Taxes and Time Capsules

Taxes. Is there anything that fills the heart with more dread than dragging out the files (or shoeboxes) of receipts and putting together a coherent story for your accountant?

I’ve been in the thick of my tax prep today, with three bins of documents headed for the shredder dating back to 2007 (why am I keeping ten year old documents? I have no answer.)

Having been self-employed for a good bit of my life, I tend to keep all receipts, even ones that I probably don’t need–just in case. And after a decade, some of the receipts are pretty well worn, and I have no idea what they were for.

But a lot of the receipts are still clear and easy to read, and I find it is taking me ten times longer than it should to get them to the shredder because it’s as if I’ve opened a time capsule as I look at them. Who knew doing taxes would be like reading old pages of your diary?

I know that I traveled a lot those years, because I’ve got every boarding pass ever used. See what you’re missing out on, those of you who do the mobile boarding pass thing? How many of your trips do you remember?

I can tell you that I went to New York in 2006 and again in 2007, because I have boarding passes for flights from O’Hare to LaGuardia and receipts for the Helmsley Hotel. Those trips? For meetings at the UN I was attending while working on getting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities passed.

Boarding passes for flights to Doha, Qatar in 2008 and 2009? I was invited to attend the Shafallah Forum, an international conference on disability issues hosted by the Shafallah Center, a center created to provide education for children with disabilities in Qatar. And the best memory of that trip? That it was my husband’s first trip out of the country, and we took it together. I remember thinking how brave it was of him to jump on a 15 hour flight no questions asked just to be with me. I don’t think he slept a wink the whole flight. Me? Dinner, glass of wine, lights out. Not the best travel companion for a nervous traveler, but he made it through and we had a fabulous trip.

A hotel receipt for LaFonda in Santa Fe? That’s where I spent my first wedding anniversary.  Wandering the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, drinks at the Inn of the Anasazi on their lovely heated outdoor patio, breakfast at Tia Sophia’s where I get my huevos rancheros “Christmas” style, with both red and green chile.

Receipts from the Silk Market in Beijing. I was there during the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Jesse was with me again, by this time a veteran international traveler. In addition to seeing the Games, visiting the Great Wall, and the Forbidden City, we learned all about how to shop like a pro at the Silk Market, how to haggle with the vendors like we belonged there.

United Airlines receipts for Copenhagen. That’s where I went for the Chicago 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid presentation to the International Olympic Committee. There, I got to share the stage with President and Mrs. Obama to make the case why Chicago should get the Games. We were not successful in our pitch, but it is a day in my life I will not soon forget.

Wonder what memories next year’s time capsule will unlock?

Johnny, Jeffrey, Lyle

Johnny Carson, Jeffrey Osborne and Lyle Alzado. An unlikely trio, forever entwined in my memories.

It was late December, 1983, and me, my twin sister Laura, and four fellow Illini fans were on the red eye to LA to see Illinois take on UCLA in the Rose Bowl. We had tickets for the game on January 2, but decided to make a longer vacation out of it since we were on semester break.

We got off the plane at somewhere around 6 a.m., and headed straight for the Burbank Studios to get in line for Johnny Carson tickets. There was already a long line of people assembled, but even though it was early in the morning, there was a party atmosphere to the crowd. We were there to see Johnny, after all!

Somewhere around 10 a.m., bleary eyed and tickets in hand, we headed to our hotel where 6 of us were sharing one room for the week. Don’t judge….we were college students! Naps, showers and some food later, we were headed back to the studios to stand in line for round two. I can’t imagine why you’d go through the trouble of standing in line at 6 a.m., only to not show up later, but what do I know?

So, we stood in line again, got in the studio sometime between 2-3 p.m., got to our seats and had to sit and wait. The studio was freezing cold and we were in shorts and tee shirts.  But we had our tickets and we were going to see the king of late night, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. We were all so excited!

Soon enough, the man himself was on the stage delivering his brand of pithy humor with Ed McMahon, his forever sidekick there on the couch and Doc Severinsen leading the band. This was my first brush with celebrity like that, I have to admit I was a little starstruck.

The first guest? Some guy, can’t remember his name, who did an act twirling plates to music. Might have had a Vegas act or something, Not something anyone would pay to see today, but then it was kind of a thing.

