Out Charliss Marshall, Administrator— In Charliss Marshall ?Explorer!!

Well, it is done!! My office is cleared out, we ate cake and drank punch and my wonderful residents came to say good-by and some even cried!! Lots of good wishes via phone, e-mails, facebook and in person from staff and friends I have made through the years. Beautiful words by Tim and a precious little sticker from Etta (Seth and Josie’s as little 3 – year old). Hugs and tears and laughter and still doesn’t seem real! Followed it up with a stop at Sherry’s pub in Milford for dinner and drinks then ended the evening at Huskerville watching the Cubbies NOT win and singing a couple of songs with Rick. STILL DOESN’T SEEM REAL!  but it is.

This day started like a hundred others, with Will and I going to Amanda’s to grab her and the 2 little ones to take them to school and work– only usually I do the transporting and Will just stops for a “howdy-hi” before heading out to work himself, but today, Will took the kids to school so Amanda and I could go to my house and empty my car of it’s second load of Sunrise treasures, before heading to town for a hair appointment and a quick trip to WalMart (which is a trick in itself — the quick part I mean!!), before heading to Sunrise and the party!

Just got into work, touched base with staff to see how our day was going, and then a cute little girl from the paper came to interview me, take some pictures and then it was PARTY TIME!!  Now staff at Sunrise know how to throw a party and today was absolutely no exception– 5 cakes, cheese and meat trays, chips and dips, punch, coffee and even little bottles of water.  I was blessed with several beautiful, beautiful bouquets that the girls had placed at the table as center pieces. There was a big poster full of pictures from lots of our experiences through the years and tons of memories revisited —and gifts– wonderful thoughtful gifts.

In addition to my staff and residents, there were special visits from great people who I have been so very fortunate to meet and share adventures with throughout the years– AND then a visit from a beautiful lady who was my DON in 1975 at Hillcrest Nursing Home in McCook. Could have knocked me over with a feather!!

The day was so full of activity and fun and friends and food and drink that I was able to just enjoy and not actually think or feel but mostly just react so haven’t taken the time to think or feel. That I am sure will happen today,  so am planning a solitary trip to one of my favorite thinking places– the Safari.  Love just watching the animals and thinking– weird, I know but wonderful!!  I would envision my next few blogs will be a partial result of this trip, because I want to closely examine my thoughts and feelings  and then I hope to share them with some clarity– right now everything seems rather jumbled!

When I started, one of the points of writing this blog was to share my feelings as I traveled through this month and in true Charliss fashion, didn’t give much thought to what to do with it afterwards. Now I  realize that this life change is going to take more than a month to complete — because it is so much more than choosing a day and cleaning out drawers but it is a trip — at least for me. So I plan to continue writing — at least for a while. Lots of thoughts and feelings to explore and put into perspective and enjoy!! I hope those of you who are kind enough (and perhaps silly enough) to continue to follow this will experience with me how very complex the separation of work and daily life is, because for so many years, work WAS my daily life and it what a wonderful life it was!!


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Mid-week Musings

Well, it is late Thursday night — early Friday morning really, but this is my official Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday  entry because the last couple of nights I met up with an old friend and we talked –and talked — and talked! By then it was time for shower and bed and dreams!

Yesterday (Wednesday) proved to be a bit exciting as Uncle Sam confirmed my  decision to retire by sending me a little tidbit in my bank account!  It was a moment of excitement –“Wow! nice way to start my day!”as I pulled up my balance and then when reality set in, I followed with, “Well Bo is right — better see if Amigos is hiring!!”

As I have mentioned before, the packing and sorting and throwing away has taken place on a daily basis, and I have been lucky enough to be able to concentrate on it for a lot of the time because Seth has dealt with most of the day to day things.  The first few days were a bit tougher because I had lots of memories tucked among drawers and shelves in my office— notes from staff, residents and families (past and present), fun and exotic things from meetings and conventions,  and lots and lots of ‘snippets’ that I have found through the years that I loved and wanted to re-read and possibly use SOMEWHERE for SOMETHING!!

Yesterday and today we packed the car and brought home lots of boxes. My dining room is going to be quite excited when it can go back to just being an area that COULD be used for dining if it wanted to instead of a temporary storage unit.  As I have sorted through many of the year’s worth of workshop handouts and books full of “how to” ideas, I once again recognize that I should have joined the computer era fan club a lot sooner! All of this information truly is at your fingertips and available immediately and a lot fewer trees would have had to be sacrificed. My kids and grandkids have been trying to convince me of this for a while but I am a bit of a slow learner apparently!! (I realized why I never got organized when I found that book on organization tucked in one of my book shelves!!)

