Christmas Time is Here- Come meet the family!

On December 23, 2017 the Gaitten, Lynn, Guillet and Marchand families came together. About 30 people were here at our house in Hamilton. We had the party during the day and it was unusually warm but overcast for December. That day was about 53 degrees. Nil drove down from Connecticut on Friday and stayed the weekend.

 

This photo was taken while we were visiting on Friday night getting ready for dinner!

From the “new” side of the family, my Father, Nil was in attendance representing the Guillet side.  (From the Marchand side, my sister, Kelly and her daughter Morgan and Kelly’s Father, Bob were going to surprise us. Steve knew about it but I didn’t. However, Morgan got sick with the flu so they did not end up driving down from PA and we missed them!)

In attendance from the Marchand side: Aunt Martha, Uncle Victor, Uncle John, Aunt Jeanne, along with cousin Mark, his wife Jennifer and their daughter, Marianna (my 2nd cousin).

My Mom (Pat), sister (Deena), nephew (Donald), niece (Casie), great nephew (Luke) and my brother in law (Rodney) were here plus Steve’s Mom (Pat), Father (Don), Sister (Christy), Brother in law (Cian), niece (Maggie), nephew (Jacob) were all in attendance. A few very close friends who are truly family were also here – Rose, Jasmine and Cody. My brother Ed was sick and Don Langley was home with new puppy- they could not attend and were sorely missed!

On Saturday around 11 am the family started to arrive! The idea was to spend quality time together. Some of my family has met my “new” family, some had not.  Nil had grown up around the corner from my biological Mother, Linda’s house so he knew her brother and sisters but they did not know each other well. Aunt Martha and Nil spent an hour chatting about who old friends and the old neighborhood. It turns out that they still know several of the same people. Martha said he always loved cars and could see that he still does today. He’s a fierce Ford guy!

We feasted on turkey, ham and a bounty of dishes everyone brought. The dining room table and side tables were overflowing with goodies. We setup drinks on the porch. Steve was in charge of fun and games in the upstairs of the barn.

There was quite a ping pong match between Steve, Jacob, Christy and Cian. Every time we have a family gathering they must play for the imaginary trophy and bragging rights. We had Jenga setup inside and Aunt Jeanne brought a fun game that had us all laughing. I don’t even know what it is called. She wrapped up a bunch of goodies in saran wrap until it was a huge ball that was passed around while throwing dice and quick timing. It kept us all giggling. I painted ornaments for everyone as a keepsake. Some were better than others. They all went so that made me happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no greater gift than family.  There is no greater gift than time together. This gathering meant the world to me!

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas. My blessings and wishes for a happy and healthy 2018 to all!

 

Meeting Cousin Denise

In early November, I got to meet my Father’s Brother’s oldest daughter….Cousin Denise! Denise lives in Florida and was ooming to Virginia to vacation about an hour from me. The best place to meet in the middle was my hometown of Occoquan. We settled in on Madigans by the water for our lunch spot. When I got there, Denise was already inside- in the bar looking for the Florida Gator’s Football game on the big screen and chatting up the bar tenders.   Denise and I were immediately comfortable and chatty with each other.  We shared all sorts of childhood stories and details. Turns out that we are in fact, very similar. She’s slightly older and she confessed she hoped she would remain in the family spot! I have no problem with that.  I enjoyed seeing many of her traits in myself. She’s bubbly and draws you right into the conversation and she’s hilarious and witty.

Denise and I also follow fairly strict diets.  I’m sugar/carb free which also knocks out gluten too. She’s gluten and dairy free. Both of us do this for health reasons and we find that we see great improvement in joint inflammation and stomach distress when we stick to proper meal planning.  We enjoyed salads and seafood. My kind of gal!!!  Denise tried the crab soup too. I didn’t it had a flour base but smelled delicious!  We have so many things in common. It was fascinating to compare how two people who grew up so differently to be so similar. I guess that’s DNA for you.   I hope to see her again soon!

The September Surprise!

In late Summer, Aunt Jeanne and I worked out a plan that they would come to visit on the 29th of September. This would be 2 days after our actual birthday on 9/27 but it fell on a Wednesday which is tough for work schedules. The 29th was a Friday, so that worked well for a visit and overnight stay. It was on the calendar and we were all looking forward to it.  Little did I know the surprise was on me.  On Friday the 29th, I got up early and got a few things done in the house getting ready for Jeanne and Cecil to stay over. She said they were expected to arrive between 4-5 so I had plenty of time to be totally ready. I went to the store and started a crock pot of chili then I went to work for a few hours.

