59 years

Tuesday I took my dad to see the last two living facility options for he and my mom. We started our tour at The Waterford Grand, an assisted living and memory care residence that is a possibility for my mom. As with every place we have visited (this was number 4) I see Dad’s shoulders begin to sag as his eyes scan the rooms, the dining area, the current residences. It is hard for him but he has very specific things he wants for my mom and there is no better way to get a feel for the facility than to take the tour. I know he is visualizing Mom here. Getting a mental picture of what this next phase of her life will look like. It is not a pretty picture. No matter how grand the accommodations, how caring the staff, this is not the future he envisioned. He often says the shine as been taken off the golden years.

Our tour guide is a nice young gentleman who shows us around the facility, pointing out the amenities and showing us a couple of different room options – private and semi-private. Dad doesn’t like the semi-private one at all. Two suites with a shared Jack and Jill bathroom. You can’t lock the barn style entry doors and he voices that concern. At this point it becomes obvious that this nice young man doesn’t really understand much about the needs of Alzheimer’s patients but he is solutions oriented so suggests putting a wedge up against the side of the door to keep it closed. I seriously had to refrain from slapping him upside the head! My mother has lost most of her reasonable thought processes due to this disease. She doesn’t shower because she can’t remember the steps it takes and the order to do them in…do you think she’s going to remember to remove the wedge so she can open the door so she can access the restroom?!? Herein lies one of a myriad of problems within the elder care community…but that is a post for another day. He means well so I refrain from slapping him or pointing out his assessment error.

We conclude the tour and as we are getting in the car Dad says that if a semi-private room is the only option available then maybe it would be OK as long as it is a woman in the other suite. Jealousy? Fear for her safety? Protection of her dignity? Probably a mix of all. He takes his duty to care for her very seriously. I tell him he has worked hard and they can afford the slightly higher fee for a private room; we are in no immediate hurry and can wait for one to become available. That seems to make him feel a little better. Restores his pride. Due to his years of hard work and thrifty living they have options. He can take care of his wife in this new normal.

Our next stop is Willamette Oaks, an independent living solution for Dad that is right next door to The Waterford. It is within easy walking distance for him to visit mom. Willamette Oaks is an establish senior community with a comfortable, home-like vibe and an involved resident community. We meet with Kay. She is a young expectant mother who has a calm, old soul, demeanor. We sit at a table in the dining hall so she can get to know Dad. The conversation is pleasant and at one point she looks my dad in the eyes and says “This must be very hard for you.” Not superficial small talk, genuine care and compassion. Dad begins tear up and cry. She doesn’t panic or abruptly move on to a safer topic. She leans towards him and reaches out a hand…and says nothing, she simply allows him to work through it and regain his composure. I love this young woman.

Dad takes a deep breath and says, as he has several times lately, “If I am going to lose her, I’d just as soon lose her.” And then he adds “I can’t even tell her what we have been doing.” He tears up again.

And that pierces my heart.

For 59 years they have made decisions together. They have had a relationship of trust. He is trying to do the right thing, see that Mom is cared for, and all the while he feels like he is betraying her.

I don’t even know how we navigate the next steps. Mom will need to be assessed by a nurse so an intake and care plan can be constructed. We will need to move furniture and belongings into her new home and make it feel cozy and comfortable. We will need to distribute so many of her things, collectibles; art work; quilts and crafts to family. Where is Mom during this process? With her decreased mental function and inability to really understand what is happening and why it must happen, being part of the process will be frustrating and upsetting to her…and not a good situation for those of us trying to make it happen. Shutting her out of the process feels wrong too, like we are setting her off to the side, or putting her in some kind of limbo, or behaving as if she has already passed away. Neither option feels good, but is something that must be figured out, and soon!

I don’t have a conclusion to this story. I don’t know how everything is going to go down. I’m going to take one step at a time, consult with experts and meet with family members. This is uncharted territory for all of us. I’ll keep you posted as we move forward. If you ever find yourself in this, or a similar, situation, it is my hope that I have helped in some way. Maybe in pointing you to a resource, or giving you a small road map or possibly just instilling some peace of mind knowing that you are not alone.


Well, here it is. My last day of work for Pacific Continental Bank. Yes, I know, technically since November 1st I have been an employee of Columbia Bank, but for  most of the non-continuing employees, in our hearts and minds, we have been employees of Pacific Continental Bank.

I’ve known since January 9, 2017 that this day was coming. I’ve had ample notice and ample time to prepare. Over the last year we (continuing and non) have celebrated a company that we had a personal stake in. That we helped build. We have mourned the loss of something bigger than just a job and losing the daily interactions with coworkers who know us as intimately as our families. But even with all that time and all the events I. Am. Not. Ready. to say goodbye.

