So exciting! It's all set for next week!
I spent the better part of the day working on it. Dad had talked to his cousin J. and told him I'd be calling him to set some dates, becus we're both worried that if we don't have our get-together soon, before the snow flies, we'll have to wait til spring to see everyone.
Dad and I will be doing the longest drive by far, at about 4 hours down, spending one night and then heading back the next morning. I can't stay longer becus Waldo needs his twice-a-day meds and traveling with him would be out of the question.
I wanted to find a place to stay, and a restaurant for dinner, that was sort of midway between where J. lives in the York, PA area and where K.& R. live north of Philly. I was also hoping that by settling on the Lancaster area, it would shave off about 40 minutes from our drive if J. was willing to travel that distance to meet us for dinner.
He was, but he mentioned his night vision wasn't great (everyone but me in this group is in their 70s or 80s!), so then I realized that one of the places I was looking at for accommodations would allow him to spend the night with us for just $15 more dollars.
Of the places to spend the night that I looked at, the low end was about $80 and was mostly motels that got mixed reviews about cleanliness, and on the higher end was 5 or 6 story new huge mega hotels going for about $130 and up.
Then I found a private family farm in Manheim (200 years old, with 70 acres) with a freestanding small guest house with 2 bedrooms upstairs for me and dad so we could have our privacy but still be near each other.
The cost of $135 is actually cheaper than what we'd pay for a low end motel. Downstairs is a living room and kitchen, and the living room has a sofa bed, so I suggested to J. that for just $15 he could spend the night with us so he wouldn't have to worry about driving home in the dark and there'd also be plenty more time for us all to catch up, relax, have a glass of wine, etc. He liked the idea and plans on doing that.
The 2nd cousin is coming with her husband; we have never met them. She was the daughter of my grandmother's sister who was given up for adoption in 1945 and no one ever knew about her until I found her on ancestry. So she and J. are half-siblings. He didn't have any others. Wow, wow, wow.
I'm not sure if they will plan on meeting us and then returning home or possibly might spend the night somewhere nearby as well, but I don't think there's room for them at our guest house.
This all just came together today. I sent out an email in the form of an invitation to the "1st Annual Family Reunion of xxxx/xxx/xxx with all the details.
I told everyone to bring their cameras, any old photos they might like to share, and their favorite drinks. I will try to think of some snacks to bring for us as well since we will have full use of the kitchen.
So it'll just be 5 of us, or possibly 7 if the 2nd cousin's daughter (who is also a cousin) and her husband wants to join us, but i think it doubtful since she works and won't likely want to have a late night out on a work night. Unless she took the next day off. She was the one i initially traded emails with on ancestry.com because she managed the account for her mother. I think she's in her 40s.
I have some trepidation about the 4-hour drive twice in 2 days, especially as I prefer to do the driving due to my dad's vision issues. So I know it will be tiring but it will be so worth it. If i get tired later into the evening, this set-up is good becus i can just go to bed upstairs and the others can continue chit chatting if they want to.
I've never done anything like this before and it should be very interesting. I don't know if this will be a one-time event, that either through later disinterest or perhaps someone's illness, this is the one and only time we'll get to do this. Or maybe our relationships will deepen and we'll continue to include each other in our lives moving forward. Life's a journey, and it's sometimes fun to take paths not knowing where they'll lead.
I already know J. has a sad story about much of his life. He was married for 30 years to a woman, he told dad, who was a drug and alcohol addict. She died about 5 years ago, and he had told my dad it was a good thing because things had gotten so bad he had actually begun to consider killing her, and then himself. He has daughters, so maybe that's the reason he didn't divorce her.
I felt such a need to forge new family connections after my mother died, and probably also because my only sibling, who I'd never been very close to, showed me I couldn't count on her when the going got tough, during my mother's illness.
My mother's death taught me that life is indeed short. My dad and I were mulling over how our little family lost touch with our extended family, like probably many families do, due to getting preoccupied with the day-to-day tasks of earning a living and raising families, or simply moving out of the area. Certainly, in our case, an early divorce didn't help.
