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West Point Class of 1958 Sixty Years Later

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At the 60th Reunion of the United States Military Academy, a booklet was assembled to pay tribute to the wives and families of the career West Point Alumni of the Class of 1958.  Since my Mom passed away in 2008, my Dad’s wife asked me to contribute to the booklet on behalf of the Army years.

The Army Life

As Robert Harry Julian and Cynthia Simecek Julian’s first born, I am honored to remember my parents’ roles during Dad’s twenty-year Army career. Growing up as an Army brat meant living in fourteen places the first fourteen years of my life. I was almost eight years old before I realized that my life was very different than others my age.

Our Mom Cynthia was an amazing Army wife and mother, taking on the many duties the role of Officers wife required, moving our family around the US and Europe and making sure my brothers and I fully experienced the cultures and geography that this life afforded us. We toured Great Britain; watched the Edinburgh Military Tattoo;
learned to ski in Garmische; wandered the Acropolis; got lost in the Louvre; and traveled behind the Iron Curtain to East Berlin. The images of the Dachau concentration camps and the Berlin Wall are emblazoned in my ten-year-old memory. While at the time moving days were quite dramatic as it was always hard to leave my friends (my parents nicknamed me “Sarah Heartburn”), these experiences, with Mom and Dad’s emphasis on showing and teaching us all they could, are among my greatest treasures.

Not only did my loving, handsome and successful father provide an incredible example of Duty, Honor, Country; a terrific work ethic and unconditional love…he made me aspire to follow in his footsteps of career Army officer years before women were being accepted into West Point. To this day, over 40 years later, I can still recite much of the “Plebe Poop.”  While ultimately that was not to be, my life as the daughter of
LtC Robert H. Julian, US Army has shaped the person I am and the successes I have had. The ability to embrace change, adapt to new circumstances, communicate, treat challenges as opportunities, and the belief that I could achieve just about anything I put my mind to I owe to my parents and my life as an Army brat.

Thanks Mom and Dad… you showed me how to succeed through challenges of both Army and civilian life, you unwaveringly supported us in all of our endeavors and most of all taught us the meaning of unconditional love. I am eternally grateful. You are my heroes.

 

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Love

Pride is a Many Splendored Thing

A few weeks ago my Dad gave me a special gift.  We had spent a few days together and as we were saying goodbye he took a step back, held my shoulders, looked me in the eyes and said “I want you to know that I am very proud of you.”

As an adult several decades over, and the owner of a small business, this is not something that I have the occasion to hear very often.  In fact, since losing my Mom and my Gram, I have not heard it in several years.  It did give me pause to wonder why, at my age, it still meant so much to me to hear it.

One of the things that I appreciate about social media is the chance to give a shout out to those I love and am proud of for their everyday, and not so everyday, victories.  Yet when friends comment “you must be so proud” I feel the momentary shadow of the connotation that sometimes accompanies being proud.  When we are young we are told “not to let our pride get in the way” and to not be “too proud.”  I am proud of people around me every single day.  That pride is not arrogance… it is acknowledgement.  Acknowledging the journey- the challenges, the fears and the setbacks.  Acknowledging the strength, the perseverance and the effort.  That pride is to say “yes… you have overcome and you have succeeded.  I am so proud of you.”  Because while the world sees the result few see what it took to achieve it.  I am frequently proud.

I am proud of all of the patients and their families living with the cloud of cancer as they fight, live and thrive through the fear and the fixed uncertainty.  I am proud of the Mom and Dad who persevere through the red-tape, frustration, extreme fatigue and financial duress to get their special needs child the best resources possible.  I am proud of parents that get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other after the unfathomable devastation and heart-numbing loss of a child.  I am proud of Mothers and Fathers that are vigilant to the job of being the very best parents they can be.  I am proud of my colleagues who focus on improving and being the best they can be every single day.  I am proud and grateful for all of those who stand in harm’s way to protect us both at home and abroad.

While awards, accolades and accomplishments are easier to measure they still don’t tell the whole story.  For every goal achieved and milestone reached the path is never a straight line.  The achievement itself does not detail the hundreds of hours of herculean efforts, the obstacles overcome or the injuries sustained.

Be proud.  Be proud of the effort when it felt there was none left to give.  Be proud of the perseverance it took when it would have been far easier not to persevere.  Be proud of the conviction it took to enter the arena.

Being proud of someone is a gift of love and belief.  A gift to share freely.

XO,  Jaimi

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Civil Discourse

Election Cycle Fatigue

A few months before the election I started the acronym “ECF” … which stood for “election cycle fatigue.” I did not participate in political debates on social media as it is my personal belief that no one changes anyone’s mind that way. We each have one vote and no one can tell us how we should use it.

