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

Advertisement

Fridays with G: Baby Networking

G was actually still sleeping when I arrived at his house on Friday morning.  But by the time his dad left for work at 7:30 a.m., he was awake.  There was no mistaking it, as he was making siren noises from his crib.  He visited a Davenport fire station the week before and has a new obsession with fire trucks.

G also has a new room now, to make room for Baby #2, ETA May 18th.  I flipped on the light, said good morning, and he smiled and bounced up and down.  Then I received the biggest hug as I picked him up out of his crib.  And he snuggled for about 20 minutes.  After that, he was ready for breakfast and ready to take a ride in Smurfette.  He even put my shoes on for me!

putting on flip flops

G ready to go
Come on, Aunt Mel! I'm waiting!

This week’s new adventure was toddler story time at the Fairmount branch of the Davenport Public Library.  We arrived early and had time to play first.  I was so proud of myself – until I saw we had a leaking diaper, and of course I left the diaper bag in the car.  So we rushed to get changed and made it back just in time for story time.

story time
Kicking back with the Wells Fargo horse after story time. The name tag is still on!

Just take a moment now to imagine 20 toddlers with their parents and a few siblings, all together in a big room.  It would have been even more entertaining had I not been responsible for keeping one of them in line.  G actually did pretty well.  He kept the sticker name tag on his shirt.  He was just a bit clingy and wanted to take this session to observe before he just jumped in.  We had all sorts of toddlers there – from G’s age of not quite two years old, to four year olds who still haven’t mastered how to behave better than a toddler.  Not judging, just saying….

You had the immaculate kids with their prissy parents, the kids who obviously dressed themselves, the kids whose parents must obviously want them to be nerds their entire lives, and then the seemingly average kids.

I felt the other parents pass judgment on me as soon as the song time began and G didn’t want to stand up.  After song time was story time, and that’s when the real fun began.  A few of the kids had to wander, and the one kid who has to sit as close as possible to the reader was present and accounted for.  We also had the two brothers fighting over whether one could sit next to the other.

When the two stories were done, it was open play time, and the librarian opened up a cabinet of toys.  Of course G went for the Melissa & Doug buildable trucks toy – not only because of his fascination with trucks, but also because Aunt Mel couldn’t figure out what pieces went where.  (By the way, they have directions on the bottom of the truck bases – good to know.)

G befriended a boy named Jacob, whose dad seemed to be somewhat judgmental of me, given his looks in my direction.  I finally told him I was the aunt and this was our first story time.  That helped, a little bit.

Then we played with toddler Matilda and her grandmother, who insisted on calling Gabriel “Gabe”.  His name tag clearly stated Gabriel, and my sister secretly wants to deck anyone who calls him anything else.  This desire was building up in me also.  The grandmother continued to call Gabriel “Gabe” and me “Gabe’s mommy”.  I had corrected enough people on my relation to Gabriel by that point, and it would be tough to correct her on the mommy thing and not the Gabe thing.  So I let it all slide.  After all, Gabriel does call me Mommy.  We are diligently working on saying Aunt Mel.

I walked away from toddler story time feeling pretty good about our baby networking.  I was annoyed by the presence of politics in baby activities – there were definite status structures and relationships built there – but politics is everywhere, they say.  And I was proud of G for being open to something outside of his comfort zone.  He never ran away, screamed, or misbehaved.  He even shared toys with others.

We rewarded ourselves with some Culver’s fish, fries, and chocolate frozen custard.

Culver's frozen custard

Later that afternoon it appeared I had used up G’s allotment of behaving for the day.  He laid in his crib for over 30 minutes without taking a nap.  I’ll give you one guess what sound I heard during that entire time.

Make Your Day Count….Today!

What do you consider to be a successful day?  Making it through with no major mishaps?  Getting caught up at work?  Having time to relax and enjoy yourself?

You’ve likely heard the saying to live each day as if it were your last, but how realistic is that?  Odds are that we will live to pay the consequences the next day, whether that be a huge credit card bill, cleaning up a mess literally or figuratively, or feeling sore from too much fun.

