Author Archives: Amy

We Begin Again

11147909214_ba04bda741_zDecember 1, 2012 marked the beginning of my role as full-time caregiver to my mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease.

It’s been a rough two years. My four kids are all at home. They were 13, 10, 8 and 4 when my mom moved in. I was a stay at home mom and a perpetual volunteer. We have an 1100 square foot house with three bedrooms and only one very tiny bathroom on the main floor.

I liked my life.

I love my mother and want to ensure she’s well taken care of. When the time came, we
brought her to live with us. It was the right thing to do. It was also the only option.

She doesn’t have any money. Neither do we, really. So placing her in a private pay facility at roughly $7,000 per month isn’t an option.

She doesn’t qualify for a nursing home through Medicaid because there’s nothing wrong with her that requires a nurse. An around-the-clock babysitter, yes, but a nurse, no.

She doesn’t qualify for in-home care because she doesn’t have enough medical expenses to get Medicaid to kick in anything there either.

I’m an only child. I have no family nearby. I’m it.

I really want to want to take care of my mother. She was my best friend most of my life and has done so much for me. But I’ll be honest: there are a lot of days when I resent the position I’ve been forced into to no end.

The vast majority of the time, she’s not my mother. My mother has slowly faded away. I’m caring for a woman who absolutely refuses to take a shower, wouldn’t change her clothes-ever-if I didn’t force it, insults me, shows almost no gratitude or appreciation for anything I do, requires me to keep a baby gate up at my kitchen door that I must hop over every time I want to go in or out, causes my boys to sleep in the basement, prevents us from being able to do whatever we want, whenever we want as a family, and the list goes on.

You see, everything in life is better when it’s our choice to do it. I’ve said that I’d like to think that even if we were very wealthy, it wouldn’t change anything and I would choose this. The truth is, I’ll never know.

Everything I just told you about the resentment I feel makes me feel incredibly guilty. Like I said, I want to want to do this. My mother deserves that from me. I’ve been praying that God would change my heart. My head knows all this “stuff” but it can’t make my heart feel any differently. But God can!

We’ve recently had a break from the care giving. Due to a fall, my mom has spent the last 8 weeks in a skilled nursing facility receiving physical therapy. Three things happened during that time.

The entire family got a much needed break.

God showed me why what I’m doing is absolutely the best thing for my mom and that money wouldn’t change that fact. You can read details of what led me to that decision here.

I had time to reflect on things we could be doing differently which might make her happier and allow us to enjoy this time a bit more.

11992665765_0cf109088b_zI brought her home this morning. And we begin again.

January 17, 2014 marks the new beginning of my role as full-time caregiver to my mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease.

My heart has changed. I’m thankful for this “do-over” of sorts, and pray for God’s guidance as we continue on the journey.

 

 

 

 

How do you really know your loved one is getting good care?

cautionNo matter often you visit your loved one when they are in a hospital or nursing home, you can’t be there 24/7. You can’t see all or hear all. So how do you really know they’re getting good care? The care they deserve? You don’t. You can’t.

My mom fell 7 weeks ago and has been in a skilled nursing center for the last 6 weeks for physical therapy so she’ll be strong enough to return to our house.

She stayed in this same facility two years ago for the same reason-physical therapy. Then, as well as now, the place is clean and nicely decorated. The staff is very welcoming when it comes to eating meals with my mom and visiting as often and whenever we’d like. I was confident that she would once again receive good care and return to us stronger than she had been before.

But, how could I really know? I couldn’t. And the big difference between the last stay and this one is my mom. Her Alzheimer’s is so much worse than it was two years ago!

My senses were on high alert from day one. All along there have been little, subtle things that concerned me. Not in a way that I felt she was being abused, but just that this facility, known for its physical therapy and as a nursing home just wasn’t equipped to handle a patient with this level of dementia.

Although long, this post is an effort to point out some things that might be subtle, and alone, probably don’t mean much. But when you start to add them up, you get a picture of a place that is not providing good care for my mom.

Check-In

Remember, she’s there because she fell. Two years ago, there was a pad on her bed and in her wheelchair. If she got up, an alarm went off alerting the staff. They got her settled in bed. No side rails, no alarm. I questioned this because I was seriously concerned that she would get up to use the restroom and fall. The answer I was given was that someone attended a seminar and found out that the alarms don’t really help because the patient gets startled by the sound and then falls.

