Thanks and Gratitude 2016

This year has been a rough one. I’m waving goodbye to it with no tears, I won’t miss it at all. This is the year I’ve promised myself that I will be less cynical and more grateful for what I have.

I want to thank my mom, for being there when I needed her and standing back when I didn’t. Someday, I plan to be there when you need me, which other then holding up a tree in the wind, isn’t very often.

I want to thank my husband for being there for 41 years and realizing that he’s not going anywhere and he’s stuck with me. He’s become rather fond of me, like an old comfy shoe or mold. He still makes my stomach flutter and my heart skip a beat. Then again, my heart does that all on it’s own.

I want to thank my children, James, Mateo, Samantha, Alexandra and Magnus for being who they are and loving me for who I am. I want to thank their spouses and significant others, Joe Ramirez and Jim Barron. They’ve all weathered some storms, but they’re all weebles and they get right back up and trudge onward, perhaps a bit bruised and battered, but still the strong, capable, belligerent kids I’ve tried to raise. Keep on trudging guys, you’ll get to where you want to go. If I gave you nothing through your lives, it’s the tenacity and the strength to keep trying.

Thank you to the rest of my family, who through the years, I have become closer to. Thank you to my maternal uncle Mel Miller and aunt Maryann Digiovanni Miller who welcomed me to his 80th birthday party this year. I’m so happy I was able to join him and meet some of the family on that side. Thanks to my maternal cousins, Lisa Miller Katz and Christine Ceccarelli and their husbands, Evan Katz and Mark Ceccarelli that I recently met, who are both wonderful people. Thank you to their children, I’ve only met two of them but they’re both growing nicely into their roles in the world.

Thank you to my paternal side of the family. My cousins, Shirley Langlois, her daughter Tawni Pantera, and Susan Langlois. We’ve recently connected on Facebook and promised a family lunch soon, although we’ve promised before, I’m hoping it’s coming in 2017.

Thank you to the other family members, distant or departed that I’ve connected with this year. There were many lost children that I found, children that no one mentioned, that nobody knew about. Two of them were Herbert and Perley Riordan. I found out why their parents were absent from census records. They’d been deported when he was released from San Quentin in 1931. There was also the mystery of my 2nd great-grandmother, Mary Alice Hankinson and her family. I found her in the 1881 Canada census with Gilbert and Mary A Hankinson, who I assumed were her parents. Something happened to her parents, found on her birth certificate as James Hartshorn Hankinson and Susan Hannah Grant and Gilbert, a relative was caring for her. Her sister, Effie Hankinson was living nearby with another family. The Hankinson’s came from Lancashire, England, originally settling in New Jersey. When the revolutionary war broke out, they sided with England and ended up in Nova Scotia after losing everything they had. That’s a story still opening up for me.

There was the mystery surrounding Mary Elizabeth Markey, my great-grandmother on my maternal side. There was also the story of her mother Anna L. Conroy, a business woman whose husband, Thomas Markey had to sell land when she died to settle her business debts, which I will write about soon. There was Anne and Catherine Markey, Thomas Markey’s sisters, who died on the same day in 1904. The Markey line goes back to Ireland in 1810, when James Markey was born in the early 1800s and came to New York in 1840.

Although I’ve found bits of info on my paternal side, there are still great mysteries to explore. Like, what their names really were and where they were really from. I’ve sent my DNA away for genealogical analysis. We’ll see if that turns up any new rocks to flip over.

I want to thank friends who have stuck around for years. Chris Barrow and I have been friends since 2003. I regard him as a friend and a mentor and I’m happy to work with him whenever I can. We’ve called each other siblings from another mother through the years. Working on my genealogy, I’ve discovered that we share a genealogical location. Perhaps I will find out we really are related after all. I regard Simon and Laura Reilly as good friends as well, we’ve known one another since 2005.

