Sunday, September 14, 2014

Boxed Cake Mix Muffins...

When I went back to work several years ago I found I didn't have as much time to bake as I did before, yet my grandkids still liked their "treats" from Gaga, so with a little creativity I came up with a way to make their beloved "nanny cakes" (banana muffins) a little easier. And really, I don't know that it's less time consuming than making everything literally from scratch, but it sure makes good muffins!! This weekend I made up two batches...banana and pumpkin spice and decided I might as well share the recipe that goes with them because you can make just about any flavor/kind you want starting with just the base mix.

Base mix:
1 pkg. yellow or chocolate cake mix (I've found the cheaper, store brand makes firmer muffins)
3 eggs
1/3 cp. of oil
1/2-1 cp fruit/veggie of choice
1/2 cp (more or less)  oatmeal
1/3-1/2 cp (more or less) of ground flax seed
Water as needed to bring the batter to the right consistancy

I have two grandchildren who have stomach/bowel issues and their mom's needed a way to get some fiber into them that not only tasted good but would appeal to the kids. The oatmeal and flax seed does just that and helps to "clean out" their systems as well, so short of the boxed mix...I like to think these things can be healthy too! :)

For the pumpkin spice muffins I added 1/2 can (the small one) of pureed pumpkin (not the premixed filling) and 1 and 1/4 tsps. of pumpkin pie spice. They're even better with a "dollop" of cream cheese icing on top which I made with a 1/2 pkg of cream cheese and 1 and 1/2 cps. powdered sugar. After tasting these the daughter claimed them to taste like carott cake, which is something my family loves, so a second batch was made adding the additional 1/2- 3/4 cp of drained crushed pineapple along with 1/2 cp black walnuts. If you tossed in a 1/4 cp of shredded carrotts you'd have carrot cake for sure, just top them up with a pineapple cream cheese version of the icing.

When making banana muffins I just mash up 3 or 4 over ripe bananas and stir it into the base mix...done! Of course they are even better with nuts in them, but with most of my bunch not caring for nuts, I normally leave them out.

My grandsons' all time favorites are chocolate chocolate chip zucchini muffins. This is one where I use a chocolate cake mix instead, then add a full cup of finely shredded and drained zucchini along with about a cup of mini chocolate chips to the rest of the base. This is also one that has better "results" in cleaning out the systems! ;)

On all of these I only add about a 1/2 cp of water at the beginning just to get everything mixed in and then I use more as I need it because I want a thicker dough consistency than what a normal cake dough would be and the amount is really dependent upon what your fruit/veg's are. I don't think I've ever used more than a cup on any of them.

The biggest trouble with this recipe is my "abouts"...I have a tendency to not measure anything too much...I seriously use my hand to throw in the oatmeal, flax, and nuts, so take these measurements I've given as what they are...abouts!! You can add more or less of any of it and still have good muffins! The above three are my family's tried and true favorites, but I've also made these using apple sauce, a little finely chopped apple, and some cinnamon...sprinkle a strussel topping on them before baking and they are DELISH! The possibilities are endless and with the cooler weather moving in who wouldn't enjoy a batch of muffins! :)


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sometimes there's much more to a classroom than education....

I fell asleep last night on the couch...early!! That's not a good thing for me because I don't STAY asleep which meant I was also up a little after midnight this morning...uggh!! It will make for a very long day, but it will also mean an early nap later on as well! :) I did attempt to go to bed and try to get back to sleep, but unfortunately I tend to toss and turn and my mind begins to think on things and I'm just better off to get up and get at it, which is what I doing.

Knowing the weather was taking an abrupt change for this weekend I had started some sour dough mix a couple days ago for making bread...I decided to bump up the production a few hours! :) So while my bread machine was doing it's thing I also decided I'd use up those over ripe bananas I had stored in the frig for making "nanny cakes" for the grandkids and those are now in the oven baking while I decide what else I might want to whip up in the wee hours of the morning!

It's pretty "Fall-ish" feeling outside my door, you'd almost expect a frost, although it's not quite that cold just feels like it...but that Fall feeling gets me thinking on pumpkins and all those Fall things I love. With the thought of pumpkins (which I'm hoping to pick up a couple later on today!), I was also thinking about making some pumpkin spice muffins and that of course led me to thinking about a happening at work a few days ago that also had to do with baking and pumpkin!

