Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Highlights (I swear, there were some)

I worry that my posts about Alzheimer's come off as doom and gloom. The truth of the matter is when everyone is getting excited about a "fresh start" for 2016 I know that we don't have that with Mom. If anything we know it is an uphill battle with a downward progression. This will be our hardest year yet as we make the decision to move her into a home. 

But with that weighing on my mind I wanted to review the Highlights of 2015. To be honest it was a bitch of a year and I'm glad to see her go. So instead of listing everything horrible that happened I thought it would be more beneficial to list out the good that happened this year.

My Kids
I love watching my kids grow. They are just beginning to play together and Amelie things Ford (and Kody!) hung the moon. They both acclimated to the new daycare as best as I could have hoped for.

 Ford is doing well in TK and although he has trouble listening (lots of trouble) he is very bright and has already mastered counting to 100 and knows all of his capital letters. Even though he might be on the short side his teacher assured me he will never be picked on b/c he has no problem sticking up for himself.

Amelie is a joy to watch as she is in that phase where they play and play and play. She is talking more and blows kisses and even though she doesn't cuddle like her brother she is such a sweet little girl.

My Job
We are going through a Re-Org so I have been nervous about my position and am waiting to see what the new year brings. But no matter what happens I am so thankful to work for a company with good benefits and one that allows me to have a flexible schedule.

Moms in Charge
Don't laugh, but this has been one of the highlights of 2015. MIC is a group in Charlotte (and now expanding to other cities) that a mom started to safely sell items to other Moms. You have to know someone to get added to the Facebook group and then get approved. I LOVE it. I have bought a door, a chair, tons of kids clothes, tons of me clothes, gotten advice, made friends, found doctors, found Saints has been an incredible network for me this year. I have mentioned before that I work from home so I don't have water cooler chit-chat or co-workers to go grab coffee with and this has filled that void for me. And thanks to my friend Allison it has also helped me look less disheveled and frumpy. ;)

Alzheimer's Walk
Krewe BB raised $7,441 in this year's walk to end ALZ. That is the most we have EVER raised! I also had the biggest turnout of friends that came to walk in the RAIN! Cannot thank you all enough! (Not pictured: Margaret Tomlinson who has been to EVERY walk. Love you!)

My Friends
I know I'm beating a dead horse but my friends have been a huge part of this year's highlight reel. I am not good at asking for help and help has just shown up in the form of food, haircuts, wine, banners, cookies, love, hugs, tears, flowers.

From neighbors, new friends, old friends, sorority sisters, cousins, instagram friends, MIC friends, strangers, my brother's friends, anonymous blog comments. It all... I mean ALL....makes a huge impact. I hope one day when I am capable of doing so I can return all of these sweet acts of kindness.

You just have no idea how the smallest thing can completely change someone's day.

My Family
My niece and nephew and Max's niece and nephew all chipped in this year and played with Ford and Amelie when we would visit. My sister in law has been a rockstar. My brother and I talk on the phone more than we ever did. My network of cousins is incredible. My Dad and I have been supported by some compassionate and loving family and friends and we couldn't do this without you.

Traveling with kids is hectic and not relaxing but we have had some wonderful times on the road this year. 

My Health
I didn't get Sepsis this year. I'll chalk that up to a win. I have 10 pounds left to lose (probably 15) but that is down considerably from the Yeti Cooler I gained over Amelie's pregnancy. I love seeing a Therapist and am finally taking probiotics. Good girl right? I haven't cut out diet soda. I just can't give up Diet Coke. Or Wine. Or Carbs. Ever. (See pounds left to lose)

And Max
This year tested us unlike any other. Thank you for being my strength when I had no more to give. I think we both deserve a kick-ass 2016.

Here's to the New Year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lake Pajamas = Adult Kissy Kissy

No coffee cup. No perfect hair. Just a little girl who pulled an all-nighter and her exhausted Mom protecting her face from slaps. I tried to get the people at Bojangles to take a selfie with me in my pajamas but they weren't game. That would have been the most accurate picture right?
Every blogger has posted about Lake Pajamas so this isn't exactly new news. But while I was in Savannah at Number Four Eleven I finally saw a pair in person and couldn't believe how soft they were. I usually wear leggings and a t-shirt, or a Gillian O'Malley set from Target but these felt just like my daughter's Kissy Kissy footed pajamas. 

