caregiver

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After losing both her husband, our Uncle Eddie Hein and her son, our cousin Larry Hein, within three months of each other, Aunt Pearl Hein went through some very sad and difficult times. That much loss can be devastating to a person. It was very hard on Pearl, but she is starting to live life again. I know that Eddie and Larry would be glad that she is. Pearl was very much loved by both of her men, as was her daughter Kim Arani. While it’s been hard to go forward, Pearl has been making great strides with the help of her daughter and son-in-law, Michael Arani. She has made a couple of trips to Texas, to visit them, and the warm climate, as well as the beautiful scenery have soothed her soul. Of course, it doesn’t really lessen the pain of the loss, but it is a matter of learning to live again.

Sometimes, the heart needs a change of scenery to help with healing, and when Pearl was in Texas visiting Kim and Michael, they took a trip down to Rosemary Beach, Florida, where they stayed at a hotel called “The Pearl,” otherwise known as their happy place. How perfect to find such a hotel with Pearl’s name. That and the peaceful time spent on the beach was sure to warm her heart and was a welcome change from the end of October cold weather that is Forsyth, Montana, where Pearl lives.

Pearl has always been a hard-working woman. She took care of her parents, and later her husband, Eddie when they really needed her help. Caregiving is a big job, and having done it myself, I totally commend anyone who willingly steps into that role. It is truly a life changing undertaking. You sacrifice most of your life on a daily basis, and while many would think that it is a thankless job, it most definitely is one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs you will ever undertake. Whether the words “thank you” are ever said or not, and believe me they always are, you feel the “thank you” that comes from their hearts every time you are with them. No words can ever really express their gratitude. All they can do is hope you can see the appreciation in their eyes and know that it comes from their hearts…and believe me, you can. Today is Pearl’s birthday. Happy birthday Pearl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

It’s strange how the longer a person has been in Heaven, the more you sometimes find yourself talking about them. My father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg was like a second dad to me, in fact, my mother-in-law was also like a second mom to me. I was very blessed to have the sweetest in-laws in the world. The first years of having my in-laws were wonderful, but the last years of having my in-laws were quite possibly the ones I will always treasure the most.

While my mother-in-law wasn’t always able to contribute much to our conversations, she always added a bit of a humorous flair to them, because of her dry sense of humor and her off the wall moments of lucidity. My father-in-law, on the other hand, had a sharp mind. He also had a great sense of humor, and we had many times of laughter. We also had many conversations about their care. I wanted Dad to be involved in the care they were receiving. He needed to be comfortable with all of it. He never felt like he understood the medical side of things, and so he was happy to turn that over to me, and even have me speak for them with the doctors…a plan the doctors didn’t always get until we explained our arrangement to them. Then they were on board, and everyone was comfortable. Dad and I became very close in those years. It was like a partnership of sorts.

While some time was spent with medical things, there was also lots of time spent just visiting. We talked about so many things, and I really felt like I got to know both my father-in-law and my mother-in-law much better than I ever had. It’s amazing just how much you can become good friends with someone, when you spend a lot of time together, and we really did, especially when my mother-in-law began to need more care. I went over four times a day in those days, and I believe they really looked forward to the increased visits. It can get lonely when there are just two people in the house, and one can’t really carry on a conversation very well anymore. Dad got a chance to visit when I was there four times a day, his sons Bob Schulenberg (my husband) and Ron Schulenberg were also there pretty much every day, and his daughters Brenda Schulenberg, Jennifer Parmely, and Debbie Cook were there at times too, along with my daughters, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce and their children, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen. And we had the occasional help, when needed of my sons-in-law, Kevin Petersen and Travis Royce. We were a team, and for my in-laws, that made all the difference. Today would have been my father-in-law’s 93rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. We love and miss you very much.

My aunt, Dixie Richards is my mom’s second to youngest sibling. She was always a soft-spoken girl, and still is to this day. Aunt Dixie, and her husband, Uncle Jim Richards have pretty much always been caregivers. They took care of members of his family, and later, they took care of members of her family. They both just have a caregiver’s heart, and though the work is hard, they pushed through the fatigue and got the job done. Being a caregiver is a hard job, and the people who do it can do it to their own detriment. I’m thankful that Aunt Dixie and Uncle Jim are still with us after so many years of caregiving.