I have a young lady in my classroom this year; she's not new to my classroom, she was here her Freshman year for awhile, left, returned a week or so her Sophomore year and then left again. For the program I work in things like that are nothing happens...quite often. And to describe this girl as a "young lady" would be a far stretch of the imagination, not because she isn't young and female, but because she's as far from ladylike as a girl can get! She can cuss like a sailor, has anger issues that are readily detectable, and is not someone you'd be willing to meet with in a dark alley....BUT....I like her....I like her a lot! I do so because I see the potential in this child, and perhaps I also see just a tad of myself in her when I was that age. She's rough and she's tough, but only because she's had to be. No doubt circumstances beyond her control have made her that way in order to survive....that also saddens me because I see this every day in the kids I work with. I also know that her "acerbic" personality puts a lot of the other teachers off, that's understandable, but I think it also lends them to write her off as well. It's not because they don't care, it's because they have an entire classroom of students they have to not only teach, but control, and a student that can erupt at anytime is not one most teachers welcome with open arms. I'm lucky in that we have a much smaller population in our classroom, therefore I do have more time to spend with the individual and that's what I love about my job. I'm also lucky that God has blessed me with the ability to reach out to these kids and connect with them and for some of them, it's the only connection they'll ever get. Sometimes that connection comes in the form of something as irrelevant and minute as a recipe!

One day this past week my girl came barreling into the classroom, a tad on the cranky side (okay, she was looking for a fight, but I'm trying to be kind here!), announcing at the top of her lungs she had to "make freakin' muffins" for her Foods class. She'd missed a couple days due to sickness which meant she also missed out on the assignment in the classroom. In order to make it up the teacher had told her to find a muffin recipe, make them, and bring them in for taste testing. I spent the first few minutes just getting her voice level down and then proceeded to calm the beast within by telling her this was something very do-able. Now, I have to admit...I wasn't exactly sure it WAS do-able...I mean, this is not a child I would have imagined knew much about the workings of an oven, let alone preparing a food that might go in one, but as is her norm, she surprised me once again. Once we got passed her rantings of it had to be done THAT NIGHT and how hot my classroom was and how heat makes her angry and all the other CRAP (insert a different expletative, but know that I called her down for it!) homework she had to do, we went to work on finding a recipe!

Being somewhat calmer I asked her what kind of muffins sounded good to her that she'd like to make, her reply? Pumpkin Spice!! Because, you know, it's like Fall and everything, so pumpkin would be good right?!! Why yes..yes it would!! So I pulled up Google on my computer and went to search for a recipe for her. In the process she asks me..."sooo, what about some of that cream cheese stuff...for a filling, but how do you do that?" While I'm searching, I tell her about making cupcakes for my kids years ago that had filling and how I filled them, but I also told her since they were muffins maybe it would be better to just put a dollop on top and dust them with some cinnamon. After explaining what a "dollop" was she began to get excited, got her chair right up against my desk, and was watching the search...and that's when it hit me...I HAD a recipe of my own that would be perfect for this! I told her how I make muffins nowadays and that this particular concoction could be made in almost any form she wanted to make them in with just a change up of a couple ingredients....she wanted the recipe.

Now, when I say I had a recipe that's somewhat on the vague side...I tend to start with the base and then just toss a little of this and little of that and not really measure anything...if it looks like enough...stop...if it don't...add a little more! So the rest of our time was spent in me trying to explain what I meant and giving rough estimates of how much to use. What surprised me the most was her comments back...she got what I was saying...she understood the concept of what the dough should look like and what to do to remedy it if it didn't...including the instructions for the "dollop"! When the bell rang she went off with her recipe of instructions, a happy camper, a promise to bring me one for tasting, and me praying to PLEASE GOD let this work!! :) She was outside my door first thing the next morning with muffins in hand, complete with cream cheese dollop...they looked fantastic! And the taste? EXCELLENT!! I couldn't have been more proud of her than if she was one of my own kids! But the best part was the smile on her face! And yeah, she was a tad cocky over her production, but she deserved to be and I told her so.

Later that day we had her again for our tutorial and she informed me the Foods teacher not only loved her muffins, but had informed her she would now be the leader of their group!! Score!!! She also told me a couple of change ups she also made on her own and I could tell she was very proud and pleased with the whole outcome. We then yakked a little about changing them up to banana nut and just had an overall, calm, and intelligent conversation about was like talking to a completely different child, but it was THAT child that I knew had to be hiding in there somewhere and the one I've been trying so hard to drag out as the year has proceeded.