We all have largely public lives where we rub shoulders with dozens and dozens of people every week, but aside from our own immediately families, all the people we meet are largely acquaintances or even strangers. To find a few new people whom you can say are actually "family" is a very special thing indeed.
Is there anything else you think I should bring?
Archive for November, 2016
So exciting! It's all set for next week!
I wanted to wish all my SA friends a Happy Thanksgiving, and if you are traveling, safe journey.
This is so incredibly exciting.
Last summer, I had my DNA, and dad's DNA analyzed via ancestry.com. Ancestry spit out results showing about 30 "matches" of people who could be related. Of those 30 people, roughly 4 or 5 were "extremely likely" matches.
I reached out to each of the 4 or 5, but there was only 1 that even responded. We traded a bunch of emails and I shared a great amount of detailed info about my grandmother's family.
Because as it turned out, the woman I reached out to has a 70-yr-old mother who was adopted, and her mother had been trying for the past 5 years to find her birth parents. She knew the birth mother's last name, which was my Irish grandmother's last name, and they both lived in the Germantown neighborhood in Philadelphia.
We wondered if one of my grandmother's sisters was the birth mother. But this woman searching for her birth mother knew she was born in NYC and my grandmother's family all lived in Philly. After talking to my dad, I learned the story of about my grandmother's sister K. became pregnant out of wedlock (in the 1920s) and lived for the duration of the pregnancy in a room above a deli that some friends of the family owned in NYC. My dad's understanding is that K. did this of her own volition, so as not to embarrass the family, particularly as dad remembers there was a Catholic priest who lived right next door.
All I knew from my dad is that K. married her husband, Joey, at some point AFTER the birth. But things still didn't quite add up, because my dad had told me Kathleen had given birth to a son, and he was named Joey after his father.
ANYWAY, I got a phone call tonight from the woman searching for her birth parents. They found my phone number online and called me after talking to Joey Jr. and yes we are related and Joey is her half brother!
So apparently, Kathleen was pregnant with this woman and only got pregnant with Joey afterwards. I haven't gotten all the details quite right as I was so excited while this woman was talking to me on the phone and I was trying to jot down notes.
The birth father of the woman I spoke to on the phone had died, and Joey remembers seeing the obituary in the paper, and also remembered K., his mother, telling him he had a sibling.
This is all big news to us. The woman and her daughter are indeed first cousins to me and my dad. And you can imagine how meaningful this news is to the woman who called me, because she never knew who her birth parents were, or anything about their family, and after spending a lot of money on a detective unsuccessfully, had almost given up on ever learning the truth.
She must have known that her parents would be dead, given that she is 70, but now she has found two cousins, me and my dad, as well s a half brother, Joey! They are interested in getting together at some point. Dad wants to get Joey's phone number so he can call him and see if another sibling of my grandmother's, Peter, might still be alive. (The woman who was searching for her birth mother and her husband had called and spoken to Peter about 4 years ago, at a time when he was living in a nursing home; they weren't sure if he was related at the time.) So we don't know if he's still alive; it would be a very long shot, but possible.
Yes, my Saving Advice friends, I've been cheating on you with another personal finance website that reminds me a lot of Saving Advice....except that they have over 20,000 followers!
I had mixed feelings about mentioning it here because I don't mean to create any kind of mass exodus, but I have noticed for some time here that I'll look at posts on this site in the morning, and then come back to it in the evening, and there may be only 3 new posts during that time.
It worries me that this site may at some time be taken down without any advance warning. If that happens, consider joining me at Your Money and Your Life, on Facebook. With a larger body of people contributing questions or comments, it just makes for a more enriching conversation.
How I spent the day:
1. Decided upon a 3rd dish I'll be bringing for Thanksgiving.
2. Made a delicious tomato-peanut butter sauce (with garlic, onion, ginger, cumin and coriander) over spaghetti sauce for lunch and dinner. The sauce actually came from a recipe that included serving it over sweet potato, which was great, but the sauce was so wonderful I realized it would be good with the spaghetti squash or even any kind of grain like quinoa, rice or farro.
3. Did one load of laundry.
4. Wrote up 2 more "topic summaries" for NutritionFacts.org. This leaves me with just one more to write this week; my goal is to write 3 of these things each week, which to me is enough to feel like a contribution, week in and week out, without it becoming like a chore.
