he likes, needs, and wants. And we don’t try to make Christmas what it isn’t. It’s just a day. We enjoy the day and all the good stuff that comes with it. He is the one person I can count on to love me for exactly who I am. That is a huge blessing. I, in turn, love him for exactly who he is.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t see drama about to erupt from other sources. Most of it stays away from us in the most personal sense. However, because Bill and his daughter have reconnected, he’s hearing about drama from afar. It occurred to me that this is the time of year when narcissists usually become completely insufferable. And based on what I’ve seen from Ex lately, I think it could hit a fever pitch this year.

Behold:

On the surface, this sort of seems like a “cute” post, right? She’s putting up her Christmas tree, and oops! She forgot to add one of the middle sections! She must now get on social media to show everyone her “mistake” and ask for advice.

Ummm… I know for a fact that Ex knows how to put up a Christmas tree. And I think she knows how to fix this problem. That tree has just four parts to it. It’s not even like the trees of yore, which had dozens of individual limbs and color codes that had to be put on one at a time. It takes two minutes to put up a tree like the one pictured, even if you put the wrong section on the lower part. On our tree, the top part wouldn’t even fit on the bottom section. And why in the hell would you put lights on before you assemble the tree?

But then I notice at the end of her post, she writes “On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… no help on the Christmas tree.”

Uh huh. That was a dig at #3, who is apparently checked out. After twenty years of this kind of shit, I can’t really blame him. It took Bill half as much time to withdraw from Ex’s craziness. So when he ignores her, she hits up social media for attention.

Some of you who might be reading this are probably thinking… “How do you know all of this? And more importantly, why do you care?”

The fact is, I don’t actually care, except to the extent that it upsets younger daughter. She lives in another state, true… but it’s the holiday season, and narcissists are typically a nightmare during the holidays. They just can’t help themselves. They have this image they desperately want to project, and they expect everyone else to buy into the image. The trouble is, even if other people are cooperative, the reality never lives up to the perfect image in Ex’s mind. That causes her a lot of stress and gives her excuses to stir up drama.

The holidays are also a time of year when people are expected to be kind, grateful, and happy. Narcissists aren’t naturally kind, grateful, or happy people, even if that’s the image they try, and sometimes manage to project, to strangers. BUT– they expect YOU to be all of those things and more. If you protest when they criticize you, there will be hell to pay. “You can’t win for losin'”, as my sweet husband likes to say.

So… Ex decides to “spread the wealth” that comes with being upset during the holidays. Instead of sending warm wishes in a Christmas card or a lovely present, she sends hateful private messages full of rage, accusations, and guilt. Instead of making a phone call or starting a video chat, she drops a load of psychic angst via Facebook messenger. And then, when the response is anything other than groveling or mea culpas, she “shares the wealth” of misery to other people who care enough to listen to her complaints. Ah… holiday stress. It’s the narcissistic gift that ripples across generations, right?

I’ve been in Bill’s life for over 20 years, and I have seen Ex spoil MANY holidays. She usually craps on Christmas, but I’ve also seen her fuck up birthdays and Easter. Since one of her daughters and a granddaughter were born on July 4th, you can bet that day will be messed up, too. It’s a double whammy– Independence Day and a birthday for two family members. She hates it when the attention isn’t focused on her, so she’s got to do something to get into the limelight.

Years ago, Dr. Tara Palmatier, the Shrink4Men, wrote an excellent article about high conflict individuals during the holidays. If you have one of these in your life, I highly recommend that you check it out. Narcissistic exes who routinely act even more like self-centered idiots during the holidays is a real “thing”. It’s not all in your head. Dr. T also wrote a hilarious gift guide for the high conflict person in your life. Yes, it’s tongue in cheek… and maybe it’ll make you smile as you figure out how to get through another holiday season… and maybe consider if you really want to spend the rest of your life dealing with this kind of ridiculous nonsense.

A few days ago, younger daughter told us a bit about a recent conflict she had with Ex, who berated her for her supposed shortcomings. Younger daughter, to her credit, attempted to stick up for herself. She actually told Ex that she was being abusive. She hoped that Ex would see the error of her ways… but sadly, Ex didn’t get it and simply heaped on more abuse and blame. I couldn’t help but shake my head. I could totally relate.

I once made the mistake of thinking one of my own family members was mature enough to have a discussion about some abusive behavior from a Christmas past. Sure enough, she turned into a victim, and I was the bad one for bringing it up. The crazy thing was, I was actually trying to be positive. I was trying to tell her that her tantrum during the last Christmas I spent with my family of origin had strengthened my resolve not to tolerate that shit from anyone else, including and especially Ex. Saying “no” to this particular relative had led to my having the strength to say “no” to Ex the following year, when she “invited” Bill and me to Bill’s father’s house for Christmas. Instead of looking back on that incident objectively, she claimed I was being mean to her. She turned into a pathetic victim.

Younger daughter is more mature than I was when I was her age. Hell, she’s probably more mature than I am now. 😉 As she was talking about this dramatic exchange she had with Ex, she got this wizened look on her face and said, “It just totally blew up in my face.” And I knew that she realized, then and there, that there is no point in trying to talk reasonably with personality disordered people like this. They can’t see your viewpoint. They won’t consider your perspective. They have no empathy. That’s part of their disorder and sadly, it won’t ever change. The best you can do is minimize how that shitty nonsense will affect you. Learn to either diffuse it or ignore it, or better yet, go no or minimal contact.

