DISASTER RECOVERY PLAN

A Disaster Recovery Plan is a documented, structured approach with instructions for responding to unplanned incidents.  Many businesses, especially IT, will have this plan in place.  Do you have a Disaster Recovery Plan in your home?  A step-by-step plan to minimize the effects of a disaster (death) so that your spouse can continue to operate or quickly resume mission-critical functions.

This post is co-written by Jeff and me, and inspired by my father, who passed away unexpectedly (cardiac arrest).  Our hope is that we encourage healthy discussion between you and your family soon.  Don’t wait…death doesn’t discriminate.  Talk about a plan.  Write it down!  Know what the plan is, where it is, and how to execute it…for this is one of the best gifts you can give to your spouse and family in the event of your untimely death.

My father kept a flash drive locked in a safe, containing important information so that my mom could continue to function in his absence.  When crisis strikes, not only are you overwhelmed with grief, panic and fear, but you still have bills to pay and a house to run.  Your mortgage is due…Where does the money come from?  Is it automatic?  Do you need to transfer money from one account to another?  When is your credit card payment due?  Do you have life insurance and who do you call?  Do you know all of your accounts, user names and passwords?  These questions can be paralyzing if you don’t know the answers or even where to look.  My father managed all of the finances, so when he was gone without warning, he left detailed instructions for my mom.  Jeff has done the same for me.

Young or old, there are things you can do now to make it easier on your family when death or illness strikes.  We’ve planned well, even made some mistakes that we hope you can avoid before it’s too late.  This is not an exhaustive list, but a great place to start the conversation with your spouse.  Save our list below, and start checking things off.  Plan, prepare, and give the gift of reassurance.

plan

Love,

Jeff and Tara

 

An Open Letter to my Best Friend(s)

The resounding theme over the past 7-8 months has been “It’s been forever since I’ve written.”  I think about it often and unfortunately finding the quiet time to sit down and write is non-existent.  Life is very challenging now and 24/7 caregiving + essentially being a single mom is exhausting.  We have tremendous support, and for that I am eternally grateful.

A friend recently encouraged me to write more frequently (“people want to hear from you!”) but write short blog posts that are manageable.  So, I’M BACK!  I’ll write more frequently:  specifically I’ll give an update soon on:

  • Jeff (medically and emotionally).  How does Jeff handle the emotional side of this?  If you’ve been in his presence at all, it doesn’t take long to recognize what a remarkable man he is.
  • What we’ve been up to the past 6 months, since returning from our 6 week trip out west.
  • How Evan and Cole are doing (school, rock climbing, and handling a terminal illness)
  • Caregiving
  • Support from near and far.  Support from friends, family and strangers.  Support so overwhelming (that we desperately need) that we carry tremendous guilt over wondering if you know…do you know how life changing your support is for us?  Do you know how grateful we are?  Do you know we couldn’t do this without you?  Do you know that prayers are being answered?  Do you know we value EVERYTHING that is done for us but we don’t have the time, energy or capacity to reach out and tell you?  Do you know we cry over it?  Do you know?  The thought of you not knowing or feeling appreciated, recognized or valued, pierces my heart.  Thank you.

AN OPEN LETTER TO MY BEST FRIEND(S)

best friend

Dear friend(s),

Thank you for being one of the deepest and most meaningful connections in my life (both long lasting deep friendships + new friendships).  “Friendship is not about who you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walked into your life, said “I’m here” for you and prove it.”

Thank you for listening with empathy, kindness, and love when I’m having down days.  Thank you for just sitting with me in it and saying “Tara, I’m so sorry.  That sucks.  Instead of singing ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.’”

Thank you for knowing so much about ALS and caregiving, and for making it our problem…not just mine.

Friendships have been difficult during this stage of life.  Sustaining friendships takes work and time that I don’t have, but ours has never felt difficult, even on the darkest days.  You forgive the unanswered text and text again anyway.  You forgive the unanswered call and call again.  I do care.  I care a lot.  I just don’t have the capacity to show it fully right now.  Do you remember the old Tara?  She’s still there, she’s just forever changed by grief and trauma.

Thank you for reminding me I’m strong and beautiful in all of my mess.  I need to hear it.  I need to know it’s not meaningless.  Your texts of encouragement?  They are often saved and read over and over and over again so that I can sing with confidence that I am loved and cared for.  I value you too.

Thank you for being with me for the one-two punch in my life.  A one-two punch is a combination of two blows delivered in rapid succession in boxing, especially a left jab (BOOM, you’re going to lose your father unexpectedly) followed by a right cross (BOOM, shortly thereafter you’re going to lose your husband too).

