Thanksgiving, part 5 of 5

The vacation and the dream

Change can be a really good thing when it’s the right change at the right time for the right reason. But different isn’t always better. Can I get an Amen with that? “New and improved”—that never-ending marketing cliché—really means Smaller Product, Same Price or New Packaging, Same Product.

Let’s face it; new isn’t always an improvement.

How about some things that are closer to home. Think back on your worst haircut ever. It was definitely new, but it was also awful and embarrassing. Or maybe your worst grade in school—either the test or project you bombed the worst or the year in school that was just bad. Again, that experience was definitely new, but certainly not an improvement. How about your worst paint color. We repainted our hallway three times before we got the color right. Goodness sakes. The colors looked so pretty on those tiny little samples from the home improvement store. But on the walls? Disastrous… until we finally found the right color. Ahhh. Major improvement.

Thanksgiving vacation
For our most-recent Thanksgiving, we did something new—something we’ve never done before. We took a family vacation that week and skipped the Sociopath-Sanctioned Soiree (i.e., Thanksgiving with Andrew—my sociopathic father-in-law—and his side of the family).

Our son Logan used cute expressions when he was a preschooler. One of my favorites went like this: “Let me tell you somepin.” In other words, “Mommy, listen to me.” He said that all the time. Now it’s my turn. Peaceful Readers, let me tell you somepin. Our Thanksgiving vacation was a beautiful, epic new-and-improved adventure—a remarkable gift from God.

At the top
Any vacation is special. But this one was extra-special because we went to see something I’ve wanted to see my whole life—something at the top of my Bucket List. Mount Rushmore. And we spent my favorite holiday there—looking at Mount Rushmore while we ate some delicious turkey and dressing, with a big fire in the fireplace at Carver’s Café. I highly recommend it.

Our Thanksgiving vacation was different than our previous vacations….

Vacations with sociopaths = confined craziness
Brandon never really relaxed throughout our vacations before. Traveling agitated him. He seemed anxious, fearful and angry—like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop, as they say.

During Brandon’s childhood, vacations meant spending many days cooped up in a station wagon with his violent sister Shelly, his sociopathic parents, and Hazel, the detached princess. Not a good experience. Not something to be looked forward to. No escape route. Non-stop craziness.

Can you imagine being locked in a small space with the meanest person you’ve ever met for a week? That explains how Brandon felt about vacations. Very bad. Very bad, indeed.

Christmas chaos
Holidays were even worse—intense drama-fests at regularly-scheduled intervals, with sociopaths spinning around, dramatically declaring how wonderful everything was. As you can imagine, the Christmas Chaos was epic. Shelly—the poster child for Histrionic Personality Disorder—would get up in the middle of the night and open up her brother Brandon’s Christmas presents, re-wrap them, and then tell him everything he was getting before he unwrapped anything. Shelly’s #1 job at Christmas was to be the center of attention and to ruin the day for her brother—the chosen victim in the family.

Stolen gifts and much more
In How a Sociopath’s Victim Feels, part 5, I wrote about sociopaths being thieves. What did Shelly’s emotionally abusive behavior at Christmas steal from Brandon? She stole his joy. She stole his gifts—literally. She was the first to see and touch them, and after Christmas, she routinely broke them. She stole Christmas. Brandon hated Christmas. He really, really did. He dreaded Christmas most of all.

Pomp and circumstance
Did Christmas get better for Brandon after he grew up and we got married? No. Shelly was still Shelly. She just had a larger audience and more victims.

Christmas was the pinnacle of the year for Shelly. You could feel it in the air—the pomp and circumstance; the late, dramatic arrival—so everyone was held hostage, waiting for her arrival; the lengthy monologues about every gift she so painstakingly selected and sacrificially purchased (announcing to everyone in the room what she bought before the “recipient”—I mean victim—opened it); the catty remarks; the attacks; the theatrical display of her large cooler filled with prescription drugs…. Blah, blah, blah.

Basically, she ran the show, demanded everyone’s attention and adoration, stole the day from her audience, and took great pleasure in bombastically ruining the day—especially for Brandon—Target #1.

The impact
So—not surprisingly—Brandon would say every year: “I hate holidays.” “I hate Christmas.” Whenever he’d say those things, I felt sad—for him, for us, for Logan. I didn’t think that would ever change….