Then last night, we heard from younger daughter again. She was very excited about and thankful for a birthday gift Bill had sent her. And she told us that she had decided to apologize to her sisters for all of the things Ex claimed they were angry at her about. She also sent them copies of what Ex had sent her in her private message of doom. To that, I say, BRAVO. Ex is a world class triangulator. She has perfected to an art form the skill of telling people different things to get them upset at each other. They don’t speak to one another, so whatever they know has been filtered through Ex, who naturally spins it so that it’s completely twisted and totally askew. She said that older daughter was “nice” and wrote “I accept your apology.” I could see by the slight flash of snark on younger daughter’s face that she could tell it was bullshit that older daughter felt owed an apology for anything. It was quite hilarious.

But what I’d also like to tell her is that it’s a brilliant move to send transcripts of Ex’s diatribes to her sisters. Why? Because then they can see for themselves what was actually communicated. There’s less opportunity to take it out of context. And, there’s a LOVELY side effect to taking this action. Once Ex knows that her secrets aren’t being kept, she stops writing things down and sending them.

Back in 2006, when I wrote to Ex for the first and only time, I ripped her a new one because she had sent Bill an email with all sorts of nasty bile about me, and how the kids hated me and didn’t want us in their lives. She then asked Bill not to tell me what she’d written. She claimed she wanted to “spare my feelings.” Nope… that demand wasn’t about sparing anyone’s feelings. She wanted to drive a wedge between us. She is Olympic class at doing this; I’ve watched her do it for over twenty years. She was hoping Bill would resent me for being an obstacle to having his daughters in his life. It backfired, because Bill could plainly see that I had nothing to do with stopping him from having relationships with his kids. Moreover, the (now adult) kids are free to think whatever they want about me. That’s not something I can control, nor would I want to try. BUT… I will not tolerate Ex telling my husband to keep secrets from me and interfering in our marriage.

She could see that I know all about her and that Bill is loyal to me. Sending him nasty emails simply gives me more evidence of who and what she is. I’m not going to keep her secrets or accept her abuse. So, when that fact became clear, she stopped sending Bill emails! Blessed be! She also never called him again! The last we directly heard from her was, unfortunately, when she sent many boxes of Bill’s possessions restricted delivery, along with an itemized list marked “confidential” and a toxic little story book Bill used to read to the girls… HA! There was a nasty letter about what a horrible father and husband Bill is, along with paperwork for Bill to sign that would allow #3 to adopt Bill’s daughters. Of course he wasn’t going to sign the papers. Even if he did that, she wouldn’t have to file them, and he would have to keep paying child support. And then she’d have a paper with his signature on it to use as an alienation tool. That nasty little delivery occurred just in time for Bill’s 42nd birthday. Another special day ruined!

Bill still has all of that stuff. He’s kept it for the day when he needed to explain it to one of his daughters. Sure enough, that day recently came, and he told his daughter about what Ex had done. He did that because, in her recent little tirade, Ex told younger daughter about how Bill hadn’t wanted to pay child support and “offered” to let #3 adopt them. So younger daughter asked about what had actually happened… or even just Bill’s side of the issue. She’s figured out that her mother lies and twists things to suit her agenda. She knew there was more to the story and she wanted to hear it. So Bill told her his side, and offered to show her the stuff Ex sent anytime she wanted to see it. He told her about how he went next door and spoke to our neighbor at the time, who is a lawyer and is still a dear friend. 😉

But, I think what really made me PROUD of younger daughter and impressed by her smarts was when she looked into the camera and said, “Now I can see things from both sides.” She said she remembered how Bill recently explained to her how, when she was still a kid, Bill would call and try to speak to his daughters. At that time, younger daughter was always “unavailable”. She was in the bathtub, or had a headache, or otherwise couldn’t come to the phone. Gradually, former stepson and older daughter also quit speaking to Bill. Ex turned the ringer off of the phone, so he’d call and no one would answer. Younger daughter became more and more hostile, and for a long time, I didn’t like her. My dislike was because of the image she was portraying. But that wasn’t really her. It was a facade spackled by Ex, designed to turn off anyone who might influence or assist her daughter, whom she sees as solely her “property”. Ex can’t share, and she resents anyone who takes what she thinks belongs to her. That includes other people, especially those who have passed through her birth canal. 😀

Since younger daughter now lives in another state, and has her own family, she is now seeing things the way Bill used to see them when he and Ex communicated. Now, she gets it! It’s a beautiful thing that she finally understands– although I am very sorry that she’s now on the other side of her mother’s abuse. Being on one side is bad enough. I guess we can take comfort in knowing that this is how she treats everyone eventually.

In any case, I strongly suspect that the holidays are causing an uptick in drama at Ex’s house. But I also suspect that her husband is about to ditch her. And this time, she might not land on her feet. So that will cause her to act up and act out, and try to pull other people into her crises… to include strangers on social media whom she asks about how to put up her stupid Christmas tree as she slides in a little dig toward #3, who clearly isn’t paying enough attention to her during this holiday season. Too funny… and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person, huh?

What I’d also like to tell younger daughter is that I’ve learned not to be too hard on anyone who has to live full time with Ex. For a long time, I didn’t like people who seemed to be on Ex’s side. But now I realize that Ex makes people miserable. She’s a toxic person, and having to live with a toxic person is unpleasant. Toxic behavior is contagious, especially if you live in the FOG (fear, obligation, and guilt that comes with living with a high conflict person). It’s not really personal. They’re literally living in an environment that makes them “sick”. I have observed people leaving Ex’s sphere and becoming completely different, happier, healthier people. I also observed my own mother becoming a different person after my toxic dad passed eight years ago.