Like many things in life, this requires a happy medium state of being.  We can’t all afford to go crazy and do everything we want to do today.  But what about taking baby steps to get to that point, or simply doing one or two things here and there that really make us and/or someone else happy?

I really began living and embracing things around me when I made a focused effort to continually step out of my bubble and tried to look in from the outside.

Take a moment here and there to listen to people, really listen to them.  You will likely be horrified at others’ words and actions.  You will hear things like:

“Why did you give the good cans of food to the food drive?  I wanted to give away things that were in the cupboard for a while.”

“I would like to do that too; I just can’t.”

“I don’t have time to listen to my friend’s problems.”

“You have all of the luck.”

“That person is weird.  Why can’t he wear normal clothes?”

These statements are from people who are just going through the motions.  And I personally witnessed every one of them – some when people knew I heard them; others when they did not.

I’m the first to admit I have said things like this in the past, but now that I’ve started listening to others say these things, I think a little more before uttering nonsense.

I want to be that person who gives freely, loves deeply, and truly enjoys life.  I often do things I don’t want to do, like working for the man for a paycheck, but that’s just a means to an end.  I make the best of the workday while pursuing other avenues that will hopefully result in financial freedom in the future.

Making your day count isn’t just about the to do list in front of you.  It’s a state of mind and a world view.  Do things that will have a positive impact on others.  Be productive, but don’t cut off those whom you love and who need you the most.  If you are gone tomorrow, no one will care if your sink is full of dirty dishes.  But your friend will remember the last conversation you had.

And never underestimate a seemingly small, kind gesture.  Your kindness may be the ray of sunshine a stranger needed to get through the day.  Whether it’s smiling and saying hi to someone who may be a bit scary looking, or simply holding the door open for the next person in line, you can bet it will make you and the other person both feel good.

One of my newest focuses is to show more appreciation and respect toward others who have a positive impact on me.  Whether it’s with a verbal thank you, a card, or a referral, I love being able to thank others who bring a ray of sunshine into my life here and there.

At the end of my day, I really, really try to measure the worth of my day by my gut feeling, not the number of items checked off my lifeless to do list.  It’s a daunting challenge, but we should all be up for it.

“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its shortness.”  ~Jean de La Bruyère

Things I Am Thankful For Every Single Day

Happy Turkey Day!  Hope everyone has a safe and fun day, filled with the joys and headaches of family.  I awoke between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. today and took time to think about all of my blessings.  Then I turned on the Today Show and started writing.

I am spending my entire Thanksgiving Day in Northeast Iowa – far Northeast Iowa.  I arrived at Dad and Jo’s house in rural Postville last night, ate some Mabe’s Pizza, and had great conversation.  At around Noon today, I will go to Uncle Irv’s house in Waukon for the Fosaaen family Thanksgiving feast.  And it will be a huge feast, always is.  Then I will conclude my day at Amy, Jason, and Jaxon’s house near New Hampton.

Spending an entire day with people I care about is what makes each holiday so great.  The food, activities, and everything else are added benefits.

In no particular order, the things I am thankful for on Turkey Day and every day:

cat

1. Jag – My fat orange tabby cat, now 8 years old, likes to plop down on my lap and convince me to stay still for just a little bit longer.

2. Gabriel – My 17-month-old nephew shows me how to appreciate little things in life and is a constant inspiration to me.

3. Sarah – My one and only sister is my biggest cheerleader and a best friend.  The six year age difference seems to be less and less each year as we grow older.  And yes, she is the YOUNGER sister.  🙂

4. Jen – My best friend from Simpson College gets the raw, uncut version of Mel each day and loves me anyway.  She is also that friend who seems close enough to hug, even when we have lived across the country from one another.

5. Lexi – Having lived with Lexi for three and a half years, I know she is the real deal when it comes to friends.  We also discovered wine together, which is HUGE!

6. Amy – My best friend since high school days, Amy is my best email buddy right now.  She also keeps me in the loop on the Burg news and is my partner in crime on Black Friday.

7. Mom – Yes, she gave birth to me.  More importantly though, she didn’t kill me during my mouthy teenage years.  Thank you, Mom!