Their health probably did suffer some as a result of their years of caregiving, but their children, who have watched their parents’ years of service to others and learned to be great caregivers too. The girls have homes just steps from their parents’ home, and they all take meals together. It’s a nice way to help their parents and have that fellowship with them too. As the old saying goes, “children learn what they live.” It’s not that Aunt Dixie and Uncle Jim’s kids are little anymore, but they have all learned to be caregivers, and now their children are learning to be caregivers too. It is such an honorable thing to do for your parents and grandparents. Having been a caregiver and part of a caregiver team for 17 years, I can tell you that there is much stress, heartache, lack of sleep, confusion, and lack of resources, that go along with that job. If a person chooses to take that task on, they should be commended, because they truly are superheroes. That is what Aunt Dixie, Uncle Jim, and their kids have been for a long time, and it is something they have done well. Each one of them have that caregiver’s heart, and it shows in all they do.

Aunt Dixie and Uncle Jim have been daycare givers for a long time too…at least until their own grandchildren have grown old enough to take care of themselves. They initially ran an actual daycare, to which a number of my cousins and their children went, but later it was just their own grandchildren. It was a great blessing for all the children they cared for, and for their parents as well. Aunt Dixie, who was the main daycare provider during the many years that Uncle Jim worked, always made going there lots of fun for the kids. She is so kindhearted, and all the kids loved her. In fact, many of the cousins and their kids who went there, have told me just how fun their time there was. It was a wonderful blessing for all of them. Today is Aunt Dixie’s 79th birthday. Hapy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My Aunt Dixie has always had a creative side to her, and over the years many of us have enjoyed the cool things she made. The family Christmas parties were always very cool the years the Aunt Dixie’s family were in charge of them. Of course, all the families planned great Christmas parties, and I think several of the sisters thought of Christmas as their favorite holiday, as do I. Nevertheless, I don’t have the creative mind that Aunt Dixie does, so most of my decorating ideas are simplistic or copied from what I have seen others do, but Aunt Dixie could really plan a party.

Aunt Dixie has always been a caring person. She helped her in-laws during times when they needed help. She has a great capacity for compassion. When her parents, my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer needed help, Aunt Dixie was there for them, along with several of her siblings. Being a caregiver is not an easy job, even if the patient doesn’t need a lot of help. Helping others…being there for others, is never an easy thing to do. Having done that for a number of years myself, I know that it is both exhausting and rewarding, but it is more about love. Whether you knew the person prior to caring for them or not, you often grow to love them, mostly because, caregiving is all about loving…that and wanting to give someone a better life.

Aunt Dixie has lived in the country for as much of her life as I can remember. She raised chickens, and probably some others animals too, but I remember the chickens, because my moms, Collene Spencer was given a baby chick by one of the kids, and while my mom wanted to raise it and have eggs, it turned out to be a rooster. Mom wanted a hen so bad, that for a time she insisted it was a hen, until it started crowing, that is. Then, she could no longer deny the facts. She knew she couldn’t keep it any longer. She talked to her sister, who agreed to take the rooster. Mom had hoped and always told herself that “Queenie” the rooster, who should have been a hen, went on to live a wonderful and very long live at Aunt Dixie’s henhouse, but I think she always knew, deep down, that “Queenie” actually made a great chick and noodle dish at the Richards’ table later that year. It was something the sisters never talked about, but both knew about. It was always an unspoken understanding between the sisters. Today is Aunt Dixie’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My daughter, Corrie Petersen is one of the hardest working people I know. She works full-time, and goes to nursing school full-time too. Anyone who has been in nursing school will tell you that it is not and easy, and it’s even harder if you work. Nevertheless, Corrie is determined, and she is so excited about the future. Every skill she achieves, every class she completes, and every semester that is behind her are cause for celebration. She loves the work she does and she really has a heart for it. I have spoken to friends she has taken care of, and they told me that she was so good to them. In fact they couldn’t wait to tell me that she took care of them, since she could not tell me due to privacy laws.