So, when her sisters are snarky, rude, or clueless, or #3’s mother says something thoughtless or insulting, it might be helpful for younger daughter to remember that they live in a toxic place, and they are affected by Ex’s toxic bullshit. Misery loves company, so they’re inviting her to join in their little miserable soiree. That might help her feel more sympathetic when they say shitty things to her. Actually, in her case, it probably would have that effect. In my case, it probably wouldn’t. I’m not as nice as younger daughter is, and I have never had a “loving” relationship with the people involved in this situation. In fact, I barely know them at all. So… I guess I could muster empathy, because they’re fellow human beings, and I don’t like to see fellow human beings suffering.

Anyway… Bill told his daughter that she doesn’t need to apologize to anyone for living her life on her own terms and being as healthy as she can be. One of the best things about being an adult is that you have the ability to make choices like whether or not you’re going to show up for people who behave like jerks. Children don’t often have a choice in whether or not they tolerate abusive behavior. Adults do. And younger daughter is well beyond the age of majority, so she really doesn’t have to tolerate this crap anymore. Better yet, she has young children of her own to protect from this toxic, narcissistic fuckery, which is an even more important reason to tell Ex to “zip it” and kick her to the curb.

For you, Ex.

I’d say that realizing that she doesn’t have to put up with ruined holidays and acting accordingly is the best Christmas present a person could ever get. I know it was a life changer for me when I stopped showing up for dysfunctional family holiday drama. 😉 So… Merry Christmas! And have a happy, HEALTHY, new year.

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dogs, family, holidays

Christmas time’s a comin’…

Bwahahahaha… It’s that time of year again.

Last night, I was sitting on the bed, watching YouTube videos, and fretting about Arran, who has his first chemo appointment on Thursday. I got an email from my eldest sister. I haven’t heard from her in months; although in fairness, she also hasn’t heard from me. It was a message about Christmas. She wants to host it in her house, and has invited us to come to her home in North Carolina for it.

My sister is 13 years older than I am, so we’re not very close. Moreover, I haven’t celebrated Christmas with my family of origin since 2003. That Christmas, which was held at my parents’ former house, was a disaster. Bill and I ended up leaving after one night. The following year, Bill’s ex wife “invited” us to spend Christmas at Bill’s father’s house. Because of the previous year’s disastrous gathering with my own family, I wisely opted out of attending Ex’s holiday soiree. Although we did have Christmas dinner with my eldest sister in 2012, when Bill and I lived in North Carolina, it was not an overnight affair. Aside from spending Christmas in France a few years ago, Bill and I have done Christmas on our own. We both much prefer it that way.

This year, though, it would be difficult for us to go back to the States for the holidays. First off, Arran is starting chemo on Thursday, and that will entail needing weekly visits to the vet for nine weeks, then, if he survives, monthly visits. I don’t know how he’ll do on the chemo. It’s possible that it won’t work at all, and we’ll lose him very soon. Or, it may work beautifully, and we’ll have him for some time. Right now, my goal is to get him beyond Bill’s two TDY trips this month. I would love to see him make it to January, so he can celebrate ten years of being in our family. After that, any additional time would be golden. He’s an old guy, and he can’t live forever, especially with a lymphoma diagnosis. He is starting to get sicker, though, so I don’t know what will happen. Hopefully, we can get him some temporary relief, at the very least.

Also, since it’s almost mid October, my guess is that our usual boarding spot is already fully booked for the holidays. We would still have to board Noyzi, even if we lose Arran. And even if we don’t lose Arran, I don’t want to board him anymore. I think it’s too hard on him. We do have a trip to France planned next month, for our 20th wedding anniversary. But we plan to take the dogs with us for that trip. We have stayed in the apartment I booked several times before. The landlord is very dog friendly, and we know the area well. I think it will be okay to go, even if all we do is sit there and drink wine.

I find Christmas pretty stressful, anyway, especially when it’s spent with my family of origin. I am the youngest sister by eight years, and my family seems to find me burdensome and obnoxious. Although it might be hard for some people to believe, I don’t enjoy being around people who don’t enjoy being around me. I’m not one to put in an appearance, either, because at 50 years old, I’ve done it for too many years. From my earliest days, I’ve been told by my family members what a pain in the ass I am, and criticized for everything from my appearance to the way I laugh. Add in the fact that my sister’s husband seems to enjoy watching my family fight and is a Trump supporter. There’s a tendency for people to drink too much and be rude, and I just don’t think it would go well. I mean, who wants to be on a plane eight hours at the busiest time of the year for that?

I do love my family. I especially love my mom, even though she’s the source of a lot of trauma. She’s in her 80s, and I haven’t seen her since 2015. I’ve lost quite a few relatives since I was last “home”, back in 2014. I’m sorry that I’ll never see them on Earth again, but I don’t think any of them really wanted to see me again, anyway. And, to be frank, I don’t get the sense that my immediate family wants to see me that badly, either. Like I said… we’re not that close. From the earliest years of my life, I got the impression that I was a “mistake”, and that I inconvenience people. Christmas should be a time of peace, love, and joy. Frankly, being around certain family members doesn’t make it so for me. I’d rather sleep in my own bed, listen to my favorite music, and be with someone who loves me for who I am… cackling laugh and barrel butt be damned.

It was nice to be invited to the gathering. I do appreciate the invite. But I think I’ve sworn off family holiday gatherings. I’ve had enough dysfunction to last me the rest of my life. At least this year, I do have a valid excuse to skip the trip to the USA, though. I can’t just leave my dogs here. Especially Arran. But then, I also don’t know that he’ll still be with us at Christmas. I do know, however, that he’s been more of a loving presence in my life and a real family member to me than most of my relatives have been… especially my immediate ones. Sorry to make that statement, but it happens to be true. At least from my perspective.

