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

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Seester Sunday Returns

Welcome back to Seester Sunday! These are our recaps from Sunday, October 25, 2020.

Mel:

This morning began with prying myself out of my warm bed with my two personal space heaters:

I attended 10:30 a.m. mass at the Basilica of St. John and the monthly parish council meeting afterward. This was a bittersweet Sunday as I took in all of my surroundings, because it was my last Sunday as a parishioner there before I move to Davenport next week. I will deeply miss the basilica parish family.

After mass, I made my weekly grocery run. Trader Joe’s is my favorite grocery store, but I did not feel like driving out to West Des Moines, so I went to Hy-Vee on Fleur Drive instead. It was busier than a usual Sunday, and I realized while overhearing conversations at the check out that several people were stocking up for the pending snow storm. However, according to the forecast I saw, we are predicted to get only two inches of snow. Better safe than sorry, I guess!

Since I will be moving in ten days, I have lots of random stuff to do. Today I painted two pieces of office furniture – something I have been putting off for nearly a year! I guess it takes a move to get random things done. 🤷‍♀️

Aside from all of that, I spent a good chunk of time on my couch, snuggling with the pups. We are trying to soak in the final few days in our apartment before moving day, as we will be in Eastern Iowa for a few days later this week and early next week.

Chilly days equal snuggly pups.

Hope you all have a wonderful week! 

******************************

Sarah:

My Sunday was similar to Mel’s, but add in getting puked on by the baby and forgetting to take any pictures!

We got up and were out the door, driving by 8:05am with extreme difficulty, mind you, and with 7 kids. I stayed up way too late the night before and Mary was up at 6…so I was tired to say the least. We attended Mass and Kateri threw a huge fit when we were in the front of the Communion line, so that was fun and I got to take her out of church after that. After Mass we ordered and picked up a breakfast pizza and went home to eat it, which didn’t take long with 6 kids eating!

I did some house chores and the kids were all just so crazy. What is it lately?! Is it just me?! I don’t know but my kids have been nuts. SO, we decided to mandate a 1 hour quiet time for everyone, not just the nappers. And can I say…..It. Was. Glorious. I read out of 2 separate books and cuddled Mary for a solid 1.5 hours. After that it was time to make dinner and do that whole routine. We ended the evening with watching part of a Lego documentary on Prime that was really good! Lego has an awesome story!!!! Now I’m about comatose and thinking about ice cream….we shall see. 

Have a great week!

Gut Check

My most recent a-ha moment was summed up with a tweet on Monday night:

“Sometimes the best opportunity is right in front of me, but I do not see it because I am making things more difficult than necessary.”

I have been reading the book “Fierce Conversations” by Susan Scott as a leadership assignment for Target Optical.  As a regional consultant, I join in on the weekly Optical Team Leader conference calls most weeks.  We have been discussing sections of this book for a portion of the conference call during the past few weeks.

Last week I was reading about listening to oneself and going with our instincts.  Sometimes we may be wrong, but more often than not, our gut is right.  I needed an honest gut check.  I have been analyzing things from a broader perspective but needed to zero in on my gut and therefore, my instincts.

I have been trying to eliminate static in my life, i.e. eliminate one thing or another that takes my precious time.  I thought it might be my political involvement on the state level with Republican women.  After that gut check last month, I discovered I cared too much about the cause to let it go.

Then what was I going to do?  I was sure eliminating that item had been the silver bullet.  Maybe I’m destined to be going in 20 different directions at once.

October 2011 was my best SendOutCards month to date.  Everything clicked for me.  I definitely need to put more time in to that project.  Great, I just keep adding to my priority list.  Shouldn’t I be eliminating things and thus simplifying my life?

I am beginning to realize that maybe the good stuff will rise to the top, thus creating a natural selection of what needs to go.  I had been convinced that I would ax out the bad and deal with the leftovers.  I was approaching it the wrong way.

The Target Optical job has been my one constant during the past year.  My one year anniversary is quickly approaching.  It started out as a 10 hour per week job and quickly became more than that.  And that has been a bit scary, especially after leaving the human resources job in the general Target store because it became something I did not want it to be.  So I have been very critical of optical at times, while not being critical enough of other things.  But optical really is different.  It keeps me balanced in multiple ways.

I love helping people to see, in the literal sense.  I am a crazy Target lady and always will be, whether or not I am wearing the red and khaki.  I appreciate the stability it provides.  I also like the little bit of flexibility that allows me to be me:  godmother, entrepreneur, and political enthusiast.

None of this should be a revelation because it was right in front of me the entire time.  The problem is I was making things too difficult.

When It Rains, It Pours

Deep breaths, Melissa.  This has been my mantra for the past week.  Everything is due at once.  I love all of my jobs and business ventures, as well as my volunteer activities.  I can usually juggle it all seamlessly…..until it pours.

A lot of my stress is self imposed.  I strive for a level of perfection that is often not realistic.  But I don’t do anything less than 100%.  If that means I get a few hours less sleep, so be it.  I can sleep when I am dead, right?

And then when I talked to my friend Jen on the phone this morning, I realized I have it a lot more together than I think.  It will all be OK.  Just a few more days, and these big projects will be completed.  My progress is steady and deadlines will be met.

I must squeeze in five minutes to purchase a bottle of wine – to be opened when all of these items are checked off the to do list.

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.

The (R)Evolution of Mel

My mind has been racing since I last posted on my New Year’s resolutions, and it has been frustrating about 90% of the time.  I surrender to my crazy thoughts during the other 10%, and that’s when I really reach conclusions.  I have been in the midst of an evolution, a reinvention of sorts.

