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Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
Speaking Information at (727) 467-0202 or e-mail info@fawngermer.com

Archive for the Fawn Category

PEARLS is out TODAY!

Get ready for the most life-changing mentoring session you have ever had, guided by many of the strongest, most accomplished women of our times. Pearls brings together the wisdom of prime ministers and presidents, CEOs and Nobel Peace Prize winners, adventurers, Academy Award winners, scientists, journalists, Olympic athletes, newsmakers, senior executives and other women who have captured our hearts while making history. Order now at http://amzn.to/tXRPte

Who is in PEARLS?

Hillary Clinton, Janet Reno, Susan Sarandon, Frances McDormand, Jane Goodall, Ellen Goodman, Martina Navratilova, Nadia Comanici, Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Irene Rosenfeld, Denise Morrison, Rita Moreno, Sylvia Earle, Susan Butcher, Sandra Bernhard, Erin Brockovich, Margaret Cho, Marva Collins, Eve Ensler, Arianna Huffington, Laura Ingraham, Geraldine Laybourne, Mavis Leno, Wilma Mankiller, Susan Butcher, Dr. Christianne Northrup, Ann Richards, Pat Schroeder,Christine Todd Whitman and many, many others! Order now at http://amzn.to/tXRPte

It’s Launch Day, So You Get Bonuses…

Launch day is when publishers and authors offer all kinds of bonuses to drive sales and give books momentum.
With Pearls, today is really the classic, “Wait, there’s more!” moment. If you buy today and send your Amazon.com order number to info@fawngermer.com by midnight, Nov. 14, you will receive three bonuses that are worth more than $50:

  1. The digital download to Finding the UP in the Downturn, Fawn’s book on turning the economic crisis into a moment of opportunity. This book is now in its third printing and thousands of copies have been purchased by corporations for their employees. (Retails for $9.95)
  2. The mp3 to one of Fawn’s audio programs, Is Control Freaking You Out? Which shows how to let go of your need to control this very uncontrollable experience called life. (Retails for $10.95)
  3. Fawn’s life-skills course on rewriting the negative scripts in your life that have been holding you back. (Retails for $29.95)

WANT AUTOGRAPHED COPIES FOR THE HOLIDAYS?

Signed copies can be ordered directly from us by ordering here. E-mail info@fawngermer.com with the first names of the people you want inscribed in the books you have ordered.   If you want books personalized, please order before Nov. 26. After that time, Fawn will be on a speaking tour of Dubai and India. After she leaves, we will be able to send you pre-signed books, but they won’t have the names inscribed.

 

 

Betty’s Still In Charge

My first thought when I woke up this morning was, “Mom is going to die soon. Maybe this week.”

Two weeks ago, I believed that Mom’s condition had been so severely compromised that she was suffering. A friend shared a similar experience with her own mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s. Because she had a living will, they were able to discontinue her tube feeding and her mother passed in peace. I thought my mother deserved that peace, as well. I asked my father to consider doing the same thing. A meeting was called with four representatives of Hospice and four people from the nursing home that has given my mother such loving care for four years. They explained that we have powerful options.

That was the most sobering hour I have ever spent. The decision was my fathers, and he spent days agonizing over it. We went to the home today to make our wishes known, but I wanted to talk to Mom first. That’s when my mother blew me away.

We walked in her room and she looked right at us. She tracked our movements with her eyes. I knew it was her. Mom. My mom. My beautiful, one-of-a-kind mother. One hundred percent, she was right there with us.

I sat on her bed with her and leaned close. “Mom,” I said firmly, “It is very important that, if you understand me, you let me know.”

The look she gave me said everything, but I wanted confirmation. “Blink” if you understand me, I said. She blinked. Then I wondered if she just blinked because she needed to blink. So I said, “Blink several times.” And then she blinked several times. But, I still didn’t want to be imagining anything.

“Betty,” my dad said. “We want to do what you want us to do for you.” I won’t share everything here because I want to respect his privacy, but he made it clear that he wanted to honor her wishes. She looked straight at him, very serious.

“Do you want to live like this?” he asked.

She looked at me, then looked at him. She smiled at him. She smiled at me.

I asked the same question. Again, she looked at Daddy and smiled. Then, at me. Another smile. Dad leaned in and she moved her head up a little. He inched toward her, and she kissed him. I leaned in closer. She kissed me.

