Year

Year (noun)
the period of about 3651/4 solar days required for one revolution of the earth around the sun

In looking back on my entry from this same time last year, I wrote the following:

“I know the troubles the planet is going through seems insurmountable right now, but never underestimate the ability of one person or a small group of people, to change the world.”

Scientists now say, it’s very likely that they knew about SARS-CoV-2 as early as last December (a year ago).

As a professional communicator, I want to think that I can come up with something profound to describe 2020. Or that I had some major revelation about the world around me. But the fact remains, that even amongst all of the tragedy, there was still good this year.

And if I could have one wish going into the new year, it’s that we don’t go back to what was before, because it didn’t work. Before was very broken. If we “go back,” the lesson was lost, and people died in vain.

Be safe

Still I Rise
BY MAYA ANGELOU

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

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Family

Family (noun)
a group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit

To some, the true meaning of family means a group of people related by blood or ancestry. To others, it has nothing to do with genes and everything to do with love, compassion, and support. The definition of the word family can mean many things.

Three weeks ago today we lost the matriarch of my family, my grandmother Sylvia, at 104-years old. And by family I do mean both by ancestry and not.

I think people were confused that I wasn’t sad. How can you be sad about 104 years, weird yes, sad no? And, to be honest, she ceased being the grandmother I knew 10 years ago after her heart surgery. Though we had a few good years after that, as anticipated, she was never the same again.

May 1940

She lived life on her own terms until the very end. She once told our family that she was coming out of the apartment she’d lived in for 60 years feet first, and she was correct. She danced like no one was watching and ate the cake (A LOT of cake!). And she died peacefully in her own bedroom, with my parents by her side.

Born in 1916 in New Jersey, she faced unimaginable heartache and tragedy throughout her life, but also loads of love and happy times. Following are some of the many, many historical milestones she saw / experienced during her 104 years. Though I’ve never created that timeline for my own life, I can’t imagine it’s as much as she saw.

1914 U.S. entered WW1, which went on until 1918.
1917 All purpose zipper invented
1918 at two years old she very likely lost her mom to the pandemic. (20m people died world-wide, including 500k in the U.S.)
1919 Prohibition 18th amendment to the constitution is ratified, prohibiting the manufacture, sale, and transportation of liquor (later repealed by the 21st amendment in 1933); 19th amendment is ratified, granting women the right to vote (sort of); patent for pop-up toaster filed; first rotary phones
1920 NFL is started; device known as a radio used for the first time on a Navy plane; 1920s first model 2A hearing aid
1923 Walt Disney started; Schick razors patented; self-winding watch patented; first electric shaver; traffic signal patented
1924 first fax; first self operated residential elevator installed
1926 semi-automatic rifle patented; as fridge patented
1927 Charles Lindbergh makes the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight; first electronic TV was invented
1928 Mickey Mouse created; sliced bread invented; scotch tape first marketed
1929 stock market crash starts the Great Depression; foam rubber
1930 Masking tape invented; flashbulb
1931 Al Capone convicted; Empire State Building opened
1932 Amelia Earhart completes the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight by a woman
1935 social security act passed; Nylon discovered
1938 Fair Labor Standards Act is passed, setting the first minimum wage in the U.S. at 25 cents per hour; Superman created; first color TV
1939 to 1945 WWII U.S. declares neutrality in European conflict; U.S. enters WWII in 1941; Gone With the Wind; Wizard of Oz
1939 First air continued car
1940 Marries
1944 GI Bill of Rights
1945 United Nations is established
1946 Dad born
1947 Beginning of Xerox copier
1948 McDonald’s first hamburger stand
1948 to 1949 Berlin airlift; first Polaroid camera
1949 Nato established
1950 to 1953 Korean War
1950 to 1975 Vietnam War; 1950 Charlie Brown created
1951 Julius & Ethel Rosenberg trial
1952 Puerto Rico becomes a commonwealth; first hydrogen bomb is detonated by the U.S. in the Marshall Islands
1954 Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas declares that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional
1955 Rosa Parks refuses to give up bus seat
1956 Interstate highway system started
1957 Hoover produced its best selling model
1958 NASA formed; Explorer I first American satellite is launched; DARPA formed; Super Glue
1959 Barbie created
1960 Sit-ins for civil rights began
1961 U.S. severs diplomatic ties with Cuba
1962 first astronaut orbits earth (John Glenn)
1963 MLK Jr. delivers his ‘I Have a Dream” speech; President Kennedy assassinated
1964 President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act; Beatles visit the U.S.
1965 Voting Rights Act signed; Watts Riot; Pampers patented
1966 Miranda Rights established; HP introduced its first computer; TI first hand-held calculator
1967 First air conditioned NYC subway
1968 MLK Jr. & RFK assassinated; first 911 emergency system; Double Helix
1969 Armstrong & Aldrin lands on the moon; Woodstock; first Internet & email messages
1970 Kent State riot
1970 to 1979 CAT scan technology developed
1972 Nixon & Watergate; compact disc introduced
1973 Roe v Wade legalizes first trimester abortion; first cell phone
1974 Nixon impeached, resigns, receives pardon by Ford; first UPC scanner created; grandpa dies when they are both 58
1976 PET scan commercially available
1981 MTV started
1982 deadline for ratifying ERA passes without necessary votes
1984 First Apple computer; TED conference founded
1986 Space shuttle Challenger explodes after liftoff
1988 Patent filed for genetically engineered mouse
1990 to 2005 Human Genome project
1991 Break-up of the USSR; Iraq War I
1993 Bomb explodes in basement garage of World Trade Center
1995 Bombing of federal office building in Oklahoma
1996 Google created
1996 to 1999 Whitewater scandal
2000 Bush v Gore hanging chads; Y2K
2001 9/11 in NYC & DC; Apple introduced the iPod
2002 Department of Homeland Security created; “war” begins in the middle east
2005 YouTube created; Hurricane Katrina
2007 Nancy Pelosi becomes the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives
2008 Barack Obama becomes the first Black president of the U.S.; Facebook created
2009 H1N1 outbreak
2012 Pentagon announces that women will now be permanently assigned to battalions. Many women already serve making the assignments official, but still can’t serve in combat; Hurricane Sandy
2015 Paris Agreement (climate change)
2016 SCOTUS rules in favor of equality and declares same-sex marriages legal in the U.S.
2017 #MeToo movement