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disasters, divorce, Ex, narcissists, royals

How petty, toxic, narcissists take revenge, and the estrangement that follows…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from having been married to a man with an apparently very narcissistic ex wife, it’s that narcissists love to take revenge. Many times, over my almost twenty year marriage to Bill, I’ve observed Ex being spiteful to those who dare to cross her in any way. On a few occasions, Ex has tried to take revenge on Bill by using his children and other family members as weapons. She doesn’t seem to care that her attempts to get even are usually not just hurtful to her targets. They also hurt innocent people, like her children. And now that she has grandchildren, I fear that they could also be harmed, unless their parents keep them far away from her, and her toxic influence.

I’m reminded of this truism as I watch and read the news about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, abruptly flying back to California on a private jet before the Platinum Jubilee even finished. I think it’s safe to say that their return to Britain was not particularly triumphant, as Harry and Meghan were treated like they’re now second class. They weren’t invited to the balcony to wave to the public. They didn’t sit with the Prince Charles or Prince William when they were in church. And the public booed them when they arrived and left the Thanksgiving church service. The couple did get to introduce their daughter, Lilibet, to Her Majesty the Queen, and their son, Archie, also got to be reunited with his British cousins. But there were no photographs of the event, and the “Harkles” were reportedly not given close access to their family members. It’s been hypothesized that they weren’t allowed to get close because of their deal with Netflix and Harry’s upcoming memoirs. The family wasn’t wanting any private moments to be exposed on Netflix or in Harry’s expected book of woe.

After the chilly reception the “Harkles” got in Britain, the family didn’t bother to stick around for the grand finale of the Platinum Jubilee. Maybe they had other urgent business to attend to back in California, but my guess is that they were really pissed. Or… maybe only Meghan was pissed, and Harry simply went along with her to keep the peace. That was how it often was with Bill and his ex wife. He’d do what she wanted to avoid the pain of what she’d do to get revenge. On the other hand, I suspect that Harry has a bit of a temper and can be a little spiteful, himself. I obviously don’t know him personally, but I’ve read the news, and I pay attention to body language, too. It probably wasn’t a hard sell to get Harry on board, if Meghan was the one who instigated the abrupt departure from the festivities.

Jesus Enrique Rosas talks about the potential reasons why Meghan and Harry might have decided to curtail their brief return to Britain.

Consider the circumstances of this situation, though. The Platinum Jubilee was a huge party to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s remarkable 70 year reign. It wasn’t supposed to be a party to welcome back Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan. All of the working royals, to include Prince Charles and Prince William, their spouses, and the Queen herself, were going to be extremely busy. Also consider that the Brits can be delightfully snarky, and they have long memories. Did Harry and Meghan really think they could come back to Britain and not suffer some backlash? Of course people are upset with them, even if there is some truth to some of what they’ve said about the British Royal Family. To many people, Harry and Meghan are incredibly privileged people, and their behavior has come off as unbelievably petty and damaging. But– since I don’t know them personally, I will admit that it’s possible that Harry and Meghan felt the situation was toxic, and left only for that reason. I really doubt that’s what happened, though.

The Royal Grift’s video showing Peter Phillip’s chilly reaction to Meghan is referenced in Rosas’ video; I happened to see this two minute video yesterday, before I watched The Body Language Guy’s video today.

Narcissistic types don’t like it when people behave in ways they don’t expect, especially when they “push back” against the narcissist’s rude and entitled behavior. I suspect that the Harkles’ return to Britain was very humiliating, and it didn’t go off in the way they thought it would. And sadly, I think Meghan and Harry are going to try to make the rest of the British Royal Family “pay” for this treatment, which I think was probably deeply shaming to them. Why? Because I’ve seen the same shit in more ordinary circumstances with average, everyday people. And I know that narcissists, by and large, have a playbook that is uncannily familiar. It doesn’t matter if we’re discussing a royal family or trailer trash. Narcissists are capable of being unbelievably petty and spiteful.

Many years ago, when Bill and I were newly married, and Bill was trying to handle his business with Ex more assertively, he sent a “stern” and rather lengthy email to his ex wife. He was addressing the fact that she was alienating the children, insulting me, and being extremely greedy about money. She had demanded that he get another $500K life insurance policy, because she felt entitled to $1 million in coverage, in case he died before the children were grown. I wrote about that incident here, to include the actual emails that were sent. Bill was polite to Ex, but he made it clear that he wasn’t going to be her patsy anymore.

Ex was angry that Bill wasn’t going along with her demands without question. She sent a very brief and foreboding response, which I’ve posted below:

I would like to take a little while to absorb all that you have said.  It would seem my email to you was set in a very different tone that what I perceive is coming from you.  After all that you have done to the children, and me I find this …quite frankly …unbelievable and would prefer not to comment without having time to carefully choose my words.  You will hear from me again.

Bear in mind, this email was sent in 2003, just after the children had their one and ONLY unsupervised visitation with us. Bill saw them only once more when they were still children; that was at Christmas, in 2004. I famously opted out of attending that “celebration”, because I knew it would be a disaster, and I couldn’t see how my presence would make things better. We knew better than to tell Ex that I wouldn’t be attending the gathering, because my attendance was most of her whole purpose for setting up what amounted to a supervised visitation. She wanted to send me a message about my (diminished) place in the family, gather intel about me (the somewhat new and threatening wife), and still look like she was being generous by “sharing” the children. Most of all, she wanted to humiliate both of us, and shame us into doing what she wanted us to do. Of course, Bill had every right to see his kids, and now regrets not taking Ex to court and forcing her to allow visitation. But, unfortunately, that’s now water under the bridge.