“Are we reading you right?” I asked. “You want to keep living like this?”

She smiled again. At me, then at Dad.

We probably asked five more times,  just to be sure, but we were sure. She was sure. We told her we’ll ask again if we think she is in pain. She gave a knowing look. We’re in it together.

It proved something I said many years ago.

You don’t bet against Betty Germer.

The True Beauty of Faye Ellen Himelhoch Valencia

My cousin, the indomitable Faye Ellen Himelhoch Valencia, died this morning at age 48. She is exactly nine months younger than I am, and we grew up together.

We both played the flute, but she was the better flutist. We went to Hebrew class together, but she was way better at Hebrew. We worked on the Sunday school newspaper together, but I wound up being the journalist. We both were raised to be strong women, but she exhibited a strength that leaves me in awe.

Faye had so much courage as she battled the Multiple Sclerosis that first appeared when she was 36. She spent her last several years in a nursing home near her family in Michigan. When I saw her last summer, she had the softest, most perfect skin, and she radiated warmth and love. She was always model beautiful and had a heart that told all of us what it meant to mix true beauty with true grit. She was strong beyond description.

Last week, things spun out of control — at first there was an infection, then a seizure, then heart problems, and now this. I know she is alive again, and new. Her sister Gail told me that she knows Faye is “Flying around up there, finally free of that body.”

My heart hurts. I am thinking of my Aunt Sandy, who has coped with so much grief — losing my larger-than-life  Uncle Bob and her own mother so close together. She visited Faye every day. I can’t imagine how hard it was for her to watch her daughter suffer so, but Aunt Sandy was there. My heart goes to my cousins, Alan and Gail. And to their spouses and children. Their family is in pain, which means all of the families connected to the Himelhoch clan are in pain.

My sadness is especially real for Faye’s two daughters, Alex and Monica, who had to cope with more than any young girls should ever have to face. Now young women, they are their mother’s legacy. She would want them to live rich and vibrant lives, filled with adventure and hope. I wish for them a much easier road than their sweet mother traveled. More than that, I wish them her courage, stamina and determination.

Hours before she died, she took a final look at her beautiful granddaughter and her girls.

What a heroic woman. God bless you, Faye Ellen. I love you and miss you.

The Hardest Decision

I’ve written about my mother many, many times. I used to hope her story would inspire and help others . Now I write about her because it is the only thing I know to do. I feel helpless, but I feel less alone when I know others are hearing about it. You all are carrying me through the saddest moment of my life.
 
My last post described what happened when I went to visit my mother on Saturday. I always knew the day would come in our Alzheimer’s struggle when Mom didn’t recognize me as her daughter. On Saturday, I didn’t recognize her as my mother. I’d seen her days earlier, but her physical appearance has changed. My last post described the experience of realizing that my mother is, indeed, suffering. She can’t move. She can’t talk. She can’t express anything beyond an occasional glance or partial smile.
 
My friend Debbie Deacon wrote something that really touched my heart: “My Mom was robbed of her vim and vigor after a massive stroke. She suffered from dementia after that and declined ever so slowly. Her last two months, she was almost in a comatose state. She too had a feeding tube, but her living will stated that she wanted none of that. We had all things removed and I slept with her for the last 10 days. Our Moms deserve so much more than they are getting — or have gotten in my Mom’s case. They deserve to go out with class, style and, as the saying goes, ‘Oh what a ride!!!!’ What you have posted about the ‘Long Goodbye’ was so very poignant, so incredibly true. It made me cry but I now smile too as my Mom no longer suffers. She is free at last. God Bless you both.”
 
I read those words to my father a few minutes ago, and I know they were hard for him to hear. My amazing father has visited Mom in the nursing home four times a day, every single day, since she went there more than four years ago. He will not leave her. I invited him to a friend’s home on the Weeki Wachee River for Thanksgiving Dinner, but Dad would not miss a day with Mom — not even if we could have arranged it so he could have seen her in the morning and before bedtime. Over the years, I’ve begged him to do something fun with me — go boating, go on a cruise — anything to get him to embrace the fullness of life that exists outside the nursing home. But, for Dad, life’s fullness can only be found beside the woman he has loved since the day they married in 1953.
 
No matter how bad it gets, Dad sees something positive. I was like that until about two months ago. I felt the love my mother still felt for her family, and it buoyed me above the losses we were experiencing. I now think that our positive approach has turned into denial. 
  