I also realized the amount of phenomenal education provided to Nebr. nursing facilities through the years. How very fortunate we are to have Nebraska Health Care Association and Leading Age (our two major associations) leading us through the maze of new regulations that continually come down the pike! AND how fortunate I have been to have an owner who understood the necessity of keeping  current and allowing me to attend the various education opportunities — not a cheap line item.

Well, much more reminiscing in future blogs, but — for now –it is time to call it a night because tomorrow isn’t far away.  Hair appointment in the morning, then paper coming for an interview at 1 and Open House at 1:30. It will be tough– saying good-by to the known daily regime and HELLO to a whole new experience, but exciting too!

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass— It’s about learning to dance in the rain!!! Love this quote and believe it with my whole being because it seems so important to make the most of each day– no one is promised tomorrow.  SO LET’S DANCE!!!!!

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Monday, Monday

A few years ago, at one of our Sunrise morning meetings, someone said that one of the residents was lying down to eat their breakfast!  Horrified, I said, “WHOA– Can anyone say, “Momma Cass?”  Looking around at all the young faces starring  blankly back at me, I  realized they didn’t know what I was talking about. This was confirmed when one of them said, “Well, yes, we can say it–but why would we?”  Then I had to go into a whole explanation of who the Mommas and Poppas were and  (true or fiction), the story of Momma Cass choking on the ham sandwich while lying in bed.  I start with uplifting little saga to give some history to the title of this post!! To those of you who are too young to know, Monday, Monday was one of their great songs!!  Anyhow, once again a long explanation for something that could have taken just a few words!!!

Any way, this is for all points and purposes, my last official Monday…. However, Seth had to have surgery, so won’t be able to work for another week and I said I would be around.  The State surveyors will be here next week and CRAZY as this sounds, I really don’t want to miss that.  It will be my last survey and I am thinking we are going to do very well and I want to be a part of that. It is sort of like a report card for our year. State Fire Marshall (no relation)  who also times her yearly visit as part of the whole package deal came today  and we only had a couple of minor things!! Good start!

Hopefully Friday was my low– Saturday, Sunday and today were good.  I am slowly making progress in clearing out my collections–and if I don’t kill my poor cleaning staff off from carrying out everything that I am trashing, we will be lucky!  I am starting to truly appreciate the internet because I am sure all of these wonderful  bits of knowledge that I have saved through the years, but could probably NEVER find if I needed it,  are just a “GOOGLE” away.

I think I have pretty much made it through most of the really personal things, and now it is just books and handouts from old workshops, etc.  I am enjoying some of the things such as a book on disaster planning from 1968 telling how to plan for nuclear attack.  Also, I had saved the early NHCA’s Nurse Aide instruction books that had a picture on the cover drawn by a lady that used to work for us, and some of the illustrations are filmed in Sunrise.  Then there was a book on behaviors that NHCA had published a few years ago that 2 of my staff members helped write and have their names in the credits.

Amanda and I are planning to take her truck tomorrow and start bringing home boxes. I plan to put them in the dining room and when I am not working, we are going to re-do my  bedroom and turn it into a study, then can move them into the study!!. See that is part of how I roll — I can fill my dining room cause I don’t cook much and if I do, we eat in front of the TV and I sleep in my recliner in the Living Room so don’t use the bedroom. I am starting to really look forward to some of these kinds of projects, and it becomes more and more evident to me that life is going to change but I think it will be OK. In fact better than OK— it will be wonderful!


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The Saga Continues

Well, I had planned to go to Mahoney Park with my baby sis and her writing group for a really fun-sounding weekend, but by Thursday, I realized this was going to have to be a working weekend if I was going to get things cleared by next Friday– my retirement open house AND empty office deadline.

As I sit here this Saturday morning, planning my day, I am trying to recall all of the happenings of the past week (where the heck did it go??).  I continue to clear out the drawers of the desk and continue to find the most delightful items. One item was an Irish Creme coffee creamer from a convention or two ago, which I did toss immediately —remembering an experiment from a few months ago:  Amanda was looking for something in one of my bags (nearly as famous for stuffing things in bags to deal with another day as I am for my piles) and came across one of these creamers. “Good grief, Mother, how old is this?”  she admonished as she prepared to toss it!  I explained to her (very patiently of course, because as a parent, part of our job is to teach–right), how these are left out in the Quik Shops and other gas stations all over, so I am quite sure it is still good even though it hadn’t been refrigerated for a couple of years.  Just to prove it to her, we got a cup of coffee and I poured the little creamer into the steaming cup or rather I attempted to pour it but it turned out to be more of a plop than a pour and it sunk immediately to the bottom of the cup. Never even changed it’s form or consistency!  Well so much for that lesson to my daughter who laughed all the way to the bathroom to dump out the coffee.