As I figured it would be, that Christmas meeting was indeed a disaster. My conspicuous absence made things “weird” and awkward, and Ex ended up looking like a petty fool. Bill’s dad and stepmother were very embarrassed, although everyone basically fixed the blame on me for upsetting the apple cart. Ex decided to get revenge by completely severing Bill’s connection to his daughters and ex stepson. It didn’t matter to Ex at all that this would be very hurtful and damaging to her children. She just wanted to hurt Bill, and the children were the most effective weapons for that task.

A few years later, Ex wanted Bill to side with her, when ex stepson decided to leave home after turning 18. Bill was paying him child support directly, per the agreement he made with Ex in their divorce decree. As usual, Ex hadn’t thought ahead, and didn’t realize that having the kids paid directly when they became adults would give them the chance to rid themselves of her. So she called Bill in the spring of 2006 to ask– or really demand– that he not pay ex stepson any child support. Bill refused, and demanded to know about how his daughters were doing, since they refused to speak to him when he called.

Ex’s response was to send a nasty email that, once again, insulted me, even though I initially had nothing to do with ex stepson’s decision to leave home. Bill told me what she wrote, because although she had asked him to keep what she wrote about me a secret, Bill doesn’t keep secrets from his wife. I got very pissed off, and sent Ex an email of my own, which she promptly tried to weaponize. She spoke to Bill on the phone again, insulted me anew, told Bill that the kids hated him, and later sent him adoption paperwork, so that her loser third husband could legally adopt Bill’s daughters. She also forced her daughters to write letters disowning Bill, and sent several itemized packages of Bill’s possessions that she’d held on to for years. All of this landed on our doorstep, restricted delivery, as Bill and I were celebrating his 42nd birthday. It was very upsetting and TOXIC as fuck, but we handled it as best we could. Bill refused to sign the adoption papers, although he was tempted to for a minute. But there was no guarantee she would file them, and besides, he had no way of knowing if the girls had written those letters under duress (and younger daughter now confirms that they were, indeed, forced).

When her sick, manipulative tactics still didn’t work the way she’d expected, Ex doubled down even more, which led to ex stepson severing ties with Bill after we caught him changing his surname without telling Bill, as he was also accepting $850 a month in child support from him, and driving a used car that Bill gave him (as a 21 year old MAN, no less). That fiasco was, no doubt, very humiliating for ex stepson, who probably only did it because his mother influenced him to do it. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had a role model who has taught him that a little humility and contrition can go a long way in healing rifts. Instead of humbling himself, having an honest converstion, and apologizing to Bill, thus “mending fences”, he simply cut off all ties. The end result is that ex stepson is now quite estranged– not just from Bill, but also from the rest of his family. Younger daughter says he rarely has contact with Ex, or his siblings. He never liked #3, so it stands to reason that they wouldn’t speak. I don’t know if the estrangement makes him happy and gives him peace. Maybe, it does. Personally, I think it’s pathetic, especially since I know he once thought of Bill as his dad; but if being completely estranged from Bill pleases him, so be it.

When I look at Harry and Meghan, and the obvious estrangement happening within the British Royal Family, I can’t help but feel pings of familiarity. They may be a lot more famous than we are, but the petty dysfunctional narcissism playbook is very similar to what we’ve experienced. Sadly, in Her Majesty’s case, it’s all on display on an international stage, for everyone to see, and for everyone to speculate.

This is a pretty cheesy video that sounds narrated by AI, but it makes some sense. It sounds like her friends could see this coming.

I have great respect for Queen Elizabeth II. She has not had an easy time of it. She wasn’t even supposed to be the queen, and she had that duty thrust upon her at a very young age. She’s had to endure as her children and grandchildren and their spouses and exes have been embroiled in all sorts of embarrassing situations. Through all of the scandals over the years, the queen has managed to hold her head high with dignity. She’s a good sport, even appearing with Paddington Bear for the Platinum Jubilee. And even at age 96, when she’s no doubt easily tired, she still shows up for her people.

This is just adorable and makes me weepy every time I watch it… and I think I’ve already seen it a half dozen times. I used to own a Paddington Bear from the 1970s, complete with genuine Wellies. I wish I knew where he was.

I noticed that today, a new picture of Lilibet has been shared with the public. It’s a solitary photo, showing a smiling little girl with ginger hair and what appears to be blue eyes. She’s definitely adorable, and the public will eat up the coveted rare photo. I suspect that the Harkles’ children could wind up being their ticket to relevance, since it appears that neither the Royal Family, nor the British public, are going to stand for their manipulative bullshit. I suspect Meghan had visions of being like Harry’s mum, the iconic Princess Diana. Well, she’s no Diana… and it’s obvious that almost no one is going to indulge that fantasy for her.

Actions have consequences, and you don’t just marry into a hugely famous and powerful family, such as Harry’s, and think you can call the shots. That idea doesn’t always work for “normal” families, either. Especially when people have had enough bullshit and refuse to be indulgent anymore. Moreover, this behavior is clearly nothing new. Meghan’s own brother even tried to warn Prince Harry before the wedding.

I hope that Harry will eventually be able to reconcile with his family. Sadly, I suspect that if he does decide to go “home” again, he will probably have to sacrifice access to his children, on some level… and if it doesn’t happen soon, he may also lose his Granny. She’s 96, and no one lives forever. On the other hand, if anyone has access to good legal counsel, it’s the British Royal Family. So maybe Harry’s situation won’t be anything like Bill’s was. I sure hope not.