Next up? Jeffrey Osborne. His song, “On the Wings of Love,” was recently released, and we got to hear it live and in person. I liked the song already. Getting to hear it live? Icing on the cake.

So where does Lyle Alzado fit in? For those of you too young to remember, he played football with the Denver Broncos, then Cleveland, then LA. He died of brain cancer in the early 1990’s which he ascribed to his lifelong steroid habit. He wasn’t a guest on Carson that night, but he was in the audience. He was actually sitting right in the row behind me. When the camera panned to him as Carson introduced him to the audience, you could see me on the screen. My five seconds of fame! Friends at home who were watching saw it; unfortunately, I never got to. But hey, I was there, right?

The game? Unfortunately, the Illini left their best back in Champaign, and lost big to UCLA in the Rose Bowl that year. But that loss didn’t overshadow the highlight of the trip for me–I got to see Johnny Carson!

In Pursuit of Healthcare

As a child, I had no idea. No idea that because I was born with cerebral palsy, that I would spend the rest of my life making decisions because of access to (or lack of access to) health care.

As a child, I had health insurance through my parents. Never gave it a second thought. My parents always worked and one or both of them had health insurance. I knew when I went to the doctor, we could afford it. I knew when I had the first of a handful of orthopedic surgeries that I had over the span of nearly a decade from my teens to twenties that we weren’t going to be forced to choose between keeping the lights on or getting me the surgery I needed. I needed it. I got it. Done.

After college, that all changed. During my first job, which, as karma would have it, was selling individual health plans for a small HMO, I was rudely introduced to the real world of health care. The world where “pre-existing conditions” existed, and where cerebral palsy was considered one. Where, even with that, I could get the health insurance we were selling because I worked for the company, but I couldn’t sell it to anyone with a family member with a disability because of their “pre-existing condition.” The one piece of that experience I’m grateful for is that it lit the advocacy fire in my heart. Other than that? Not so much.

They did me the favor of laying me off with 35 other people the Monday after Christmas one year. There was no COBRA back then, and I had no insurance for the first time in my life. I was a pretty healthy 20 something year old with no more surgeries, procedures or medications on the horizon, yet simply because the words “cerebral palsy” were attached to my medical file, I could not get an individual health insurance policy.  I spent most of the next trying to get a job, taking one at half the salary of my first job because–you guessed it–I got health insurance again.

This scenario has played out again and again in my life and it pains me to think that with the attacks on the Affordable Care Act we’re about to return to that time and place. Where me and people like me will be defined and excluded by a diagnosis. Where people with disabilities will be forced to choose between health care and rent. Prescription drugs or electricity.

Access to good, affordable health care is not a luxury–it is a necessity. And it should not be tied to a particular size employer or a particular job. Why? It’s simple.  If we aren’t healthy, we can’t go to school, learn and grow. If we aren’t healthy, we can’t work and contribute to the economy.

The anewer? We must have access to good, decent, affordable healthcare for each and every one of us, from the tiniest baby to the oldest living American. No one should have to make the choices we are forcing people to make in the name of health care. Not me. Not anyone.

The Affordable Care Act was a start in the right direction. Not a perfect piece of legislation, but a good start. It provided millions more people with health care than ever before. So why the rush to gut it? Who does that serve? Stripping away Medicaid coverages that allow people with disabilities to remain independent in their homes and contribute to society instead of being warehoused in institutions. This will make us “great again”? I don’t think so.


For the Girls

There’s this perception that women are critical of each other, unsupportive, backstabbing, judgmental, catty. That we’d sooner step on each other than lift each other up. I disagree one hundred percent.

Today is International Women’s Day. I can think of no better way to dispel those myths about women and how we relate to each other than to point out some of the wonderful women who are part of my life and how they’ve helped me to become the woman I am today.

My mother, Dorothy, who not only shaped my life, but gave me life. She was one of the most genuinely kind and loving, nonjudgmental people I’ve ever known. She made our home into the place all of our friends wanted to be, with her warmth, her infectious laugh, her wonderful cooking, and her love of having a house filled with the noise of youth. I miss her every day.

My twin sister, Laura. Sharing a womb with someone definitely creates a bond that is different than any other. Though we don’t see each other every day like we did growing up, she was and is my cheerleader, my protector, my confidante, and my friend. We have that twin thing going where the phone rings and I know it is her. We’ve checked out the same books from the library at the same time without knowing we’re doing it. Though we aren’t identical, our voices are a really close match, especially on the phone. We’ve played some fun pranks with that! We share a love of travel, of music, and of family and we always have a great time together. We’ve shared a whole life together, big moments, little moments and everything in between. So grateful to share it with her.