Don't get me wrong...I know that one batch of pumpkin spice muffins is not going to change her overnight. I'm well aware that there will be a day next week when we're huffing and puffing, ranting and raving in the norm. I also know that one batch of muffins might not be enough to keep her in school for the rest of the year...she may decide to cold cock someone before the week is out! What I do know is that she gained just a little bit of confidence in making those muffins. She also gained some pride in herself with being complimented over them, not just by me, but from all those she freely handed out muffins to. If I've learned anything at all about working with the kids I do it's that sometimes it only takes one little thing to spark their interest, one time of doing something "right" and being praised for it, just one moment of what it feels like to be "normal" in a less than normal world to make them want to feel that again and then work toward keeping that feeling. I also know, that with this particular student, she's came back this year with the willingness to apply herself and a desire to prove she can do it. She may still be teetering, but at least it's a start. She's very intelligent and a hard worker when she does apply herself, and she's got a great personality...yeah, she's a tad caustic, but she's also funny, when you can look past the layers of anger and self-doubt. Yesterday she told me she wants to be a's the first time I've heard mention of any type of future, let alone a hope of getting to it and I'm thrilled to know she at least has the thought. I did tease her though, that in doing chest compressions for a heart attack victim she couldn't just punch them and scream "DON'T DIE!" I got a belly laugh at that one and told I was a "hooch"!! Coming from her, that was a compliment!! ;)

I honestly don't know where this girl will end up, but I hope and pray it will be somewhere good. I truly pray that she will one day see the potential in herself that I see in her. I can tell her until I'm blue in the face of what she's capable of and what she can do if she sets her mind to it, but until she sees it for herself, nothing I say will ever stick. I've had former students tell me they would of never gotten through high school if it wasn't for me...that's just not true...they would of never gotten through high school if it wasn't for themselves. I might have set the spark, but they were the ones that kept the flame going. They have to seriously want better for themselves and find a reason within for working toward it, otherwise nothing I say or do makes a difference... I've also lost enough kids to know this as a fact. Even so, I will continue to use my arsenal of weapons...past experiences..."been there done that's", and yes, even recipes if that's what it takes to get them started. Getting a handle on their education is the least of my worries...helping them get a handle on life is my biggest.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Waiting on the apples...

We got a drastic change in the weather the past couple of days and I love it! I guess it really isn't THAT drastic, but after running through muggy, hot and humid days for the last couple of weeks, this new cooler, dryer air is wonderful! It's September, what we'd normally expect this time of year, and when it arrives my brain goes into overdrive on what to cook, sew, bake, or create!!  The coming of Fall has always been my favorite time of year.

But, I'm getting impatient...nothing really new for me, especially when I'm wanting to try out a new "homemade" something or other...this time it involves an apple tree and fermenting! No clue, of course, how or what the end result will turn out like, but I'm going to give it a shot and see what happens just as soon as that apple tree hurries up and gets done producing! :)

I've done a lot of canning over the years and with that came the use of vinegar...cider and white. Never really knew there was much of anything else but those two choices until one day I stumbled across a bottle of red wine vinegar and tried it...I love that stuff and keep a bottle in my fridge at all times. I use it in my coleslaw and potato salad dressings among other things and can't imagine ever being without it. I also keep on hand and use big jugs of both white and cider vinegar for all my canning needs. Most folks know there are a lot of healthful benefits to using vinegar, although, short of cooking, I've never really used it for much of anything else except maybe applying it to a sunburn.

With the help of the internet I'm learning a LOT about vinegar, more especially raw apple cider vinegar. Until just a few short months ago I didn't know there was such a thing, or if I did, I didn't realize the difference between it and that big, plastic gallon jug you buy off the store shelf. But in researching healthy eating styles I've ran across many blogs and articles that talked about using raw apple cider vinegar so I went in search of some. Of course, eating anything healthy these days seems to cost you an arm and a leg which is one reason, I'm sure, most people DON'T eat can't afford to! And there are so many "organic" this and  thats, that you begin to wonder just really how organic is it? I mean, if everyone is buying organic then it's being produced in mass quantities as well..right? So, how can you really be sure it's as "natural" as they say it is? I get the really distinct feeling that much of what we're being told and sold as organic is just a wording affect and not really as natural as they'd lead us to believe....but I've always been a skeptic to a certain extent. To me, the only way you are going to be really, one hundred percent, assured of  "all natural", "organic" stuff is to produce it yourself!