The word reinvention makes me think of Madonna over the years – from her “Like a Virgin” album cover, to the short haircut in the “Papa Don’t Preach” video (back in the glory days of MTV), the interesting wardrobe choice and long ponytail during the Blonde Ambition tour, and finally the amazing-looking middle-aged woman.  Is she really the same age as my mom?!

I am in the midst of transition, reinvention, evolution, and every other synonym you can imagine with it.  My new year began on January14 this year.  I thought I had turned a corner on January 1, but alas, the true realizations became apparent a few days later than I thought.  That’s the fun thing with evolving and moving through life: just when you think you are there, you have just a bit further to go.

My journey is nowhere near complete, but I do think I have reached the peak for at least a few months.  A lot has happened to build up to this point.  I wonder if Madonna had these moments as she was approaching a new album, look, or tour.  Hopefully I am cool and famous enough to get to ask her that in person one day.  Say what you want about her, but she is a force of nature.  And I love fascinating people.  I seek to be fascinating by simply being true to myself and doing good in the world – or maybe just my little corner of the world.

My new career path that started on October 1 was just a starting point, as was this blog.  I began to prioritize differently, only to find myself slipping back into old habits of saying yes too often and feeling stretched too thin.  When first coming to this realization, I thought my additional ventures, added on since November, were to blame.  Not so.  It was my initial plan that needed some tweaking.

I took a part-time church lady job to supplement my SendOutCards business.  A few red flags presented themselves early on, and while I did not ignore them, they have built up to a present discontent with the situation.  What began as a 20-hour-a-week-stress-free-part-time job has turned into playing a management and human resources role in which I have no authority……and has limits on pay rate and hours.  It’s quite an interesting situation, really.  And I will definitely work it into one of my future novels.

Side note: I have no regrets with the decision to take this job, as it has guided me to where I am today.  And I have made a couple of great friends, on which I can place no price tag.

By the end of November, I was back at Target, working part-time at Target Optical.  When presented with the opportunity I nearly dismissed it without a thought.  Luckily I did not and had a good heart-to-heart chat with the team leader.  And I love working at Optical!  It’s that “happy medium” job I was looking for.  I can say that today with total confidence, but if you would have asked me a month ago, I would have struggled with how I felt.  I briefly wondered if this job was going one step too far in stretching myself too thin.  Actually though, it’s the church stuff that is truly wearing on me.

So, what does a girl do?  No drastic action is underway, but a daily methodical  and persistent approach to the church job is a key to survival.  This comes during a time when our church is approaching its annual meeting, along with its standard one or two controversial decisions to be made.  And like most things in life, it all tends to work itself out in the end.

And then all of the other extras made me think more.  My political involvement is now mostly limited to Republican women meetings, events, and duties.  Here again, I have two parts: the state and the county.  One is functioning beautifully and the other is not.  Since I have responsibilities in the good and the bad, I can’t simply walk away from the one I don’t like.  But here again, I can identify the issues, persevere, and then make a note to make some changes down the road when appropriate.

I also took on a committee assignment with the Red Cross, but that is very limited in scope and beneficial.  So no agonizing over how that plays into my reinvention.

My entrepreneurial endeavors need some tweaking.  I am doing the right things with SendOutCards but have more services I can provide in conjunction with the theme of adding value to others’ lives by making things easier.  I love to organize, write, and plan.  So I need to integrate these into a business and work toward filling my time with fun things that also make me money.

I preach prioritization left and right, but it turns out I have a tough time practicing what I preach.  I have become better at prioritizing people.  It’s the things/jobs/organizations/situations that have been more of a struggle.  I get so wrapped up in the day-to-day task list that I forget to look at the big picture.

And, speaking of people…..  Those have played an integral part of reaching my peak during these past weeks.  I had a rather nasty revelation with a couple of members in my immediate family on Christmas Day, of all days.  The occasion caused me to do something very out of character – swallow my words, bite my lip, drink some wine, and bury it inside.  (OK, so drinking wine is actually very much in my normal character.)  But you can bet I made up for that bottling up of emotion during the weeks ahead.  As with the other yucky stuff in this post, I’m refraining from airing the dirty laundry with specifics and names – more material for the novel or a separate post.  The main point is sometimes it takes a while, but people can hit you with a blow to the gut.  What I thought was a paranoia on my part was an undercurrent of lack of support and respect from family.  So now that it’s out in the open, I can decide how much time and energy to give to those people.  And I can stop worrying about it and move along.

And then my Grandma Gesing went into the hospital on December 27 – two years to the day of my Grandpa Fosaaen’s funeral.  And during my mom and dad’s divorce many years ago, those two parents were on opposing sides of a big battle.  I was always close to Grandpa Fosaaen as a child, but was only close to Grandma Gesing for a short while.  And while everyone in the Fosaaen family rushed to the hospital, the Gesing family is fractured and chaos has ensued.

I finally went to see my grandma on Tuesday.  I had not seen her in at least 20 years.  It’s terrible that it took her being in the hospital for me to go see her, but I did it and I’m glad.  Few people understand, but that is OK.  My stepmom, who went with me, understands.  And my dad, who can’t bring himself to go see her, also gets it.

I had a breakthrough with one part of my nuclear family on Christmas Day, and then, out of the blue, I had a breakthrough with the second part last week.  They cannot be more different, and my feelings toward the two halves have always been a yin and yang, a balancing of the scales of justice.  Sometimes one is way up while the other is down.

Yes, it’s been quite a couple of weeks.  My writing notebook is full of great thoughts and ideas.  I have managed to work through my daily tasks, pay bills, and stay social in the midst of all of this.  I guess that proves I am still sane.

These may be pretty trivial realizations in the grand scheme of everything going on in this world: political strife, poverty, disease, shootings, etc.  In my world though, I have entered a new phase in my life.  The name of it is yet to be determined, but I am certain of one thing.  I do not anticipate needing a cone brassiere for this one.