The political candidates – as expected in the rough and tumble election battlefield – did what candidates have done for as long as I can remember. They go after each other and attempt to prove themselves more fit for office. Our elections are very abusive of candidates and their families. So abusive, in fact, that many very smart and capable citizens would not be willing to run for office. That being said… the volatility at that level is not new. What was new was how we, American citizens, treated each other during this election.

I am saddened and disappointed by the hatred and vitriol both before and after November 8. We have no perfect candidates and there are as many terrible things that can be said about one as the other. I really don’t understand the one-sidedness, hatred and character assassination- citizen against citizen – on either side. The voters spoke with their votes and now we are attacking them as well? The public commentary I am reading is so extreme in its prejudice (on each side) that it has taken on a life of its own. Intelligent, rational people evaluated the options on policy, platforms and abilities and voted their conscience. To cast dispersions, call names and insult all those who do not agree with you does nothing but demonstrate the very opposite of the values we are worried about upholding. Where is tolerance? Respect? Courtesy? Inclusion? Discourse? Problem solving? Unity? To me this is not about the one office anymore… elected officials come and go- some with more success than others. What makes me the most sad is the state of discourse with our fellow citizens… using prejudice and insults towards those who do not agree with us. If we want respect we must show respect. If we want tolerance we must practice tolerance. We are blessed to live in the United States of America. We need to stop attacking each other and get about the business of being the best country we can be while honoring and respecting all Americans in our daily practice. For me and mine, I say God Bless America. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

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Love and Light

Remembering Elijah

Dear Trevor, Greta and Wyatt –

Words fail me. There are, quite simply, no words that can make sense of this devastating loss.

Please know that all of us, while it is impossible to truly know how you feel, we sit in this heart break with you. We love each of you and we love Elijah.

When I see Elijah I see his smile.  I hear his laugh – large, loud and happy laugh- and I remember that as soon as he could walk he would travel the room showering us all in hugs and kisses.  He was just over a year old when he kept toddling up behind me and pulling my head backwards to plant kisses all over my face. … time and time again. He will always be his Mommy’s “sugar lips”, his Daddy’s bear hugs and he loved to live out loud…. playing, being silly, laughing and entertaining his entourage.  He loved drawing like his Daddy… on walls, doors, paper…  whatever surface was available was fine with him.  I can’t remember a time that he didn’t love playing ball with Daddy.  I see a collage happy images involving hats, clothespins, funny faces, tickle wars, jokes, giggles, games, adventures and travels with so much happiness in each moment.  In school he excelled in class work and is loved by teachers and class mates alike. He loved his best friend and big brother Wyatt so much.  They were so excited to cheer for their older cousin Trenton win CIF Swim Championships this year and dubbed him “the Aquatic Flash.”   One of my favorites memories was at lunch afterwards where he entertained us all with his jokes and then directed us to tell jokes. He loves to laugh and to make people laugh. One of his favorite jokes was “why did the chicken cross the road?”  Well, none of us got it right and he could barely contain himself as he squealed “to buy new underwear.”  I can still hear us all laughing so loudly and joining in with our own jokes.

I take great comfort that for his entire life he loved and was loved so completely, purely and unconditionally.  I cherish his joy; his happy, zany personality; his generosity; his ever-inquisitive nature and his over-flowing love.  He was crazy fun and deeply loving with the utmost faith that we would all earn our angel wings.  We all aspire to carry his light and live up to his example. Thank you sweet Elijah, you have your angel wings. We are better for our time with you and we will love you always.

I love you,

Aunt Jaimi

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Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer Awareness Month- Personalized Medicine versus Statistics

If I could get only one message through to a newly diagnosed patient fighting cancer and to the oncologists delivering the news… it would be to PLEASE stop making everything about the statistics.

As a newcomer to the cancer advocacy space I know that thousands and thousands of people are more versed than myself in the science of battling cancer.  I also know that there is an innate tendency to respect the knowledge of medical professionals and experts who have years of study and practice in this field.  We believe that it is a science and that all knowledge is equal.  If you speak to anyone who is alive today because of a second, third or fourth opinion, however, they will tell you emphatically that all knowledge is not equal.

Somehow it became the norm in terminal or “incurable” diseases for doctors to deliver timelines of life expectancy.  In the case of my 39 year old brother he was told quite matter-of-factly that he had six to twelve months to live with treatment.  When someone who has spent their entire professional career fighting this disease tells you this “honest truth” there is a strong propensity to believe them.  They are certainly not trying to hurt their patients… they believe that they are just setting “reasonable expectations.”

I believe that this practice is flawed on many levels.  What are they not telling you when they quote these timelines?

