Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve resolutions.

New Year's Eve. It's kind of that one night a year I get get sucked into thinking I need to do something fun. Like maybe I really want to just put on my comfy pants and watch some Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (my actual idea of fun) but I think, "No, I can't do that. It's New Year's Eve! I should do something...exciting! Or at least something that requires pants with a waistband..."

We toyed with the idea of hosting a party but realized about four seconds in that we just couldn't be bothered. Liam was like, "So...what? You're just going to sit around waiting for someone else to have a party we can go to?" I told him I thought this was a pretty solid plan. "Worst case scenario, we can just hang out together!"

He was not impressed.

Fortunately my plan worked and someone did volunteer to host a party! So tomorrow night we'll be wearing real clothes and leaving the house and giving 2013 a proper send off. With friends and family and waistbands and cocktails and maybe even some Twister if I can rally the troops (it's what my Dad sent us for Christmas).

With that in mind, I have decided to make a few New Year's Eve resolutions:

  1. I will not over serve myself.
  2. I will not allow anyone else to over serve me.
  3. I will try to remember that champagne WILL HAPPEN and plan accordingly.
I was going to make a few more (like, I will not to barf on my bed...) but I think if I can stick to the first three, the rest of the night should take care of itself. The main goal is to wake up on January 1st feeling like a rock star (not an actual rock star, a metaphorical rock star...I said I didn't want to barf on the bed, remember?). I have a feeling 2014 is going to be one heck of a great year and I want to be ready for it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

I'm not lazy, I'm enjoying the holidays!

Did you know you can download books from the library straight to your iPhone (or whatever it is you have) for FREE!? It's kind of the best discovery ever because I love to read but have a hard time carving out a chunk of time when I won't be interrupted a thousand times. The first book I downloaded (becasue whatever it is I was looking for was already checked out) was Spontaneous Happiness by Dr. Andrew Weir. It's about health and wellness (and mostly depression) and was an interesting 'read' that made washing dishes and folding laundry a whole lot more exciting. The timing was good, too, because at one point the author used Christmas as an example as to why we might be so overwhelmed and unhappy.

He said something like, "Not so long ago, winter was a cold, dark, terrifying time of year when people were starving to death and afraid the sun might never return. So they gathered together to increase their chances of survival. Over the years this coming together got rebranded as 'the most wonderful time of year.' What was once something so terrible we were lucky to survive is now a month full of obligations that we're expected to not just do but to do perfectly and with with great merriment."

Drunken carolers - bringing the jolly on Christmas Eve!

(I took great liberties with that paraphrasing, FYI.)

I happen to think this might be the most wonderful time of year but it can definitely be overwhelming and stressful. Between travel and family and friends and activities (plus, you know, normal life and all the pressure we put on ourselves to be awesome...), I think we might need to set the bar back down to "survive" if we want to actually enjoy it all.

Thanks, Trader Joe's for the adorably easy gingerbread chalet.

Lower expectations = more spontaneous happiness. Sounds pretty jolly to me!

I gotta say, it worked for us. I mean, we still did "all the things" - the advent calendar, the Christmas cards, the shopping and making and wrapping and sending, the dreaded Elf on the Shelf, the fancy parties, the kid parties... - but we did it all with a slight case of the fuck-it's.

Our cards were late, our Elf on the Shelf was lazy (to be fair, he did show up with a note that was like, 'Hey guys, FYI, I'm not here to spy on you. I just finished making toys early this year so I'm on vacation...'), and of the two gifts we bought/made, wrapped and sent on our own (everything else we left to Amazon), one came back for an incorrect address.

Our only Pinterest worthy moment...

And guess what? Nobody cared a bit! Turns out, all that stuff we think we're supposed to do (and do perfectly!) is only worth doing if you actually ENJOY doing it. Opting out of all of the overwhelming, stressful, "obligatory" stuff gives you lots more time to do the stuff you really like.

It was especially good we weren't trying to set any records because Liam got the flu and was down with a 103 fever for almost a week...

Bill took lots of time off work (he's still on staycay) and we doubled up on our more jolly traditions like drinking mulled wine in front of the TV fire (best show ever!), playing cards, falling asleep reading bedtime stories to the boys, taking the dogs for walks, cooking dinner, watching Elf, eating cheese, playing StarWars and hanging out with solid people. Needless to say, it's been a pretty relaxing holiday. Which is just what we would've asked Santa for if we went anywhere near a mall!

It just kind of got me thinking...I bet if everything was like this, spontaneous happiness would be the norm, not some book we checked out to listen to while cleaning the kitchen. If we minimize what we think we should do to make more room for what we want to do, I'm pretty sure everyone wins.

Hoping you had a wonderfully relaxing (or whatever makes you jolly) holiday. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Monday, December 23, 2013


Sometimes at night my mom wants to go home. My dad tries his best to comfort her by showing her familiar things and reminding her that this is where they've lived for thirty-two years but I don't think that's what she means. "I want to go home..."