Corrie is an important member of the CNA staff at Wyoming Medical Center. CNAs are hard to find and harder still to keep, and many times she is the lone CNA on her floor. It’s a tough job, with lots of heavy lifting, and lots of work that many people feel is “beneath them,” but Corrie takes it all in stride. I know this because, while I’m not a nurse or a CNA, I was a caregiver for 14 years, and Corrie was a part of my team. She went on to continue the job of caregiving and then decided to become a nurse, starting by becoming a CNA, so she has been doing this job for more than 16 years. She did the work of a CNA, and even of a nurse, long before she had the title, and her four grandparents were grateful to her and the rest of the team for the care and comfort she and the rest of the team provided. Corrie did not go into the career of nursing blindly, like many people who decide on it right out of high school. Yes, some are sure of what they want to do, and follow through with great success, but others find that the work isn’t for them, and they soon move on to other careers.

Becoming a nurse is no easy task, as any nurse will tell you. You have to stick to the plan, work and study hard, and never give up. If you don’t have “stick-to-it-iveness,” you won’t make it in this line of work…or in the schooling it takes to get into this line of work. I am very proud of all the hard work Corrie has done and continues to do to achieve her dream. Today is Corrie’s birthday. Happy birthday Corrie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My husband, Bob Schulenberg’s aunt, Pearl Hein has always felt like a kindred spirit to me. Our lives have taken some of the same turns and in many ways that makes us feel connected. Pearl spend a number of years taking care of her aging parents, and when her husband, Bob’s Uncle Ed had a stroke, Pearl stepped in again to nurse him back to health. As we both know, you can only prolong life for your loved one. Everyone dies at some point, and no matter how young or how old they are, we just aren’t ready for them to go when they do. Each of us knows that we would have continued to fight for their lives with all we had. We weren’t ready to let them go. We couldn’t understand why. Did we do something wrong? Did we miss something? We will never know, of course, but we will always have regrets…mainly the regret that they aren’t here with us anymore. Of course, we know that Heaven is far greater for all of them, but we miss them terribly, and it is so hard to move forward in our daily lives.

Pearl’s dad, Merle Krueger passed away in 2002 at 97; her mom, Minnie (McCain) Krueger passed away in 2004 at 89; Uncle Ed passed way on October 16, 2019 at 76; and sadly Pearl’s son Larry passed away passed away just 3 months after his dad on January 30, 2020. It has been a really hard year for Pearl, and moving forward is not easy, but it is my hope that today, her birthday can become a new start…or at least a new normal. Pearl has always been such a loving and giving person, and she deserves to be happy too. There are so many people who love her, and I pray she will find joy in her friendships. Pearl and I have another thing in common…we are both Christians. We both believe that there is life after death, and that our loved ones are waiting for us to join them in Heaven someday.

Pearl has spent much of her life in service to others, and I know that many people are thankful to have known her. Pearl met many of her friends in the years she spent working at the IGA grocery store in Forsyth, Montana. She was an indispensable employee, and when she retired to take care of Ed, they weren’t sure how they were going to function without her. I remember that whenever we would come into town, we always knew where to find Pearl, and when we went into the store, they only had to hear that we were looking for Pearl, and they were certain of who we meant. Everyone knows, and loves Pearl. She is just the kind of person you are drawn to. Today is Pearl’s birthday. Happy birthday Pearl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Few days make me dread writing my daily story, but then few days in my life have marked the beginning of such drastic change in my life either. It was December 12, 2007, twelve years ago, and my dad, Allen Spencer had been sick, or recovering for a little over two years, after being hit by Pancreatitis on October 1, 2005. My sisters and I had been caring for Dad, and our mom, Collene Spencer, who was diagnosed with Large Diffuse B-Cell Lymphoma in her brain in July of 2006. Mom’s tumor was gone quickly, and there were no other serious concerns with her, but Dad’s care required much more. Everything seemed to be going well, but Dad’s liver was giving out due to the intravenous feeding, something we couldn’t really see…or at least something we didn’t know to expect as a possibility.