(My answer? Use a silent alarm that alerts the staff in a pager. Also, I did a Google search of “do bed alarms reduce falls” and the most common answer was no, though not for the reason given to me. My point? She isn’t going to remember to call you if she wants to get up, so how will you know if she falls?)

Day 1

As an aide helped her to the restroom, she admonished my mom because she didn’t call her for help, saying, “Miss Carolyn! Don’t you remember you have to call me when you need to get up?!” To which I replied, “No! She doesn’t remember. She has Alzheimer’s.” The aide responded by saying, “Oh, I didn’t know that!”

She’d been there almost 24 hours and this aide did not know she was tending to an Alzheimer’s patient. 

Within the first week

One of the first things I did was schedule a beauty shop appointment for her. My mom’s of the “roller-set” crowd and desperately needed a perm so I quickly took advantage of the convenience offered by this in-house service.

When I visited later that evening, her hair wasn’t done. When I inquired, they said she didn’t cooperate. I suggested we reschedule and the beautician call me about 30 minutes before she was going to do it. I went over with my laptop, explained to my mom what was happening and sat in the salon while she got her hair done. No issue.

2 Weeks

During her care conference, we talked about the fact that she doesn’t eat much meat. From the dietician’s standpoint: “She’s only eating 25-50% of her food.” I suggested they cut her meat for her, which probably wouldn’t make much difference because she now seems to really prefer softer foods.

I acknowledged that I knew he had to provide her with certain servings and a balanced meal. I relayed that we tease her about her hollow leg at our house. She may only take one bite of meat, but she will eat four helpings of mashed potatoes, three helpings of fruit or the vegetable if she likes it. I asked if it would be possible for the dining staff to take note of what she’d eaten. If she hadn’t touched the meat, but all the stuffing and vegetables were gone, could they offer her more?

He cheerily responded, “Oh, she can always ask for more! Yeah, well, she has dementia, pal! She’s not going to think to ask for more!

The signs continued.

Her bed and clothes were soiled with urine. Often. She’s not completely incontinent. Sometimes she uses the bathroom, sometimes she uses the brief. When she’s home, if we notice her brief is wet we guide her to the bathroom and tell her to change her pants. Nothing ever soaks through. But, with no one really paying attention to it or encouraging her to change it, it just keeps getting more full.

ariel on dependsAt home, we keep her briefs sitting out on the bathroom floor. They used to be in her underwear drawer in her dresser. Then we moved them to the vanity drawer in the bathroom. Then right out in the open so she can see them. You see, she might go to the bathroom and notice that the brief is wet and full, but without seeing a fresh one sitting there, she wouldn’t know what to do about it. Guess where they keep the briefs in the facility? Inside her closet in the opposite corner of the room as the bathroom. On the top shelf (which she can’t reach when she’s sitting in a wheelchair even if she knew they were there)!

I got a call December 23rd from the social worker. My mom had been there nearly a month and it had been brought to the attention of the social worker that she was uncooperative when it comes to showers. Welcome to my world. The social worker thought maybe I could come in and help. We decided on 8:30 the next morning (Christmas Eve). I showed up at 8 ready to help. Of course the message hadn’t been passed on and the staff had already attempted to do it at 7 that morning. Let me tell you, my mom HATES taking a shower. I ended up doing the whole thing myself.

Up until then, I had been thinking that if they were able to qualify her through Medicaid to stay there permanently, I might do it. Then I thought if I’m still going to have to come in and do the very part of the care giving I hate the most, why would I pay them $7500 a month?!

I haven’t been asked to come in and help again with the shower, but I’m pretty sure she hasn’t had a full shower since. I know her hair hasn’t been washed. She doesn’t smell, so I think they’re managing sponge baths, which is ok, I guess.

On Christmas morning, my son and I went to pick her up to bring her to our house for the day. She has an ankle bracelet on because of the dementia. She’s an “elopement risk.” I was told they don’t take it off, but to let the receptionist know we were going out and she’d turn of the alarm while we exited the building.

