Winter Break Fun

holiday collage 2012

The holidays are officially over and we are back to our regular routines again.  Gone are the days of sleeping in until 8 AM,  figuring out which museum to explore each day, what wonderful friend or family to visit with, and how many yummy treats to indulge in after each meal.  The kids are back to school, I am back at work (full-time at that), chocolates and cookies have been replaced with fruits and veggies, and we are back to the hustle and bustle of our busy life.  The holidays are busy too, don’t get me wrong, but it is a different kind of busy.  There is gift buying and wrapping, a busy social schedule of holiday parties, and long days of no school to fill for three little kids, but that is certainly a fun kind of busy.

In our house, the “holiday season” seems to run from November 15th – January 8th.  During that time we have Isabella’s birthday, Thanksgiving (which we host every year), Hanukkah (what we celebrate in our house and with the Levins and Stevahns), Christmas (which we celebrate at my parents), the New Year, and Les’ birthday.  It is two months of nonstop eating, spending money, socializing, and fun.  It can be a little exhausting and overwhelming, but I love it.  This winter break seemed especially great – for the kids, for us, and for me personally.

As the kids get older, they seem to get more into the holiday spirit and understand more of what is going on.  Isabella really got into Hanukkah this year.  She has always enjoyed getting presents, but she was much more interested in some of the culture and tradition that comes along with the holiday.  By the 5th or 6th night of Hanukkah she could almost say the entire prayer over the menorah, making Les and I very proud.  She loved having her Grammy and Pop as special guests at her school to teach her classmates about Hanukkah.  She lead dreidel games and even tried her first potato latke – a big deal for our very picky eater.  Jacob and Noah both got into the spirit of Hanukkah and Christmas, relishing the unwrapping of the gifts as much, if not more, than the gifts themselves.  We all got a kick out of Jacob’s squeals of delight and laughter as he unwrapped a gift or Noah’s exclamations of “Whoa” or “cool this” each time he opened a new toy or book.  The kids had a blast on Christmas day at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, opening their stockings and presents, and playing with all their new toys.  I love experiencing any holiday through my children’s eyes, especially Hanukkah and Christmas.  There is just something magical about that look in your child’s eyes as they open that special gift they have been wanting all year.  I don’t think there is any gift I could receive that would equal the excitement and joy I get from giving my kids gifts.  I know that the holidays are not all about the gifts, and I want my kids to know that too, but when you are three or five – it kind of is all about the gifts.

This winter break was really great for Les and I because we got to have some pretty awesome dates.  We had an overnight trip to Richmond for a delicious dinner with friends and a day of holiday shopping and time alone in the car and at lunch with just the two of us.  We try to go out on dates regularly, but there is just something different about being away overnight that feels more luxurious and special.  We also got to see our close friends John and Corynne for a dinner date.  These are friends that we don’t see nearly enough of, and it was great to catch up on the exciting things coming up in the new year.  Les and I have also been on three movie dates in the last month – pretty amazing considering that we probably had not made it to three movies in the theater in the past five years total.  Although Les always works a lot around the holidays, I had a lot of time off as I transitioned to my new job.  The overall pace in our house was slower, more relaxed, and less stressful – making for a happier marriage.

I was thrilled to spend quality time with my sister Emily.  We don’t get to see her nearly enough since she is in California, so we try to spend as much time as possible with her when she is in town.  We even got to go out for sushi and a movie date to see Les Mis (a fantastic movie, but glad I spared Les on that one).  I was able to tackle some home organization products (freezer, refrigerator, pantry, and only a small part of the office).  I completed home study for my new job and went away to San Antonio for a week of training for the new job.  I am very happy with the job change and very impressed with the new company so far.  I really enjoyed being home for a few weeks.  Of course, getting paid while being at home probably made the whole experience more relaxing and enjoyable than if I were not employed.  Now if I could only find a way to stay at home for work AND still get paid – that would be the ticket.

We rang in the New Year with our neighbors and friends at a fantastic grown-up party.  We got all fancied up and danced the night away.  I look forward to this party every year and am so appreciative of the Hempecks for throwing such a wonderful bash.  We got together with the Reuter family for a fun play date and gift exchange.  Even though we only live 30 miles from each other, it seems impossible to get our 6 kids and crazy work schedules aligned for more frequent family fun.  We’ll have to do better at this in 2013.   We did our annual trip to the Great Wolf Lodge with our dear friends Zach and Parul and their adorable daughter Madeline.  That place gets better and better as the kids get older and more independent in the water.  This is one of our favorite ways to kick off a new year and celebrate Les’ birthday with some of our best friends.