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family, holidays, mental health

I refuse to let anyone mess up my holidays, and it’s a good policy to have!

I hope everyone reading my blog post enjoyed their holiday yesterday… those who celebrated, anyway. I know not everyone enjoys Christmas. There was a time in my past when it wasn’t such a fun holiday for me. I would say that for most of my 20s, I wasn’t a Christmas fan. I found it to be more of a burden than anything else. In those years, I was still single, and Christmas meant spending money I didn’t have on gifts for people I didn’t know that well anymore, and without fail, at least one dramatic or traumatic altercation with someone from my family of origin.

Christmas got dramatically better for me from about the year 2005. That was the first year after I resolutely decided that I would never again let someone else fuck up my holidays. I have stubbornly stuck to that resolution, and it works really well. It helps that we live in another country now, so no one expects us to take part in Christmas gatherings anymore. Our Christmases are just Bill and me and the dogs, with lots of wine, beer, music, and good food… and presents that don’t have any weird messages or symbols attached to them. There aren’t any arguments. There aren’t any manipulative ploys for attention. There’s nothing but us, enjoying each other and our very compatible and comfortable marriage. It’s peaceful and freeing, just the way I love it. We don’t even bother with church.

I know we’re beyond blessed. I’ve read more than a few angsty posts from people who find Christmas unbearably overwhelming and annoying. I’ve seen a few newspaper articles about how to handle Christmas with obnoxious relatives, which is even trickier this year, since vaccinations against COVID-19 are available and not everybody agrees with taking them. Christmas shouldn’t be something to endure… but for some people, it really is.

Unfortunately, COVID vaccines are just one more issue that divides people, which causes stress in family units. My own family of origin isn’t immune to it. My mom said that one of my sisters invited her to spend Christmas with her family, but this sister isn’t vaccinated and refuses to consider getting the shots. My mom is in her 80s and lives in an assisted living apartment. She doesn’t want to be around unvaccinated people, because she doesn’t want to get sick. My sister also lives in another state, and mom doesn’t want to drive there. So she decided to stay home… which is fine for her, since she’s a very independent person. I’ll probably call her later today to see how it went for her.

Bill talked to his daughter on Skype on Christmas Eve. They had a great chat. Younger daughter said she was very happy with the gifts that Bill and his mom sent to her. She said she was pleased with the gifts, because they were just gifts. There was no weird hidden meaning or guilt message attached. Bill sent toys for her kids, some German candy that isn’t available in the USA, a gift card for a restaurant so she and her husband can have a date night, and a big box of Lebkuchen, German gingerbread. Younger daughter said the Lebkuchen was a huge hit, since she’s pregnant, and the ginger is soothing to her stomach. She said that her mom would buy it in the past, but it was always stale. The box Bill sent was fresh, and much to our surprise, got to her very quickly.

She said that her mother also sent gifts… and then she asked Bill if he ever got gifts from Ex that had “hidden meanings”. Bill chuckled knowingly, because he remembered quite a few occasions when his ex wife sent gifts that weren’t bringing tidings of joy.

He told me about how, back when they first separated in 1999, Ex was letting #3 stay at the home that Bill was still paying the mortgage on. She told Bill not to come home. Instead, they would meet at my father-in-law’s house, and have Christmas there. Under the tree were presents for Bill from the kids… But they were items that Bill already owned. When he left their house to go back into the Army, he left a lot of his stuff there. And instead of sending the items to him, Ex simply wrapped them up and had the kids put their names on the packages. Then she put them under the tree, disguised as gifts. There he sat on Christmas morning 1999, unwrapping the Star Wars VCR tapes that he’d already owned and had watched with ex stepson.

At the time, Bill just blew it off. He figured she was just being a petty bitch. But then he realized that Ex was also doing all she could to eliminate his presence in the family. She threw out photos of him and even stole the one that younger daughter used to sleep with. She cut his image out of pictures. Older daughter once remarked that she had forgotten what he looked like, because Ex was doing her best to erase him… even as she demanded $2550 a month from him in child support, which she received on time, every month, in full, and with no complaint.

For years, I was so disgusted by the cruel things she did. But now, I know that this is the kind of treatment everyone eventually gets from her. She does the same thing to her own children. I don’t know what she sent younger daughter, but I can imagine that whatever it was, it was intended to make her feel shitty. Or, at least, GUILTY.

I have mentioned before that Ex has a habit of ruining treasured childhood relics, like storybooks and music. Bill used to read a book to his children when they were small. It was a book about forgiveness. Just before Bill went to Iraq, Ex sent him the book, with a really cryptic shitty message. She wouldn’t encourage the kids to speak to him. Instead, she had them write him letters disowning him, then she sent him a book to remind him of them… and just before he went to a place where he could have been killed. For weeks, I had to look at that book in our home. I finally told Bill to do something with it so I didn’t have to see it, or I would be throwing it out. He ended up sending it back to her with a note that read, “You need this more than I do.” BRAVO! That was the last time she ever sent him a poisonous package.

Unfortunately, it sounds like she’s still up to her old tricks. I feel sad for Bill’s daughters, and the three other kids Ex has had, but was apparently never satisfied with and just wants to torment. I don’t know what drives her to be the way she is. Some of it, I’m sure, is mental illness… but some of it is just plain mean and cruel. How sad it is that one of the things Bill can bond with his daughter over is the mental fuckery perpetrated by Ex.

Lest anyone think this is going to be another one of my Ex trashing posts… I will now move on to an anecdote about my own family. I’ve written the story many times about what happened in my own family, back in 2003. That was the year I swore off gatherings with my family of origin.