Thank you to my childhood friends that are still with me. Jean Mumbleau and Toni McCarty and I go way back to high school. It’s hard to believe that we still connect on Facebook after all these years. I can thank Facebook for bringing back Oskar Avilla, a neighbor and playmate. His family is from Columbia and he currently lives in Bolivia. Oskar looked me up and found me and we have messaged one another several times. We played together in Sierra Madre, California when we were five and six.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank those that I’ve worked with this year.

Even thought we’ve lost so many beloved celebrities this year, I’m hopeful that the grim reaper has had his/her fill for awhile. Thank you to those that gifted us with their talent. There were so many that touched my heart, Florence Henderson, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Prince, and George Michael. I spent most of this week listening to George Michael songs.

I hope 2017 brings you all happiness and joy and most of all love.

Never Give Up

Never Give Up

If you’ve ever considered giving up, giving up on life, giving up on a task you’ve taken on, giving up on a new hobby, giving up on a job, giving up on a career, giving up on a relationship, giving up on anything at all, you know the agony and the simplicity of giving up.

I’m not dealing with one now, but they are always right around the corner, waiting for me. Dealing with adversity and problems has taught me many life lessons.

1. You can fix it. Think of anyone who has survived a terrible blow to their personal life, health, family, career and you can find someone who fixed their problem.

American playwright, Neil Simon, was watching one of his plays during rehearsal. Something wasn’t working, Neil Simon knew it, the director knew it. A piece of paper passed from Neil Simon to the director. It read “Don’t worry, I can fix it.” Neil Simon is best remembered for plays like The Odd Couple and The Sunshine Boys, he has written over thirty plays, he’s received more Oscar and Tony nominations then any other writer. Simon has been married five times. He and his current wife, Elaine Joyce, have been married since 1999.

I’m a fixer, I like to think that I can fix anything. It’s nearly impossible for me to think that something can’t be fixed. It’s what gets me through the hard problems in life. It’s easy to wallow in the misery of the problem, and sometimes that’s what gets you through. Sooner then later, you need to pick yourself up off the floor and get on with it. Action is better then no action. Worrying and being depressed won’t solve the problem, action will.

2. Every problem has a solution. You may not like the solution to the problem, but it will solve the problem. Shimon Peres said “If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact – not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.” Shimon Peres is 92 and until his retirement in 2014, he was the world’s then-oldest head of state. He wrote 11 books from 1965 to 2011. He and his wife, Sonya Gelman, married in 1945. When became president in 2007, they separated. She didn’t want him to take the position and she lived in alone in her apartment in Tel Aviv. She died in 2011.

A problem may seem to difficult to overcome at first, giving up without considering other options may seem like an easy solution. I like to analyze a problem, identify my solutions, consult with other people to get their ideas and then attempt solving the problem by trying the best alternatives.

3. Don’t isolate yourself. When you’re dealing with a problem, your first instinct may be to push others away and isolate yourself. You lock yourself away in your comfort zone, away from others. It’s okay to take some time to yourself to deal with the issue. At the same time, you need to get outside and breathe the air. Take a walk, go somewhere there are people. Visit your local coffee shop, the park, the bookstore (they still have them). Go see a movie. Go do something for someone else. Volunteer at a hospital, visit a senior center, volunteer to bring meals to the housebound. Focusing on others will help take your mind off what you’re going through, and help you to realize how you aren’t alone.

4. Reach out and connect with family, friends and others that you trust. The act of discussing the problem with someone can help you to see the problem more clearly and give you a new perspective on the solution. If you can’t trust someone close to you, consider reaching out to someone outside your circle. Therapists, counselors and if you are religious, a clergy, an attorney, a coach, some are available online, may be able to give you a new angle. Above all don’t push away someone who can help.

5. React, but don’t overreact. If you have a tendency to see any problem as a horrible problem without a solution, you’re going to spend all your time worrying and fretting. Stay calm and listen for that little voice that tells you the problem is insurmountable. That’s the voice you want to ignore. If you overreact to the problem, you are going to make poor decisions.

