For My Mom

This Mothers’ Day is extra special to me. Several months ago, I nearly lost my mom to complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Since Mom’s return home on November 6, 2020, I have tried very hard to realize every moment with her as a gift. We should all do this every day, but life’s tasks get in the way. We get busy with many things that really don’t matter that much. We think there will always be a tomorrow with those we love.

Until something happens that alters us. And that’s where I am today. While my mom has lived with Parkinson’s disease for nearly eight years, I didn’t fully begin to appreciate the depth of this diagnosis until about two years ago. And I didn’t fully make Parkinson’s disease a part of my daily thoughts until August 2020.

Parkinson’s has now become my part time job and volunteer activity, all rolled into one. While I help with Mom’s care here and there, I have felt a pull to do more.

And that is why for Mothers’ Day this year, I am raising money for Parkinson’s research – so others do not have to live with this terrible disease.

Will you donate to help us find a cure for my mom and the millions of others battling Parkinson’s disease? Your donation in any amount will make a huge difference: https://foxtrot.michaeljfox.org/spring/ForMyMom

100% of your donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) will go toward research to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. I chose this specific charity because MJFF has very high ratings when it comes to financial integrity and organizational strength.

Thank you for your continued support for me, my family, and especially my mom. Please consider donating to MJFF at the link above, and give your mom a big hug for me.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

Five Years in Five Months

The last time I wrote a blog post, I was ten days away from moving from Des Moines to Davenport. And finally, nearly 90 days after moving, I have progressed enough with my life’s tasks to be making time to blog once again.

This was a pretty fast move. I had a move to the Quad Cities area in my sites for late 2021 or even 2022, but you know what they say about plans…..

My reason for moving back to the Quad Cities area was family, and specifically my mom. Her Parkinson’s has been progressing more rapidly since the summer of 2019, but with so many things, we always think we have more time.

Me and my mom enjoying an afternoon together, just one week before she was rushed to the ER in Davenport.

Then she aspirated while eating a donut on Friday, August 28, 2020, and ended up in the Genesis ER in Davenport, soon to be transported to the ICU at St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois. It was the closest ICU bed open. (So yeah, those Covid-19 news briefings telling us that we had plenty of open hospital beds in Iowa at that time…..)

I went to Peoria the next day and stayed there for two nights even though I was not allowed into the hospital due to Covid restrictions. I went to support my dad, who was the only one allowed in to see my mom. I was his chauffeur and tour guide, selecting spots for outdoor fresh air relief and good meals.

During that Sunday in Peoria, I attended mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, and that is when I was hit with a wave of “You need to move NOW.” OK, God. 10-4. Moving. ASAP.

So the next two months were a blur with rearranging my life and preparing for a move. Things seemed messy, but I knew they would work out. God told me they would. And they did, even better than I could have ever imagined.

While Mom was in Peoria, we were riding a roller coaster. She was better, and then she was sedated. She had g-tube surgery. And then a tracheotomy. She was also on a ventilator for a few weeks.

Mom was finally transferred to Select Specialty Hospital in Davenport and then to acute rehab at St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids. While in Davenport and Cedar Rapids, I was able to visit her once a week. She was released to go home TWO DAYS after I moved to Davenport. Chills.

Pedi time!

Since moving, I have been able to continue to work from home and visit my parents an average of two times per week to help with Mom’s care. She has five g-tube feedings every day that include a combination of Parkinson’s medication and her liquid food, and Mom tells me I am a pro during my feeding shifts. She requires daily and monthly trach maintenance, and I have helped with some of that. I have also helped her shower, given some pretty awesome manis and pedis if I do say so, played solitaire, lost at UNO, colored, and baked with her.

My mom is a fighter. And she shows so much gratitude toward me every time I help her with something. I tell her that it is my privilege to be able to help her. I recently heard the term tragic privilege, and that sums up how I feel on the inside.

I am thankful that my mom is able to safely live at home, and that my dad is such a rockstar with shouldering 99% of the workload to care for her. I have a newfound admiration for caregivers and those living with Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.

I feel like the past five months have actually been five years, based upon the emotional and spiritual journey I have embarked upon. This lady is not the same one who woke up on Friday morning, August 28, 2020.

While I wish my mom did not have a horrible disease that was robbing her of the life she once knew, I am thankful for how this experience has strengthened relationships, humbled me, and begun to transform me into a better person.

And if you are facing a really tough moment in your life, consider going to mass. You may sob the entire time and feel immensely vulnerable like I did, but you might also be quiet long enough to hear God telling you something important. 😉

The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception – August 30, 2020

This Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day

I am pretty accustomed to being single on Valentine’s Day. Most years I don’t really think much about being single. And then during other Valentine’s Days past I had:

A few years when I was casually seeing someone, found myself to be “miraculously” on my own when Valentine’s Day rolled around, and then became a hot item again a few days later. Remember that book “He’s Just Not That Into You”? Yep. Here’s your sign.

A few bitter years.

A few lonely years.

A few years where I was the “coupled up” girl and received flowers from great guys.

Valentine’s Day 2019 comes after a personally brutal January 2019. It’s been tough to process, let alone put into words.

My brutal month involved removing a few toxic people from my life whom I still love but had to separate myself from for my own mental health and self respect.

Simply reaching these decisions was messy, as I had to come to these conclusions on my own. And I am the person who often has to push the envelope one more time, test my boundaries one more time, to get to that point of saying, “enough.” This naturally had a ripple effect on others outside of the situations.