NYE2012collage

All in all – we have had a blast these past couple of months.  As I have been able to sit back and reflect on the past year, I feel so fortunate to have the life that I have.  We feel so blessed to have our health, our amazing family and friends, jobs, and a wonderful life.  I know how quickly life can change and the good times can turn to bad in just the blink of an eye.  In 2013, I am trying to cherish each moment  and be grateful for the many gifts that I have in my life.  Now if only I can remember this resolution during the crazy, stressful times that will inevitably occur in my world of five spinning plates!

Goodbye Bristol-Myers Squibb

Thanks for the memories BMS…

Pinnacle Trip to Mexico with Bristol-Myers Squibb – 2005

Last week represented the end of an era for me.  I said goodbye to the company and job that I have had for the majority of my adult life.  I started working for Bristol-Myers Squibb in the summer of 2002.  Les and I were married in June of that summer and moved to Orlando, Florida so that he could begin his residency training.  We packed up our belongings in a U-Haul and made the long drive to Florida, moving into our first apartment together.  I started working as a sales rep in the Cardiovascular/Metabolic sales division of BMS on July 1st, 2002.  I came to pharmaceutical sales after spending my first two years out of college in another sales job.  I knew that I was getting into an innovative and exciting industry and profession, and I felt lucky to land this job at a relatively young age.

After only two years, I was promoted to a specialty position in the Neuroscience division, representing a great product that was making a big impact on the mental health community.  I was a Psychology major at the University of Virginia and was very familiar with the consequences of mental illness, through my academic studies and through personal experiences (loved ones, whom shall remain nameless).   The Neuroscience division felt like home.  I was a Neuroscience representative in Orlando for two years, and was lucky enough to transition to the Virginia Beach BMS Neuroscience team when we moved back here in 2006.

Although I don’t like that my job is coming to an end and that Bristol-Myers is essentially getting out of Neuroscience for the time being, I understand that they have business reasons that led them to this decision.  Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka have worked together to launch and promote Abilify and that partnership is drawing to a close.  The timing was right for Otsuka, the company that discovered Abilify, to take over the sales and marketing of the product from BMS.  Otsuka remains committed to Neuroscience and Abilify, and luckily they have decided to expand their sales force to compensate for the loss of the entire BMS sales team.  As a matter of fact, I recently accepted a position to go over to Otsuka and continue promoting Abilify.  Basically I am going to continue doing my exact same job, only for a different employer (more on the how and the why behind this decision in future posts).  As my time with Bristol-Myers draws to a close, I need to say thanks for a wonderful 10+ years.  BMS has been good to me, and I am truly appreciative for all they ways they have helped me.

Thank you for the opportunity to work with so many wonderful, talented people (cliché, but true).  I have been fortunate to have some really great managers during my time at BMS.  I continue to view three of my last four managers as friends, coaches, and mentors.  I have always worked with terrific partners that I have learned so much from, not only about the industry and the business, but about myself as a teammate and professional.  I count many of my current and previous partners and colleagues as personal friends.  Their friendship and support has helped me during the good times and the bad.

Thank you Bristol-Myers for helping to bring to market a truly revolutionary product like Abilify.  It has been an honor and a privilege to promote such a remarkable product for the past eight years.  I am passionate about mental healthcare – the amazing physicians, NP’s, PA’s, Social Workers, Nurses, and Psychologists – and the resilient patients that too often suffer silently among us.  I don’t think I would have stayed in the pharmaceutical industry as long as I have if it weren’t for the opportunity to sell such a great product.  I sold other good products for diabetes, high blood pressure, and antibiotics, but none of those products had the tremendous impact on individuals and families like I have seen Abilify have.  Mental illness can devastate a person’s life – I have seen this too many times.  Seeing a medicine like Abilify help a person return to functioning and get back to being a mom, sister, Uncle, husband, or child is a beautiful thing.  If I have been able to play even the tiniest role in making that happen, I feel good about my work.  Thank you for the research, marketing, and vision that went into the development and promotion of this drug for the last 10 years.

Thank you Bristol-Myers for making medicines that really do extend and enhance human life – a corporate mission that I got to live through my work, but more importantly through my personal experience.  My husband’s life was literally saved by the miracle of medicine – an amazing doctor, a clinical trial at Sloan-Kettering, and four Bristol-Myers Squibb cancer drugs.  When the standard treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma did not work for Les, we ended up at Sloan-Kettering in New York City hoping and praying for a cure – something that would make the cancer disappear and stay away forever (God willing).  I will never forget sitting down with the best Oncologist in the world (yep, anyone that cures my husband of cancer gets that title – and he really might be the best in the world) as he described the clinical trial protocol that Les would be undergoing.  I felt tremendous pride and hope seeing the name of the company I worked for next to the names of the drugs that would soon be used to try to kill the cancer cells that had rocked our world.  It felt like we were meant to be at Sloan-Kettering, with this doctor that developed the treatment protocol with these drugs that my company made.  It had to work and thankfully it did.  I will be forever grateful to our incredible doctor, nurses, and to Bristol-Myers Squibb for giving my husband his life and his health back.  That is truly living the mission.