5. I took a half hour walk around the neighborhood. It was cold. I wore gloves.
6. I finished putting together my family research album so I can bring it to Jersey with me and show it to my cousin.
Tomorrow, I'm picking up just a few grocery items for my Tgiving recipes. I'll spend the day making my 3 dishes, doing another load of laundry and packing an overnight bag.
My cousin mentioned there MIGHT be a third guest at dinner, the former CFO of her company, an engineering firm, who is divorced. Could be interesting.
So I spoke to my cousin in New Jersey and it's settled: I'll be coming down there for Thanksgiving and will spend the night.
I'm making my red grape/dried cranberry relish, my dark chocolate-walnut-dried cranberry clusters and an as-yet-undetermined side dish. Which I have to figure out soon. She MAY have another guest, a CFO she used to work with who is divorced.
I'll wait til Wednesday morning to buy a few ingredients I need for my dishes, so the grapes are super fresh, and then I'll make them later that day and will transport them in my car in a small cooler with some ice packs.
I'm also bringing a few matted & enlarged but unframed photographs my mother took that my cousin might like. One of them is a duplicate of a framed photo I have.
Finally, I am also bringing a large scrapbook I'm just starting to assemble today of all my family tree research. I have had 2 large leather binders that I've used for years to showcase writing samples when I go on job interviews. I emptied out one and am using that for the genealogy stuff. Trouble is, I've nearly filled it up and haven't even covered 2 of the 4 grandparents' families. I've done so much work on it.
Anyway, my cousin is into this family stuff too and I'll know she'll be interested.
Who knows what the traffic will be like but normally it's an hour and a half drive. I'm fretting about the impact on my car tracking device but I am actually taking I-287 for most of the way, so I can just stay in the slow lane and try not to brake much.
If it ends up my discount is not as much as I hoped for, I will simply drop my collision next year and save myself $249, no muss, no fuss. It's a 2013 Honda.
When I return from Jersey, I'll need to bring the 13 pieces for the December art show featuring mom's work at area gallery. I have at least determined which pieces I want to include, drew up the inventory/agreement so we both know what I'm dropping off, with prices I'm satisfied with, and I also wrote a press release for the show, which the gallery owner can use in her local paper and on her Facebook page, and I'll distribute it to other local papers.
I still have to carefully clean and package the pieces, and load them in the car. It's a lot of work but if I sell ONE piece I will be happy. What's discouraging is when nothing sells and you have to take it all back again.
Let's see, what else? Oh, I think I have a buyer for a clamp and saw miter box that was my mother's. Asked $20 for it on Craig's List and buyer expressed interest in meeting me; I'm just waiting for his confirmation of tomorrow morning.
I am hoping to write up 3 more topic summaries for nutritionfacts.org before I leave on Thanksgiving. I want to keep the momentum going. I don't think it'll be too long before they go live online.
I was supposed to drive to another MS luncheon with someone I met at the last one, but she is now unable to go. She has MS and her walking has deteriorated and her doctor wants her to try a new drug (it's a chemo drug and he's using it off label) and so her appointment for that ended up being the day we were going to go to the lunch together. I just met this woman. I tried to be supportive. It would surely have to be bad if she's willing to take a chemo drug, possibly monthly.
I had a really nice dinner with dad last night. We went to an Italian place here in town and it was great. I read dad the latest letter I got from the German pastor.
I have conclusively determined that I can find old copies of The Bergen Record from 1930 and 1945 on microfilm at the public library in Hackensack, NJ, so one of these times my dad heads down to Rutherford to see his son/my half-brother, he'll drop me off in Hackensack where I can research for a few hours and hopefully find two newsworthy family events from those years. Maybe we can do it first week of December.
So, a lot going on. Job search is dead.
OK, Right Track is on the wrong track, as far as I'm concerned. I went from saving 22% on my car insurance to now saving just 13%, due to having had 7 "hard braking incidents" in the past 2 driving trips.
All of a sudden the Right Track gadget seems extremely sensitive. Yes, I was driving in heavy but moving traffic on the highway and had to hit the brake a number of times but I would certainly not call these "hard braking" incidents. I didn't jam on the brake.