My career has taken me from Operations Supervisor to Network Administrator to Information Technology Manager to Business Resource Manager. When I first started at PCB there were 4 offices located in Eugene, PCs were running a mix of Windows 3.0 and 3.1; the network was Netware 3.x; our core was Jack Henry 20/20 and we had a single dial-up line to the internet that I used for server patching. There was no online banking, no external email and relatively little pressure. As a young network admin learning my new duties I could bring the network to it’s knees and nobody really noticed or cared. Phones still worked, typewriters still typed and original signature cards and processed checks were still in the offices. On the core side of the house, upgrades could go bad or transactions could mis-post and as long as everything was in order when statements cut nobody was the wiser.

Fast forward 22 years and PCB has 15 offices in 3 geographic regions and a national dental banking presence. Data flows in and out of our network continuously on fiber and sophisticated telecommunications lines. Clients have a real-time view into their accounts through online banking and the ATM network. Sometimes they know there is a problem before we do!

During my initial interview with Hal, Carol and Tom if they had told me all the things I would help accomplish I would have said “I can’t do that.” There was no way I could imagine helping to implement such change! I don’t think any of us could comprehend what a group of “home-growns” could do! But we did it! We did big amazing things… and do you know how? Working with like-minded, talented bankers.

On the system side of the house we had employees dedicated to making processes work. Every day. Task oriented, project-minded people who could sit around a table, discuss the situation, crisis or project and walk away knowing their piece and also knowing they could rely on the other members of the team to do their part and do it well.

On the client facing side of the bank we had employees dedicated to building relationships with their clients. Understanding their businesses and business practices and offering solutions and support. Always championing to get them what they needed to meet their business and personal goals.

Personally and professionally, we have watched each other grow and learn. We’ve seen each other through better and worse, sickness and health, tragedy and triumph.

Yes, we had conflict. No, it wasn’t always perfect. Yes, as we were growing it was getting harder. No, I didn’t always love my job. Yes, the stress could be immense. No, we didn’t back down or cave to it. Yes, we believed in The PCB Way. 100%.

Today around 30 of us will leave our desks for the last time with a few more leaving over the next few weeks. Debbie, one of my longtime coworkers and a truly amazing, strong woman, summed it up in a Facebook post, “I’m walking across that finish line with pride.” That says is all. We built an amazing institution; we were part of something unique; we were a successful bank and Columbia paid a premium to get us. We will walk out with our heads held high. Even knowing we were losing our jobs we did whatever it took to hand over the best bank possible.







The PCB Way.



The homestretch

For some time now I have had the surreal feeling that I am in a horse race. I can feel the power of the horse beneath me, legs stretching, hooves pounding, sweat flying. It’s been a long race and both my horse and I are growing weary. We round the last corner and I look to the finish line…only to find it has been moved. Ugh. What can I do? I must stay in the race. So I loosen my grip slightly on the reins, crouch a little lower and give the horse his head. At some point I realize I can not control it all, and that is OK.

The stark reality is that life is not a horse race, until you die there is no finish line. There is always that next thing up ahead, both good and bad. For over a year “the finish line” has been the end of my job. When I reach that milestone I will accomplish X and Y and Z. Wrap it up, put a bow on it. And then my mother’s Alzheimers worsened …

Things that had been easy to laugh at were suddenly serious. This is not amusing anymore. Things are rapidly becoming more than my 88-year-old father can be expected to handle. Difficult decisions must be made. Life changing decisions affecting both my mother and my father. Let’s bump that finish line out a couple more laps. I tuck my knees into the horse’s side and push through. OK, my job is going to end giving me more time and capacity to get my mother placed in memory care; my dad placed in an independent living community and disperse the contents of their home. At that point I will head to the winners circle and collect the purse. What? My husband has cancer? Are you fucking kidding me?

100% honesty here. After the shock wore off I was pissed. Angry in a selfish, poor me, kind of way. I had plans! I had this forced retirement all mapped out! My to-do list was a mile long! And then it hit me. Life is not about control. Life does not present itself in a neat package complete with a well written instruction manual. If we are provided any guide at all it looks more like something from an IKEA manual – what exactly is that chubby little guy trying to tell me?!? Life is not always an easy journey.

I have to adjust my plans. I have to cut that to-do list down to what really matters. Mike’s surgeon said something to us that touched a spark in my very soul. “After your surgery you need to plan on being off work for six weeks. Technically, even with your line of work, you could probably go back sooner, however, you have many years to work…take six weeks off to heal from cancer.” 