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Community

community

Community (noun)
the people of a district or country considered collectively, especially in the context of social values and responsibilities; society

I live in NYC, formerly known as the epicenter of COVID19 in the United States, though other states look like they might overtake New York. Whether it’s because they didn’t believe it or have poor leaders, either way the tsunami is firmly entrenched in Arizona, Florida, and Texas, among other places.

And I’m writing about community, because as someone living with multiple sclerosis, I’ve watched my online friends across the U.S. and UK go from panicking about the impact of COVID19 on them and their loved ones, to sarcasm (we stay home a lot so this is nothing new), to anger (why couldn’t companies make these adjustments to employ people with disabilities), and everything in between.

For me, the MS is actually the least of the things I worry about. I have allergy-induced asthma, so if I avoid allergens, I’m largely fine. But I know that if I catch COVID19, or any other severe respiratory illness, all bets are off and I might as well engage the old swan dive, since I never want to be hooked up to a ventilator.

Taking all of the above into account, I just can’t get past why people think face coverings are political. If you knew that a face covering could potentially keep you from getting cancer (and in some professional industries this is actually true) or diabetes, or a host of other life threatening diseases, wouldn’t you wear one? We knew condoms largely reduced cases of HIV/AIDs if you wear them correctly, and that’s considered an “invisible” disease. Though the death is horrid, so not sure how invisible it really is in the end. COVID19 is no different.

I wear a face covering while I’m outside and can’t distance. And in NYC distancing when outside, is nearly impossible. The only time I pull my mask down outside is if I am truly on a street by myself. And as soon I have a glimmer of another human being, I put it back up, and OVER my nose. Not on my chin, not over my eyes, covering my nose and mouth. Not covering your mouth and nose is like wearing a “condom on your balls” it does absolutely no good. (credit for this goes to a guy friend that said it quite matter of factly recently)

My biggest MS symptom is heat intolerance. And I don’t mean, “oy it’s hot out.” I mean over 80 with no humidity and over 70 with it, my brain starts to go pear shaped. So I don’t spend much time outdoors in the hot months, and now wearing a mask means I’m inside even more. BUT I still wear one when I go out. If I need to take it off owing to the heat, I will steel myself on a side street and make sure no one else is around.

I say all of this because I live in a community. I may not know any of the people outside of my immediate community in my building, but NYC is absolutely a community. There aren’t many other places in the world that live in such close proximity, and yet we seem to be able to manage it because (historically) we alter our behavior for the times.

Today I went for a long walk and stopped to pick up groceries and I saw people in line either without any face covering at all or standing on top of one another with them around their chin or not covering their nose. Covering your face when it’s hot sucks, I agree, but think about if you or a loved one has ever had surgery. Would you want the doctor, nurse, and other OR staff not wearing a mask or wearing it around their chin?

I wear a face covering when I’m out, regardless of the activity, because I am part of a community, and for the foreseeable future, it’s the right thing to do. And if you’re not, and there isn’t a REALLY good reason for it, you’re not a good member of the community.

Some images below that can be used on social media posts.

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Normal

normal

Normal (adjective)
conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected

I’ve always wondered what normal is and why anyone would want to be it? Normal always sounded so boring to me. And normal as compared to what? Is it what society says is meant to be normal? And at different points in your life there are different normals.