My older sister, Donna. At 16, she became a big sister to me and Laura. Some teens would think it was horrible that their older parents were having more children, but not Donna. She loved her big sister role and really enjoyed spoiling us. She’d buy us cute clothes and nice toys all the time. I remember at age 8, she bought us these adorable mini skirt outfits with white gogo boots. She also loved music, and listened to a lot of Motown when we were young. I picture her dancing in the living room whenever I hear a Supremes song. She is always there to lift me up when I’m down, to listen when I need to talk, and to catch a movie and a coffee for some sister time. How lucky am I?

My sister Judy. So grateful that she found me and that we are getting the chance to know each other, that we’ve had the chance to spend a few holidays together, and that she was there to celebrate 50 with us.

My friend Ellen, who I knew from 6th grade, who left us way too soon last September. Junior high and high school dances, sleepovers with all three of us in one twin size bed. First kisses. First boyfriends. Going to college together. Weddings. We shared so many moments of our lives together; there’s a piece of my heart reserved just for her.

Cindy, a friend from college, who is one of those people I now see once or twice a year but it is as if no time has passed at all when we do get together again. She is raising two adopted girls as a single mom and has built a successful business, too. I can always count on her to remind me of my good qualities and push me to live up to my potential.

My friend Stephanie, who I met through wheelchair sports over twenty years ago. She’s also a single mom raising a beautiful daughter, and a fabulous friend. She is absolutely loyal and devoted and I can trust her with anything.

My friend Linda who I met living in Virginia. Who knew that we’d both leave the nonprofit world to pursue careers in law within years of each other and remain fast friends all these years later?

My law school friend Kee Kee. We might see each other once every couple years, but like with Cindy, there’s a deep connection there that transcends time and space.

My college wheelchair basketball teammates Ann, Sharon, Sherry, Barb. Without them pushing me to look beyond my self imposed limits, I never would have gone the places I’ve gone and done what I’ve done.

My friends Gloria, Taina and Estela with whom I’ve shared many wonderful Mexican meals, a margarita (or two), salsa dancing and beautiful friendship.

Another friend Cindy who I met through my husband. We hit it off like we’d been friends forever. Cindy helped me every step of the way when I was running for judge–couldn’t have done it without her.

On this International Day of Women, I salute each and every one of these women, for their fabulousness, their fierceness, their beauty, inside and out. Thank you for being in my life–I love you all.



Well Adjusted

Today, I’m incredibly well adjusted. Not in the emotional sense, although I’m doing pretty good there. I am feeling well-adjusted because I just went to my chiropractor for the first time in four or five months.

I can always tell it has been too long when I start feeling my shoulders up around my ears, when I can’t bend forward very far or very well, and when my chest feels tight and my breathing gets difficult.

I didn’t mean to go so long, but I’ve been traveling for work for a month or two at a time which has made it challenging to say the least to try to schedule things like this.

Yes, I’m sure there are chiropractors in the places I’ve traveled. I haven’t exactly been in the jungle somewhere, you know? But I couldn’t bring myself to try someone new. My chiropractor knows me, knows my body and how it works. I couldn’t imagine starting again with someone new..

I have been seeing him for at least ten years, maybe twelve. The first time I went to see him, it was because I bent over while sitting in my chair to get dressed. Something went “snap!”, and I couldn’t sit up. I was home alone and spent several minutes doubled over thinking “what the hell am I going to do?”

Somehow, I managed to crawl out of the chair onto the bed, jeans still around my knees. I could barely breathe it hurt so much. Lucky for me, though, my cell phone was on the nightstand next to the bed. I was able to call my husband, who came home as fast as he could.

My sister recommended I see her chiropractor. Though I’d never been to one, I figured it couldn’t hurt and might even help, so I went. Literally, after the first treatment I was upright again and my back pain was gone.

I was an instant fan. I have been many many times since then, to keep my back, neck and shoulders in shape, to open up my lungs so I can breathe better and stave off asthma attacks,  and to help with allergies and sinus issues. It is amazing how one adjustment releases so much tension in your body that you didn’t even know you were holding onto.