  1. The timelines are statistical averages.
  2. The data they are based on can be up to five years old.
  3. The data is not factoring in recent advances and breakthroughs.
  4. The averages include those patients that once told the predictions opt to forego treatment and give up.
  5. The averages do not factor in each individuals unique gene markers or mutations.
  6. The fact that clinical trials are viable and in many cases successful options.

In short, a newly diagnosed Stage 4 Lung Cancer patient is frequently offered little to no hope for effective treatments.  The fact is that many, many cases are combined to create these statistics and very few patients are actually “the” average.  How is it, then, that one can say to a newly diagnosed patient “with your cancer you have six to twelve months to live.”?  So many patients accept the advice of the first oncologist they see without question.  Once the older, more traditional methods fail doctors are “compassionate and honest” about the grim prognosis.  I have seen patients who chose no further treatment.  This process tamped down whatever vestige of hope they had.  Without hope, there is no will to fight. Without hope, research does not advance.  Without hope, we will not win this war.  Cancer is perhaps the hardest, most painful, most life changing fight one will undertake… and I ask, what greater good is served by taking away hope?

In the last twenty-two months I have heard hundreds of stories of those who did not accept conventional wisdom… who defied the odds and are thriving with cancer.  That happened because somewhere in the process they received HOPE; they learned of other successful outcomes and they found a doctor (or doctors) who did not believe they were a statistic… a medical team that knew it was a battle but suited up to win none-the-less.  It breaks my heart when I see the cycle of lost hope continue.  I understand that we want to accept the first opinion as the final opinion.  We want to believe that all knowledge is equal. The simple (and complicated) fact is that with the speed of research and scientific advances that is just not the case.

Yes, scientifically I know nothing compared to our vast army of esteemed medical and scientific professionals.

What I do know is that every person is different, every cancer is different and that patients are neither the averages of old information nor are they statistics.

We never know how long any of us has, but we do know that if we take away hope and the will to fight the battle is lost.

As they say at my brother Jeff’s alma mater… Fight On!

Jaimi Julian Thompson

If you are or know a newly diagnosed Lung Cancer patients please get in touch with the with the patient-founded and patient-focused Bonnie J Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.

Bonnie J Addario Lung Cancer Foundation

 

 

 

 

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A Question of

Perspective

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A Question of Perspective

There is infinite truth in the notion that a life-threatening situation changes one’s perspective.  In the early days of my brother Jeff’s diagnosis many shocked friends and colleagues said “Wow, I’m so sorry.  That really makes you focus on what’s important!”  Yes it does.  I would like to say that the “focus” is all positive…being able to rise above the onslaught of emotions…but it is not that simple.  The adrenalin of the circumstance – the fear, the fight, the urgency-  and the dedication to the most important steps is not always from a place of peace and certainty.  A sudden and fierce determination to find a path to beat the odds weaves inextricably with the renewal of gratitude for all that is right and the many blessings in our lives.  The struggle between daily responsibilities and the necessity to stay keenly focused on what is necessary to win never lets up.  Endorphins become the secret weapon and stress becomes the enemy.  Building the strength to fight and the will to win juxtaposed to the stress of battle often feels like the struggle of opposites.  Yes, navigating the new reality changes the lens though which we view the world on many levels.  Out of necessity we let go of smaller, less pressing items.  We manage from realigned priorities that are more focused on “what matters most” to us while simultaneously forcing us to “get out of ourselves” and keep the big picture front and center.

In a recent conversation with Jeff we discussed the role of frustration in our process.  The reality is that we will never eliminate frustration from our day to day lives, so what matters most is how we hold it.  Trying to deny it just internalizes it, and allowing it to fester just compounds it…neither of which is healthy.  Our new lens requires thoughtful and direct communication to address the good and the frustrating elements equally.  With that, we can also allow the frustration to be the fuel of progress.

Most of you know that my business is interior design…a subjective business to be sure.  In leading my business I have always believed in practical, effective mentoring- problem solving, education and continual growth. I never stop looking for the opportunities that will help us improve.  Every day in the model homes portion of our business we challenge ourselves, our team and our colleagues to expand beyond our own personal tastes and inspire as many homebuyer perspectives as possible.  In such a subjective business that is not always easy.  There is a natural tendency to take different perspectives as criticism.  It reminds me of a challenge that one of our clients recently shared with us.  They have a new set of model homes (completed by another highly reputable design firm) that offers a very sophisticated design statement.  The problem is that most of the prospective homebuyers walking through the models are not relating to them at all.  Of course, our job when we are hired to design model homes is to inspire homeowners and help them envision living in the home.  Within our company we work very hard to elevate our Team to both push the envelope and capture as many homebuyer perspectives as possible. What a tremendous skill to cultivate!  The ability to step outside ourselves and find the synergy to make it a win-win.  Can we celebrate the differences that allow that or do we choose to be frustrated by them?