Dad called yesterday to tell me he’d wheeled my mother into the cafeteria at the nursing home where a piano player played the University of Michigan fight song for her. He was elated, because Mom smiled and made eye contact. 
 
“Isn’t it wonderful?” he asked.
 
“I don’t thinks so,” I answered. I’d stayed upbeat and positive about Mom’s condition until she became ill and was hospitalized two months ago with an infection. The infection has not gone away, and her long-dormant leukemia has flared up to combat our efforts to help cure the infection. Enough has happened that I believe she is not merely existing, but suffering.
 
“Dad,” I said, “It isn’t wonderful if she gets only one good minute a day.”
 
“I’m satisfied,” he said.
 
“But this isn’t about you or me,” I said. “It’s about Mom. I don’t think this is right.”
 
My mom has a living will where she expressly chose not to be kept alive by artificial means, but she has been fed through a stomach tube for more than three years. When the time came to get it, she said she wanted it. But, that was when she could still communicate. I don’t think she would want this kind of existence. How could she?
 
“Dad, I need to know something,” I said. “There may come a day when I have to make a decision like this for you. What would you want me to do if you are ever in this condition?”
 
“Let me go,” he said.  There was no hesitation.
 
“Then we need to think about what Mom would want.”
 
 
 
Dad says he’s thinking about it. We’ll have a family meeting. I hope we all can talk about it and make the decision Mom would make for herself. 
 
The question is, do we love her enough to let her go?

This is Why They Call Alzheimer’s the “Long Goodbye.”

“There’s your mother, Fawn,” my best friend said as she pointed to a woman crumpled over in a wheelchair near the nurse’s station.

“No, that’s not my mother,” I said.

“Yes, it is.”

I walked over to the woman, certain it was not my mom. Her head and shoulders were completely slumped over, and she was unresponsive. Her hair was whiter than my mother’s hair has ever been, her mouth was completely slack and puffed out in a way I’d never seen. I bent down close to her face, still sure it was not my mother.

But, it was my mother. I couldn’t recognize her even though I’d seen her a few days earlier at the nursing home, when she was in her bed and in the context I’ve come to recognize and accept.

Alzheimer’s Disease is a cruel insult to anyone who suffers its indignity. This is the last, lingering chapter in a story that began with a paralyzing stroke 19 years ago. Mom fought back and faced every obstacle, but things greatly worsened with the appearance of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2001. My mother is now almost lifeless, yet unable to die with the dignity and peace that she deserves. I have always said that acceptance is a mandatory coping tool with this insanity, and acceptance helped me face her decline without regretting what we were losing along the way. I treasured every connection we had, because even when she couldn’t speak, I could feel her love. I do believe she wanted to keep living.

But, there is no acceptance at this point. My mother is suffering. I know this. Even though she is comfortable, I know she is suffering.

I know she doesn’t want this. How could she? She had a living will, but her will to live has kept her going through this crucible without extraordinary means. When the Alzheimer’s robbed her of her ability to swallow, she was given a stomach tube for feeding. She said she wanted it. Now, that tube is keeping her alive, even though there is almost nothing going on in her brain.

After her nurses put her back to bed yesterday, I brushed my fingers against her cheek and told her how much I love her. I sang her the Jewish hymn, Ein Keloheinu. It was her favorite hymn, and the song was one of the last things she remembered how to communicate. She looked at me. The right corner of her mouth became a smile. I love her so much.

I wonder what it is like for her, trapped in so much nothingness. Does she feel the slowness of time passing? What is she thinking? Is she thinking anything? Is she fighting to stay alive, or is she too lost to let go? I am so confused. I hurt for her.

I have some videos that were shot of her before the stroke. I did not watch them — not once — after the stroke changed her voice, appearance and mobility. But, I did  watch them a couple of weeks ago. There was my vibrant, strong, funny, loving, warm, precious mother, and she was talking to me, singing to me, smiling at me, laughing with me… Oh, if I could have just one more minute with her, I would tell her how proud I am of her.

And I’d know she’d hear me.

What You Can Do

By Request — Perspective on How Small Our Problems Are in a VERY Big Universe

The World According to Fred Germer

2003 Video of a surprise visit to Dad’s pharmacy drive-thru.

I began my shoplifting career at age 3 —  on the very day my father opened his drugstore in Flint, Mich. It was Germer’s Drug Store, and since I was Fawn Germer, I figured everything there was mine. Dad nabbed me for stealing a piece of Bazooka bubble gum, and I got a stern lecture that I was never to take things without paying for them. He gave me a penny and had me go to the front register to pay up. I was so embarrassed, but that was the end of my shoplifting career and the beginning of my appreciation of my father, the businessman.