I got home late afternoon and was scurrying all over when I saw a car in the driveway and a flash of green.  Hm. This didn’t look like Jeanne or Cecil and you could not miss that color from a mile away! Uncle Vic and John had pulled in and started unloading a mountain of food.  Vic was wearing this spiffy green shirt, my absolute favorite color!  They were part of the surprise but had arrived just before Jeanne and Cecil who arrived shortly. Aunt Martha arrived with Jeannie’s son (my cousin), Victor and his son Tyler (my second cousin).

They got me! Total surprise but I was thrilled everyone could be here for “our” birthday celebration!!

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While we worked on getting the food ready, Steve took Victor and Tyler to the upstairs of the barn where we have a “man cave” with  ping pong table, dart board and fun stuff to do.  Then, Steve got the drone out for a pre-dusk flight and let Tyler fly it,  resulting in this photo!

The more time I get to spend with my biological family,  the more insight I get into myself. I absorb it all like a sponge, trying to take it all in and figure out what parts of myself I see in them.  We had a lively dinner conversation about the parties Uncle Vic threw in his youth.  Aunt Martha told some stories on him that were hilarious. Jeanne was too young to attend said parties,  but knew all about it. Seeing their mannerisms, facial expressions and just hearing the laughter is pure joy. They are all funny, good natured and witty!

I’m still processing the fact that we found each other. It’s been less than a year and time is flying quickly. I treasure each moment with them, each phone conversation and each text.  There was an incident with a missing bowl of mashed potatoes once everyone left and it was a goofy misunderstanding and we all laughed so hard about it the next day.

I truly see myself in each one of them. It’s hard to explain but we are connected in so many ways I didn’t know what I was missing, until now.  I am very much looking forward to our next gathering here at Christmas with family from all sides who will get to meet each other for the first time. Can’t wait!

 

Birthday Blog – Today is the DAY!

Today is my birthday! 9/27 has always been a special day for me.  My parents made it that way. Every birthday and holiday were celebrated, but your birthday was your very own special day.   On my 5th birthday, Daddy brought home a pony in the back of his pickup truck.  This was typical behavior for him.  My Dad knew everyone in our small Town. He heard about someone with a pony that needed a new home, and he had a horse crazy daughter.  Perfect fit.

I named my pony Daisy. Daisy was my pride and joy and we were inseparable. Daisy listened to all of my secrets and we had long discussions about nothing (I did all of the talking, she would eat grass and swish her tail).   Daisy was a Shetland Pony.  They are prone to fits of temper and extreme stubborn-ness but not with me. Daisy was mean to just about everyone except me and my sister, Deena.  Daisy would run away if you tried to catch her for a ride.  All you had to do was sweet talk her with treats or carrots.  She bit my Dad on the hand and she kicked him more than once. She got me a few times too but I still loved her. She really did not like my Aunt’s dog, Precious.  Shetlands are know for their attitudes! Anyway, she was a special gift among many birthdays and special gifts along the way.  When I got older and bigger, I moved up to riding larger horses, Daisy became my sister’s pony. She and Deena got along for a while then Deena quickly outgrew her too.  Dee got a new, larger Pony (Roy) and Daisy was lonely.

Daisy went to live with a new family in Vermont. The day they came to pick her up, a van pulling a horse trailer pulled into our driveway. The trailer already had 2 horses in it. I wondered where Daisy was going to ride. They opened the van doors and in she went!  My special girl was on her next journey to be another little girl’s special surprise.  Still to this day, my favorite flower is the daisy and I collect daisy jewelry.

This photo shows my sister, Deena on Daisy and me on my Morgan horse, Slippers.  Some of my happiest childhood memories are horse and sister related. We had some incredible adventures and learned many life lessons through our years at the barn. Riding in the ring, shoveling out stalls and running the horses across the field to tie up at the fence while we went across the street to 7-11 for M&M’s. (Just one example).

Today, I am 51 years old.  As you may already know, this year has been unlike any other in my life.

With the help of Ancestry.com and my Pro Geneologist Michael (who built my family tree backward using my DNA),  my birth family found me in June of this year.  One of my cousins on Ancestry connected me with my Aunt Martha on my biological Mother’s side of the family, and presto, the connection was made.