The Pink Ribbon site posted recently:  “Cancer changes people.  It sculpts us into someone who understands more deeply,  hurts more often, appreciates more quickly, cries more easily, hopes more desperately, loves more openly and lives more passionately.”

The paradigm of our world shifts.  It becomes easier to sift with wheat from the chaff.  We learn to let go of smaller things that bogged us down.  We communicate, debate, discuss and when necessary, agree to disagree.  I believe that discussions between thoughtful people can expand our understandings.  I value different perspectives that may always be different perspectives. I truly celebrate the ability to collaborate between diverse lenses and create a synergy beyond the possibilities of a single point of view.  That is excellence.

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One Little Word

Hope

This is my second year of embracing “one little word” for the year.    For those of you who may not have heard about the “one little word” movement, it is simply boiling down your theme for the year to one word and striving to reflect that in all of your endeavors.

On the heels of various, what now seem minor, health challenges in 2013, my word for 2014 was JOY.  I wanted to re-discover my joy.  While 2014 was a roller coaster of ups and downs – with exciting milestones tempered by the loss of loved ones and friends and family medical emergencies – I found great joy in making the most of each day and honoring those who had given so much joy to others and enriched our lives for so long.  2014 was filled to the brim with all things dear to me.

Since my early 20s I have ascribed to the philosophy of making the most of each day and never taking tomorrow for granted… almost to the point where family and friends would make fun of me.  I don’t believe in having regrets and I do everything in my power to minimize the opportunities for their existence.  I believe in seizing the day, working hard, playing hard and loving more.  I believe in making memories, letting people know how much they mean to you, in working to design your life and in staying true to your passions.  I believe in being there when it matters, in helping others when you are able to, empowering others to succeed and that “someday” is today.  Since I grew up in the army moving every year, my only constant was change.  The ability to embrace and seek out change is something I believe to be a key to success.  I never had to ask “who moved my cheese” because I never expected it to be in the same spot.

As 2015 started I had bronchitis and had not yet landed on my one little word.  On January 4th, January 7th and January 12th – learning of my youngest brother Jeff’s diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer at age 39 – his (and our) worlds turned upside down.  In the face of the “prevailing wisdom” of the medical community, my instinctive response on that first call (which I think I may have repeated 20 times) was “I do not accept that. I do not accept that. I do not accept that.”  Yet they continued to purvey hopelessness.  As we immersed into the urgent battle to leave “no stone unturned”, I believed my word for 2015 was to be Strength.  Strength not only for today, tomorrow, next week or next month – but strength for the long haul.  We will not stop.  In my search on “strength” I found the mantra “Hope*Strength*Love”.   The Hope, the Strength and the Love pouring out from across the country and the world for #TEAMjeff in the past month has taken my breath away.

In the office of the fourth oncologist (out of the five that we met with) there was a sign that said “Hope Practiced Here.”  The flame of Hope was renewed. We were done accepting the “omnipotent wisdom” that tamped down that flame.  The reality is that they do NOT know.  The more time that passes from that fateful day that they tried to extinguish our Hope the more I feel it was wrong.

So, my one little word for 2015 is HOPE.  It is the beginning of everything – our hope for the future, our dreams, our goals and our being.  Where would any one of us be without the HOPE that drives us forward?  Our hope for love, our hopes for our loved ones and our hopes for success as we each define it?  In my high school quote collection I have the following:  “An optimist is a person who knows how sad a place the world can be.  The pessimist is one who is forever finding out.”  Author unknown.  It always struck me that instinctively you would think it would be the opposite –  that the optimist would always be discovering the negative anew.  I think, however, that the optimist knows and simply makes a choice.  A choice to see the good.  A choice to choose HOPE.  It has been a long month and the battle looms large.  We will fight and keep fighting.  We will be stronger than we ever thought possible.  Most importantly, we will choose HOPE.  And life will be better, and more sweet, for it.  I am thankful from the bottom of my heart for the avalanche of prayers, support and love that continue to lift up Jeff, Kristine and Trenton, as well as our entire family, during this time.

To quote Jeff’s battle cry… “I believe. I am strong. I am ready. I WILL win.”

#TEAMjeff  #chooseHOPE   #julianstrong

#HopeStrengthLove   #NEGU

Love and prayers,

Jaimi Julian Thompson

If you would like to make a gift to Jeff and his family please go to: www.youcaring.com/other/-teamjeff/293551

If you would like to follow Jeff’s journey, his blog is available at: www.caringbridge.org/visit/jeffjulian

If you would like to get a #TEAMjeff shirt and find out more, please go to:  www.teamjeff.org

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