Anyway, back to the vinegar! :) At our local Dutch store, which I visit regularly, I found a bottle of Bragg's Raw Apple Cider Vinegar...the self same brand that you'll find most bloggers and health food enthusiasts talk/write about, so I bought a bottle....and of course, I paid more money for it...I use it very sparingly. In that bottle is a small, foggy looking creature floating around on the bottom...they call it the "mother" and it is one of the reasons this particular vinegar is more healthy for you and also one of the things that should be present in a raw vinegar. I honestly don't know whether or not having a "mother" in your vinegar makes it more healthy or not...I also don't know that Bragg's is in anyway produced more organically than any other brand touted as such. I've not been to the factory where it's produced and I'm going to assume it's produced in one, which again makes me wonder, from the tree to the bottle, just how truly "natural" is this stuff over any other....I don't know!! That type of thinking is what usually gets me in trouble...and leads me onto further searching as to just what it takes to make my own and guess what? You can make vinegar at home...easily!! (You know where this is heading right?)  ;)

So, here I am, waiting on my ages old apple tree to finish doing what it does...producing apples. This lonely little tree was one of several my dad planted back in the day that was to be the only one that also survived. It's a dwarf Jonathan, although there is nothing dwarf about it! To me the Jonathan apple is the ultimate apple, it's sweet, tart, firm and can be used for just about anything that has to do with apples. This particular tree has stood for many years, usually producing...nothing!! After a severe ice and snow storm hit our area a few years ago, the hubs came over (this was before we had moved here) and "trimmed" it up. In fact, he butchered it!! Seriously, after I seen it I told him he might as well have cut it down it looked that bad! But guess what? The thing went crazy after that! We know next to nothing about fruit trees...okay...we know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about fruit trees, so we just left it alone and low and behold we're now getting apples! Last year the thing was loaded, albeit the apples were really nothing to brag about. They were small, scrappy things with worm holes and spots throughout, but they were good enough to turn into apple juice that I canned to use for jelly. This year there are less apples, however, they are bigger...I'm watching them closely and yes, they still have some worm spots and dark patches on the skins, but they look much closer to being a real apple than anything we've seen so also hasn't lost any fruit prematurely yet either...that's a good sign!

And during all this watching I'm preparing to try my hand at making vinegar. I've got a few weeks to go yet, but when that time arrives, I plan to pick my apples and see what happens. I'm hoping to maybe get enough good ones to make at least one pie, but all those peels and cores? They're going into a crock and heading down that fermenting road toward, what I hope will be a truly natural, organic, raw apple cider vinegar! I can't wait! In the meantime, I'll continue reading, hoping to have this process fine tuned in my head before I start, but really all it takes is some apples, a little sugar, some water...and time! I'd love to make actual apple cider for drinking on those cool October evenings, bringing the scent of cinnamon wafting through my kitchen, but so far what I'm reading appears to be alcoholic in content before it gets to the vinegar part. I don't want the alcoholic part and couldn't drink it even if I did, but now that I've got the vinegar process stored away in my head, I'll keep looking for a cider that's safe to drink as well. If I'm lucky and that tree continues as it's doing, I'll be making apple pie and bottling vinegar before too much longer and when I do? I will know that mine is as natural and organic as you can get! :)


Monday, September 1, 2014

Alcohol can kill in more ways than one....

WARNING! This is not my usual type of isn't funny, informative, or lighthearted. It is in fact lengthy, very real, and might be seen as slightly unnerving for those who know me. It is also one I feel the need to write...

I'm not a fan of consuming any shape or form. Probably because I've seen and lived through what it can do to an individual as well as those in close proximity to them. Alcoholism used to be considered a disease...I don't know if it is still classified as that or not, I quit following that line of thinking many years ago. I wanted it to be a disease, although by classifying it as such it also becomes an excuse and I'm not real big on excuses! But as a child of an alcoholic sometimes that's just the only way to deal with the questions, the "whys" of an alcoholic person's actions and/or can sometimes help you deal with the anger you feel toward that person as well. But there comes a time when you just have to realize there really is NO excuse for any type of abuse...physical or verbal, alcoholic or not.

My dad was an alcoholic...he was what, over the years, became termed as a binge drinker. He didn't drink all the time, he didn't drink every weekend... perhaps that was only because my mother forbid alcohol in our home. He'd have a spell of a short period of time, sometimes once or  twice a year, but during those times he became quite literally a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide". My mother, who endured this kind of lifestyle for fifty four years of marriage learned early on when to detect the signs that would lead to a very unsettling evening. As a child, I learned to depend on my mother's detection to keep us from the worst of the onslaught. It's not my intention to run through the memories of some of those occasions...some things really are better off left unspoken and in all honesty, I have no wish to dredge up things now that certainly won't change things, nor do I have a desire to "beat up" the memory of my father....he was what he was and no amount of wishful thinking or prayer ever changed that. But to keep imaginations from building, my dad was never physically or verbally abusive to me.