Now I'm getting really concerned about my ability to keep my discount up if they record even softer taps on the brake pedal.
Geez. I mean, in order to have a perfectly clean record, aside from not driving anywhere in the 90-day period, I'd have to gradually coast to a stop nearly everywhere I went. I noticed the last "hard brake" was when I had to slow to turn onto my street last two nights ago. You don't want to slow more gradually or drivers behind you will get very impatient.
Joan of Arch recently asked me in another post how was the MS dinner lecture I attended last night.
I thought I might talk about it in a separate post here since 1. I think it's enlightening and 2. Many of you wouldn't know about it unless you had a certain chronic disease where this practice I'm going to discuss is prevalent.
When I had my first MS symptoms, the only treatment was prednisone, a steroid that totally dampens your immune system. MS is a disease where your body's immune system works in overdrive, attacking the protective covering (myelin) that surrounds the nerve cells.
But that was 30 years ago, and today there are probably a dozen different MS drugs to choose from. Some target specific symptoms and so they would be used only if you exhibit those symptoms, while others are used for different types of MS in general terms and have been shown to reduce the number of brain lesions that show up on an MRI or the number of relapses. This is important since with each relapse there's a chance your symptoms may not completely go away or may only partially resolve. So the fewer relapses, the better.
So I'm aware of 5 or 6 different MS drug companies (Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, Rebif, Tysabri, Gilenya, Amphra, Aubagio, Tecidera, etc) who have a place on their website where you can search for different lunch or dinner lectures (in addition to webinars) in or around your zipcode area. In other words, there are many of these talks going on all around the country at any given time. They are held at different restaurants or sometimes a hotel restaurant, like the Marriott I went to last night.
It's easy to register for a course online. (And when you show up they rarely ask you to sign in anywhere so theoretically you could just walk in off the street and enjoy a nice meal.)
There are usually about 30 people present. The pharma companies are pretty generous and allow each MS person attending to bring a few family members with them. You can also be an MS caregiver, or know someone with MS. I've noticed a lot of people who go to these talks take advantage of this and bring as many as 5 family members, and I think as a result some of the drug companies now limit "guests" to 2 additional people.
The lecture is a carefully vetted talk with slide show by an area neurologist about how the drug made by the pharma co sponsoring the event works, how effective it is, adverse effects (required) and how it stacks up to the competition (sometimes). The doctor can't veer far from the script becus it all must be FDA reviewed and approved ahead of time.
(Similar to how, when I worked for mutual fund companies, I had to make sure all the sales literature I wrote was reviewed by the NASD (now known as FINRA).
The doctor is paid by the pharma co. to talk. I only ever remember one doctor saying this out loud. The rest don't mention it. I don't know how much, but it must be enough to make it worth their while. I'm guessing in the neighborhood of $1,000.
I recognize many of the same neurologists talking at different MS drug lectures: they want to make extra money. This is not unique to neurologists; doctors in many specialties do this, and of course, this is a huge conflict of interest. How can you be sure that when the doc recommends one particular drug to you, that he's not just thinking about how much more that drug company paid him to talk than the others and he feels a degree of loyalty to them as a result? But this is our great American healthcare system.
There is usually some time given to review MS in general, or like last night, the topic was MRIs, but the Q&A from audience is usually more interesting because it's not scripted. Sometimes the drug company will also have an MS "ambassador," someone who has MS and travels to these lectures (probably also paid by the drug company) to describe their own experience with MS and of course, to talk up how great the pharma co's drug is.
Why do I go? Well, usually when I'm working, I don't have time or energy, but now I have plenty of time on my hands and I consider it a form of entertainment. I get to chit chat with other MS people and share experiences, I get a really nice meal at no cost, I get to hear other neurologists from the area speak (I'm not 100% satisfied with my current neurologist) and I can keep up-to-date on what other MS drugs are out there.
Last night was the first time I ever made plans to do something with other MSers I met at one of these meetings outside the meeting, but the 3 of us just seemed to hit it off.
I know they don't do this sort of lecture for every disease that exists, but they do it for MS because many of the MS drugs are given by self injection or IV infusion and/or they have some serious side effects, including death (Tysabri). Naturally, a lot of people will end up stopping the meds so the drug companies do these dinner lectures as part of their effort to keep people on the drug.