I also wouldn't normally spend so much on pajamas but Christmas was approaching and since I do all the shopping for my Dad I decided this could be my Christmas present from my Mom. 

Last night was my first test run and I'm in heaven. They are seriously that comfortable and as someone that sweats at night (I know...gross) sleeping in pure cotton was heaven. I prefer to sleep in pants so I bought the short/long set but wouldn't mind having a long/long also. 

Consider adding these to your Valentine's Wish List. I know I would love a second pair. Cannot wait to see what designs they come out with in the future! Collegiate line? Mini Tar Heels? Marketing win for those sorority house pillow fights.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Our Christmas Gifts (If we won the lottery)

 **This was supposed to be published last week.* Every time I drive to Asheville I pass the lottery billboard on 85 and I always spend a good portion of my trip thinking of what I would do if I won. So if after taxes it was around 70 is what I would buy my family:

For my Mom:

I would hire (and pay handsomely) 24 hour round the clock help for Mom. My mother (as did most people in New Orleans in the 50's) grew up in a household with help. She was raised by a woman named Hilda. I never met Hilda and have never seen a picture but I imagine her as Constantine from The Help or Sipsey from Fried Green Tomatoes (both played by the model Cicely Tyson).

She has not responded well to women we have found through a Seniors helping service but if we found someone with the compassion and patience as I heard Hilda had I think she would be so incredibly happy. And I think in some strange way it would remind her of her childhood and create peace in her mind.

Or a Condo here:

For my Dad:

Anytime we chat (he is the only person I speak with daily..I'm a texter) I ask what I can do, what he needs...etc....and his response is ALWAYS "I want to go to the Abacos". So here you go Dad. Two weeks in the Abacos. Either at the Abaco Lodge:

He has also ALWAYS wanted a boat. He prefers a center console so this is what I could dig up Dad!. Where we would dock that boat is mentioned later.

For Max:
He has always wanted a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Watch

but what he really wants to do again is travel. Two weeks in Europe? Merry Christmas honey.

For My Brother and Sister in Law
They have the most gorgeous home in West Palm Beach (where we spent Thanksgiving) but I would selfishly buy them one with a guest house so we can stay with them when we (and my parents, and my kids) visit. I would have to add a putting green for my nephew and library for my niece. 

For my Girlfriends 
You girls have been so supportive and wonderful this year. I don't even know how to thank you except to take you all to Napa for a week. 

Or New Orleans. Or Palm Beach. Or Pawleys. Week long girls trip?

For Myself:
Obviously we would love a bigger house. We adore our house but we are missing a garage, a playroom, and a guest room. (and hardwoods, and window treatments) I'd also add in a nanny. Just so we can escape every now and then. That 48 hours we had in Savannah did wonders for Max and I as a couple. Oh and one more thing, photography classes.

And for my Whole Family:

This house on Pawleys. Redecorated in all Quadrille by my friend Sarah Fisher. 

And maybe small apartment in the French Quarter. Decorated by Suzanne Rheinstein, Brannan Geary, or Tyson Geary.

Happy Dreaming. 


Monday, December 21, 2015

Blue Christmas

BB Christmas 2007

  I have wonderful ideas for blog posts. I have an entire one typed up on gift tags. Another on art. One on our trip to Savannah. But I am so incredibly behind this holiday season that there is barely room to breathe. Traveling for Thanksgiving and then the following weekend really set us back. Financially and in terms of holiday bandwidth. I feel like the older you get Christmas becomes more about finances and to-do lists than the true spirit of the season.

I am blue this Christmas. Before you tell me I have so much to be happy about (which I do) watch Brene Brown's video on Empathy. 2015 was the hardest year Max and I have ever faced. I was going to list it all out but I already air enough dirty laundry on Instagram. Let's just say people who should support us in very important matters didn't. AT ALL. We had crazy health issues (Max actually isn't celiac and definitely doesn't have scabies....LONG story) and Amelie was diagnosed with the dreaded peanut allergy. My mom declined rapidly this year and two kids and a 50+ hour week job have taken its toll on me. Physically (hello Olsen Twin appearance) and mentally, hello random crying episodes.