Then on Wednesday, I received an interesting e-mail on my way to work that stated: The  Eagle has landed!! State is in the building.  Well of course they are!! I would have expected nothing less. (For those non-nursing home folks who may be reading this, that means the surveyors are there to insure the government that their dollars are being well-spent). Now, my office is covered in boxes– some full, some half-full and some just waiting for their share of the treasures and my floor (what little bit you can see) is littered with dropped paperclips and slips of paper and several of those little circles that escaped from my hole puncher one time or another! My poor cleaning supervisor just shakes her head as there is not really any way she can begin to clean. I just grabbed my chair (it goes everywhere with me) and rolled over to the DON’s office for our opening meeting which normally takes place in the Administrator’s office.  — If I have learned nothing else in these past 27 years, I have learned to punt!

Thursday dawned bright and beautiful and fun as we had a building full of minions, and cowgirls, and a variety of other strange and delightful folks including superheros– Clark Kent even exposed the superman shirt a time or two under his dress shirt! In addition there were three little piggies accompanied by the wicked wolf who looked a lot like one of my residents.  The halls were full of giggles all day long!

Then my INCREDIBLE activity crew started to set up for the Harvest Festival that is taking place in the afternoon/evening.  They seem to top their last party with each new one, and this one was no exception.  There were games and an awesome S’mores bar with a variety of S’mores and little sterno cans to melt the marshmallows.  As a fund raiser for Cancer, you could purchase a pie and throw it in the face of your favorite ??? department head. Then the evening ended with live music and a bonfire, and as always it seems, the weather was beautiful and the sunset gorgeous.  The public was invited, staff members brought their families with kids decked out in costumes and the residents joined in the fun!

I know all of this because I watched it come together and then reviewed lots of pictures the next day— because as it got closer to time to start the festivities, I realized I couldn’t go!!  Now I said this blog would have some highs and lows and some ups and downs and this is one of the downs.  I love the parties and since the first one (when I played Dave and several of the staff were Alvin and Chipmunks plus the California Raisins) thru this one, the planning and the preparation is fun and I am always so impressed with the talent and imagination this group displays. I think it hit me that NEVER again will I get to be part of this– oh I can and will come but going forward, I will always be on the outside looking in and it made me very sad.  I wrote Mark (my activity supervisor) an e-mail telling him I wouldn’t and couldn’t be there and headed out the door.

Friday started with me reviewing all of the pictures and videos people posted and laughing out loud– with tears streaming down my cheeks and then continued that way throughout the day.  Kind of how this whole retirement thing is affecting me– laughing and crying at the same time. CRAZY, huh?

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Age established–now what???

Well, now that the fact of age has truly been established and documented — even Social Security agrees!, I guess it is time to begin the task of dismantling 27 years of collections and memories.  For the most part, Seth has taken over the day-to-day duties and any planning that goes on in these sessions.  This leaves me to comfortably go through my office and my piles!! (for those of you who know me, know I am infamous for my piles.)  I have sort of made a plan and a time line to start by going through the piles and then the drawers of my desk for starters. The piles do require some completion of projects and I don’t want to leave a mess for Seth to complete so I am working on a lot of “when I get time, this must be done” stuff.  However, when I hit a snag or just got to a place that needed a break, I started emptying the first of the drawers in my desk.

This delightful old desk has been with me since day one and we are both a bit worn from the daily wear and tear of life. It is a huge wooden desk with 3 drawers on the left and 2 on the right.   Under the desk on the board that joins both sides, is a picture of a cat that Amanda drew when she was working with me one day. She was probably 8 or 9 and was sitting on the floor under my desk.   We taped it there and it has been there every since. When we moved from the first office to the second, it stayed securely in place and still is a true source of comfort to me when the days get long or the stress gets crazy.  It is just a silly little cat picture that is BEAUTIFUL and I love it.  Looking around the room, I realize how through the years, I have surrounded myself with lots of little things that mean so much and are so precious and have sustained my sanity and given me strength through the years.  Things that others probably would deem as clutter and would dismiss without realizing their magic! As I dismantle this office, I will take all of the magic with me and allow Seth to “grow his own””.

Drawer #1 is the largest and located on the right side of the desk– it houses lots of things that are miscellaneous and several of the contents are shared with my various staff members as the cruise in and shake their heads a bit at the pile of treasures that have surfaced— (still have things from a convention or two ago).  Under a pile of notebooks and convention handouts that I planned to revisit someday, I found a note from an employee who quit years ago, thanking me for her job!, a card from  my friend John’s mother who passed away a couple of years ago, a special personal note from another employee who has remained a dear, dear friend, Christmas cards from years past– not sure what to do with all of these but so very glad I saved them and will continue to save them!! (I WAS convinced to dispose of the Easter candy from 2-3 years past however!)  As I reached the bottom of the drawer, I smiled remembering that one of the many workshops I had attended. They had suggested keeping a drawer that you could use to clear your desk each day, so you weren’t overwhelmed the next morning when you came in to work and could start each day fresh!! I thought this drawer would work great for that, HOWEVER  Never really did well with that concept– by the time I got set up with yesterdays projects, I usually had four or five new projects that had surfaced throughout the night.  Better for me to just make a new pile and keep everything in view, so not to forget it! Consequently, it became a great catchall drawer for my treasures that I wanted to savor again at a later date and a good start towards preparing for my next life’s adventure!