Thank you for giving me permission to feel various emotions, thoughts, and feelings.  We think that people will only value our existence or welcome our presence if we’re always positive.  Suffering and sadness are just as much a part of existing as joy, compassion, and love.

So thank you for simply saying “I’m so sorry.”

And not, “I’m so sorry, BUT, look on the bright side.”  There is no bright side.  Those words minimize my pain and heavy emotions.

And most of all, thank you for doing stupid stuff and making me laugh.  You’re hilarious and I love laughing with you!

All my love,
Tara

HE WAITS

It’s been entirely too long since I’ve written, but I came across a post this morning that I wanted to share.  We have been home from our 6 week trip out west for nearly 7 weeks now and I have an entire book I could pen with vidid detail about our adventure.  It truly was the most unforgettable experience of our life!  No one wanted it to end…we’ve certainly had a hard time adjusting back to real life.  Perhaps I will spend some time over the holiday’s to chronicle our adventure travel.  There’s nothing as exhilarating as going somewhere new…the thrill of hiking a new path, scaling an enormous mountain in front of you, or descending into the depths of a canyon!  These experiences stimulated us in ways that our careers and hobbies never could and I want to preserve our incredible experience, share them with you, and perhaps encourage you to chart your own course for adventure!

In the meantime, I’m going to turn to something more serious (I’ll get back to FUN, happy, exciting stories soon!).  A piece of writing I came across this morning in an ALS caregiving support group that I’m in.  It’s extremely hard, no painful, to read.  Please, please read it anyway.   It’s hard to fathom.  Unfortunately, it’s true.  Without the hard to read details in front of you, it’s impossible to spread awareness and find a cure.  ALS is a disease that turns heads…away.  No one wants to see it.  It’s too painful to watch someone suffer.  It’s time to humanize it…for it takes away EVERYTHING.  There are emotional implications of ALS that trickle down through the entire family as well.  Here is a small glimpse:

waiting

He waits… (by Matthew Wild)

There is not much more he can do these days, but to wait.

He knew the disease would slowly take his ability to move. A few days after his diagnosis, every website that explained the disease in gruesome detail explained to him what to expect. He would steadily become a prisoner in his own body. There would be no cure, no treatment to slow this process down, and no one with answers as to why this was happening.

He waited…

The days would pass, as they often do. Lives go on, people come in and out of his world, but still…he waits.

He is locked inside what was once a six-foot two-inch frame, of broad shoulders and the strongest of legs…legs that had easily ran up mountains, swam in oceans, and walked with confidence through any door. His fingers have curled, the tendons and bones are all that are left to show hands that had once caressed his wife’s body. His arms lay at his side. He no longer fights the urge to raise his arm to scratch an itch.
Instead, he calls out for someone to come wipe his eyes, to re-position certain body parts, to adjust and to maneuver.

And he waits…

His legs spasm, not in pain, but in the normal progression of the disease. He glances down at his feet.

There is nothing normal about this.

His toes are beginning to resemble his fingers as they too, curl inward. The disease has ravaged his feet. He stares at his toes, willing them to wiggle, to move, anything to prove that he hasn’t lost that small little ability.

He waits…

Nothing. No movement.

He glances up.

Rolling his head from side to side, he feels the heaviness that is slowly taking hold. He knows what is coming.

Soon, the weight of his head will be too much.

He stares out the window.

There is a bustle of noise coming from the kitchen. Pots and pans clanking, the scraping of spoons as they are stirred by someone else. Someone else who can move easily from one task to another.

The familiar pang of sadness at his loss begins to creep into his consciousness. He closes his eyes.

He has been waiting.

Waiting and wondering when the time comes that the smells that come from the kitchen become intolerable. He wonders how long he will have to wait before he can no longer chew the food that someone else places into his mouth. His jaw is already sore. It is getting harder to speak, and to chew.
Someone calls out his name.

The footsteps grow louder. The door opens.

He has been waiting.

Waiting for someone to come and wheel the metal arm closer to the bed. To hook each loop into the bar, and effortlessly pick him up.

He glances at the reflection in the mirror.

Legs dangling, a large sling wrapped around his body, as he hangs helplessly from the air. He looks away. He knows what he looks like. He is naked, in the most vulnerable way a man can be. There is no covering him. He is long past embarrassment, but the vision of seeing his reflection staring back at him and being incapable of covering his most private of areas, is difficult to see, even for him.
Someone pushes and grunts and pulls to maneuver his body back into his wheelchair.