No receptionist. Waited a few minutes. No receptionist. Well, it’s Christmas, and I don’t have all day. Out the door we went. Alarm ringing loudly. We loaded her in the car and my son stayed with her while I took the wheel chair back to her room. I walked back in and was well past the lobby before a member of the kitchen staff finally peeked around the corner to see what the alarm was for. A good three to four minutes had passed before anyone even noticed.

All of these things are noteworthy in and of themselves, but when you put them all together, a picture of poor care begins to emerge.

One of the best things about my mom’s stay has been her room mate. A wonderful woman who is simply there for physical therapy. Her mind is sharp as a tack! I’ve learned much more about my mom’s progress, mood and behavior from her than all the staff members combined.

Last night, she told me that she has reported three of the aides for their treatment of my mother. Two of them were fired. The incident that resulted in the termination had to do with my mom’s shower. Now, my mom swears and hits and yells about a shower. She HATES them! Especially when they come in at 7 am while she’s sleeping, turn on the lights, wake her up and say, “TIme for your shower!” I’d cuss, too! Apparently, they weren’t too kind in return one day. I don’t believe they were physically abusive, but whatever they did exactly was enough for them to be fired. (Mind you, I haven’t been informed of any of this by the facility.)

What disturbs me most is this: One morning about 5:30 am mom’s room mate called the aides because she needed assistance herself. Two responded. When they finished with her, one said to the other, “Hey, watch this.” She then went over, turned on my mom’s light and said, “Wake up! Time for your shower!” Just to get her riled up. This infuriates me.

I called this morning and told them I will be bringing my mom home on Friday. (I can’t do it sooner because of paperwork and the need to make some arrangements for her here at home.)

The good and bad of this is that my mom doesn’t remember the ill-treatment. She raves about how good they are too her. But, because she doesn’t remember any of it, she can’t report it. I’ll never trust anyone I don’t know well to care for her. Not ever. Even if she were in a facility that specializes in dementia care, this type of disrespectful treatment could still go on. And there, her room mate wouldn’t be able to tell me what’s happening any more than she can.

If you made it through this whole post, thank’s for hanging in there. I shared this story to demonstrate that mistreatment of your loved one doesn’t necessarily manifest itself in bruises, bed sores and a dirty, dingy environment.

I encourage family members to look for the little things, the subtle things along the way to know if your loved one is being treated with respect and dignity in addition to having their physical needs met. Be vigilant. Talk to room mates, families of room mates. The staff. Let them know you’re watching! And don’t be afraid to speak up and take action when it’s not going as you think it should.

What about me?

As the mother of four, I witness first hand how my children are growing and changing almost daily. Their looks, their interests, their voices.

As the caregiver for my mom who has Alzheimer’s, I witness first hand how she is changing almost daily. Her communication, her fine and gross-motor skills, her cognition.

But I don’t necessarily see or take time to notice the changes in me on a daily basis or over time. Oh, I see the visible stuff. Changes in my weight (usually in the wrong direction). A new wrinkle here or there. Another gray hair. Photos, mirrors, the scale-they all reflect these changes back to me. These things I notice.

But I’m moving too fast to pay attention to the bigger changes in me and my life over time.

Yesterday, I happened to click over to my about page. I read a description of me that I wrote four years ago (based on the stated ages of my children and length of my marriage in that post).

about me

And I thought, “That doesn’t even sound like me anymore!”

So, it’s time for a new “About” page. One that reflects all the ways I’ve grown and changed over the past for years. Hopefully, for the better!

This has been a good exercise for me. To pause. To reflect on the past, acknowledge the changes and examine the present. To look to the future with a plan of what I want the next “About” page rendition to include.

Share with me! How have you evolved in recent years? What are your goals for future change?

 

UTI: Know the symptoms!

If you have an elderly person in your life, it is imperative that you know the symptoms of a UTI (and don’t ignore them).

My first experience with a UTI in the elderly was several years ago. I went to my mom’s house and found her in bed in the middle of the day. Unusual behavior. Her speech was slurred. Unusual behavior. And she wasn’t making any sense. Unusual behavior. I thought she had had a stroke. I called 911. The paramedics thought the confusion was dementia. I knew differently.

UTI.

The next encounter was about 18 months ago. My mom, now diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but still living independently, fell four times in three days. Unusual behavior. The fourth time she fell was in the middle of the night. As my husband drove over to pick her up off the floor, I Googled “sudden frequent falls + Alzheimer’s.”