This is not the story of a man starting out with one store and turning it into an empire. It is the story of a man who loved being a pharmacist so much that he refused to quit — no matter what.

I thought about what I have learned from his example as I waited for him to get off work so I could take him to dinner to celebrate his 82nd birthday yesterday.  Think of it: At age 82, he is still working as  a pharmacist. He wants to work. Without that job, I think he would grow old.

I think back to the much younger Fred Germer who owned the drugstore, and there were so many people who tried to rip him off. There was a student who dad saw stuffing a bunch of ice cream sandwiches into the back of his sweat pants. Dad went over to the guy and started a very long conversation. The guy squirmed as the ice cream began to melt, but Dad kept talking until he finally confronted the guy. There was the seemingly-devoted, 60-something employee who was regularly sneaking merchandise out of the store when  his shift ended. When he walked out with about 20 pairs of sunglasses, Dad fired him. He subsequently got a job as a security guard. One woman customer came in daily — for years — until Dad caught her stealing a whole bag full of groceries. Then there was a person who staged a slip and fall.

As the neighborhood changed, the criminal behavior escalated. Dad was held up at gunpoint multiple times. The armed robberies grew more frequent and I started to fear for his safety. I’d always ask, “Are you okay?” when he called. He’d assure me that he was just fine. One time I asked if he was all right and he just said, “Let me speak to your mother.” He’d been shot in the arm in a holdup. He insisted on going back to work the next day, I guess proving that he wasn’t hurt. But, I was. That was pretty traumatic for a kid.

My mom had enough of that and said it was time to sell the store. Without my dad to be there for his regulars, the store went bankrupt in two years. Germer’s Drug Store was successful for one reason: Fred Germer. Without him, that little independent drug store lost its oomph. Here was a man who would drive in the middle of the night to get emergency prescriptions for his customers. He’d even deliver them to their homes. He’d tell his employees, “The customer is always right,” and he meant it.

After selling the store, Dad worked in a beautiful mall chain store. One day, a friend called to ask Mom if Dad was all right. A day earlier, two guys came into the drugstore with sawed-off shotguns, demanding Dilaudid and money from Dad. He made eye contact with a customer who slipped out of the store and into the mall, where her police officer husband was waiting. He called for backup and there was a chase and shootout that made the front page of the newspaper. Dad grabbed the front page of the newspaper before we could see what happened.

What would make anyone endure that kind of danger? I guess it is the same thing that drives my dad to keep working now, so long after his contemporaries packed it in and retired. He truly loves his work. He loves the science of his industry. He loves serving others. He loves his co-workers. He loves being in the middle of things after so many years.

Last night, he met me in my mother’s room at the nursing home and carried a gift box under his arm. I knew he had something he was dying to show me, and in the box was a shirt that had been embroidered, “FRED” and “Favorite Pharmacist.” His co-workers at Vanguard, a pharmaceutical distribution center, threw a surprise party for him and presented him with the shirt and a card with about 80 signatures on it. I know those are his favorite gifts — ever. At 82, he hasn’t lost it.

I bet there have been at least a thousand people who have told me how lucky I am to be his daughter. I know that. My dad is not a perfect father, but he is the best one I know and I am glad he is mine.

When there are no words, there is touch

My mother has had Alzheimer’s Disease for eight years. At least. She is 83 and living in a nursing home, fed through a stomach tube.

A few weeks ago, she was sleeping when I arrived for a visit. I nudged her awake, then climbed into bed to cuddle with her as I have done on every visit since she moved there. It is the closest human contact she has, since my father’s bad back won’t let him get in bed with her. I have cherished those moments because of the way it makes her smile and how her eyes twinkle, and because I feel her love radiate life from my sweet, lost mother.

On this occasion,  I didn’t see the usual joy. I saw fear.

My mother didn’t know who I was. She was afraid — there was a stranger in her bed and she was powerless to protect herself. She tried to say something, but her words came out as jibberish. I showed her pictures of us when I was a child, but she didn’t make the connection like she’d done on the other occasions when she couldn’t quite get who I was. So, I climbed out of the bed.