He waits…

He waits patiently for the metal arm to slowly place him into a sitting position in his wheelchair. A blanket has been laid gently on his lap, his teeth are brushed, and his pills have been swallowed. One of the pills catches on the way down, causing him to cough and choke.

Quickly, someone grabs the small machine and hose that is never far from reach. The machine is meant to simulate a person coughing.

He waits…

He waits and tries not to feel claustrophobic as the mask is tightly pressed against his mouth and nose. He couldn’t protest if he wanted to. The machine forces air so hard into his mouth and lungs, his cheeks swell against the mask. A click of the machine, and the reverse happens, as the air is pulled, almost violently from his body. It is the only way his body can cough. Over and over again, this procedure is done, the machine straining, as it forces air in and back out again.

He waits…

His airway clear again, he can breathe.

The momentary adrenaline rush at the lack of air moving fluidly through his body slows as his heartbeat returns to normal once more.

He is wheeled out into the kitchen. Someone has prepared dinner. His meal looks less than palatable. Soft foods so as not to choke again. He sighs…He waits while someone sits down next to him, grabbing a fork and begin to gracefully place the food onto the prongs and then lift it to his mouth. He opens his mouth…chews the food, moving it around his mouth, a bit of anxiety and hope that he can swallow this bite without choking again. Small bites. Slowly….he swallows.

He waits.

He needs a drink. Watching, he leans forward with his head, lips outstretched towards the glass.
The effort is exhausting. He shakes his head. His jaw is tired. The water dribbles down his chin.

He waits…

He waits for someone to grab a napkin and wipe up the droplets hanging, threatening to spill beside the bits of food he had been unable to hold in his mouth, that are now laying in his lap. He waits for everyone around the table to finish their meal.

He waits…

He maneuvers back into the bedroom to watch television. Someone else needs to get ready for the day. The children are all running, a cluster of excitement as they get ready to leave and go about their busy lives. He positions himself in front of the screen.

He waits…

He waits for everyone to say “goodbye” as they run out the door. A quick kiss to the forehead, and the door slams behind them. He listens to the stillness of the house.

He waits…

The caregiver walks in. She swiftly picks up the remote, points it towards the wall, and clicks on the tiny buttons to the channels he prefers. The television has become his only outlet and escape from this disease. It is all he can do to pass his time now. He can lose himself in make believe for just a while. For just a moment, he doesn’t have to think about what he needs, what others do for him. He wants to go out. He feels trapped…trapped inside the house, and inside his body.

He waits…

He watches the hours pass. Eight more hours before someone else comes to tell him about their day at work or running errands. Nine more hours before the kids arrive. Ten more hours and everyone will gather for another meal around the table. Twelve more hours and he can go back to bed.

He waits…

He waits for a text message, an email, a phone call. Anything that shows that he is still participating in his life. He seldom hears from those who had once been so close to him. He wonders if they think about him. He understands that the world kept turning, he just isn’t turning with it.

He waits…

He waits for visitors that never come. He wants to ask them to stop by, to sit and tell him about all the new experiences they are having. He supposes they feel guilty. He knows he makes them uncomfortable now. If, and when an old friend pops in for a visit, it is always the same. Big smiles to hide the awkwardness as they lean in for a hug. They complement him on his inspirational strength, but the smile falters. They fumble for words, for stories, and things to talk about. They feel guilty for still living, as they sit across someone who has so little time left. They glance at their watch. They need to go soon, but they promise to come again soon…But they won’t, and they both know it.

He waits…

He waits for conversation…but the caregiver is busy taking care of him. The caregiver is not there for companionship. They sit out in the living room, staring at their phone. Too busy counting the hours before their shift is over so they can leave. He understands…he is counting down for their shift to be over as well.

He waits…

He has to use the restroom again. He calls out for help. He waits until someone is finished doing their chores before they stomp in to help…again. He tries to hold it and tries desperately not to lose his patience. He hates asking for help, but there is no choice. He wonders what is taking so long this time.

He waits…

He waits for hands to touch him, but the only caress comes in their efforts to be efficient. He misses reaching his arms around a loved one for a hug. He misses breathing in their scent.

He waits…

He doesn’t want to ask for help again. It feels as if it is constant. The need for something, the constant requests for drinks, food, adjustments. He feels like a burden. Time is ticking by, and his requests grow more frequent with every passing day.

He wonders how his life came to this moment. The limbo of wanting to live but waiting to die.