Charles R. Swindoll, an evangelical Christian Pastor, said “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

6. Dealing with a problem is a process. Let it happen. Acknowledgement and acceptance are part of the process. Don’t avoid the issue, don’t ignore the process that needs to happen. Most problems don’t go away without some kind of change. Sticking your head in the sand only works for ostriches. Life is a series of changes. You walk along your path, there is a valley is in front of you, no way to get around it. You descend into the valley and it looks like you’ll never get out. You finally reach a plateau, just enough of a change to get you out of the valley. Free from the valley, you amble along on this new found plateau for a while. You see nothing changing, it seems like you will never be doing anything but traveling this plateau, forever. Excitement envelopes you when up ahead is a mountain you need to climb, a way to get out, but a huge obstacle you might not be able to surmount. After a lot of climbing and slipping down and climbing again, you reach the top. Its beautiful up there, you’re out of the valley, off the plateau and on top of the world. You don’t see the missile that hits you and you’re back down in the valley. You aren’t dead, just right back where you started.  Relish the process, the problem and the process are meant to teach you something. Figure out what you need to learn to overcome and not repeat the problem. Your weaknesses got you into this and your strengths can get you out. You have to do the work.

Amelia Earhart said “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She married George P. Putnam, who proposed to her six times before she finally accepted. She disappeared during her final flight at the age of 39.

7. Write it down. When you’re going through a rough road, it helps to write down the journey as it happens. The act of writing the problem down, identifying possible solutions, the changes you can make in your life, and the steps you take to solve the problem, are a catalyst to getting to the solution. Looking back at the journal later could help you if the problem resurfaces later.

Soren Kierkegaard said “Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced.” He was a 19th century Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author. He journaled over 7,000 pages over his lifetime. He stumbled through life with a broken engagement, great criticism of his writing, a life long melancholia and inwardness. He wrote too many works to count, one was over 800 pages long.

8. Keep going. In the face of a big problem, the easiest thing to do is to give up. But giving up isn’t a solution to the problem. It’s surrendering to the problem, not solving it.

Winston Churchill, widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, has many quotes about not giving up. One of his most famous quotes was “We shall never surrender.” He also said “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Churchill attended the Royal Military College. Sandhurst. It took him three tries to get in. He was 65 when he became Prime Minister.  He made several speeches which are memorable for keeping the spirit of the British people going in the face of adversity during World War II. He wrote a novel, two biographies and several histories. He married his wife, Clementine Hozier in 1908. They lost one of their daughters to septicemia in 1921, she was three.

George Lucas said “You simply have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.” George is an American film producer, screenwriter, director, and entrepreneur responsible for Star Wars and Indiana Jones. He is one of the film industry’s most financially successful filmmakers. His first short film, THX 1138, was a critical success but a financial failure. His most famous film, Star Wars, was the highest-grossing film of all time for five years. He married his second wife, Mellody Hobson in 2013. They had one daughter by gestational carrier, also during 2013. They donated $25 million to After School Matters, a Chicago based non-profit the same year.

9. Hang on.  When all else fails, when you’ve tried everything, it’s time to hold on for awhile. Wait out the crisis. Don’t ignore what’s going on, but don’t make a decision if you need to wait it out.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” Roosevelt was the only U.S. President to serve four terms in office. He served during a time of worldwide economic depressions and total war. He survived polio that left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Despite this, he tried many therapies and usually appeared in public standing upright. He taught himself to walk with braces in spite of being told he would never walk again.

I like to think that in spite of whatever adversity you are facing, if you can just keep going, get through it and move on, you’ll survive and succeed. I’m not an optimist, I’m more of a realist with a bit of pessimism. But what has made me get here, and many others with far worse on their plate then me, is to remind myself to keep going.

Your problem’s solution may be just around the corner.