My dad had always been the “rock” of our family. None of us ever considered that he was not as strong as he once had been. We knew that no matter what was going on around us, Dad always knew what to do about any problem. It was a very comforting feeling in a family where he was the only original male. Of course, his daughters were married now, and a few grandsons had also been added to the mix, but for our childhood years, my sisters, Cheryl, Caryl, Alena, Allyn, and I were the kids they had, and so Dad was the only male. He was used to being the man with the answers, and we always looked to him when we needed those answers. It was difficult to see him in a state of weakness, but we would fight for his survival with all we had…never expecting to lose the fight.

With Dad’s passing on that awful December day, our world was forever changed. We were now going to need to take care of our mom, who needed us more than ever. While her health was ok, she didn’t drive anymore, and wasn’t as mobile as she had been before. We had promised Dad, we would take care of her, and as with Dad, we wouldn’t have it any other way for Mom. It wasn’t just the change is our care structure that changed either. Everything changed with Dad’s passing.

We had seriously never expected to live on this earth without our parents, and now that entire perspective had changed. We knew that very likely the day would come when both parents and our parents-in-law would be gone. We knew that we were going to be the leaders of our families. It was up to us to keep our families close, as Mom and Dad would have wanted us to do. There would now be great grandchildren who have never met their Great Grandpa Spencer, and later Great Grandma Spencer. It was up to us to tell the kids about their great grandparents, so they wouldn’t be forgotten. t was up to us to tell them that their Great Grandpa Spencer was a World War II Veteran, who fought bravely for his country…to make sure that his legacy lived on. It is a big responsibility, and sometimes seems impossible, but we must, because our Dad showed us the way we should live, and we must now live it. There is no other choice. Twelve years ago today, my dad began his life in Heaven, and we miss him every day. We can’t wait until we will be reunited again. We love you Dad.

We have all made plans for the future we wanted to have, and truly, expected to have, only to have something happen that changed everything. Our plans as kids and young people are often the first plans to change, as we grow up and decide our plans were just not for us. Then, we decide that we want a whole new life plan. Still, sometimes, it isn’t something tragic or amazing, but rather just something that changes the way we see things…changes our priorities.

As a girl I wanted to be a school teacher…of high school, no less. These days I can’t imagine teaching high school, but I still have a knack for teaching people things. I think I would prefer adult students, and technology as a subject…if I were going to teach, but then I don’t have all the necessary training for that field either. After having a family and raising our girls to junior high, I went back to work, and a year later became an insurance agent. I had found my niche. I understood insurance, and therefore, I was a good insurance agent. I thought this would be my career for life, and I was correct in that, since I have been an agent for 30 years, and retired from insurance May 1, 2019.

Nevertheless, life took some unexpected turns that made me realize that sometimes, we can possess talents that we didn’t know we had. Talents that come out at a time of extreme urgency. That is what happened with me. When my dad, Allen Spencer got sick with Pancreatitis. That would begin a journey of caregiving that lasted over twelve years, and took place in conjunction with my insurance career, causing me to miss many hours of work. I was one of the caregivers who were blessed with a boss who allowed me to do what I needed to do. Not many jobs give you that kind of freedom. It is something I will be forever grateful for. It was during these years that I discovered that I had a knack for the medical world, and had I considered it, I probably could have been a good nurse. Unfortunately, it was too late in life for that and I was too busy, plus I liked my insurance career.

During the years of caregiving, which I shared with my sisters, in-laws, children and grandchildren, and after my dad passed away, but I was still caring for my mom, Collene Spencer, and my in-laws, Walt and Joann Schulenberg, I found myself needing a form of creative release. My daughter, Corrie Petersen suggested that I start a blog. She helped my get started and then introduced me to “The Ultimate Blog Challenge,” which inspired me to write every day, something I have been doing for almost ten years now. So began a “career” of writing a blog every day. It was a way to step outside myself and my busy life and to hopefully a chance to write interesting stories for my readers. It’s strange where life takes you. The twists and turns that help you find yourself and your talents in ways you never expected. Twists and turns that change your life into something so different from what you thought it would be.