For the same reason, most of these MS drugs today cost $0 to the patient, provided they have PRIVATE insurance. The pharma co still makes money selling the drug even if the patient herself doesn't pay a dime.
I'm really not sure how or if Medicare covers these drugs; I imagine given their high cost, you would hit the "donut hole" pretty quickly and then have all costs picked up by Medicare after that. Something I will need to research eventually, but between now and then a lot could change, so I'm not going to worry myself about it too much now.
You might be surprised that any doctor would feel the need to earn extra $$ on the side doing this sort of thing since they are so highly compensated to begin with.
I can tell you from my experience dating a doctor 7 years ago who happened to be a neurologist, that this is not necessarily the case. Sure, he made a lot of money, but as a solo practitioner by choice, he made a lot less than he could have. Running your own office is expensive. He made $200K as I recall, but since he went thru a divorce with his ex who was a stay-at-home and raised their 2 kids, the court required him to not only pay her alimony but pick up all her health costs/health insurance until she turned 65. Not cheap. And being the sole breadwinner in the family, he also had to fully fund his two kids' college expenses with no scholarships. He would often talk about his financial challenges and was just counting the days when his kids were done with school and his ex turned 65! That's when, he said, he could finally fully focus on growing his own retirement savings.
Of course, he still leased a nice shiny BMW but when I was dating him he was living in what had been the family's small summer lake house. It was very modest and not updated.
Although he didn't do any dinner lectures similar to what I've just described, he did answer various online surveys for money. I can't remember who they were from but they paid pretty well.
I'm trying to consolidate all driving trips again so my Right Track score remains good.
So I loaded up the car around 2:30 pm with trash, recyclables, organics and a Good Will donation and dropped all at the transfer station.
Then I headed down to a camera shop 40 minutes southeast where I wanted to finally sell my mother's used cameras/lenses to. (I had called them months earlier.) I had a heck of a time finding the store, even though I had directions. It was 1 camera and 2 lenses. He took some time inspecting the camera and seeing that everything worked properly, then went to check with his boss but came and said his boss didn't want it or the lenses. I was very disappointed. I'm glad I didn't make a special trip just for this.
After that I searched around for a Walmart and found it so I could pick up some cat food. After that, I wanted to head north about 15 minutes to attend an MS dinner/lecture at a local Marriott, but once again, got all mixed up with the directions and it took me quite a bit longer to get there, but I wasn't late.
I sat with two other single women who were very nice (both also have MS), and we exchanged contact info for a possible lunch/get-together. They live near enough to make that doable. I also decided to go to another MS lunch lecture further out with one of them next week after she told me she was going, and she offered to drive me if I met her in her town, which is easier. The lunch happens to be at a very nice restaurant and it's a daytime thing, which I now have plenty of time for, so how could i pass up a free meal at a great restaurant with a new friend? I try to grab new socializing opportunities when I see them.
I'm thinking of going to Whole Foods tomorrow, and then Trader Joe's as I want to stock up on dried organic apple rings and vegan mac n cheese and maybe some fresh fruit at Whole Foods.
I've now written my first 3 "topic summaries" for NutritionFacts.org which I'm told were very good, on cherries, Brussels sprouts and hibiscus tea.
I've assigned myself 3 more topics for next week on sweet potatoes, pecans and onions. Sounds like a Thanksgiving menu! I will eventually branch out into diseases, health conditions and phytonutrients, but I figured writing about the health benefits of individuals foods would be easiest to start with.
A dreary, rainy day. We really need it. Sunny and fairly warm for November the rest of the week.
Cats caught a mouse around 5 am so I didn't get enough sleep last night. There were large drops of blood on my wood floors that I had to clean up.
Spent most of the day at the computer. It was a No Drive Day. Lunch was mushrooms, onions and carrots sauteed in a veggie stock over farro. Organic apple cider for mid-morning beverage and 2 cups black tea with Stevia.