Then, I dropped my shorts and mooned her. I have always been the joker in the family, and this made Mom laugh harder than I have heard her laugh in years. That bare bottom could only belong to her daughter. “You are beautiful,” she said. A full sentence. She finally knew it was me.

I think she recognized me the other day. I am dogsitting for a tiny little Chihuahua mix, and since Coco is so darned portable compared to  my two big dogs, I brought her to visit my mom. Mom’s left side has been paralyzed since a major stroke 17 years ago. The Alzheimer’s has frozen most of the rest of her body, so she does not move much. So, I put the little dog on the bed. She didn’t say anything and she didn’t smile. Coco wagged her tail and kissed my mother, but there was still no real reaction.

A Florida afternoon thunderstorm started brewing, and with the first rumblings from the sky, tiny Coco started quivering in fear — trembling, all over. I tried to calm her, but she kept shaking. Mom watched this, transfixed. “It’s okay,” I told Coco.

After a long moment, Mom moved her right hand. Slow and unsteady, she moved it closer and closer to Coco and finally rested it on the little dog’s side. She kept it there, holding her, trying to comfort her.

Coco didn’t stop shaking until the thunder stopped. But, she didn’t move away from my mother to be closer to me. I will never forget the innocence of that tiny dog, or the slow awakening of my fading mother.

When there are no words, there is touch, which says more anyhow.

Coco meets my parents. Sorry about the quality. Blame my cell phone.

Coco meets my parents. Sorry about the quality. Blame my cell phone.

Something’s wrong with this picture

p8300134  Not even two minutes after my friends and I launched our kayaks into the Chassahowitzka River on Sunday, we were approached by a manatee mama and her baby. They swam right up to us and playfully poked their heads out of the water, wanting to socialize.  I tried hard to capture the moment with my camera.

What a mistake. When I write that “Something’s wrong with this picture,” it’s that I stopped to take it at all.  I thought the manatees would hang around for a good while, but they didn’t. I lost most of that precious moment to taking a picture so I could show other people what happened to me. But, it didn’t happen to me fully — and that was my fault.

Just another reminder how most of us lose the wonder of the moment because we usually focus on something else. Instead of thinking of what is going on right here and right now, we’re thinking of the future or the past. About things that might not happen or things we can’t change. We forget that the moment we are living is spectacular and fleeting.

It’s hard to remember that when you are facing some of the hardships that exist today, but seriously, you don’t get a do-over with any of your time. If you are living and breathing, it is up to you to make sure you are finding joy in the experience.

p8300136-1

My great friend, Vicki Smith, with two precious visitors.

The manatees didn’t come back, but I didn’t miss another gift of that gorgeous day. We paddled the first mile into the national wildlife refuge and were continually annoyed by the antics of two airboaters who seemed intent on polluting everyone’s solitude with noise. My friend Vicki spotted a creek that veered to the left and we headed that way in hopes of finding some solitude. Did we ever. We paddled up what we would later learn is called “Butt Crack Creek,”  a silent wilderness that was both stunning and intimidating. I’m game for just about anything, but this was a narrow creek where we could see the matted down areas on the banks where alligaters had been a few hours (or minutes?) earlier. At one point, the creek narrowed and the water’s surface clouded with an unfamiliar, foamy substance. It looked like we were going straight into the angriest part of the Everglades, where we’d be consumed by hungry alligators or bit by poisonous snakes. The others wanted to turn back, but I kept paddling, certain that weirdness in the water would open up into something really good, which it did about five minutes later.

Me gliding through the spring on an old rope swing.

Me gliding through the spring on an old rope swing.

As I kept paddling further into the wilderness, one of my cohorts kept insisting it was time we turn around. I ignored her, certain we were heading somewhere, where we’d find something that made it all worthwhile. Finally, the creek ended at a lush, tropical spring with deep, crystal-clear water. Our reward for braving the uncertain twists and turns of that creek was a secret piece of paradise where we could frolic like kids.

Afterwards, we paddled out to the main river and the airboat jerks were gone. It was peaceful and pristine and we headed to another spring where we free-dove to a limestone tunnel eight feet below the surface. We went down one side, swam through the tunnel, then out the other side. My first fear was that I’d get stuck in the tunnel and drown, but once I broke the surface on the other side, I felt exhilarated. The summer sun hit my face, and I was alive. What a great moment to breathe in.

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