So, now that I’m back home, I realized it was time to get reacquainted with my chiropractor. He has a new satellite office in the city, in a cool building attached to a training gym, and it is less than half the distance I was traveling to his suburban office.

We start with a little catch up. Work. Vacations. Family. Then, I tell him what’s hurting, stiff, sore, uncomfortable. And, he goes to work. He finds points I didn’t even know were sore on my back, neck, shoulders. I feel the muscles release, my shoulders relax back down away from my ears.

I leave feeling refreshed, relaxed. Almost like I’ve had a spa day. Happily well adjusted–that’s me.

Twist or Dunk? How to Eat an Oreo

Black and white Oreo cookies one being dunked into a glass of milk on a blue background

The question of the day? Dunk or twist. Nope, not a dance move or a basketball maneuver. Today, in celebration of National Oreo Cookie Day, I pondered both the meaning of life and the answer to the question burning in my mind…just how do you eat an Oreo?

As a little girl, I can remember always having a package of Oreo cookies in the pantry. My father took four in his lunch every night. Not two. Not five. Exactly four. Every single night.

So, lucky girl that I was, I often had Oreo cookies and milk for an after school snack. Once in a while, my mom would make them extra special by putting chocolate frosting on them when she had leftovers from making a cake. Yum!

But I digress. Back to the question of the day. How do you eat an Oreo? It seems there are two distinct camps–the twisters and the dunkers. As a kid, I was absolutely in the twister camp. Take the Oreo in both hands, twist open. Eat the filling first, usually scraping it off with your teeth. Then, take each side of the sandwich cookie one at a time and eat.

My father? Squarely in the dunker camp. Take your Oreo, dip carefully into a glass of milk, or, like my Dad, a cup of coffee. Bite off the dunked piece, enjoy and repeat, bite after delicious bite, until the cookie is gone.

Twisters usually don’t like dunking for a couple reasons. One, because it leaves crumbs in your glass or cup. My Dad the dunker? Not bothered. He’d dunk his Oreos and then drain the cup of coffee, crumbs and all. Two, because they like the cookie to stay crunchy, which it won’t particularly if it is dunked in hot coffee.

Dunkers, on the other hand, tend to like the fact that dunking makes the cookie soft, edible in one or two bites. They like the extra flavor from the milk or coffee, too.

There is also an age difference between the two camps. Twisters tend to be younger, kids and teens. Dunkers tend to be older, more mature adults. I’m sure that doesn’t hold true 100% of the time, but at least in my family it did. Plus, since I’ve gotten older, I’ve joined the dunker camp, though I prefer coffee to milk (and I have to admit I do enjoy a twist every now and then.)

I am not going to address the new flavor varieties in this post. Why? Because they aren’t Oreos. The only Oreo that I acknowledge is the chocolate sandwich cookie with the vanilla flavored filling. Not chocolate frosted (though I did love the ones my mom frosted). Vanilla? No. Mint? Definitely not. Birthday cake? Ugh. Don’t get me started on that one.

I know that some of you will disagree with me, and that’s ok. That’s what makes the world go ’round, isn’t it? But me? Give me a plain old original chocolate Oreo cookie, and a cup of coffee to dunk it in. Mmmm!

So, how do YOU eat an Oreo?



A Happier Tale…of Two Cities

Woman with long blond hair in blue period gown from French Revolution holding an infant swaddled in a blanket being embraced by tall brown haired man also dressed in green period costume
Connor Pils and Elizabeth Routzahn in Prairie Ridge High School production of A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Most of us have read or heard those lines before–in a high school or college literature class, perhaps?

I can honestly say I didn’t remember anything about the story other than those lines. But last night I had the pleasure of experiencing the Dickens classic tale as a musical at Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake, IL. I was simply blown away by the quality production they put on.

By way of full disclosure, my nephew Connor Pils had one of the lead roles as Charles Darnay. Disclosure aside, this production was simply gorgeous. From spot on period costume to simple set design that allowed the music and characters to tell the story, if I wasn’t in a high school auditorium in the far reaches of suburbia I would’ve sworn I was in a theatre right in the middle of downtown Chicago.

For those of you who don’t remember the story, Darnay was the French aristocrat who denounces his evil uncle, the Marquis St. Evermonde, and all the family riches, takes his mother’s maiden name Darnay, and heads to London to be a tutor.

