Mom’s Eulogy

Mom’s Eulogy

My mom, Sandy Kay Schulz, was a beautiful person, inside and out. It is fitting that she passed away in the fall, a season that shows us so much beauty.

Mom spoke fondly of her childhood and loved her brothers Irv, Stan, and Randy so much. Her best childhood memories were from time spent with her mom and grandma. She loved girl time with them, and Mom lost both of them while she was in her early 20s. Mom mentioned HER Mom a lot during her final days with us. Our entire family rejoices that she has been reunited with her mom, dad, grandma, and sisters.

My mom has always been super strong.

After going through some tough times early in her adult life, my mom only became stronger and more determined to build a loving family. She married Dave, whom I adored from the start, and blessed me with a sister, Sarah, AND a brother, Mitch.

My mom was blessed with a true love story.

When Mom was hospitalized on their 39th anniversary this year – September 9th – I asked Dad what his favorite memory was from their wedding day. He said the moment was when Mom was being photographed at the front of the church. It was early evening, and the sun shone in the church window and cast a spotlight on her. Dad said she looked so beautiful in that moment.

My dad showed us what true love makes possible. He did so much during the early years of her Parkinson’s diagnosis, and then he literally catered to her every need beginning in the fall of 2020. Timed feedings, ordering medications, battling with insurance companies, taking her to appointments with seven or more different doctors and therapists, helping her with personal care, and still sleeping next to her at night when she was loud and restless. I am still in awe.

My mom loved her family most of all.

She was the person I could talk to about anything. My mom was a much more soft spoken soul than I. However, I learned that a soft voice did NOT equate to less importance. When she said something, I learned to listen and take note. She could say more with few words than I could with many.

Sarah recalls Mom showing up at her house with a bucket and rubber gloves when she had sick kids and saying, “What can I do to help?”

Mom was Sarah’s most reliable babysitter ever, even when the kids had a fever or were sick.

Mom was so proud of her grandkids. Her face lit up every single time she saw them, and the last day they saw her was no exception.

Gabriel’s special memory of his Nana was watching outdoor community movies in Durant during the summer. Nana and Papa would take the older kids to the outdoor movies and then have a sleepover at their house.

My mom was a great cook and baker.

Dad has often said that the way to his heart is through his stomach. His mom Laura was a great cook and baker, and my mom and his wife Sandy was a great cook and baker also. Mom made the best bread and buns from scratch, and Dad said it’s part of the reason why he married her.

Mom took pride in teaching her kids and grandkids how to cook and bake. We especially enjoyed our holiday baking days together.

Mom loved gardening.

One of her favorite Mother’s Day traditions was to plant flowers.

When her daughter-in-law Hannah joined the family, Mom and Hannah immediately bonded over their love for plants.

A few years ago, Mom won an award for her beautiful arrangement in a planter on Durant’s Main Street.

My mom always tried to do the right thing and wanted people to think well of her. She was a true example of kindness.

She and my dad always made the time to serve others. And she valued her service to others.

Mom was always willing to help, even later on when she really couldn’t.

My mom had an incredible work ethic.

Her former co-workers all echoed the same sentiments: Sandy was a hard worker, a cheerful giver, and a loyal ally in any project.

My mom was a noble warrior.

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease more than a decade ago, Mom did so well for so long. And that’s because my mom, Sandy Kay Schulz, was a fighter. She kept the worst things at bay for nearly eight years.

And then, when she was hospitalized and in rehab for 70 days in 2020, she came home with that same fighting spirit. It made no difference that she would never eat or drink orally again, or that she had a permanent trach tube and other obstacles. She was back and making the most of it.

And she could only do that with the support of my dad, whom she said yes to and built a family with.

My siblings and I all checked in on Mom frequently. We were fiercely loyal to the woman who was our rock for so many years.

Sarah and her littles took Mom to visit local parks and fun places during the past three years on what they called “Nana Tuesdays.”

Mitch played cards with Mom at least once a week.

I took Mom out for haircuts and pedicures. We also enjoyed shopping at the mall or at Target.

We all learned how to administer medicine, do tube feedings, clean her trach, and perform multiple caregiving tasks.

During Mom’s four months at Cedar Manor, we all took turns visiting her daily and are so thankful to everyone who came to see her there. The most common word we heard – and even overheard – from staff when they talked about my mom: sweet.

Mom lived with me for the final ten days of her life, and it was the most amazing gift. My dad and siblings all rotated shifts to help out. I was able to tuck my mom in at night, say bedtime prayers with her, and tell her how much I loved her. And in the mornings, since we decided to let her eat and drink for pleasure during her final weeks, I brewed coffee, and we sat side-by-side in my loveseat, drinking coffee and watching the Today Show together.

We were all incredibly blessed to have a great few hours with Mom last Wednesday, just before she took a turn for the worse. Mom repaid our love with even more of her own – by rallying one last time for all of us.

So, what do we do now? Life will continue on.

We keep Mom’s memory alive by leaving here and taking a piece of her with us.