How often do we push through? Get back to work as soon as possible? Grip the reins and steer the horse? What if…? What if we not only give the horse his head but also relax our knees and sit upright? Or maybe we need to let go completely and lay boneless against the horse’s neck, arms dangling to each side, trusting that the horse will find its way back to the barn?

Mike is going to take his six weeks off to heal from cancer and guess what? I’m going to do the same. This is not a vacation, there are things that will need to be done, but my approach will be different. I will move forward with settling my parents; I will need to do whatever needs to be done for Mike; I will also do what needs to be done for me. I will ask for help as necessary, I will admit when I am not strong. For the first time in 30 years I will not have to meet the challenges of life while also managing a career.

I urge you all to assess what is important at this time in your life and focus your energy there. Let the other stuff fade in importance or even fall completely away. What is important will be different for each of you. Don’t judge yourself by what is important to your friends and family. Realize that over the years what is important will change often so be flexible. I’m winding down and am at the end of my career years, but for some of you, your career and building financial stability for your family may  be important now. Maybe finishing school is high on your list. Maybe building relationships, or focusing on health or paying off debt is on top for you. Make room for the things that matter.

You have many years (or not) to do X, Y and Z…but you only have a limited time to [insert priority items here]. You define your winner’s circle. You, and you alone.

Fuck the C-word.

My husband has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. So, there’s that. I know it is hard to hear but I have decided there is no way to slip that delicately into casual conversation or ease it into a post.

In this post my goal is to just give you the details as we know them and the promise to return often to tell more of our story. A lot has happened between and during each step below. We encourage you to share this journey with us and feel free to ask questions; we welcome the chance to share what we know. Knowledge is power.

It begins:

  • Mike had a blood test that showed elevated PSA levels – moderate but not off the charts.
  • Then a second blood test – slightly higher PSA, hmmmmm, we need “next steps”, which means a biopsy.
  • A prostate biopsy is a minimally invasive, 20 minute, office procedure. Mike calls bullshit on that statement. He was on the business end of having 12 core samples taken from his prostate. He was awake for this procedure. He says “Minimally invasive my ass!” Literally.

The results:

  • They found indications of cancer in the 12 core samples. In each instance of cancer that they found they ranked the severity from 1 low to 5 high. The majority of what they found was at stage 3 but there were some occurrences  of stage four giving Mike a Gleason score of 3 + 4 = 7 which is better than a 4 + 3 = 7 as that would mean the majority was 4 with lesser amounts having 3. So, that’s a win for our team.
  • Statistically he is young for this stage of prostate cancer and to do nothing is not an option. The choices are either radiation or surgery.

The options and final decision.

Surgery pros:

  • It is done, one fell swoop. Remove the prostate.
  • They remove the surrounding lymph nodes and test them as well.
  • They get a visual of what is going on inside you and can take additional tissues samples if there is any indication the cancer was not contained to the prostate.
  • Afterwards you have an expected PSA level of zero and testing routines to detect additional cancer or reoccurrence. If not, prostate cancer cells are on the loose.

Surgery cons:

  • Very invasive. One or two day hospital stay.
  • Catheter for two weeks. (Mike is thrilled about that one!)
  • Six weeks off work. (Did I mention Mike just started a new job at the end of January?!? No sick leave, no FMLA coverage.)
  • All the normal risks of surgery.

Radiation pros:

  • Less invasive.
  • Equally as effective as surgery.

Radiation cons:

  • Treatment is 5 days a week for 9 weeks. I love my husband, but ya’all know that he is NOT a patient, long-haul kind of guy.
  • If not successful it makes surgery a more difficult process.
  • Ongoing benchmarks and testing are more difficult. PSA levels can fluctuate, therefore, not being a good indicator of additional cancer or reoccurrence. It can create many false positive situations.

The decision.

Oregon Urology and OHSU (more on their role in a future post) agree that Mike, as a younger, healthier man would be better served by surgery and we agree. Radiation is a better choice for someone older or whose health would be compromised by an invasive surgery.

Yesterday we met with the surgeon we selected, Dr. Kollmorgan with Oregon Urology Institute. We feel very fortunate to have him. He has done over 600 prostate removals and will be assisted by another physician who is just as skilled as he is. Mike is scheduled for surgery at RiverBend Hospital on April 5th.

The game is on.


*Never Fucking Quit. You will see this a lot in my blog and on Facebook… both in my posts and in many of my friends’ posts… in honor of our friend and the fiercest cancer fighter ever, Chris Olafson. It was his mantra and we carry it on in his memory.



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