The Marquis vows revenge on his nephew, and plots to frame him for a crime he didn’t commit. Meanwhile, the love story. Charles meets the lovely Lucie Manette, they fall in love, marry and have a daughter.

The plot twists and turns between France and London. Lucie’s father, falsely imprisoned in the Bastille for nearly two decades, was thought to be dead. Lucie gets her father back only to be on the verge of losing her husband to the same fate, only this time for real.

Enter Sydney Carton, the drunken, self-serving lawyer who represented Darnay the first time he was arrested. Carton ultimately finds redemption through Lucie’s kindness, and repays that kindness with the ultimate sacrifice in the end.

For a story filled with such darkness and despair, there are also moments of hope, and love, and the possibility that dreams can come true.

Yes, I adored seeing my nephew up on that stage, hearing those clear, beautiful notes coming from somewhere deep inside him and filling the theatre with glorious music. I appreciated the enormous talent of this young cast and crew, and the hard work and dedication they put in to making this a first-rate production. But what also struck me about it was how perfect a message it was for the times we are living in right now.

In A Tale of Two Cities, there’s darkness and hatred and fear, and division between the aristocracy and the peasant class, the oppressors and the oppressed. Yet there’s hope for a brighter future that takes shape in the form of Charles Darnay, who in spite of his birth into the aristocracy feels a strong sense of justice, morality, and right and wrong. He’s determined to do what he believes is right and good no matter what is going on in the world around him, and hopeful that good wins out in the end.

Similarly, in the world we’re inhabiting today, there’s a darkness that has overtaken many of us. A fear that life as we’ve known it is over. A growing divide between the haves and the have nots, the 1% and the 99. And yet, there remains a glimmer of hope, that if we are good, and kind and true, that we will prevail and all will be right in the world again.

That is the message that I took from last night’s production, from the soul searing chords sung by my nephew and the rest of the cast. Good will prevail. It has to. Doesn’t it?


A Tale of Two Taxi Drivers

A tale of two….taxi drivers? And here’s where the story begins. I land at O’Hare, get to baggage claim. A customer service rep from Delta helped me get my bags and walked with me to the taxi stand. And that’s where things got weird.

The taxi attendant asked me if I needed an accessible cab. I said no. He said ok, take the next one, and waved me down the line. Me and the Delta rep headed to the next taxi. I rolled up, pulled open the door and started getting ready to get in.

The driver jumped out and asked the guy from Delta, “Is that her wheelchair?” I responded, “Yes, it is my char.” He then responded, “You need a wheelchair van.” I replied, “No I don’t.” He said, “Yes you do.” I repeated, “No I don’t. I can get in any cab.”

He said, “I’m not taking the wheelchair.'” I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. I said, “What?”, thinking surely I must have misheard him.  He repeated it. No mistaking the words. The taxi stand attendant, the rep, and me look at him. Look at each other. The attendant says, “You have to take her. She said she doesn’t need a wheelchair cab, she can take any cab she wants.”

The driver again said he would not take me. “I will not put your chair in my car,” he said. “That’s why they have a wheelchair van.”

I said to him, “You know what you’re doing is illegal, right?” He said, “I don’t care.” Plain as day. “I don’t care.”

I said, “You know I’m going to file a complaint against you.” He said (wait for it), “Go ahead. I don’t care.”

It did not matter what any of us said to this guy. He did not budge. Even when security was called. Same answer. No. Flat. Out. No. Finally, the taxi attendant yelled at him, “You refused her. Get outta here! Now!”

I haven’t been this upset since I can’t remember when. I was so angry, I wanted to swear, to scream, to hit something. I did none of those things. Instead, I feared up. And I got in another cab.

And this guy could not have been more different than Mr. Jerk who refused to take me. He put my bags in the car. Put my chair in the car. Asked me what route I wanted him to take. He was friendly and polite and kind. He talked about his family, where he was from in India. How long he’d been here, how much he liked Chicago.  He got me to my house. He got my chair out. He got my bags out. He carried my bags to the door for me. He wished me a nice weekend, and was on his way home to enjoy his weekend with his family.

I am so grateful that second driver came along. He didn’t devalue me, or diminish me. He treated me with courtesy and kindness. And he made sure I got home safely. Doing his job. And doing it well.