Together, we do things to ensure that up there (point to heaven), Sandy is smiling down on us.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Smile! Mom had a contagious smile.
  • Go to church.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Work in a garden.
  • Enjoy good food – especially sweets.
  • Express your love for others.
  • Be kind to those who are struggling – a single mom struggling to make ends meet, someone with a disability, anyone.
  • Remember Sandy Kay Schulz not for her disease or her death, but for her wonderful life.

On behalf of my family and my mom, thank you all SO much for being here today. Thank you for loving my mom and remembering and celebrating her life with us.

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Fridays with G and L: The Chicken and the Egg

Flashback to Halloween 2011: The Friday before Halloween weekend was fun, but that Sunday was even better.  That afternoon I went trick-or-treating with G and L in Durant.

G had been so proud of his chicken costume the minute his mom brought it home.  He even mowed the lawn with his costume on!

However, when the time came to go onto the proverbial stage, G was having a near meltdown.  When he arrived with his mom, dad, and Lucy at my parents’ house in Durant, he did not want to become a chicken.  So Aunt Mel did what she did best back during her preschool teaching days back in Pearland: She acted so excited and assumed G would be too.  See, enthusiasm is contagious, especially with G.  Mix in the fact that I’m not his parent, and I have hit a home run.

Within a few minutes, G was a chicken.

As we stopped at the first few houses, one thing slowed us down.  G wanted to eat his candy right away.  Had we been blessed with the entire day to trick-or-treat, this would have been fine.  However, we had about an hour and a half.  So little by little we all coached G on letting the candy wait for him unopened in his plastic pumpkin.

G was scared of only one house:

What freaked him out is still a mystery to me.  Maybe it was the dim lighting?

Lucy played the egg role very well, only being mistaken for an angel one time.

Lu Lu a.k.a. the cutest egg ever

Before I knew it, we were on our way back to Nana and Papa’s house for my mom’s birthday dinner.  Double nickel!

Perhaps my favorite site of the trick or treating outing was the chicken crossing the road.

A little blurry – guess the chicken likes to hurry across the road. 🙂

Then again, the family photo was cute too.

Cutest family ever!

Church Lady Reflections

Thursday was my final day as secretary at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Durant.  While I enjoyed calling myself the Church Lady, it was time to pass the torch to other able people.

Our council president asked me to write a reflections piece for the council to review at their next meeting.  He told me I have a unique insight into the congregation and where it is going.  Werner has no idea I have a blog, so it seemed a very out of the blue request.

I did not turn in a formal piece of paper with my reflections, because by the time they met on Thursday evening, it all seemed to be one big moot point.  I had offered my insight on various occasions, as I am a vocal – yet tactful and respectful – person.

I took on the church lady position in October 2010.  Controversy swirled from the moment I started, as I beat out the church organist for the job.  And we also had major communication issues.  Council members would ask me to relay information from one of them to another instead of contacting one another directly.  I took a deep breath and dug in.

Since I have worked in HR and politics, I was up for the church battles.  But I soon found one key difference that made the church job more difficult: I was a part time employee with no authority.  And the council wanted to treat me as a full time employee who was in charge when convenient.  Yes, I had my work cut out for me.

I have become better at saying no and setting boundaries during recent years.  So I said no when no needed to be said.  And I organized the office from top to bottom, both physically and procedurally.  The best organizations empower their individual members.  We had a top heavy system in place, which could not continue.  Our pastor was stretched thin, and with new medical issues, would be stretched even more during my time there.  And I was only a 20-hour-per-week employee.  Other people needed to take ownership.

And, the hugest factor: giving was and is declining, and the operating budget was nearly as slim as it could go.  It was time to propose a more significant cost savings.  I told the council we needed to transition into a volunteer team of secretaries.

I did all I could to make the transition smooth.  I helped to recruit three out of the five volunteers needed.  I wrote a manual.  I continued to streamline processes.  I looped the pastor and council in on the entire thing and asked for their help.  However, I couldn’t do it all on my own, and while pastor and I worked together on the recruiting front, the council did not.

The council is made up of volunteers also.  And you know the saying, you can’t fire volunteers.  But it’s disappointing when the leading volunteers do not take ownership and help to steer the ship in the right direction.

Instead of taking the five weeks to recruit and look at big picture items, some individual council members were more worried about who would print off their reports for the council meetings, and nonsense like that.  I offered that each member could print off their own items for meetings, either from home or the church office.  After all, the pastor did it.  And I received a dazed and confused response.

So I plugged along during those five weeks, praying the bigger picture would come to light for people in the congregation.  The office secretary job is not rocket science.  It only requires a few committed people to take ownership for a few hours a week.  Apparently that is a tough thing for others to accept.

I also grew annoyed with the little things during the final weeks.  People worrying about a specific bullet point on a home visitors guide, as opposed to realizing we have been visiting more people in the past month than we have in the past several months.  People concerned with a minor three line change to the bulletin, as opposed to inviting their friends and family to church on Sunday mornings.

My main take away from the church lady job is disappointment.  I know many good people go to Gloria Dei and volunteer there.  And I know most people have good intentions that get lost in the static.  But the overall culture of refusing to see the forest through the trees was suffocating at times.  Maybe that’s partly because I was a cog in the wheel rather than the driver of the vehicle for once.  Then again, if I as a cog could see it and care enough to attempt change, why couldn’t others?

