December 25

Merry Christmas! I hope yours was as joyous as mine. I spent it with my family, doing what we do best–joking around, playing games, and eating. I’m thankful for the generous spirit we had at my mom’s house, and it wasn’t just the pile of presents that were exchanged. Although that was impressive. In fact, even though we exchanged names so we didn’t have to buy for everyone, my oldest sister gave us each bracelets and my younger sister gave us a heart paperweight with “sister” on it and a framed poem she had written. I’m blessed to be part of a family that really enjoys being together and giving to each other. Sometimes the giving is in the form of teasing, especially when we are playing cards. But it’s all in good fun and we know it. At the end of the day, we pitch in to help clean up or carry things to cars or give hugs. I’m grateful we were able to spend Christmas together this year. I know it won’t always be possible.

December 23

So today was my kids and my Christmas together since we will be with my family over Christmas Day. It was just the three of us. And the dog. The cat refused to participate, which was probably best since Chance snagged his catnip stuffed tree and ripped it up before Sousi got to even see it. When we finished dinner (chicken gravy over mashed potatoes and biscuits–and I actually cooked everything from scratch since I get grief from everyone for my instant potatoes), we opened presents from each other. Im not sure how others do it, but we always take turns so we can see what everyone gets and made the appropriate oohs and aahs. Bree said I did a good job this year. She was especially happy with the Baymax stuffed animal and Hobbit book. She’s a bit of a geek, like her mom. Poor Emma got two pair of gloves because I forgot what I had bought and already wrapped. Thankfully, she liked everything anyway, especially the Converse shoes she knew I had purchased a couple weeks ago and had been begging to wear ever since. And Chance loved his new bones, of course. Although he really, really wanted Bree’s stuffed animal. Unfortunately for all of us, he’s a destructive force with anything soft and stuffed. Baymax was immediately hidden. And me, well my kids gave me a cool sweatshirt they had painted a tardis on and a snow globe, which I love. And they also helped me clean up the basement earlier today. That I was super excited about considering we have not been able to use the basement since we moved in. Now we have a spot for yoga as well as doing crafts. But the real joy was hanging out with my kids, laughing and watching a sappy Christmas movie. And knowing how lucky I am. Tomorrow we will see my family, and then my kids will go with their dad to his family and I will head to Texas to see my boyfriend who’s with his family. It’s already a good Christmas and its not over yet. I’m thankful.

December 18

One of my sisters isn’t coming to Christmas this year. And I’m kind of relieved. See, all four of my sisters and I decided we’d go to my mom’s house for Christmas. Laura’s husband is in Afghanistan, so she’s coming with her two kids and maybe two dogs. Tammy lives by my mom, so her whole family will be there. My younger sister and her husband are flying in from Las Vegas. (People actually live in Las Vegas. It’s weird.) I’m going with my two kids and my dog. And Brenda was initially coming up from Florida with her two kids. Her husband was going to be working. It was going to be a great Christmas because we would all be together which rarely happens. Until Brenda’s husband lost his job and found another in Texas and then he was going to come up too since he would have a break before he started working. And that’s when I stopped looking forward to our big family get together.

See, Brenda’s husband is an abuser. I’m no longer softening it. They’ve been married for years and he’s progressively gotten worse. Or maybe not because it’s hard to tell what the real truth is anymore. For years I was a sounding board for my sister’s complaints…starting with his controlling behavior. His accusations. His anger and threats. The first time she told me he hit her, she made excuses for him. His drinking hard alcohol, which he normally doesn’t do. His stress. His whatever. I told her then she should get out, but he apologized and promised and for a while, things were better. She asked me not to say anything. The next time he hit her it was worse–worse threats, worse anger. She hid outside in the bushes at their house while he searched for her, yelling to her that he was going to kill her. Finally pushing her into the living room furniture, breaking a table. Still she stayed. The day she called and told me that he had been arrested, I was grocery shopping. I listened without talking while she described how he had tried to kill her, really meaning it this time. He had ripped off her underwear and choked her with it. She had a burn mark across her throat because of it. I went home, shut myself in the bathroom, and cried. And then I called my older sister and told her everything. Said I planned to go to Florida to get her. We told my parents and made a plan. But Brenda found out and begged us not to come because this was finally his wake up call. He was going to get help and things would be better. That was a couple of years ago, and things aren’t better. They’re just different. Four months ago she called because she found out about his cheating. She finally was going to make a change. I was ready once again to do whatever I could to help her out. Then three days later, after he begged and cried and made all the same promises, she decided to stay.

I know my sister needs help. Her kids need help. My brother-in-law needs help. But at this point, I don’t care about him. I don’t like him. I don’t respect him in the least. I told Brenda I couldn’t pretend to be happy to see him. I told my mom that I was afraid I’d say something at Christmas and makes things worse for my sister. And maybe I don’t have the right, but I’m angry. I’m angry at my sister. I’m angry that she continues to stay and that she doesn’t see her own worth and that she’s doesn’t acknowledge how it’s affecting her kids. I’m angry that I keep trying to help and she won’t let me. I don’t agree with her choice to stay. I don’t agree that instead of coming for Christmas, they are driving to Texas to stay in a hotel because they sold their house and haven’t found a new one yet. I find it all so unbelievably unbelievable. But I also know that statistics say it takes at least 7 attempts before someone actually leaves an abusive situation. She’s trapped in something that is too hard for her to get out of right now. But when she does, I will, of course, be there. My anger isn’t blame, it’s just anger. Relationships shouldn’t be that way. My once independent sister is someone I don’t really know anymore. My nieces will have scars from living in an abusive family that even they don’t understand. It shouldn’t be. So, selfishly, I’m not-so-secretly glad that I won’t see my brother-in-law next week. But I’d trade the holiday to bring my sister home.

December 16

It feels like a Sunday. Today was day two of the Mall of America venture. After getting the lay of the land yesterday, we wanted to get up for an early start since the mall opened at 8 am. (Which really is ridiculous, but we were ok with that.) We got there at 8:30, got coffee, and roamed with the mall walkers. There are at least 5 Caribou Coffee shops and 3 Starbucks in that mall. Heaven. Today we rode the roller coaster twice and the water ride, intended to check out the aquarium but didn’t, and shopped like Christmas is in 9 days. The funny thing was that even after spending most of Monday there, we still walked through today looking at stores as if they were new. It felt a little like Groundhog Day. After 7 and a half hours of shopping and eating a great lunch (oh, the restaurants!) we called it quits, but had gotten a lot crossed off the list. And my body tells me that I got an amazing workout. Bonus! Those mall walkers know what they’re doing. Apparently, one lap of one level (there are 4 levels) is .57 miles. We must had done at least 4 laps of each level. The mall is so big, that according to the mall’s website, 32 Boeing 747s could fit inside it. Or 258 Statues of Liberty lying down. And if you spent just 10 minutes in each store, it would still take you 86 hours to get through them all. Obviously, we didn’t go into every one. But that explains why we got home a lot later than we had planned on. And why I’m tired and my legs ache, but I’m really thankful we went. We had a great time.