I thought I would tally up time spent exercising since I've been tracking it using the USDA Super Tracker https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/physicalactivitytracker.aspx
I decided at the start that my goal would be at least 180 minutes of weekly exercise. That usually means walking, but I also count yardwork or mowing my lawn.
When I walk, it would work out to 6 days of walking a half hour each time, or, for example, 3 days of walking an hour each time. It really doesn't matter what the combination of time spent and how many days, as long as I get the walking in each week.
On a monthly basis, my weekly goal of 180 minutes of exercise works out to 780 minutes, or 13 hours of exercise each month.
Here's how I did since I started using this plan in May.
May 13.7 hours.
June 12.1 hours.
July 18.7 hours.
Aug 17.6 hours.
Sept 11.8 hours.
Oct 13.4 hours
As you can see, I exceeded my target in every month except June and September, arguably some of the nicest months to walk. I wanted to make my goal somewhat challenging to achieve but not so easy that it wouldn't mean anything. I do find that I have to make a concerted effort and plan ways to fit in the exercise every week. I tend to go for a lot of long walks on Saturdays becus it's the end of the week and it's my last chance to meet that week's target!
Ironically, I had higher counts in July and August, when I was still working, than in September and October, when I haven't been working and presumably have much more time. Hmmm. Bad me.
I know that inevitably, my walk times will drop quite a bit more, because when it gets below freezing I don't like going out so much; I don't like cold ears.
I reviewed some orientation materials for writing at NutritionFacts.org (my new volunteer position) and had a brief phone conversation with the person who manages the site's volunteers, just to be sure I understood what they wanted. Then I wrote my first summary, on cherries.
I really just want to build up a body of work there that I can point to as writing samples, I have TONS of writing samples but not as many healthcare-oriented, and I would like to hope this could open the door to that kind of writing down the road. A long time I got pigeonholed as a financial writer, which is ok, but limiting.
The nice thing is that I can assign myself topics by choosing from a lengthy list, so I can choose things I have a personal interest in. I'd like to wait a day or two to get some feedback from them before proceeding with the next two, just to make sure they like it.
I called my mower guy and told him I was good for the season, as at this point the grass is not really growing much and it's just certain areas of the yard that will need mulch mowing of fallen leaves (much easier than raking). I did some mowing yesterday and boy, did I feel it today.
I wanted to mow some leaves on the north side today, but unfortunately I hadn't replugged my battery mower in when I was done yesterday so the mower wasn't charged when i brought it out. It was a nice warmish day to mow, too. Tomorrow it will rain.
But anyway, by doing the last few mowings myself, I'll save myself some money by not having to pay him, give myself some exercise and save on gas I"d otherwise use to drive somewhere to walk, which I'm trying to avoid since I have the car insurance gadget on my car right now and total mileage counts.
I heard from my German penpal today, the pastor. He told me a little bit of his visits to the US in 2009, and about the time when he got pulled over somewhere in Nebraska, I think, for speeding becus he was doing 100 mph. I guess he's used to the autobahn. He said he was very nervous becus he'd heard a lot about American police, but the guy was very nice and let him go after learning he was a man of the cloth. I got a chuckle out of that story.
I have started watching a new-to-me series, Blue Bloods, with Tom Selleck. I've watched just the pilot. It was highly ranked by viewers though I'm not sold yet. Tom Selleck to me was never a really great actor; he's been around a long time but he never really stood out to me, and the rest of the cast isn't that strong. So will have to see if it improves.
The other show I started watching is Boardwalk Empires, with one of my favorite actors, Steve Buscemi. HBO programming has a certain stamp to me, basically, a lot of nudity and sex scenes, and this one's certainly in that mold.
I'm still not even midway through my 3 month period using Safe Track to potentially lower my car insurance, but they HAVE nailed me for my first instance of "hard braking, low severity."
I can see not only the exact time of this incident but the location on a Google map when I log in and look at my Safe Track dashboard. I think I was on my way to BJs that morning. I vaguely remember another driver turning across my lane in front of me, but I didn't think it was that bad.
I really don't remember any hard braking then, though there was a squirrel that caused me to hard brake in another location, which I hope doesn't register, because the incident reduced my so-far savings from 23% to 20%.
At least I still have plenty of time left to make up for this, and to be more careful moving forward.