One of my sisters had asked for a ride to Gloucester with us. We obliged, but I told her that if there was a fight, we’d be leaving. Sure enough, hours after we arrived, there was a fight.

Besides the fight, which made the tension in the house unbearable, Bill and I were relegated to the very uncomfortable sleeper sofa in the freezing cold room which had once been a garage. It had been rebuilt into an office, but had poor insulation. I had started my period , and that room wasn’t near a bathroom. I just wanted to be in my own house.

Bill and I resolved to leave the next day. The sister who came with us didn’t want to go home early, and tried to manipulate us into staying. She wanted us to take her shopping. I refused, so she threw a huge tantrum… I mean HUGE! There was screaming, swearing, melting down, and it was like something I would have expected from a toddler.

However, instead of giving in, as I had in the past, I turned to Bill and said, “Come on, let’s just go.” And we did. We left her at my parents’ house. She had to find another way home, which I understand involved taking a bus. She was a woman in her 40s at the time. She and I have talked about that incident just once since it happened. In her version of the story, I was blaming her for our other sister’s fight with me.

I saw our spat from an entirely different perspective. I had told her ahead of time that I was not willing to stay at the house if there was any fighting. My sister had agreed to those conditions. Then, when there predictably was a fight, she tried to change the terms to ones that suited her, even though we had done her a favor by driving her down there, and she had agreed to our conditions.

When I refused to acquiesce to her demands, she had two choices– she could either come with us, or she could find her own way home. When she threw a tantrum, we determined that she’d rather stay in Gloucester… and I sure as hell didn’t need her in my car for hours, complaining non-stop as we drove back to northern Virginia. At the time, that was a very traumatic event, but it was a good thing it happened. Christmas 2003 was what gave me the courage to deal with Ex during Christmas of 2004, when she tried to ruin our holiday.

In 2004, Ex tried to manipulate me into attending Christmas at Bill’s dad’s house. She told us to get a hotel room, since she and the kids and #3 would be staying at the house. She refused to listen to Bill when he said it was a terrible idea. She expected me to show up, even though she never even asked me what I thought of it. It occurred to me that I LOVE my immediate family, but I didn’t even want to do Christmas with them again. I sure as hell didn’t want to do it with Ex, her husband, the kids, and my in-laws. I realized that if I went, it would be yet another disastrous holiday season.

I told Bill I would not be attending the gathering, but he should go and see his daughters. He went… and it was pretty dreadful, although not as dreadful as it would have been if I had gone, too. Bonus– we saved a lot of money because I stayed home with the dogs. I finally learned that obligatory, “forced family time is not always the best idea”…

What am I trying to say here? It’s that the holidays belong to everyone. You have the right to enjoy your holiday, just as much as anyone else does. And if family gatherings cause stress, strife, or cause you to go into unwanted debt, you have the right to opt out… to protect your own sanity. Christmas is optional.

I remember how, back in the days when I felt like I had to spend Christmas at home, it would always take some time to recover. Sometimes it took a few days. Sometimes, it was weeks. The year that we left my sister at my parents’ house, it was a year before she spoke to me again. But, she probably doesn’t realize that I rather enjoyed the silence. Nowadays, she mostly treats me with more respect, which is really all I ever could have hoped for in the first place.

But she did send me a private message with a little drama in it this year… she told me about how, a few years ago, our mom called her up and yelled at her, and brought my name into it. She said that mom was upset about how my sister refused to cooperate with the annual family tradition. My sister insinuated that it was because our brother-in-law had abused her cat when they came the year prior. Brother-in-law doesn’t think animals belong inside. He also enjoys watching us fight.

Anyway, I wasn’t there to see what happened, so I don’t know his side of the story. The bottom line is, because of what had happened during a previous holiday, she decided to stay home, and she claimed that our mom called her up and bitched. She was supposedly “shocked” that sister hadn’t wanted to celebrate, “Especially since Jenny…” then she stopped herself.

My comment was, “Because Jenny what? Because I don’t spend holidays at home anymore? I have DONE my time.” As the youngest, I went to all the graduations, while my graduations usually weren’t attended by my sisters. I used to be the one sister everyone could count on to be there. But that last Christmas in 2003 was the last straw. I refuse to let anyone mess up my holidays.

I stay in my house, sleep in my own comfortable bed, eat what I want, drink what I want, wear what I want, and listen to whatever music I want to… and there is NO fighting… and no stupid manipulative bullshit or guilt tripping or mean remarks about how I need to go on a diet, put on makeup, or fix my hair. There are no intrusive questions about how I can afford my lifestyle or critical, judgmental remarks about things I say, or the way I laugh, or anything else. I can simply be myself, and be appreciated for the person I am… and the person I am is really not so bad.

I am all for holidays without stress, guilt, tension, fighting, manipulation, crying jags, physical blows, temper tantrums, or lies. Ever since I decided that I’m an adult and I deserve these things, life has been better. Ever since we decided that the holidays are for us to enjoy, too, Bill and I have found Christmas to be a lot better… and much more fun! And I haven’t felt the need to read or write to an advice column, asking for help on how to deal with my relatives since…

Last night, the most stressful event was at the end of the evening, as Bill struggled to keep his eyes open. He just looked like a pissed off teddy bear, and it was absolutely ADORABLE. That’s the kind of thing I like to see on Christmas. Here’s hoping that’s how it will be from now on. Any friends or family members who are game for that kind of celebration are welcome. The rest can make drama among themselves and leave us out of it.

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lessons learned, memories

Partial repost: My own experience with a “Cootie Kid”…

One last partial repost– partial, because I left off the last part, which is time sensitive and no longer relevant. I wrote this February 24, 2015. I also changed the title of the post, because the original title is no longer relevant.