That's also not to say I don't have fond memories of my dad...I do. I actually have several such memories and the older I got the more I came to accept that those were as good as I was going to get. Again I have to give my mother credit for that outlook. I don't remember ever seeing my mother "unsettled", she was in fact a rock, steady as could be and my dad's binges never seemed to shake her up. She didn't understand him, she could never wrap her mind around why he didn't want to change, or how he came to be the way he was, or why he said and did the things he did...but she also accepted the fact that it was just who and how he was. She never made excuses for him, at least never to me. She never expected us to love him unconditionally...I don't feel like it was ever "expected" of us to love him at all...she never handed us platitudes of "the poor man", or "he can't help it"..she allowed us to feel what we actually felt. She never covered up what he said or what he did. We did not grow up thinking we were not to talk about it, and while she never walked around announcing to the world how my dad was, she certainly never shied away from stating the truth of the matter when asked. She also allowed us to question the reasoning behind some of his actions and was brutally honest in telling us she just didn't know why. She did it with a calm, straightforwardness that thankfully relayed to me it wasn't her fault, my fault, ANYONE'S was his...he chose to live the life he did and he also chose to not do anything about it. I'm very thankful for that, because there came a point in my younger life that I hated my dad...hated him enough to wish him dead. I wasn't alone in those feelings, all of my siblings at one point and time had/have felt the same way...I'm pretty sure some of them still have those feelings. Thankfully there also came for me a time in my young adulthood that God, quite literally, showed me a picture of just what hating him was doing to me and with that epiphany, the hatred left me. I still hated the actions,  the words, and the alcohol, but I never again hated my dad. In truth, I learned to love him for who he was.

All of these thoughts came back to me after checking the messages on my answering machine. Unfortunately I had one from the only still living brother I was drunken and filthy, something he is quite good at being, has always been good at. He's always been good at spewing forth his hatred to me and our mother and both of us have endured his litany of abuse for many, many years. He's also the only one of us siblings that is/was an alcoholic. He's the only one of us kids our mother ever attempted to make an excuse for...she laid blame at our dad's feet (which was justified), but also took upon herself some of that blame as well (which was NOT). Now that's not to say that Mom expected me to endure his rantings, or excuse his behavoir...she didn't. She just always said she felt like if our dad had been different maybe my brother wouldn't have turned out like he was. I think she also felt if she hadn't of stayed in the marriage and put up with what SHE did that somehow that would have kept my brother from turning out the way he did...maybe, maybe not. But what I know, and often told my mother, HE is accountable for his actions and (just like our dad) HE could choose to do something about it. And while this self-same brother would never believe it, our mother worried and prayed over him her entire life. I also know she cried many, many tears for the life he chose to live and that was something I never saw her do for our dad. He would also never believe.... that she loved him and she endured a more broken heart over him than she ever did over our father.

You often hear there is a real thin line between love and hate....I believe that...because I've experienced it. I loved my big brother for many years. He was my idol, I looked up to him, and I depended upon him. He took care of me when I was little and our mother had to go to work. He quite often would thump my other older brother (who was younger than him) when he was picking on me, which was also quite often! :)  He brought me cotton candy from the fair in town, of which to this day, I never eat without remembering my first one. He bought me a teddy bear that was almost bigger than I was when I was no more than three years old and I have an old black and white photograph to remind me of that. I also recall him hauling me out of a ditch around that same age when I had managed to stumble and fall into it because the other brother didn't help me across as he was told to do. He cleaned and bandaged my scraped knees afterwards too.  He fashioned a complete and believable tale of Rudolph pulling Santa's sleigh across our evening sky one Christmas Eve when I was no more than eight and used the airplane's blinking red light to prove it. I don't remember, but have been told, he also always held me on his lap in another room while listening to one of our dad's drunken rantings. I have no memories...none...of him ever being mean to me, of him ever getting angry at something I'd done, or yelling at me in any way...none. I laid in my bed and cried for hours when I knew he was being shipped to Vietnam...I was old enough to be aware of that war and to know that many didn't come back. I was terrified he wouldn't come back. He made me get out of bed and dry my tears because he assured me he WOULD be back...he promised me and he had never, ever broken a promise to me so I believed him. There is another old black and white photograph that captures me standing at his side, in his Army uniform, with his arm tucked around me, readying to leave. He was my protector, ten foot tall and bullet proof...just what you would imagine a big brother as being, and I loved him.