The hardest part of all of this is my Mother's Alzheimer's is also taking away aspects of my Dad. My Dad is the most hilarious, loving, and generous person in the world. But the stress is drowning him. He is a hero and a compassionate soul so you would never know...... but I know. It is altering the amazing father-daughter relationship we have. And that hurts. It is nobody's fault. It is Alzheimer's fault. That is why between help from the experts at MemoryCare and support from me we have decided we will be putting Mom in a facility next year if this rate of decline continues. What that means for this year is that this is our last Christmas with her at home. I'm not stating that to be dramatic, and it probably sounds unrealistic to prepare for that now but for me if I mentally go into this Christmas with that in my mind I will be more purposely present. I will have more patience. 

This isn't an easy decision. And the guilt he feels for even thinking about this is indescribable. But he cannot keep going at this rate. She is no longer his BB. We have done some research and while we could take her out of the facility next year for special occasions, at that point you are really only doing it for your selfish desires since they begin to feel at home in their new surroundings. So we will probably go there to celebrate in the morning. I guess. This is uncharted territory for us. I seriously picture scenes from Fried Green Tomatoes and wallpaper from paper roses because I have no idea what this will be like.

I will ask here if anyone reads to please go easy on him. We have had family complain that he isn't sending constant updates. He is in commercial Real Estate in Asheville. Do you know what that means? He is SLAMMED and literally has the same routines as me in the morning/night. Feed, dress, bathe...etc. He is also a 67 year old man. He isn't going to start a CaringBridge page or make phone calls. That is what I'm for. That is mainly what this blog is for. He is heartbroken and soldiering through. Please consider cutting him some slack. If you are concerned about him or mom shoot me an email. If you want to know what you can do I think we are unfortunately moving away from "outings" with friends. What you can do now is pray. Send cards. Send old photos. Send me a message or comment (leave your email) or postcard or carrier pigeon and tell me your favorite thing about my Mom. My Aunt Kelly (Thank you Kelly, I haven't sent a note and I'm horrible for that) sent me a bottle of scented soap and some holiday decor because those were things my mother loved. That meant so much to me. 

I do not have any mothers in my life right now and have leaned heavily on Aunts, Jackie, cousins, friends (Alice Myer specifically) and Max. I cannot thank our friends enough this year for all of the love and support you have sent our way. Alzheimer's is such a horrid disease because you grieve for so long. And it just gets worse. You all have been there for this marathon and will never know how much it means to me.

I love you friends. 


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Goodbye November-National Alzheimer's Month

 Did you see the purple banners lining your town's streets? The news anchors all wearing purple in solidarity for the epidemic that is Alzheimer's? Did your mall decorate with purple ribbons and host special purple parties? Did every make-up counter have a discount for purple nail polish and purple compacts? Did clothing stores donate a portion of proceeds from purple sales to the Alzheimer's Association?  Did your favorite team wear purple cleats and honor Alzheimer's Caregivers on the field? Were there purple fountains flowing all over your city in view of fancy fundraisers for your purple cause?


There weren't.

I also failed you Alzheimer's month. I would like to say my excuse is that I had two large birthdays, 5 sicknesses, and a lot of BS that kept me from doing the blog posts I wanted to do. I will say I dedicate a lot of September/October to ALZ in preparation for our big walk here in Charlotte, still.... that is no excuse for not contributing my voice.

But National Alzheimer's Month came and went with very little fanfare. 

This needs to change. 

Because Alzheimer's is ripping my family apart. 

Today is Giving Tuesday. A day after you cyberized your credit card enough that it became a transformer. If you have any money left please consider donating to the Alzheimer's Association if you do not already have a cause close to your heart.

Always Flying the Purple Banner Katharine

Friday, November 20, 2015

Therapy and Brene Brown

Anxiety and depression are two things that I have battled with since I was young. I didn't know that was what was going on at the time but looking back it made complete sense about some of the phases I went through as a pre-teen and teenager.

When I went to College I was no longer one of the smartest kids in my class and that was a huge wake up call for me. I also had no idea what gorgeous women would be at Carolina....all 70%+ of them. I felt unattractive, unintelligent and unspecial.