He looks out the window…

And waits…

-Matthew Wild

 

 

ABUNDANT LIFE – Miss you Dad

What is an abundant life? God promises we can be prosperous and have an abundant life but sometimes I feel like I’m just getting pummeled. 4 years. 4 grief filled years without my dad. I remember the phone call. The long 5 hour drive from midnight to 5 am. The first time I saw him in the ICU and fully grasped the gravity of what was happening. Comforting his 90+ year old mother. Coming home without him. Returning to life. I want an abundant life. My dad would want me to seek it and find it and live it too.

You’ve heard it before, right? Many people in the Bible have had lives of struggle, suffering and pain, yet seemed to experience abundant life. Even Paul talked about joy and peace under excruciating circumstances. I have been changed by Christ and perhaps that’s abundant life – I am finding my life sufficiency in Him alone. The Bible shows we can be remarkably blessed, and live an abundant life, in the midst of very difficult circumstances. It’s not about what we HAVE. It’s about what we RECEIVE as a gift…that can only come from God. A gift is given, but you have to receive it.

I am a child of God. Imagine what you would do for your own child. Now imagine what your Father wants for you. How do you know if you have an abundant life? I don’t know, I’m still searching, but perhaps when you share life with others. God blesses us with love, mercy, grace, peace, etc – spread that gift to others as Christ designed. When we love God and are satisfied by Him so deeply that it frees us to love others, and then He becomes more visible and clear, then I truly believe you’re living an abundant life. I know my dad is enjoying an abundant life 💙. Love you with all my heart Dad. “I’m gonna love you ‘til my heart stops beating.” And then I’ll see your sweet face again. I still hear his voice. I still feel his presence. When we come to challenging decisions, Jeff will say “what would your dad say?” Or I will ask “I wonder what dad would say” and Jeff will reply with confidence….”I know exactly what he would say.” He would say “Take emotion out of it…it’s not about what you deserve or think you should have.”

“But I really want that white Jeep Rubicon/Sahara!”

“You deserve it, but your dad would say no. Not under our circumstances.”

He’s still there. But it still hurts like hell. I’ll never forget this sound clip from my boys and Amanda’s firstborn: Click the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/tarahoman/videos/10152271906501780/

NO EYE HAS SEEN…

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”

– 1 Corinthians 2:9

Yellowstone National Park

8/28-29

This bible verse comes immediately to mind when I reflect back on the past few days. My eyes couldn’t even comprehend it all. I was on sensory overload and after seeing something so beautiful, all I could think about is how? HOW? How can there be ANYTHING greater in store for us? But God promises we haven’t even come close to seeing the beauty He is preparing! I’ll hold on to that hope.

No amount of research could prepare us for what we saw and experienced at Yellowstone National Park. From amazing encounters with wildlife to breathtaking views across canyons that we will never forget. We walked the boardwalks over the cauldrons and hot springs, watched Old Faithful erupt, and marveled at the massive Elk meandering on the side of the road and the Bison still shedding their winter-tattered coat…both ignoring the traffic jam they just created. We spotted coyotes hunting along the river banks and we searched relentlessly for moose, grizzly bears and black bears to no avail.

The weather was crisp but comfortable and we spent 12 hours exploring the 1st day and 7 hours the 2nd day. We packed lunches and found a picnic table next to a cascading waterfall. We hiked, found the remains of a bison lying in the river and soaked in all of the beautiful sights around us.

Yellowstone is comprised of rugged mountains, deep canyons and plateaus. The parks’ deeply fractured crust allows groundwater to seep down to where it makes contact with magma. The superheated water then returns to the surface as extraordinary steam vents, fumaroles, colourful hot pools, mud cauldrons, paint pots, hot springs and geysers. We found other wonders such as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, along with boulders, rivers, waterfalls, plains and deep glacier carved valleys. The park contained landscape that I didn’t even know existed. I was awe-struck the entire time. No words could accurately describe this place!

Too many photos to post: more at

The park is, in fact, almost entirely hidden from humans (most likely to protect us from petting a moose or jumping to our death into a boiling hot spring that looks sooooooooo inviting!). There are roads to guide you through the park, but only a few. It’s well protected and the majority of the park is reserved for wildlife. It was highly accessible for Jeff and he was able to see and thoroughly enjoy most of the park.

We all have our favorite part of the park, but I must say the Grand Prismatic Spring is spectacular!! The hot spring has bright bands of orange, yellow, green and deep blue waters. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is another jaw dropping favorite. The north and south rims are separated by a mere 3/4 of a mile, with treacherously steep canyon walls painted in oranges, yellows and reds. It doesn’t even look real! The Yellowstone river carves through the bottom of the pine covered landscape.

A park to remember. We loved every minute of our time in Yellowstone!