The Grace and Favor of God – The 411

So… remember the lesion the radiologist said was on my mother’s spine? Remember that the oncologist was perplexed as to why she had no pain or discomfort in the left shoulder area, given the diagnosis?

My mom was sent the next day to radiology oncology for further evalution and to get scheduled for radiation therapy to nuke the area. The doctor looks at her PET Scan and CT Scan and does another scan in office and looks at my mom and says “THERE IS NOTHING THERE!” Well, look at GOD ! Won’t He Do It?

The doctor informs my mom that even if there is a lesion there, that is nothing to worry about. He ordered an MRI to be on the safe side and said that if it shows anything there, they will do five radiation sessions to nuke it so it does not cause problems down the line, but it is not a life threatening situation.

My mom is over the moon, as are we.

Only God !

Halloween 2019 – The 411

This year, my baby girl dressed as Minnie Mouse ! I found this adorable get up on

We went to a local mall to trick or treat since I do not trust neighborhoods and we are also on a retirement resort with a bunch of old gray hairs and no children, during this time of year. My baby had a blast.

My mom was mopping around and depressed given the diagnosis she had received the day prior.

I looked at her and told her to get her buns up and let’s go ! I explained that God has brought her through cancer THREE times and He is the same yesterday, today and forevermore… at least that is what MY faith says. I told her we are not doing this nonsense ! She can put on a fake smile and go celebrate with her granddaughter. She reluctantly obliged. Lol.

We had a good time and my mom did a little shopping.

Life Is A Rollercoaster – The 411

Above are a few photos from our five week stay in Italy.

For CGB’s 3rd birthday, I planned a month long tour of Italy. #CGBTakesItaly2019 and Pizza Pasta and Gelato were the running themes.

We began our trip by flying into Rome. We spent four nights in Rome then departed for Southern Italy and spent a week in Naples. We took day trips to Capri, Amalfi Coast etc. Next we headed North to Florence, Switzerlaand for a day, Tuscany, then Milan, then Venice, Murano and Burano Islands.

The food was amazing and the people are genuinely nice.

During the last leg of our trip, the baby and I developed flu like symptoms and had runny noses. My mom fell and hit her head then fell again the next day in the hotel lobby and hit her head. She was a bit of it the next few days. So much so that I called for an ambulance to escort her to the hospital. It was determined that she had pneumonia so the kept her. Two days later, the bloodwork revealed that she had legionaire’s disease. We learned that our bout with flu like symptoms was actually Pontiac Fever, a mild version of Legionella bacteria exposure. My mom was in the hospital a little over a week and we were stuck in Venice.

I demanded that she be released from the hospital since she was responding well to antibiotics and doing well. So we flew out two days later to NYC and then to the beach. I had a movie to shoot in ATL a few days after that so I needed to get back. After the film wrapped, I had to travel to DC.

It has been a whirlwind but I got through it.

Just when I thought things would calm down a bit, my Mother’s docs determined that there is a lesion on her spine with suspicious activity which will require her to undergo radiation therapy.

This rollercoaster called life tends to be way too much to bear at times, but I am grateful that we are all here and I look forward to the later being better that the former.

Starbucks Expands Fertility Benefits -The 411

Employees at Starbucks now have access to broader fertility benefits.

Starting this month, the coffee giant is bolstering its benefits to reimburse for surrogacy and intrauterine insemination not covered by health insurance. Workers will receive reimbursements of up to $10,000 per qualifying event, with a lifetime maximum of $30,000.

Lifetime maximums for fertility benefits are also increasing under Starbucks medical plans — to $25,000 from $15,000 for fertility services, and to $10,000 from $5,000 for prescription drugs. All full- and part-time benefit employees who work at least 20 hours per week are eligible for the benefits.

A company spokesperson told Employee Benefit News, Starbucks wanted to update its Family Expansion Reimbursement program to assist employees whose needs are not fully met by health insurance.

“We made this change to assist partners whose needs may not be met by their healthcare insurance company, such as same-gender couples looking to become parents or individuals seeking fertility services,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in an email.

While nearly all (87%) employers cover some kind of infertility benefit through their health plan, companies are expanding their benefits to cover different services such as surrogacy and egg freezing, according to data from the National Business Group on Health. Of that group, some 71% of employers cover in vitro fertilization, 69% cover artificial insemination and 34% cover egg freezing.

Fertility services are often expensive — the average IVF cycle costs $12,000, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Benefits that cover some of the cost can help to ease the burden on workers. Large employers including Microsoft, Cisco and MassMutual all offer fertility benefits to workers.

Starbucks has been making big changes to its benefits. Last year the company said it would spend $250 million on new employee benefits including a pay boost for domestic workers, in the wake of the federal tax overhaul. In September, the company updated its employee assistance program with a new long-term initiative that includes an enhanced employee assistance program and mental health training for store managers, which will begin in the second quarter of next year.

“We brought 12,000 store leaders together for an unprecedented session on mental well-being and emotional first aid,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement about the updated EAP program. “That was just the first step in a new long-term initiative to take a stand, help break the stigma around mental health, and get even more partners and their loved ones the support they need.”

Starbucks offers a number of other family-friendly benefits including parental leave, employee and family sick time, and backup child and adult care. It also provides tuition reimbursement to workers looking to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“We are consistently evolving our benefits as we continue to listen and learn from our partners (employees),” the company told EBN. “It has long been our belief that when we put our partners first.”

Vatican and Colusseum Tour – the photo 411

Today we took a full day tour of the Vatican and Colusseum. My mother got separated from the group an hour into the 3 hr Vatican tour. We did not find her until towards the end and my daughter showed her natural born AZZ this day right here !

It was a combination of not sleeping all night and having to leave out at 7 am which is 1 am back home, sleepiness, crankiness and feeding off of my anxiety about my mom… we knew by checking that she had not fallen ill, so she was just separated. What could go wrong in a foreign country when you get separated, left your phone, ID, money etc with the baby and I?

Well, here are a few photos lol.

Family Vacation 2019 – The 411

This year, my sister Jette and her husband organized the annual family vacation. We spent a week and half in the beautiful Destin, Florida in a oceanside home rental.It was great to be with my mom, sisters, and their husbands and all the children all under one roof, cooking, hanging out, laughing, reminiscing.We explored Destin, took a day trip to Panama City Beach, went to a sea animal aquarium, went out on jetskis in Gulf, and also charted a boat for a few hours to go out on the Gulf for the Thursday Nite Destin Fireworks Show. We spent countless hours on the beach and just enjoyed hanging out.My daughter was elated to see her cousins and hang out with them. She is always excited to go on “HOLIDAY”, as she calls it, thanks to Peppa Pig !Now we are packing and getting ready to go on HOLIDAY again next week for her annual birthday trip. Her theme this year is #CGBTakesItaly #PizzaPastaAndGelatoI am very excited to spend an entire month in Italy with her exploring the entire country. Next week can not get here fast enough ! 🙂