My oldest daughter, Corrie Petersen is studying to be a nurse. It was not her life’s dream, but rather a change that came about after spending years as a caregiver for both sets of her grandparents, Allen and Collene Spencer, and Walt and Joann Schulenberg. Corrie was a faithful team member and loving caregiver to them all. She was meticulous, loving, kind, and cheerful. Whether she knew it then or not, Corrie possessed all the traits of a successful CNA or nurse, except for the medical training that is. I sometimes wonder if she had any inkling of what the future would bring. She knew she was good at caregiving, but did that doesn’t necessarily transfer to nursing. It doesn’t matter really, because God knew.

From the time Corrie was 15, she worked in one office or another…just 3 really, and she was very good at what she did. She married Kevin Petersen just a month and a half after her high school graduation. At that time, she wasn’t interested in college, but rather was looking forward to starting a family. She was content and her family was her whole world. Life went on and her boys, Chris and Josh grew, but when they were 10 and 8, my her grandpa became ill, and that started 13 years of caregiving, first for one grandparent and then for another. Our family “caregiving team” needed lots of help, because it really does take a village to take care of a person, and the hardest thing is to have a village of one or two. Corrie, her sister, Amy Royce, and their kids, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen all became a part of that village, and we couldn’t have done what we did without each and every one of them.

When our village was no longer necessary, an event we wished had never come, Corrie began to feel like she needed a different career. God was leading her to make a career change. The time she had spent caring for her grandparents would change her forever. She prayed about it, and made the decision to follow God’s leading. She would have to trust Him to make a way, which He has in every way, and through every aspect of her training…because God knew it was right for her. Today is Corrie’s birthday!! Happy birthday Corrie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

This is a guest blog, written by my daughter, Amy Royce, for my birthday. Thank you Amy. I love you.

If I had to describe my mom in one word, it would be “selfless.” – Concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with ones own. That is the definition of my mom.

She has shown that in so many ways throughout my life and the lives of those around her. She was at every single game, play, concert or awards assembly when my sister and I were growing up. This continued on when my kids and nephews were in school and I have no doubt that she will also be in attendance for all of those things for her great grandchildren as well. She is very excited about the arrival of her first great granddaughter in June. More recently, she had taken on the task of caregiver for family several members. She was always willing to put her needs aside to help them. I know that if someone asks, she will do it again and again.

My nephews, Chris and Josh, remember when she would take them to school everyday. She always made sure that they were on time….even if she was having a bad day because she broke her heel or because of a train going back and forth and she was running late for work. (They love bringing this up every now and then! Haha) Not only that, she would pick them up from school and take them to the Boys and Girls Club after school. I remember multiple times when she would take my kids or nephews to work with her when they were sick, just so that my sister and I didn’t have to take time off of our jobs.

Chris also told me that now that they are older, if they ever need someone to talk to or guidance through life, she’s always there. This statement is so true! She has been there with words of encouragement for my sister as she is going through nursing school. She is always there, with a willing ear, for me when I have problems in my job.

Jenny, my mom’s niece, told me that my mom bought her wedding dress for her. She came to the hospital to see all of her kids when they were born. She even let her move into their house for a couple months when she was a teenager. She loves it that my mom goes over and spends one night a week with her mom, Cheryl.

Carrie, our friend and her co-worker, says that my mom always has Godly advice and takes the time to listen. She is always ready to help explain things at work and she takes the time to explain them until Carrie gets it. She takes care of anything going at work when Carrie is not there. She has ALWAYS been there to help her through struggles; big or small. Carrie loves that she knows the Word and can always let her know “what point of view or perspective will better serve her.”

Quite honestly, I could go on for days about how selfless she is, but in addition to all these wonderful things I have told you about my mom, she has found yet another way to make others feel special! On someone’s birthday, when we normally send a quick Facebook or text message, my mom takes the time to write up a complete story. She doesn’t have to….she wants to. Today is my mom’s birthday and this is my story for her. We love you mom. Thank you for all you do…for all of us. Have a great day!

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