UTI.

She ended up in the ER the next day after seeing the doctor. She was sent home to our house with an aggressive antibiotic. Four days later, she literally slept all day. Unusual behavior. When I checked on her before I went to bed, her voice was childlike, speech was slurred and she wasn’t making much sense. Unusual behavior. I suspected the UTI had gone south and called 911.

She was septic. She spent 5 days in the hospital followed by 30 days of in-patient rehab to build up her strength.

Last year, my friend’s mother-in-law came for a visit. I had never met her, but my friend was talking about how much worse she was than they realized. She suffered from Parkinson’s related dementia, I believe,  but she  was hallucinating and was very confused. Unusual behavior. I asked my friend if it was possible she had a UTI. Upon her return home, it was confirmed. She ended up in a coma. Thankfully, she recovered.

And, last night. My sister-in-law sent me a text that my mother-in-law had been sitting on the bathroom floor for two hours. Unusual behavior. I called and talked to my MIL for less than 60 seconds. Her voice was lethargic and sad. Unusual behavior. Moments after I hung up the phone, my husband walked in the door from a business trip. I told him to kiss his kids and go to his mom’s house. Something wasn’t right. Maybe it’s a UTI.

She was admitted to the hospital for UTI and dehydration-which often accompanies a UTI.

I’m not a doctor or a nurse. I’m simply a caregiver with experience and the internet. If you Google “sypmtoms of UTI in elderly” you will find over 860,000 results. I urge you to read some of them. You will find things like:

“The best indication of a UTI in the elderly is a sudden change in behavior.

“And for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or other dementia, “any kind of stress, physical or emotional, will often make dementia temporarily worse,” Forciea says”

“elders often don’t exhibit any of the common symptoms – or don’t express them to their caregivers”

When caught early, UTIs are highly treatable. Whether you are a caregiver or not, familiarize yourself with the myriad of ways a UTI can wreak havoc on your loved one.

“Knowing that a urinary tract infection in the elderly can be symptom-free is the first step in avoiding serious complications from untreated UTIs. Any time a change in behavior is noted in an elderly patient, a urinalysis should be performed to rule out a urinary tract infection.”

My first guest post

guest_post_blog

I wrote my first guest post for another blog yesterday–My Life in Frames. It was for a client’s blog so maybe it’s not the true honor that it would be had I been asked to write for a blog that I am not connected to, but it was fun nonetheless.

It’s a fun little post with some advice for guys about how to really touch their ladies’ hearts on Valentine’s Day.

Writing is something I love to do, so I hope to do it more often here on my own blog…and maybe other places as well.

I’m not a Jedi Knight

Yoda, in all his wisdom, stated, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

That may be true if you are a Jedi Knight, but for the rest of us, me specifically, not so much.

In February, I jumped feet first into uncharted territory after attending a board of education meeting. Our school district is in financial crisis. Many cuts are on the table.

I went home that night heartsick about our district and the financial trouble it is in. Some people blame the administration. Some people blame the school board. Some people blame the teachers (who at that time had been working without a contract for approximately two years). Some people blame the Michigan legislators.

I began to think. What if? What if people stopped complaining? What if people stopped placing blame and pointing fingers? What if people came together to make a difference in the lives of kids? What if we raised money to pay for one of the positions being cut?

I emailed the superintendent of the district first thing the next morning. He called me within 10 minutes.

For details and background on the position I was fighting to save, read this.

I proposed starting a fundraising campaign separate from the district to raise the funds. Was it legal? Was it something he’d be willing to let me try?

Let me just say quickly that the reasons I chose to fight for this particular cut are:

  • Safety of my children is paramount
  • This cut represented the lowest annual dollar amount ($29 per family in the district)
  • The position being cut impacts every student, teacher and staff member in the district.

Once I had the blessing of the superintendent, I contacted an acquaintance who I knew to be very passionate about this position and a very involved parent in the district to see what she thought.

She was in.

The next four weeks were a whirl wind. We met with the superintendent, the township supervisor, the local community foundation.

We received so much guidance and support from these people! It was truly remarkable.

On March 1, we attended the school board meeting and announced the launch of BSP CARES: Bedford Students Protected through Combining Area Resources for Educational Safety.