I Must Vent

I’ve been an insulin pump enthusiast since 2007.  I took a break for financial and to rest my weary stomach area, but I’m still an enthusiast, not a user.  My pump ran its life to its end this month and I received a call from Medronic, expressing their interest on renewing our relationship and getting me a new pump.

That means lots of forms to fill out, Dr appointments and so on.  So I began the process.  A bit behind the wheel before I even began, since December represents the end of the year and the end of my 2012 insurance deductible.  A new insulin pump is a major investment with our without the deductible, but not even a consideration without my insurance company kicking in.

The insurance company insisted on new paperwork as if I was a new pump user.  That means I had to see my Dr on the last Saturday before the end of the year.  I was seen and paperwork was signed and sent in on Saturday.

Phone call early this morning and a pump representative says the paperwork wasn’t received.  No problem, I have my own copy.  Scanned my copy and sent it in.  Received another call later in the day, the paperwork isn’t properly filled in.  The Dr office crossed of the Dr name and didn’t fill in with the new Dr.  Phone calls back and forth, we can’t identify the Dr information.  I managed to call the local pharmacy and use the internet to identify all the information.  The next phone call told me I had wasted my time, the forms have to be filled in again with the correct information and resent.

I’ve been rejected for the new pump.  Lessons learned?

1. Start the process on my own earlier.  If you need something done, you need to do it yourself.

2. The insurance company has nothing to gain, from their perspective, on getting me new equipment, supplies or medicine.  Don’t rely on the insurance company to initiate, process or complete any request.

3. Medtronic did their best to complete the request.  Or did they?  Shouldn’t someone have double checked the forms on Saturday before everyone closed for the year?  Instead of working with three or more people, couldn’t there have been a concierge type of person to make sure the process was completed properly?

4. I’m sure my Dr felt that putting me in at the last minute was above and beyond what was required and I agree.  Perhaps someone could have checked to make sure the paperwork was filled out properly and received properly?

Perhaps I’m asking too much.  Perhaps not enough.  The pump company will be without me as a customer.  The insurance company will be happy that I will be saving money.  I will be the one with the possibility of another year of high numbers, needles, and looming complications.

Ah, life goes on, doesn’t it?

Oh Wow

Steve Jobs’ sister, Mona Simpson wrote a beautiful eulogy for her brother.  It brought tears to my eyes.  She chose to be a writer so she could give him this gift, a send off, a tribute to a very special man, father, husband and a visionary and dreamer whose last words expressed his entire life: Oh Wow, Oh Wow, Oh Wow.  I hope we all get to see the same thing you saw, Steve.  Thank you Mona.

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs – NYTimes.com

Feel Free to Laugh…

I certainly did, right after the blood stopped.

Coming home from picking up my son at school. I had my cell phone, my wallet, my purse, two sets of keys in my hands and I’m trying to get it all together in order to unlock the front door of the house. We had two sets of storms, one after the other and my front area is damp and covered with bits of greenery from the trees and the wind.

My family has a long line of less then graceful people, we fall down when chewing gum and walking. I wasn’t even chewing gum. But my feet went out from under me. I see the next few seconds of my life flash in front of me. I see me falling head first into the large fountain, the two dolphins on it flying into the air and hitting the front door, making a dent, shattering the fountain and the dolphins. I have a rich imagination. No dolphins or fountains or doors were injured. I can’t say that for me.

I brace my fall, and save my iPhone by putting it into the dirt, my weight falling on my knees, elbows, wrists on the concrete. Ouch. I pull up my pant leg and look at my right knee, scraped free of skin. Lifting up the other pant leg, I notice a lump the size of a small lemon developing above my knee. Funny, I don’t remember that looking like that before.

After a short call to my Dr., he agrees to see me in his office. Nothing dangerous aside from my ego, the swollen knee, the bruises that will develop tomorrow, both arms ache, my wrist hurts, my scraped knee oozing. My blood pressure is 180 over 130. Evaluated for a stroke, but no, I’m just graceful. Go home with Naproxin and ice and a promise that I will feel much worse tomorrow.