The new beginning
How in the world did we experience both a wonderful holiday and a wonderful vacation simultaneously? Sounds impossible, doesn’t it.

Thanks to God’s work in our lives, our time in counseling with Matt and our discussions at home, our first Thanksgiving vacation gave us a new, peaceful beginning—where both holidays and vacations are concerned. Hallelujah!

Speaking of God working in our lives, we weren’t even planning to go to Mount Rushmore. We were planning a different vacation altogether, traveling in a different direction, until Brandon’s boss recommended Mount Rushmore…. And the rest is history.

We were unexpectedly upgraded to first class on our flight to Rapid City, South Dakota. Wow. Suh-weet. When we got our rental car for the week, we were again upgraded—at no extra charge—from a cheap econo-box to an Infiniti SUV. Wow times two. TBTG! I write that in my journal a lot. It stands for Thanks be to God!

Bucket List city
Something unusual—very unusual, actually—sat on my Bucket List along with seeing Mount Rushmore.

Mammoths. I can’t really explain it. For as long as I can remember, one of my favorite animals at the zoo has been the elephants—tremendous, strong, peaceful, easy-going. I’ve always wanted to see a mammoth dig—the remarkable tusks, with a life-size mammoth replica. I figured I’d have to travel to Outer Mongolia or someplace equally remote to ever see mammoths, so I gave up on that a long time ago.

Guess what was located about 30 minutes from our hotel in South Dakota? The Mammoth Site. Whoa. I had no idea it was there until I started browsing through all the brochures for activities and touristy options in the area. Epic wow.

Day #1: Mount Rushmore—#1 on Frankie Ann’s Bucket List
Day #2: The Mammoth Site—#2 on Frankie Ann’s Bucket List
Day #3: Crazy Horse Monument—amazing, especially given our American Indian heritage
Day #4: Mount Rushmore on Thanksgiving—Frankie Ann’s favorite holiday at Bucket List spot #1
Day #5: Reptile World—Logan’s pick—fun and very interesting

I saw something new in Brandon that week. He experienced great happiness in being a part of my joy. He relaxed and enjoyed himself. He seemed to feel safe. Finally.

We saw such amazing places, animals, monuments, history, archaeology. Each day held special treasures for our eyes and our minds. I felt like God was kissing me on my head every day. Every single day. Glorious. Truly glorious.

We didn’t over-do it by trying to cram too much into each day. We got plenty of rest and had plenty of down time. I, for one, slept like a baby all week.

The dream
Thanksgiving night—my first Thanksgiving on vacation, my first Thanksgiving at Mount Rushmore, my first Thanksgiving with No More Sociopaths in my life—I had an amazing dream.

In my dream, I was sitting across the kitchen table from my sociopathic in-laws at their house. Andrew looked angry and started a fight with me. I blasted them both, mentioning the time when Delia called me and said, “You’re not really a part of this family.” They both stood up and left the table. Rick—Sadistic Shelly’s husband—was sitting beside me. I told him this was good-bye. He hugged me tight for a long time and bawled like a baby.

That was it. I felt a sense of closure from that dream.

It’s over. It’s really over.

The thank-you prayer
Dear God,

Thank you for rescuing me from Sociopathville. Thank you for showing me the truth. Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for my dream vacation. Thank you for dreams. Thank you for closure.

In Jesus’ precious, holy name I pray,


Looking ahead
Before Thanksgiving rolls around again, think about choosing peace in your relationships and how you spend your time. Plan a Thanksgiving holiday this year that says I’m choosing thankfulness and peace.

Eliminate the chaos by choosing people, places and plans that bring you peace. If you’re not quite sure how that would look, ask God about it. He’s the best planner of all.

Coming next: Stay tuned for the 12th and final group of posts in this series on sociopaths, entitled Remember. You’ll hear about an unusual, but very revealing gift—a horse bit. I just have some notes scratched out at this point, so there are plenty of surprises on the way—for all of us. Let’s look forward—together—to some happy surprises, hopefully a laugh or two, and continued progress on The Healing Journey while we’re choosing peace.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Psalm 103

Song for Healing: “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman

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