Flying the Friendly Skies

One of my earliest memories of O’Hare Airport is going there at age 3 with my entire family to see my brother off to Vietnam. I don’t know that I knew he was going to Vietnam, but I knew he was going “at the war.” What does a 3 year old know about that?

I remember the smell of jet fuel. I remember it was night time and already dark. We were all dressed up. People used to dress up to fly, seems strange now when you see people in pajamas, yoga pants, sweats, jeans. And, you could go all the way to the gate even if you weren’t getting on a plane. I remember we stayed at the gate, watched my brother walk down the jet bridge and watched the plane until it took off.

That’s the thing. Every day, people get on and off planes. Going to work. Coming home. Going “at the war.” Truth is, we have no idea what the hundreds or thousands of people we pass on the way to our own flight are facing or dealing with on their journey. Sure, many people are taking fun trips, Disney with the kids, some Caribbean island or European jaunt for a honeymoon. But there are others whose journeys aren’t all sunshine and roses.

On my last trip, for example, I met a guy who was making his every-three-week flight between Chicago and his tiny Arkansas home town to get treatment for cancer. He was traveling alone. He said his wife came with him sometimes, but insurance wouldn’t pay for her to accompany him, and they had to pay for it themselves, and it got expensive. So he came alone. To have his body filled with chemicals that would kill the invaders inside him so he could go home for three more good weeks.

I loved talking to this guy. He was in good spirits. He was reading Grisham. We bonded over that, talking about our mutual love of his fine writing. We compared notes on which book we liked the best, and then about the movies that had been made, and which actors did justice to the characters in the books. We both agreed that Denzel and Julia did a pretty damn fine job in The Pelican Brief.

Then, the talk turned serious. We talked about his cancer. How he’d been going for these treatments for several months, and he had a few more to go. And we talked about how blessed he felt to have found a place to treat him and give him hope, after his first doctor had told him there was “nothing that could be done.” He was grateful to have found a place where they treated him like a human being, with compassion and grace, instead of as a set of symptoms to treat (or not). He got teary when he shared this part of his story. I got teary right along side him.

I don’t remember his name. But as I’m traveling through airports today, I’m thinking of him, and hoping his journey is going well.

Going Home

Going home. After thirty days away. Living in a hotel that’s comfortable and clean, with nice people working at the desk. But it isn’t my bed. My desk. My couch. In a city with rolling hills, warm temperatures, and people speaking in a soft drawl that reminds me. I’m not home. Every morning, getting behind the wheel of a 2017 model car with a nice stereo and great gas mileage. But that isn’t mine either. Getting dressed and going to work every morning in an office building that’s a 45 minute drive away from my hotel. I haven’t had a commute in ten years. But it is good work. Important work. Helping people put their lives back together. And I like it. And I like the people I work with. A lot. People who are willing to be away from home for a month, two, three, six, nine. To do the work that needs to be done. And come back time and again.

And tomorrow, I’m going home. Back to my bed. My couch. My kitchen. My family. My dog Lucy. My cat Luna. I get to go home to the routine of my life. Where my commute is to get up from the bedroom and head down the hall to the kitchen, otherwise known as my “office.” Where I spend most days on the computer, on the phone, writing, reading, researching. Yes, I leave the house some days. To go to court, to a board meeting, to meet a friend for lunch or dinner, to visit my family, to dance rehearsal. But when I stay in the house to work? My work clothes are usually yoga pants and a sweatshirt.

When I leave the house, I drive a ten year old car that gets me where I need to go, but I can’t say how much longer that will be true.

And there’s my dog Lucy and cat Luna. When I’ve been away for a long time and I get home, both of them compete to see who can get closer to me. I get in bed, Luna presses up against the left side, Lucy on the right or across my feet. Can’t even describe how good it feels to have their two warm furry bodies pressed against me.

It takes a while for my friends to realize I’m home again. They get so used to me being away. It takes time to get included in the social circle again, to be included in plans, to be invited out. But after a week, maybe two, I slide back into the old routines and it is as if I was never gone.

But I’m not the same me that I was. I’ve seen things. People’s lives changed, drastically, dramatically. Never to be the same. Everything they’ve worked for, saved for, hoped for, dreamed of, gone. Just like that. And we are there to maybe get them back a little of what they lost. To help them start over. And then I go home.