I don't know where that brother went...he disappeared one day never to return. That brother was replaced by another man who is more verbally viscous than his father ever thought about being. That man is cruel and mean, both physically and verbally and has done more lasting physical and verbal damage to his own family than his dad ever came close to doing to his. That man has spewed forth more vile and filthy accusations to me and our mother that I wonder at times has ever been produced by another human being. That man's hatred is so palpable that you see it in his every move and it drips with his every word. This man's hatred and anger has consumed him....and it has also consumed the love I once had. I'm ashamed of him, I pity him...and yes,....I hate him. I hate who he became and who he still is. I hate his mouth, his actions, his stupidity. I hate his weakness, his seemingly joy at hurting others, but most of all, I hate that he seems to be so proud of the fact of who he is, how he acts, and what he does.

I've tried time after time to overlook what he's said and what he's done...I've forgiven episode after episode of his verbal abuse, not only to me, but to our mother as well. I've tried year after year to curtail my own anger when dealing with him and to keep watch on my own words in retaliation. Through the endless filth, the accusations, and the spewed hatred I've worried, I've cried, and I've prayed for him. Since our mother's death two years ago...I've failed at doing pretty much all of those. I tried to overlook the fact he showed up at my house to our mother's deathbed in a totally drunken state. I tried to forgive the stupid and ridiculous rantings he carried on at her bedside. I've tried to block out the fact that my mother left this world still listening to his drunken carrying-ons, his railing at "her God"...I've also tried to forget that I even allowed him in to see her.

Once upon a time I had three brothers...I now have none. Two I lost to to alcohol. I haven't spoken to my only living brother since a few weeks after our mother's death when once again I was subjected to his drunken abuse during a phone call. This time I did not overlook his words, I did not curtail my own, I could not and had no desire to pray about it afterwards. I slammed the phone down on him and I have not forgiven him for it since...and yet....he continues. Because of a drunken tirade in the store where my d-n-l works and him being asked to leave the premises due to it, he felt the need to call my house and leave me a message of how he felt and what he thought of me and my was nothing new or unusual, it was pretty much par for the course, but it starts again the chain reaction of feelings and emotions that goes along with being tied to an alcoholic. Alcohol can kill in more ways than one and an actual death is the least of it's concern. It kills the essence of the real person who once lived inside the one that now is. It kills the structure of a family to the point it may never be repaired again. It kills the love that used to be and destroys any attempt at gaining it back. It kills the reason, intelligence, and the thinking abilities. It kills the desire to be anything but what you are....and for the one who is on the receiving end of it, it can kill your ability to forgive. Alcohol is deadly and just like actual death, once it kills, there's no coming back.

There are times when I think I still love this brother, no matter what he's said and done...but most often I don't. Most often it doesn't feel like he even is my brother. Time doesn't always heal all wounds, especially when those wounds are tied to such strong mental images they become total recall when triggered. If there is anything left of the person he used to be I cannot find it, no matter how hard I try to look. I can pull out every psychology book I own and try to reason why he does what he does, but I just can't quite make myself believe what I read. I could allow the blame to fall on our dad and those times he also became someone we didn't know, but, in reality, my brother is accountable for living his own life and has no one to blame but himself...he's chosen this lifestyle freely.

If you gain any insight from reading this I hope it would be this...NO ONE is to blame for the actions of an abusive person, alcoholic or not. You cannot be good enough, give up enough, do without enough, or suffer enough to make it right enough in their eyes they will walk away from their anger and take responsibility for their own actions.You can't cry enough, beg enough, or love enough to change an abusive person's actions. You can't argue, reason, cajole, or explain anything to an's impossible because they choose not to listen nor do they want to be told they are wrong. I can also tell you this...there is NO EXCUSE for it either...and until they are ready to take responsibility for themselves, the life that surrounds them continues on and with it will eventually come a "killing" in some form or fashion, whether to themselves or those they claim to love. It's a viscous and ugly cycle that repeats itself over and over again and the only way to stop the cycle is to get out of it or get away from it. It's what I chose for myself and I'm glad I did. I have very little "family" left....most of my extended family has an addiction of some form or other and those addictions have destroyed any semblance of what it means to even be a family. Do I wish it was different? Most certainly...will I put up with the abuse, the mockery, the hurt intended or otherwise to have a mere tidbit of a family...I will not. I've made my choice and they appear to have made theirs.