We worked our tails off and had much early success, raising $17,000 by the end of March. The media was very kind to us and covered every fundraiser we had, helping us spread the word. We definitely had the support of the local business community.

But over time it became clear that we lacked the financial support of parents and teachers-the two most important groups if this effort was going to succeed.

In the end, we raised over $38,000 against a goal of $80,000 and the position was cut December 6.

I guess Yoda would call that a “Do not.” I call it a “try.”

I learned a lot about people in our community, politics, my family and mostly myself.

  • Our community is filled with generous people! Generous with their time, their talent, their wisdom and their money.
  • People can take the well-meaning efforts of two moms and turn them into a political issue.
  • My family has a limit in how much of my time they are willing to allow me to give to others. (It’s a very high limit, but there is a limit.)
  • And myself—
    • I jump in quicker than I should sometimes.
    • I allow my priorities to get upended sometimes, putting other things ahead of my family.
    • I’m not bad on camera.
    • I place a lot of importance on my hair.
    • I can make a difference.

And I hope I am teaching my children:

  • Stand up for what you believe in.
  • Get involved.
  • Don’t be afraid to try.

So, no, I’m not a Jedi Knight. I’m a mom. A wife.  A community member. And so much more!

And, I’ll keep on trying!

Talk to me! Have you ever taken on a huge project that you were very passionate about only to fall short of your original goal? How did it feel?

Just a little back story

This is not really a blog post on its own, but rather background information for I’m not a Jedi Knight.

One of cuts presented at the meeting was of a Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy School Resource Officer—one of two in our district. The two officers provide safety services and educational programs to the more than 5,000 kids in the system throughout five buildings. With only one officer in place, safety services will be diminished and the educational programming will be eliminated.

Many people had shown up at the board meeting pleading with the board not to cut the position. The deputy slated to be cut is a well-known and well-loved member of the community.  At least one of the speakers broke down in tears while relaying why this position was so crucial to our children’s education and safety.

Clearly, for most of the speakers, it was personal. They knew him, liked him, wanted him to be in the schools protecting and educating their children.

I listened. I decided to speak. I basically stated that the safety of my children was more important than their education. I said that I didn’t know him. But my kids do. They know both of the deputies. Not because they’re bad kids who get in trouble, but because these deputies entered their lives when they started kindergarten. They teach every kid, in every building.

Stranger Danger, DARE, Gun Safety Awareness, Bicycle Safety, Dangers of Texting and Driving, Cyber-Bullying…the list goes on. So as the years go by, the kids feel comfortable with the deputies. They respect them. They trust them. And the deputies know the kids. They know the good ones who make a bad choice on occasion. They know the bad ones that need to be watched closely.

If the position is cut, the programs go away. One officer won’t have time to do it all. He will become reactive instead of proactive. The trust and respect that is built over time, throughout the elementary years will be lost. The intervention that takes place when those good kids make bad choices early on will cease.

So if you haven’t read, or finished reading I’m not a Jedi Knight, go do that now.

Moving Mom

moving-dayFourteen short months ago my mom was still living alone. She lived just 5 minutes from us and we would go there daily. She had three neighbors who also looked in on her. We knew the time was coming when she would have to move in with us and we had a vague idea of what we would do.

Back in October 2011, she began falling. By the grace of God, she never got hurt, but when she called us at 2 am because she’d gotten up to use the bathroom and fell, I had to figure out what was going on. My husband, who I affectionately refer to as St. Michael, went over to get her up and I googled “sudden, frequent falls + Alzheimer’s.”

Urinary Tract Infection.

She had a check-up scheduled a few days later, but I don’t mess around with UTIs so we went to see the doctor the next morning. She was extremely weak and unable to give a sample. While we were waiting for the doctor to come back in with prescriptions, she began to complain of chest pains. Doc wasn’t going to fool around with that and called an ambulance.

ER ran every test known to man checking her neck, chest, lungs–all good. But, she did have a UTI. Sent her home to our house with an antibiotic. We told her she’d be with us a couple weeks until the infection cleared up and we could determine if she was still falling. Four days later the UTI went south. She slept literally all day. When I went to check on her at 11 pm before going to bed myself, her speech was slurred and she wasn’t making much sense.

Back to the ER.