Ok, you can stop laughing now.

What Are You Waiting For?

One of my daughters lives in Okinawa, Japan with her husband and two dogs.  Now, you have to realize that 35 years ago, I was on the same island with my husband for our very first military tour.  The one thing I regret not doing while we were there was traveling more often.  We did some sightseeing, the island has quite a few historical locations and the culture is quite different.  But I didn’t do any traveling off the island to Japan or anywhere else.  Then the kids came along and money and time dwindled.

I’ll recommend to you what I’m recommending to my daughter.  Do as much travel as you can.  See the sights, even if that means hitting the local spots around your hometown.  If the opportunity strikes for you to travel to a land far away, say yes.  Do it now, because life is short and you may never get the same chance.

Eat the food, experience the culture, learn the language of where you live, especially if its a foreign land.  But I’ll tell someone who is moving to a new city of state or across the country to do the same thing.  If you end up living in Paris, France or Paris, Texas, learn everything you can, see everything, eat everything.

If you’re a military person or married to one, you have no excuse that you’re bored.  Stop living on base and get up off your butt and out the door.  If you’re by yourself, just do it, if you have a spouse, kids, grab them and hop into your car, on your bikes or just go on foot.  Hit the beach, climb the mountains, visit the caves, explore it all.

Soon enough you’ll be on your last wish, don’t let it be that you wished you had seen more of the world.  What are you waiting for?  Go see the world.

We're Still Buddies Aren't We?

I’ve had diabetes for four years and my insulin pump for three. I spot other insulin pump users every now and then. If I catch their eye, I might wave my pump at them as a sort of salute “Me too”, I’m telling them. I battle the demon diabetes too.

Today I spotted a little boy two tables across from me at a picnic. He’s very carefully trying to shield others from spying his blue pump as he enters his carbs that he has in front of him for lunch. I decide not to flag him with my “pump wave”.

My grandson spots him too and looks up at me for recognition. Later the two of them are playing. The boy hangs upside down on the monkey bars and holds his t-shirt over his stomach to shield his pump, he plays alone. My grandson, a good four years younger, approaches him. Oh, no. My grandson points at the boy’s pump and back at me, he’s outed me.

The boy ambles slowly over, pretending to be busy at other activities. But I’m on to him. I’m a Grandma type, 52, and he’s only 10. It would be so uncool to talk to me, wouldn’t it?

He sits with his mom, sitting across from me. I give him a wave with my pump. We have the same pump I tell him. His eyes brighten and he displays the hidden pump, same one as me, different color. Suddenly, we have the world in common. He asks when I was diagnosed, I smile and tell him. He tells me he was diagnosed a long time ago, when he was nine. I tell him the pump is a whole lot better then needles and he agrees. We have a quiet discussion about the pump. I don’t feel so good he says, I think I’m low, and his parents pop out a juice pack for him.

HIs mom begins to discuss various diabetes related topics and he drinks his juice. I have to go, I give him another wave with my pump and he waves with his. We are diabetes buddies, forty years apart. I hope he finds another buddy closer to his age, although I’m pretty cool with all my body gadgets, I’m still a grandma type. I know very little about the embarrassment and isolation he feels. I’m way past that, I don’t care who sees my pump, I test my blood without regard for anyone looking, I don’t hang upside down and I don’t have a spiderman sticker on my supply case. But we’re still buddies, aren’t we?

Missing You

Back in 2000, I spent a week on Kauai. We had a great time until the day before we were scheduled to leave. That was the day it all went to hell and my heart problem reared its head again. I haven’t been separated from my 11 year old son since then.

This morning, we sent him off to 6th grade camp for a week. You’d think he was headed off to college by the way we’re acting. But the past year and a half has been such a living hell for us that this is just one more person to miss. I must come to terms with each of my children flying the nest, temporarily or permanently. I’m just not ready to let this one go yet.