I remember back after I was diagnosed and so, so, so sick. The bargaining started. If only I could be my former self again. I don’t remember ever mentioning being normal.

Since COVID-19 slammed into the U.S. earlier this year, people have been talking about getting back to “normal,” but I think it’s really about stability. Humans are creatures of habit. We crave thinking that we have everything under control, when it’s really the illusion of control. We crave whatever version of normal is our own.

When you’re diagnosed with something like MS, life, which is already uncertain, has a bit more thrown into the mix. And good, bad, or other, the general population is getting a glimpse into what it’s like to live with a disability or our “normal.”

I have extreme heat intolerance, and I don’t mean like “oof it’s hot out.” I mean, if I go outside when the temps get to around 75F with humidity, my brain starts to not work properly. Or if I’m home and the building heat kicks on at 60F, I need the a/c on. So I’m largely indoors from May through September, with odd trips out here and there. My car hire bills for hot weather months might as well be a car payment and insurance.

Had trouble getting food delivered during the pandemic? Think about the elderly and disabled during regular times and compound that by 1,000 during a crisis. People who aren’t able to easily go to a market were frozen out of online delivery for weeks. I watched this unfold on Twitter re: people with cancer, MS, and other acute and chronic illnesses.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990, and yet companies are still not held accountable, after 30 years. People with disabilities have been looked over for jobs since the dawn of time, but literally overnight, we shifted to work from home for most of the corporate world, and suddenly, technologically, anything is possible (and in reality always has been). In theory, the “new normal,” should open doors for a lot more people. I only hope it actually does.

If we go back to the way things were, the lesson has been lost.

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Decade

shutterstock_1502928137

Decade (noun)
a period of 10 years

My gram once told me that I was the least sentimental person she’d ever met because I was throwing out an envelope that a card came in. In reality I am a very sentimental person, but once thing I’ve never really done is looked back. Is there a difference between second guessing decisions / choices and looking back longly / wistfully? Yes.

For me this decade brought illness and pain I couldn’t have dreamt up. It brought the things that everyone goes through in 10 years, but what it gave was much more. It gave me improved health, spending more time with family and close friends, a new path professionally, and more ability to give back to others.

So while it’s a new decade for everyone, and for me personally (turning 50), Jan 1 is no different from any other new day and the ability to experience life and opportunities to help others.

I know the troubles the planet is going through seems insurmountable right now, but never underestimate the ability of one person or a small group of people, to change the world.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful new year!

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Change

Change

Change (verb)
make or become different

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, has been quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life.”

Humans are creatures of habit. Most of us like the status quo, not rocking the boat, and the “idea” of a linear path. In reality, most of us experience the chaos and utter mess that life is, but in that chaos we can often find beauty.

chaos

The last couple of weeks has started a process of yet another change in my life. Not sure if it’s the whole with age comes wisdom thing, since the older I get the more I realize I don’t actually know. Or if the noises in my head have gotten quieter over the years. Or if being diagnosed with the MS 10 years ago, and what I’ve been through since has shown me I can get through nearly anything, but I’m good.

But now that I’m over the hump of “holy fuck,” which genuinely always happens. Like when I made the decision to move to D.C. years ago and had to postpone it by two months because I was having daily panic attacks. But once I make a decision it’s onward and and upward. So now, I am rather looking forward to the change.

When I started this blog several years ago, I used to jot down lists of words / topics to write about thinking that’s the way it “had” to be done, but now they just come to me, and I don’t actually write them until they are literally bursting out and I MUST get it down.

This evening after seeing Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach in all his glory), one of my favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd songs came on, you know, the one that everyone screams at OTHER concerts “ironically.” > Freebird > In it they sing about change and being free as a bird, although about changing relationships, and likely a love partner, being “free as a bird,” can be about any change in life.

“This bird you cannot change…I must be traveling on now…cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.”

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Ten

Ten

Ten (number)
equivalent to the product of five and two; one more than nine; 10

Ten – number of years, to the date, of being diagnosed with MS

April 15, 2009 – ten years of living with multiple sclerosis

Ten years ago I couldn’t see what or where I would be now.

Ten years ago I walked into a hospital in a small European city to get the results of a lumbar puncture from two weeks prior. Like a movie, I stood outside of the hospital for 15 minutes, knowing that might life would never be the same coming out on the other side. I took a deep breath and in I went. I met with the resident on duty, a name I’m not sure I ever knew, where I was told in a hallway, that the CSF results were 99% conclusive for multiple sclerosis. What’s next? Call the clinic after the holiday. Two weeks later I came home to New York and collapsed on my family and a neurologist I met, once prior, a few months earlier.