I was struggling with some of my classes and went to see a Psychiatrist thinking that I could just get some ritalin. Well after some testing it came back that I had Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). WHAT?! Yep. And with that, I was in a "Major Depressive Episode". I tried Prozac, Wellbutrin and ended up just going off of them when I left school. Most recently I have been on a very low dose of Zoloft to keep my no wire hangers tendencies at bay. That was prescribed by my favorite Dr. here in Charlotte. I came back from a Cruise and told her about my anxiety attacks and she couldn't stop laughing and said "So you wanted to be the Cruise Director and thought you would have done a better job?" Well yes. So zoloft it was.
A few months ago a friend asked if I wanted to go see Brene Brown at an event our Church was hosting. I didn't know who Brene was but she said it was sold out so I figured it must be worth getting dressed up on a school night. To say I was blown away is a total understatement. I cried, I laughed and as cheesy as it sounds I was moved. Moved to do something about what is going on inside my brain.

She immediately won me over with her sarcasm and potty mouth. She admits marriage is hard. She admits kids are hard, that mothering is hard, that being a woman is hard. She says we all tell ourselves a shitty first draft (Our SFD) which is basically a story we make up in our heads about all the things we hate about ourselves and feel others hate about us as well. Via Steve Safigan:

First, Dr. Brown recommends that we identify the story we make up by writing out what she calls a “sh***y first draft” (SFD). She cites research by Dr. James Pennebaker about the value of writing down our thoughts and feelings in order to organize the experience. It’s important that we don’t filter the experience or worry about how our story makes us look. We search for the hidden story we’re telling ourselves about our emotions.
“What do I know objectively?”After we identify the story we’re making up with our SFD, it’s time to probe our assumptions, which are usually self-defeating. Dr. Brown recommends asking ourselves other questions:
  • “What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story?”
  • “What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?”
Then we can look for the difference—the delta—between the story we make up and a more objective truth.
She says that if you write about your trauma for 25 minutes a week it helps. You are externalizing it. I am going to force myself to do this. I have mentioned before blogging is therapeutic and even if I don't post it I can save it as a draft. 

Brene also said this and this is where I started crying. She said we are least likely to ask for help when we are drowning. I have been drowning. This blog and my Instagram/Facebook posts about my mother are my cry for help. To me I feel like asking for help is a cry for attention, but in my heart that isn't what it is. I work from home, alone, and this can be incredibly isolating. This past year has put us through the ringer. I'm mentally and emotionally exhausted. And when I get a breather someone gets sick, or we have a setback with Mom and I have been relying on friends to help pick me up. And my friends have come in to help full force. Sarah, you called our hairdresser and had her show up at my house b/c I wouldn't take the time to go get a haircut. Katherine, Cory, Lauren, Sarah, you all dropped off meals. Kathryn, Elisabeth, Elie, you sent cards and flowers. Betsy, Abby, Olivia, Margaret, Holly you all came to walk with me. Mary Katherine you were determined to make little Amelie a birthday cake. Emily, Ashley, Nina, Alicia you have brought me to tears from your comments and messages. BS, Kristen, Allison, Katie and Ashley, your care package basically made me cry for an hour. 

When family has failed me this year (and no not mine) friends have taken the baton and run their hearts out for me. I feel guilty for this. Guilty for needing help and attention and love. Repeating my SFD to myself, Oh that needy Katharine, whining again on social media. What does she want now? Which is where the topic of this post comes in.

Brene says that therapy is life changing. We all need an hour to cry, scream, yell about everything in our lives. I remember the first appointment I ever had at UNC. I felt a huge weight was lifted. So after asking the Mom group here in Charlotte for recs off to Therapy I went. 

After only two appointments (I missed one...completely forgot....begin Alzheimer's paranoia) we have come to one conclusion. I have crippling perfectionism. I want everything to be perfect and wonderful and beat myself up when things aren't. I have an obsession with pictures. I worry too much. My SFD is a book worth of things I hate about myself. And I'm in there laughing and crying and able to look at this and say what in the hell?! 

I want to write more about this but this post has already lost 98% of the 6 readers perusing it today. What I will end with is Therapy is not taboo. It isn't silly or something to be ashamed of. If you have thought about it before go for it.