Last night, I looked up a woman I haven’t seen or heard of since fifth grade.  I was surprised by how easy it was to find her.  I just typed her maiden name and the name of the town where we grew up.  I was surprised to find her living in a town not far from our old hometown.  I also found out that she attended the same high school my former boyfriend did.  He may even know her because they probably graduated in the same class.

This woman’s name was very common in the year of our birth.  Indeed, I share her first name, but here I’ll just call her “Joni”.  Like me, Joni was socially awkward and considered weird.  Actually, she made me look like a social genius because she was even louder and odder than I ever was.  Joni was outgoing and smart enough, but she was strangely dressed and kind of homely.  She had very crooked teeth that didn’t appear to be very well cared for and an unfortunate habit of picking her nose in class and eating her boogers in front of everyone.  When we were kids, she was very skinny, had stringy blonde hair, and a face that could be best described as interesting.   

When we were in the fourth grade, I remember playing kickball with Joni.  Our teacher at the time, Mr. A , was big on taking us out for recess if time allowed.  These were the glorious days before the No Child Left Behind Act.  One day, we were playing kickball and Joni, being kind of gangly and uncoordinated, stepped up to the plate.  The ball rolled toward her.  She kicked at it, missed entirely, and fell to the ground with a solid thud.  On impact with the dirt, Joni’s leg made a sickening cracking sound, and she started howling in agony.  At the time back in 1981, there was a McDonald’s commercial that used the voice talents of Frank Nelson, a guy who would say “Yeeeeeees….” all the time.  That’s what Joni sounded like when she hit the ground and started screaming.

You can hear Frank Nelson say “Yeeees” in this commercial. Joni sounded a little like him when she screamed.

Poor thing.  I actually remember people laughing and saying that Joni sounded like the McDonald’s guy at the scene of her injury.  She was not well-regarded by our classmates.  I don’t remember being especially unkind to her, though I also don’t remember being her buddy.  People were mean to me too, though, and I think I might have had a smidge of empathy… though I probably also felt relief that someone other than me was being picked on. 

Anyway, Mr. A got help for her and, after about a week, she came back to school with a canvas cast that covered her whole leg.  She used crutches for months and I remember her wearing what she called a “rocking shoe”.  I even remember her spiritedly telling someone about the rocking shoe when he was teasing her about it.  She was a girl with a surprising amount of pluck and resilience, especially for her age.

I might have felt snarky toward Joni the way our classmates did, but I too suffered an accident while in Mr. A’s class.  In my case, it just involved being knocked unconscious by a soccer ball kicked by Mr. A.  That was a very embarrassing incident, but at least I recovered from it quickly. 

The following year, Joni was in my fifth grade class.  That year, I witnessed another classmate getting hurt, though this time, it wasn’t Joni.  It was another person who, at the time, was a friend of mine.  We were in PE class and she was climbing the bleachers when her leg slipped between the seat and the foot board.  She tore a huge gash in her leg, right by her knee.  I remember all the blood and our gym teacher (not Mr. A, though he did become a gym teacher at that school that year) picking her up in his arms and rushing her to the office where someone called an ambulance.  This girl’s bleacher accident also happened right in front of me and it reminded of me of when Joni broke her leg.  My other injured classmate screamed, but she didn’t sound like Frank Nelson.  She, too, used crutches for weeks afterwards.

One of my last clear memories of Joni was at Christmas time.  We had a gift exchange and Joni drew my name.  On the day of the gift exchange, the teacher asked me to come speak with her out in the hall.  While we were out there, she handed me a present, which turned out to be a little Smurf pin.  I think it depicted Papa Smurf grinning and holding a flower.  She said she had bought it for me because Joni had drawn my name and she knew the present Joni was going to give me would suck.  She didn’t phrase it that way, of course, but that was the basic gist of what she was saying.  I think I remember her telling me that Joni’s family didn’t have any money or something to that effect.  I believed it, having been in school with Joni for a couple of years.

Sure enough, when it came time for gift exchanges, I got Joni’s gift wrapped in rumpled notebook paper.  It was a Christmas ornament that we’d all made in class and hers was painted several different non-complementary colors.  Since the teacher had prepared me, I managed to accept the gift gracefully.  And though I was never a fan of the Smurfs, it took many years before I could bring myself to get rid of that little Smurf pin that my teacher had bought for me.  To this day, I still have the same luck when it comes to secret gift exchanges.  I always get the person who buys me booze and then drinks it all before they present it to me (yes, this did actually happen to me once when I worked at a country club).

After fifth grade, Joni moved away.  I didn’t know where she went and, in time, even forgot all about her.  But then someone on Facebook posted one of those class pictures and I saw her in it, again reminding me that she was part of my childhood.  I looked up Joni because I was curious about where she is and how she’s doing.  It looks like she’s doing fine.  I was a little dismayed to find out that she’s already a grandmother.  Since we are the same age, I hate the idea that I’m old enough to have grandchildren… but hell, I guess I am.  I see that she’s still awkward looking, but apparently has a lot of friends, a loving family, and a good sense of humor. 

I even saw that she was brave enough to post photos from her early childhood.  I actually remembered some of the photos because they were of a scholastic nature and I was around for them.  She even had one that had the full on face shot with the heavenly profile side shot above it, ever popular in the early 80s.  She had on a very frumpy looking dress that looked like it might have belonged to her mother.  One friend asked if she was Amish and her reply was a light-hearted, matter-of-fact response that that was how her parents dressed her.  I was glad to see that she looks happy enough as an adult despite our miserable elementary school days. 

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