Ten years ago, I got MS for my 40th bday, but on the verge of turning 50 (geez!) in a few weeks, I look back and recall my neurologist told me that I would be ok. And that I would likely continue to live my life with mild disease burden. 

Ten years ago, I could never have seen what he told me. Ten years ago my insides were sicker then they had ever been, and yet looking at me, I “looked so well.” I couldn’t hear people, over the buzzing, literally, that I would be ok. That I would be more than ok. 

Some nights I laid awake 3,000 miles away from home, in a foreign country, wishing that I had a terminal illness so that I didn’t have to live the rest of my life in turmoil. It wasn’t that I wanted to die, I just couldn’t envision living the way I was at that time. 

While I am fundamentally the same slightly cracked, mildly scrambled, person I was prior to the MS, what I learned is that life probably wouldn’t have been too different had I not been diagnosed with MS. Meaning, I’ve heard people say that being diagnosed was life altering for them. That they found more meaning then if they hadn’t been diagnosed. 

While I have made friends along the way as a result, and hopefully helped a few as well, I would tie this convoluted “gift” up in a bow, and give it right back to where it came from without thinking twice.

Multiple Sclerosis doesn’t just impact the people who have it. It touches everyone around it. It’s like a super old ivy growing around a building. It can look beautiful, but yet wreak hell on anything it comes in contact with, strangling everything in its path.  

People like to use war analogies for diseases (warrior, battle, fight, etc.). Or I’ve heard so many times over the years, “I could never do what you do.” Or the phrase, “you don’t know how strong you are until you have no choice.” I cry bullshit to all of it. If people get sicker, does that mean they have fought hard enough and it’s their fault? I am not a warrior, I am not special. We all have our “things” to deal with and we do in our own way. 

Ten years later I am still a grand daughter, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, business owner, music lover, foodie, traveller, part-time contrarian, ever reforming type A control-freak workaholic, and questioner of science & medicine. 

Two years ago to the day, I started this blog & social media (Facebook & Twitter). Thanks to everyone who sticks with me and it. 

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Life

life

Life (noun)
a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings

Each person’s life is different, and how each person approaches life is different. What we all do have in common is that one day we are all going to die. They say the only things that are guaranteed in life is death and taxes, but let’s face it, even taxes aren’t guaranteed in this day and age, just ask the person masquerading as our president.

I think what we also have in common is that at any given moment, life can bring you to your knees, further down that you ever thought you could go. And in the next moment, you see a sunset or a flower, and it can bring you to the highest high.

For me, MS was like that the first few years. Fortunately the last two have been quite benign. And while most days I don’t hit those soul crushing lows, the what if does stick with me buried deep. What if I wake up and my feet are numb and it lasts for months. And then I come back to, but what if it doesn’t? I’m glad we’ve been in what if it doesn’t territory for a long time.

The life moments of peace my body experiences now, where it’s almost as if I don’t have MS, are more, than less, these days. Sometimes I look up after hours of working and think, “wow I haven’t had symptoms or thought of the MS for hours” and I am just me. While some people will say that they are “me” with the MS, I do agree to a degree, but I would be happy to be me, without it.

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Year

Year

 

Year (noun)
the period of about 3651/4 solar days required for one revolution of the earth around the sun

Whenever I think about the length of a calendar year, I can’t help but think of Rent. I remember seeing the Broadway production and thinking anything was possible. I used to think that about NYE, and inevitably would be let down by the seemingly over the top expectations on what the shift from one year to the next should bring. After all, Tuesday still comes after Monday.

Now I think of a year as any 365 days, wherein any morning you wake up can be the start of something new, it doesn’t need to wait until January 1. And I might argue that it’s probably easier to sneak new things under the radar any old day of the week.

I’m learning how not to dwell in the past and find myself getting annoyed with those “best” and “worst” lists or even more horrid, New Year’s resolutions. Every 365 days will have all of these things because life can be wonderful and messy all at the same time, but I guess that’s what keeps it interesting.

2018 was wonderful for me personally, professionally, and health-wise. I’m moving out of another year without having an MS flare-up because I just don’t have time for it. And while I’m shatteringly exhausted from politics and bad, self-serving people, I still believe that as a nation those are the sum of our parts and not the whole, and we will persevere.

Happy, healthy, prosperous to all and thanks for reading.

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Thankful

Thankful

Thankful (adjective)
expressing gratitude and relief

A – autumn chill
B – body that carries me day to day
C – city life
D – dancing
E – exercise
F – family & friends
G – giving
H – happy
I – ice
J – jam
K – kindness
L – love
M – music
N – naps
O – options
P – pizza
Q – quiet
R – red
S – sea
T – tough
U – unusual
V – visual
W – winter
X – no more xenophobia
Y – yippee
Z – zany

Thankful to those who continue to come on this journey with me.

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