That was a nightmare. They were very busy. The decision to admit her came pretty quickly but the hospital was apparently full. She was sleeping comfortably, I, of course, was not. The patient in the next “room” was a psych or criminal patient with a guard outside the door. After we’d been there a few hours, another such patient was brought in so they moved my mom, allowing the guard to do double duty. The only place they could move her to was a trauma room. Clear at the end of the hall, out of sight and out of mind.

At 5 am, the nurse came in and said they paperwork was all done, but there was still no room. I was nearly in tears from exhaustion. She assured me I could go home. My mom did, too. Had my mom been in the other room, that would have been easier. But in this room, she was going to need to use the call button if she needed someone. She wouldn’t remember where it was. She wouldn’t remember where she was. She would be scared.

Still, the realization hit me that people don’t get released from the hospital at 5 am. If there was no bed now, there wouldn’t be one for hours. My physical limitations won out. I wrote a note for my mom and laid it on her belly and pulled the call button up on top of her so she could see it. I gave her a kiss and went home. I sobbed the whole way. I don’t know how I didn’t have an accident.

My husband went up to the hospital as soon as the kids were off to school, arriving about 3 hours after I left. They were just moving her to the “admission waiting rooms.” He called me around 11 and said they’d be getting her into a room about noon. I went back to the hospital and he left. She didn’t get into a room until 3:00 that afternoon.

She spent five days there and was then transferred to a rehab facility for physical therapy to build up her strength. She stayed there 30 days.

Late on a Monday afternoon I got the call that she was going to be released on Wednesday to our house, permanently. By this point, we knew she’d be coming to live with us so our plans were a little more defined than they had been six weeks earlier, but we were under the impression she was going to be at the rehab faci at least a couple more weeks.

We had to scramble.

I called St. Michael who left work and came home so we could begin moving her furniture to our house and getting her room set up. We worked all afternoon Monday and all day Tuesday. Of course it poured down rain the whole time. We finished about 7 pm on Tuesday. Leaving only a few things that I didn’t want to get wet until the next day.

Fortunately, everything of great value had already been moved to our house. Still, many items with sentimental value were taken.

Fortunately, everything of great value had already been moved to our house. Still, many items with sentimental value were taken.

My husband went to work Wednesday. He was to fly out that afternoon for a business trip. I got to my mom’s around noon for the last load and found her house had been broken into overnight.

Because I didn’t have enough to deal with already!

Police called. Business trip cancelled. Tears shed.

Hubby came home and we moved my mom in with us that evening.

When I picked her up that mid-October morning to take her to the doctor, neither one of us had any idea she’d never see her home of 41 years again.

So many of our parents will have to eventually leave their homes and it’s not likely to happen when it’s convenient or according to a prearranged schedule. If your loved one is showing signs that he or she is not going to be able to live independently anymore, I urge you to create a plan! Have the tough conversations with all family members involved and start researching options.

Many times the conversations that need to take place don’t because siblings disagree on what’s needed or they don’t live close together. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting around to it.

It’s going to be difficult when the time comes. Having a plan–even if it’s not time to act on it, is in the best interest of everyone.

Especially the loved one involved.

Talk to me! Are you facing the inevitability of your loved one needing round-the-clock care? Have you already had to move your loved one out of his or her home? What successes or failures did you encounter?

You can take the girl out of retail…

-Courtesy Lars Ploughman

-Courtesy Lars Ploughman

Black Friday.

I have a love-hate relationship with Black Friday. I wouldn’t be caught dead shopping on that day, but I worked in retail for 20 years and the thrill of seeing the sales figures rise so rapidly is hard to beat. I’ve been out of retail for 5 years and this weekend was reminded of just how fun it is to see the results of my Black Friday prep work pay off.

Cue the flashback music

It was supposed to be a 3 month summer gig after my freshman year in college.

But my hairdresser knew differently. Throughout the next three years when we’d talk about my job at a local department store:  “You’re going to be a retail queen. It’s in your blood!” I shrugged it off because that wasn’t what I was going to school for. Little did I know…

One of the best parts of my job was seeing a direct impact on sales through my actions. Because the company was still relatively small, I could call the buyers. If something was blowing out the door, I could call and say, “Get me more!” Or, if it wasn’t selling, “Transfer this out or let me mark it down!” I was also afforded great freedom and creativity when it came to merchandising my floor. I could move stuff around, make “shops,” be creative. Then I could watch the sales numbers. If they went up, I celebrated! If they went down or didn’t move, I made adjustments.