8. Stepdad – He dealt with me insisting that his marriage to my mom was “our” wedding, and has shown incredible patience with me every day since then.  He is also a straight shooter and demands respect.

9. Dad – So many of my traits come from my dad: red hair, the gift of gab, and self assurance are just a few.  Any time I do something a little or a lot crazy, my dad is there telling me to blow the doors off and blaze that new trail.

10. Jo – My stepmom takes care of my dad and has lived with him longer than anyone else.  She has incredible strength and patience.  Jo is one of the sweetest people I know.

11. Work – While my work places have varied throughout the year, they each have provided money in my checking account.  And, we all need a little bit of money.

12. Seasons – I crave change and newness to keep things fresh in my life, and seasons naturally provide that.  I hated winter before I moved to Houston for two years, but now I choose to live in Iowa so embrace the snow (most of the time).

13. New People – Everyone new I meet blesses me with new information and/or a new perspective.  That is priceless.

14. Health – Being healthy makes everything else work.

15. Jesus – While I’m not into preaching and I respect everyone’s religious views, my faith is a huge part of my life and is the root of everything I have to be thankful for.

Christmas
Mitch and I cut down my Christmas tree at the Kelly Tree Farm each year. This is me, Mitch, and Irvin the Tree in 2009.

16. Mitch – My one and only brother listens to my rants, provides some of his own, and is a good confidant.  He also provides great random funny text messages (original – not forwards) and is my unofficial fix it man.

17. Jeremiah – I only wish my brother-in-law had an older brother for me to marry.  I love his family.  And Jeremiah is pretty cool too.  😉  He and I have some of the best conversations ever.

18. Kate – She is my surrogate sister in Houston.  And Miss Kate was the first hand witness to my sophomore year college transformation – kind of a Son In Law type of thing.

19. Shy – A bundle of joy and love, Shy is the model Christian in every way.  She and I taught preschool in Houston and have been good friends ever since.

20. Josh, Jo & Aaron – I group these three together, because they all brought me into the SendOutCards family and were great hosts during my San Diego vaca in August.  Josh and Aaron knew me when I had scary braces and ugly hair, but they still talk to me.

21. Busy-ness (the good kind) – Filling my days with quality things to do is what life is all about.

22. Potatoes – Yum!

23. Cheese

24. Coffee – If it weren’t for coffee, I wouldn’t be half as productive as I am.  It’s so amazing.

25. Wine – With all of the coffee I drink, it’s necessary to have something relaxing to sip on at the end of the day.

26. Beaches & Palm Trees – These are beautiful works of nature, and I will reunite with them more often someday, when I have a beach house.

27. Type A & Slight OCD – Like it or not, these traits make me effective at what I do.  I also try to leverage these things to help others organize and plan.

28. All Friends & Family – I do think it takes a village.

29. iPhone – This has literally revolutionized how I do things, and I haven’t downloaded many apps or much of anything yet.

30. Smurfette – Yes, the cartoon character is cool, but I’m referring to my trusty blue 2004 Chevy Cavalier.

31. Target – It’s one of my favorite stores, and also an employer.  I truly learned a lot and enjoyed my time as an HR exec there.  And now I work part time in Optical – so fun!

32. The Area Beyond My Comfort Zone – Often underestimated, this is where I find my strength and true self.

I’m sure I will think of many more things I am thankful for today.  How cool is that?  We just need to remember these things every single day – not just on Thanksgiving Day.

Life Begins!

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  – Neal Donald Walsch

My life is definitely beginning yet again!  I seem to thrive on this quote.  One week ago, I left a great job at Target to pursue my dream of being my own boss and doing work that helps others.  I am excited, rejuvenated, and scared – all at the same time.

I am beginning this blog to initiate various conversations – whether the topic is daring to pursue a dream, singleton observations, wine recommendations, plugging a good cause, or something in between.

And yes, I love to write and share my thoughts with the world.  While the topics will vary, I will always speak with an honest, genuine, and respectful voice.

Let us begin!  What have you done lately to push yourself outside of your comfort zones?  Or, better yet, what do you need to add to your to do list today to make your life begin again?