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I truly am 66!

Since I got started a little late on my sharing my journey, I am going to backtrack a bit today to the day Tim, Seth and I sat in my office and talked about the future and setting a time line.

Always one to bury my head in the sand when it comes to tackling a situation I am not comfortable with, I still knew this time was different than the hundreds of previous impromptu meetings we have had through the years. Yet, even while we were talking about something that took us out of our comfort zone, I looked at the two men in the room with me and realized how very fortunate I was. Through the years, I have known several administrators who faced a bleak and scary future because strangers purchased their companies, or new changes came down the pike and they were not part of the plan or the change– often due to no fault of their own. I remember one of my friends telling me that the new corporate representatives came in and gave her a box and an hour to clear out– I told Tim if he fired me, he would have to give me a pickup truck and 3 days — and that would just clear my desk!! I have always known that when the time came, the plan was for Seth to take the reins. Over the past few months, we have been working together, first as he finished the class work required, then I mentored him as he completed the AIT portion of getting his Administrators license.  I have been part of the changes that have evolved and have been very pleased with them–he and Josie putting into words and writing the goals and visions that have always been our base, but now is more focused because it is written and shared with all staff.

To be honest, I cannot really remember  who said exactly what that morning and it was uncomfortable for all of us, but in true Sunrise (and Stauffer)fashion, it was done with finesse and I felt they truly were sensitive to the entire situation. Time is truly the culprit here and it is something no one can do anything about. The ball was left in my court and I was able to make my own time line and they supported me completely.

The timing seemed to be good– I was just completing my 27th year, the first of October was bringing a whole new set of rules from “the powers above”, (CMS) and we had just hired a new DON. It is imperative that the DON and Administrator have a strong bond with a solid base  and it seemed only right that they start out together. The decisions and policies that will be made from this point on, need to be theirs.

Having said all that, it was and sometimes still is hard to say DONE.  I was still getting up every morning looking forward to going to work. I had not even given much thought to retirement— I wasn’t really 66— that was just a vicious rumor and as long as no one said the words, it was a reality I didn’t have to face. But like toothpaste — (once out of the tube, there is no going back) — I REALLY AM 66!

I left for the day–too emotional to be very productive for the rest of the day– and not even sure what I was thinking, feeling, planning.  Once the reality sort of sunk in though I began to feel a bit excited for a new future.  Scared but really ready to open the next door. I grabbed a calendar, picked a date and began to try to figure out what would come next.



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A new beginning

This is only one of many new beginnings for me– this blogging business.  Those of you who know me realize that I have entered into the world of technology kicking and screaming so to think that I am planning to make this part of my future surely surprises you.   Please bear with me as my skills are far from developed and my emotions are all over the board.  I vacillate from being excited about starting a new career (even if it is being a couch potato) to being terrified of not having a focus for each day when I get up.

For 27 years I have had a base. I have gone through a divorce, several physical moves, gall bladder surgery, both hips replaced,  ups and downs in my personal life with good and bad relationships but always, always I had my base and when I sat at my desk, I was grounded. Sunrise was my identity–  I am not saying I always made the right decisions or that I always made good decisions, but I always made decisions based on what I felt we stood for and what we were about.

My path has been strewn with some of the most incredible people: my family, professional contacts, personal friends and acquaintances and my residents and their families. As I look back through the years, I realize how incredibly blessed I have always been.  Future blogs may touch on some of these wonderful people but for now, I just want to go on record as saying I have had some magnificent mentors and guidance through the years.

Enough about all of that for right now although I will probably get philosophical periodically and I will be incredibly “wordy”– taking a paragraph to say what a sentence would do nicely, but that is my way and this is my blog so we are kind of stuck with that!!

This is just my first entry into the world of blogging, but my plan is to make an entry at least weekly and probably more frequently while I progress through the month of October and my path of movement from one base (Sunrise) to my next base (home). I imagine it will be a story of highs and lows, of excitement and of fear, of laughter and of tears and I hope it doesn’t bore you. It has been suggested that it will be therapeutic to document my feelings and perhaps give some insight to life after retirement.  I will promise you a trip, with no promise of good or bad, but just my viewpoint through the next few days.

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