My career grew. The company grew. And I got pregnant. As I went about my job, and the pregnancy continued, I wondered, “How in the world am I going to be the kind of mom I want to be and work nights, weekends and 6 days at Christmas?” That thought began to take the fun out of the job.

Then, I was offered a demotion. Not because I wasn’t doing well, but because the regional director’s administrative assistant was leaving. I had to take a slight pay cut, but the job was Monday-Friday days.

No nights. No weekends. No stress.

I jumped on it!

I worked in that position for 9 years and for the majority of the time it was great! I worked in an office alone 3-4 days a week while the boss traveled. I made connections friends at the corporate offices, and in many of our stores throughout the company.

The company had grown so much that a lot of what I had considered fun…the merchandising, working with buyers to hone the inventory…was not part of the job anymore. It was cookie-cutter. I was glad I wasn’t in the trenches anymore.

But there was one day out of every year I missed it. Black Friday! As I said, I’ll never shop on Black Friday but to prep for it and be part of the fast-paced excitement was a rush! A favorite saying was, “Pile it high and let it fly!”  Watching the sales numbers shooting up (on a good year) was amazing!

Retirement Party. Betcha don't know many women who retire AND have a baby all in the same week!

Retirement Party. Betcha don't know many women who retire AND have a baby all in the same week!

Less than two months after my 20th anniversary, I “retired.” Not because I was ready for my AARP card or Medicare, but because I was about to have my 4th child. My boss and his wife hosted a lovely retirement party for me and colleagues friends came from miles away to wish me well. It meant the world to me!

That was five years ago. I still won’t shop on Black Friday. But, I do miss the people and the excitement that goes along with it.

This year, I was reminded just how much I miss watching those sales numbers rise. I’m a social media specialist working with Weaving Influence. One of the clients we’re working with is Dean Vollmar. His company, 1stFrame.com, is an online retailer. He creates beautiful, custom laser-engraved frames. Part of the work we’re doing for him revolves around this weekend: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

We used a photo from my summer vacation to design a frame or use in our Michigan Small Business Saturday Frame.

We used a photo from my summer vacation to design a frame for use in our Michigan Small Business Saturday Frame.

He kept us updated throughout the day yesterday as sales began to come in. Before 10:30 a.m., he had already sold as many frames as the year before. As of midnight, he had a 500% increase! Once again, I felt the rush of seeing incredible sales figures and knowing that my knowledge, my expertise, my actions created a direct impact on sales.

But this time, it was from the comfort of my own sofa!

So, you might be able to take the girl out of retail, but I don’t think you’ll ever take the retail out of this girl.

Let’s talk! Do you shop on Black Friday? Work on Black Friday? Have you retired or left a job and find that while you wouldn’t go back, there are aspects you miss?

Change to Change

Recently, I’ve been reading a book for work. It’s called Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream by Steve Van Remortel. It’s not really about trying to ban vanilla ice cream from the supermarket shelves. I mean, really, who would want that?! It’s about differentiating your company through strategy and talent development.

So, to be clear, the reason I’m reading it is because I have to for work. But, I do not have to write a post about it for work. Haven’t been asked to. Not being paid to. And, actually, this post isn’t really about the book. But in the spirit of full disclosure, I wanted to share that.

Now, on to my point.

As I read the book, I’m finding tidbits that pertain to family, household, personal life–not just the business world.

I read this sentence:

“If nothing ever changes…nothing will ever change.”

Think on that for a minute.

If nothing ever changes…nothing will ever change.

If I don’t ever change the way I eat, if I don’t change the way I exercise (or the fact that I don’t)…I will never lose weight or be fit.

If I don’t ever change my messy habits…I will never have a neat house.

If I don’t ever change the way I manage money…I will never have more savings.

If I don’t ever spend more time in prayer and Bible study…I will never have a closer relationship to God.

The list goes on!

What can you insert into the blanks?

If I don’t ever change _______________…I will never_______________.

My take away is this: if there’s something in my life that I’m not satisfied with, how can I expect it to improve if I don’t take action and initiate the change?