Thank you Bristol-Myers Squibb for your generous benefits.  As I described in my previous post, I have worked in some hard jobs for not very much money in the past.  I know how frustrating it can be to work in a physically and/or mentally demanding job and still not be able to pay the bills.  It sucks.  One of the reasons I got into sales, and have stayed in for as long as I have, is that I feel like I am compensated fairly and the benefits are good.  Many times, when sales are good and the job seems easy and fun, I honestly can’t believe that they pay me to do it.  I think back on  some of my work days in high school and college where I would work on my feet all day at a hotel front desk job and do an overnight waitressing job at a truck stop for only slightly more than minimum wage.  THAT was hard work.  This job has been challenging (in a good way), enjoyable, interesting, and rewarding with decent pay AND benefits.  I am beyond grateful and blessed, and I have not taken my job for granted.  I know that I had a good thing going.

One of the things I have been most thankful for is amazing health insurance.  If you have ever had a serious medical problem, you know that health insurance can be the biggest blessing (if it is good insurance) or your life can be ruined if you are uninsured or under insured.  We had great health insurance that paid for the majority of Les’ cancer treatments and know the importance of being adequately insured.  Now that Les has a pre-existing condition, we also know how expensive it can be to get a good, affordable health insurance plan as an individual (if you don’t work for a big company).  Hopefully the Affordable Care Act will help other people in America get good coverage at affordable prices, but we may be years away from the realization of this goal.  One of the reasons I have continued to work, even after the births of our three kids, is for great medical insurance.  In fact, our kids might not even be here if it were not for the incredible health insurance that I had access to through Bristol-Myers Squibb.

As a result of the cancer treatments that saved Les’ life, we were unable to get pregnant on our own.  We knew that this would probably happen and made preparations before he underwent treatment to make sure we could have children one day, with the help of IVF.  Infertility and our journey to become parents will likely be the subject of another post one day, but let’s just say that it was not an easy road to parenthood.  Infertility treatments, especially IVF, are very expensive.  I don’t know if we could have handled the financial and emotional stress of three rounds of IVF (to get two of our children) without the very comprehensive medical insurance provided by BMS.  All of the shots, drugs, ultrasounds, lab work, office visits, and procedures would have been that much more difficult if  I was constantly worried about paying the total cost for each item.  Most companies do not include infertility coverage in medical benefits, so I know just how fortunate I was that this was covered.  This is yet another reason why I continued to work after having children.  I have to thank a really gifted infertility doctor and Bristol-Myers Squibb for helping to give me two of life’s greatest miracles – Isabella and Jacob.

Last, but not least, I have to thank Bristol-Myers Squibb for giving me the opportunity to job share and work part-time for the past three years.  There are very few pharmaceutical companies that offer this benefit anymore and too few working moms that get to take advantage of any kind of flexible work arrangement when they have babies at home.  After Jacob was born, I was not sure if I could handle going back full-time.  I wanted to continue working, for all of the reasons above and so many more, but I did not think I could be away from my two very young children five days a week.  My supportive boss offered me a chance to apply to job share and work only three days a week (with a partner working the other two days of the week).  I jumped at the opportunity.  The job share position had its share of challenges, but I would not have traded it for anything.  I did not know when I started job sharing that I would have a third baby (no IVF – a surprise miracle), and it made coming back to work after Noah was born a no-brainer.  I was able to be home more days than I was at work when the boys were babies.  I was able to be there when Jacob needed me the most, as we figured out how to help him with all of his delays.  I would have loved to work part-time forever, or at least one more year until Noah was three, but I knew that it would probably not be a permanent thing.  It was almost too good to be true.  I am thankful I was able to job share as long as I did.  I thank Bristol-Myers Squibb for giving me that extra time with my kids, to really be able to have some work-life balance when it was needed most.

I say goodbye to Bristol-Myers and welcome the next chapter of my professional career.  Thank you for a great 10 years!  I can only hope that the next 10 or 20 years can be as fun and rewarding as my time with BMS.  Bristol-Myers is not perfect, but in my experience they lived their mission with patients, customers, and employees.  I hope my next experience with Otsuka will be as positive as my experience with Bristol-Myers Squibb.  Best of luck to you BMS and all my colleagues that remain!