This is what some people would call an “AFGO” (another ____ growth opportunity).  In some ways this job allowed me to be an outsider looking in on an organization facing tough choices.  Yes, I was in the middle of it, but I was relatively new to the congregation and did not have an emotional stake in the church.

The job wasn’t all negative.  I truly enjoyed the lasting friendship formed with my pastor.  I met some neat members who bring so many talents to the congregation.  And I learned that one person can only do so much – propose ideas, hold hands, provide a path – but it’s ultimately up to others whether they carry that forward after she has departed.

The Value in After Hours

As I was driving home from Jersey Grille in Davenport Tuesday night, I thought about how I almost turned down an invitation to go out for drinks after the Scott County Republican Central Committee meeting.  (Yes, Republicans have fun too!)

I had laundry to fold, a checkbook to balance, and various other things waiting for me to do at my apartment.  I had to get up early the next day and drive to Durant for my church lady job.  But I’d just been elected as a precinct chair and secretary, and it had been way too long since some quality Grey Goose had touched my lips.

So, I went.  It was supposed to be for only one drink.  Ha ha.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have gone out for one drink.  I don’t make a habit of getting sloshed.  I just get caught up in great conversation, so one drink turns in to two, and then I have a final drink to keep even with someone across the table.

I’m glad I took the time to socialize a bit more, and I used to do this more often.  I enjoy the after hours socializing, because walls come down and you uncover the off the record things that paint the whole picture of who someone is.

Going back to my New Year’s Resolutions (which seem to have been created forever ago), #6 and #7 illustrate the need to socialize more.  And now that I live in downtown Davenport, it requires much less effort.  Win-Win!

From Small Town Mouse to Small City Mouse

Things have been a bit crazy since I last posted.  ‘Tis the season for filing taxes, assembling the annual Scott County Republican Women‘s directory, assembling packets for Gloria Dei’s annual meeting, and taking on new things every day.  The latest new item is moving from Durant to Davenport.

I received a certified letter from my landlord on the last Tuesday in January, notifying me that my rent was increasing by about 30% a month, effective March 1.  My heart sank.  What timing.  I’m totally finding my groove with my semi-hippie lifestyle (sans hallucinogens), and that is when he decides to raise my rent for the first time in almost four years.  True, my rent was cheap to begin with.  But in exchange for that, I accept that my landlord does not do snow removal and also slowly responds to maintenance requests (even when it’s an urgent thing like not having water).  However, raising my rent and having to deal with those slum-lord-ish issues is not acceptable.

I allowed myself to be angry for about ten minutes before I went into action mode.  Anyone who has talked to me about housing during the past four years knows I have continually planned to move to the Quad Cities, only to put it off for another few months or another year.  Now I had my sign.  It was time to do it once and for all.

I’ve had my eye on The Davenport apartment building since doing some work for Landmark Properties as a Victory Enterprises consultant in late 2009.  I called them up, and they had two open apartments.  I looked and fell in love.  Then I crunched the numbers.  With the Durant rent increase, it would cost the same to live in either place.  Within two days of receiving the terrible rent increase letter, I had sealed the deal on a new place and literally opened a new door in my journey.

I am more city girl than country girl, but I’ve been living in a town without a stop light for nearly four years.  How does that happen?  Convenience and cheap rent.  It was easy to move my furniture in storage only four blocks down the road, especially after having hauled it across the country from Houston.  It was easy to commit to cheap rent and no lease.  And it was easy to be in close (lately too close) proximity to family after missing them for so long.

While Davenport is no Houston, it offers just enough city life to get me excited.  I will be within short walking distance of the Mississippi River, Rhythm City Casino, RME, Figge, and various restaurants.  And days after my decision was made, I found out RAGBRAI would be ending on Bix weekend, with everyone celebrating in adjoining streets to my new place.  I’ve found a place to belong!

Durant isn’t bad – it just isn’t me.  I have been able to live here only because I didn’t grow up in this small town.  No one really knows me, and I don’t socialize much here.  It’s my bedroom community.  Working at the church has introduced me to more people, but even that becomes suffocating when people comment on what they saw me doing outside of my car that morning, whether it was checking oil, scraping car windows, or looking ridiculous hauling too much in one trip between my car and apartment.

Moving is a great chance to reflect on a segment of life in one residence, while looking forward to a new start in a new place.  Whether it is moving across town, to a nearby town, or across the country, the act itself can be therapeutic.  I think back to where I was when I moved into this apartment in March 2007 and marvel at all that has happened in life since then.  I recall hosting a bachelorette party here and naming the various rooms “Powder Room”, “Ladies’ Lair”, and “Diva’s Den”.  I think about seeing this place trashed when I moved in and gradually transforming it into a cute place, with help from a little carpet shampooing, paint, and friends and family.

And now I have the opportunity to create new memories in a sixth floor downtown apartment.  I can’t wait to be a small city mouse and have new places to explore and people to meet.  I have splendid visions of my new artsy-fartsy decor, as well as not having to shovel myself out of my apartment in the foreseeable future.

snowed in