Thankfully my friends and family who know me best and love me unconditionally were able to give me enough rope, stand just within reach, and trust that I would find my internal strength to do what needed to be done. For that I am eternally grateful.

We often think of Valentine’s Day and love in romantic terms, but I challenge all of us to think of it a little differently. We should also see it in terms of all of those who mean the most to us and stand beside us during thick and thin.

My best friends are my valentines.

My mom and stepdad are my valentines.

My siblings are my valentines.

And my nephew and nieces are most certainly my valentines.

Today my dogs are also my valentines.

This Valentine’s Day, I raise a glass to everyone in love, recovering from heartbreak, navigating through some tough stuff, finding peace in solitude, or anything in between.

You are loved. Happy Valentine’s Day!

My 9-11 Story

Everyone has a 9-11 story.  Some seem more significant than others.  Mine is one of the least significant, because I was not working in New York or D.C., I was not on a plane that day, and I didn’t personally know anyone affected directly by the deaths.

But as I have heard the ordinary stories from that day, I have learned that it touched us all in different ways.  Sometimes the seemingly insignificant occurrences can become pivotal down the road.

My day began as usual, in my apartment shared with Lexi on the south side of Des Moines.  One of my nerdy tendencies is listening to and half watching the Today Show when I get ready in the morning, and it was no different ten years ago.  I remember Matt and Katie breaking in with the news that a plane had crashed into the first tower.  And I will never forget the first words.  Lexi’s boyfriend made a comment something like, “Some drunk guy having too much fun,” and I said, “No, that’s something a crazy terrorist would do.”  Those words still haunt me.  Little did any of us know what was to come in the following minutes, hours, days, and years.

I finished getting ready for work and went downtown to a bank, where I worked in an office upstairs, as I was at that time the only staffer for the Sukup for Governor campaign.  Another business had offices upstairs, and I remember someone poking his head in my door telling me to come see the news.  I walked down the hall where several people were gathered around a TV.  Wow.

It didn’t set in until I talked to my boss on the phone, and he said to stay off the phones for the day, that this news story was capturing everyone’s attention and no one cared about campaigns that day.

Then I walked down to the Republican Party of Iowa headquarters just a few blocks away – the old rented space, before they bought the old funeral home.  I walked into the conference room and sat with Darrell, where we watched in amazement at the news developments.  Darrell kept saying, “Where is our President?  We need to hear from him.”  And he referenced Pearl Harbor a few times.  This was officially a big deal.

Finally President Bush issued a statement.  He had been in Air Force One, receiving updates and staying safe.  The news gradually unfolded to tell a story of a group of extremists led by Osama bin Laden.

The rest of the “work day” was a blur, and then I drove home at around 5:30 p.m.  It was a short day, since I usually worked until 9:00 p.m.  I, like many others, was wondering what all of this would do to gas prices, the economy, and on and on.  I pulled over at the Quick Trip and waited in line for 20 minutes to fill up my car.  I could have waited until the next day, but why risk it?

I was glued to CNN, Fox News, and all of the news channels for the rest of the evening.  Lexi and I chatted about it, and I talked to a few people on the phone.

So many things we take for granted as Americans were challenged that day.  However, in the days and weeks that followed, those things we take for granted were very much intact.  We came together to support one another during a tough time.  We rallied around the flag.

Of course, it didn’t take long for politics to divide us again.  But it’s good to know that we can put politics aside when we have no other choice.  That is my lasting take away.  Sometimes it’s good to kick politics aside and just be real.

During Sickness…

It’s heartwarming when people rally during bad times, but it also makes me sad.  Why does it take a crisis for us to unite?

The pastor at my church is very sick.  Major health issues.  I have seen little to no compassion shown toward him since I began my part time church lady job in early October.  Until now.  All of a sudden, people are with him.

I’m not bitter, just saddened.  He has a fighting spirit, always charging ahead and willing to take a stand on the tough issues in the church.  Lately the issue is coming to terms with the bleeding out of people and funds.  Interesting parallel here because one of his health problems has to do with internal bleeding.  It’s a comparison I’d prefer to not make, but it’s there.

Yes, my pastor is my 60-something friend I wrote about yesterday.  As part time secretary at my church, I have learned so much about him, and we have shared a lot of good conversation.  He and I have been a united team of two in the face of a lot of static that doesn’t matter, while trying to wake people up to the larger problems the church faces.

My church is very small.  Other than me, we have a part time organist and a part time janitor on staff.  That is it.  My pastor friend has been ministering to the entire community of Durant for over a year in absence of pastors at the other two churches in town.  And I work 20 hours a week.  That’s a lot of work for each of us to squeeze into limited time.

And now the time seems even more limited.  People had better rally, because he and I can’t do it all.  We couldn’t do it before, but when crisis is ignored, the status quo takes hold.  But the in-your-face crisis of pastor’s illness couldn’t be ignored.

People who once nit picked at every little thing my friend did are now full of concern.  I wonder if they will hold on to that empathy if and when he gets better.  My guess is they will gradually regress to the way they were before.  A few might change for good.

I wish we all could rally on the good days, or even the ordinary days.  We are so independent, centered around our own things.  We divide our time amongst work, volunteer work, family, friends, and other issues.  And in the meantime we forget to respect one another and reach out in kindness.  We also waste our energy on static – the stuff in between the clear pictures that really doesn’t matter.  I just wastes our time.

My friend is waiting for lab test results that are supposed to arrive by Tuesday.  In the meantime, he and I can wait and ponder things like this.