I don't think the home she's yearning for is a place, it's everything. Her past, her present, her mind, her life, her self...everything. Sometimes I think she can almost feel it but it's just out of reach. Like an itch she can't scratch. It's familiar but not quite right. It's here but IT'S NOT HERE. How could we possibly understand? We keep telling her she's home...

"I hate this," she says as I hold her back from following my dad outside and he closes the door in her face. I look her straight in the eyes and try not to cry. "I know, mom. I hate this too."

She knows and it breaks my heart. She's a prisoner in her own mind and body and she can't get out and SHE KNOWS. Not all the time but when she does, I just want to pull her into my arms and rock her like she used to rock me and promise her I will help take her home. 

But I can't. She can't. She's here but she's not here and she wants to go home but no one can help her find her way. Sometimes I get it, I feel it for just a moment, and it totally kills me.

They say you can never go home again but that didn't stop us from trying. My sister and I left our homes and our husbands and our kids and our pets and we went home. "It'll be great," we told our dad. "Just like old times!" I'm sure he was skeptical, afraid we were staging some sort of Alzheimer's intervention, but he didn't let on. "I can't wait to see you girls..."

As much as things have changed, it actually did feel like old times. Once a family, always a family, I guess. The dynamic was very much still in tact. We laughed and cried and teased each other and shared stories and looked after one another. We found our roles - old and new - and figured out how to make it work.

We went to our favorite pub for dinner and ended up holding court the rest of the night. Every time our waitress would try to bring the check, we'd send her back for "one more" round. (Not for mom, she just hung out chugging water...). I guess we forgot how much we had to catch up on. Plus, we have this thing we do where we cry in bars. I don't know how long it's been going on but it's kind of our thing. We all do it and, while I'm sure it's super awkward for most people, I find it sort of charming. It's as close to a time honored family tradition as you can get.

We scheduled a meeting with a care counselor at the Alzheimer's Association while we were in town and it was one of the highlights of our visit. My dad wasn't sure it was necessary (he's DOING IT, all day every day...doesn't that count for something?) but I just reminded him that it wasn't for him, it was for us. Being far away is hard. Not knowing if we're on the same page, or what to expect in the future or how we can help...it makes the situation worse. We just want to do the best we can with what we've been given. How could he argue with that?

So we went, the four of us together, and it felt...victorious. There are so many things that can break a family apart - distance, time, illness, wildly different personalities, hurt feelings, the past - so just showing up TOGETHER and trying to do our best TOGETHER felt like a major win. No matter what life throws at us, I know we will work it out.

Which is what I very clearly saw in my parents this visit. They are in this together. For better, for worse, til death. I finally got it. To my dad, my mom is not a burden, she's his best friend. His partner. I saw it flash on his face when our care counselor said, "People hear Alzheimer's and they think the worst. But it doesn't have to be all bad. This is your wife, your best friend..." I heard it and I saw it and I got it. For better...for worse...

Our flight got back to Nashville really late but Bill was still up when I got home. I'm always so glad to see him. Not because of anything in particular, just because he's...home. I mean, sure he's cute and nice and successful and he made the bed and took care of the kids while I was gone and is always happy to see me - but if all that was gone, I honestly think I'd still feel the same. For better, for worse, til death. When you really love someone, so much so that you commit to spend your life with them, that love goes deeper than things you can put words to.

It's why my dad can do what he does. It seems overwhelming to me but to him it's just...home. The silences are comfortable. The dynamic is familiar. The person he loves is still in there somewhere. The things you can put words to might fade or change or disappear completely, but there's more to it than that. There has to be. If Bill could no longer talk or remember our home or do the things he used to do, I don't doubt for a second that I'd still love him. Even if he was a big hot mess I honestly think I'd still enjoy his company. He's my home, you know? I have to believe it's the same for my parents. Any why not? Life is what we make it. Why not make it the best we can.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013.

What a fantastic long Thanksgiving celebration...lots of family at our house (a first! we usually celebrate with friends), delicious food (Bill and I cooked the meal and completely nailed it), football in the park (I only fell on my face once!), swimming at the Opryland Hotel (like the Disneyland of Nashville, without all the rides), Legos (we resisted for a looong time but have happily surrendered), fort building, party hats (thanks, Moose!), BBQ, honky tonkin' (we can't have company and NOT take them to Robert's...), and even a Nashville Predators hockey game (what can I say? It was WAY more fun than I could've imagined).

I'd love to put all these photos in order and do captions and all that but it's just not gonna happen (I'm beginning to think I'm technologically challenged...). So, in no particular order, I give you Thanksgiving 2013!

These next few pics start out as two sisters trying to get a nice photo of themselves with their dogs and end up with the greatest photo bomb ever! (Thanks to Liam for capturing the moments.)

(Finn took to the spirit of hockey like a champ...)

I think we definitely made some new family traditions. If we keep this up, we're going to have to change our last name to Braverman! Hope y'all had a wonderful Thanksgiving...