I found out that my biological Mother (Linda), passed away in 2010. Her three siblings, Martha, Victor and Jeanne are all still here and they all live within a few minutes and hours of me.  My Aunt Jeanne is exactly 10 years older than me. Her birthday is also today, 9/27! She and I will always share this birthday. What a wonderful surprise! Happy Birthday Jeanne!

 

I have been thinking about this coincidence since I found out about my family. Aunt Jeanne would have been 10 years old when I was born. Her sister was in Washington, DC at the time. No one in the family knew about me except Linda’s older siblings, Martha and Victor.  Aunt Jeanne did not find out about me until many years later.  When we finally got to meet this Summer, it was a gift like no other. No one can plan for this. It’s a rare surprise that you don’t see coming and a roller coaster ride of emotions and information coming at you that you did not expect. It’s been thrilling at times and sad at others. Sad to find out that you will never get to meet your biological Mother.  My half sister, Kelly and my Aunts and Uncle are my only window into who she was. We have all connected and we talk and chat regularly. Spending time on the phone and Facebook, making up for lost time and getting to know each other. We visit when we can. It’s hard- life keeps getting in the way, but you find the time.

On Friday, Jeanne and her husband will come to see us for a visit. I cannot wait to hear more stories of her life and childhood and find out more my amazing, newly discovered Aunt and her family.  A very Happy Birthday, indeed.

 

Guess Who’s Coming to the Family Reunion?

Most people who know me, know that I hate to fly. On Friday last week I got on a plane and flew, by myself to Connecticut. The drive is 6+ hours so this made sense.  I was invited to join the Guillet Family reunion, so I went!  I stayed at Nil’s Charming New England home complete with pool, sugar house and vintage car garage. When I got there,  the yard was already set for Saturday’s event.  The Guillet’s know how to throw a party!  Big tent, bounce house, corn hole and enough food to feed a small army!  Aunt Gloria, Kristen, Brittany, Ryan, Cory and Nil did it right!  On Saturday afternoon, the family started to arrive. First was Aunt Gloria, then Aunt Jan, then Aunt Francine and Uncle Bob then it became a blur of Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Nieces and Nephews. The weather was a perfect 68 degrees.  Sunny and bright. Some of the brave kids went into the pool. The water was 70 degrees! On top of it all it was Cousin Greg’s birthday so there was lots of cake.

Cousin Kim’s little daughter, Brooklyn had us all laughing when she went into the bounce house wearing her floaties and bathing suit and ran out stark naked! What fun is a family reunion without one streaking naked kid!

As the day progressed, I mingled with family and tried to connect with them all. Everyone hugged me, all welcomed me. I had cards made up for the blog address for those who were not on Facebook. I took about 40 cards with me and came home with none.  I got to meet Eric Jr. Eric is the cousin who went to Nil’s house and told him about me. Eric got extra hugs and thank yous!  I was also thrilled to see cousin Lisa there. Lisa is an Ancestry match with me and we’ve talked for more than a year. She was working with me and Aunt Gloria to help me as well. What a treat to get to meet them all.

When my Mother’s side of the family found me earlier this Summer, it was joyous. They had been looking for me for many years, and they found me.  My Father’s side of the family never knew about me,  but the welcome was just as sweet and honest from every single Guillet.  I say it all the time but it’s true. I am so very lucky to have the life and family that I have….. then at the right time, this happens. My family has grown exponentially overnight.

The reunion party lasted into the night with a camp fire and fireworks then a few Chinese lanterns went up and we watched them until they went completely out of sight.  There are a few name connections on the Guillet’s side. Cory and Brittany’s dog is named Daisy. Daisy was the name of my first pony.  I collect jewelry with Daisy designs.  It’s my favorite flower, and who could not love a sweet Yellow Lab named Daisy!  My Father, Nil,  has a cousin named Gayton Roy. When he was here he mentioned Gayton several times.  It’s pronounced exactly like our last name, Gaitten.  My Aunt Martha insists there are no coincidences. All things happen the way they are supposed to. I believe that.

Early on Sunday morning, before my flight, Nil and I drove about 20 minutes to Ansonia, Connecticut. This is the Town where he met Linda when they dated. Both families lived here in 1965,  just around the corner from each other. Nil was about 24 and Linda 20.  Nil drove me down the street where she had lived but he could not remember the exact house. My half sister, Kelly had called while we were in the car and she remembered it (it was her Grandparent’s house she’s seen photos).  She said it was across from a cemetery. We were definitely on the right street. We went by the house where Nil lived too.  The Town of Ansonia is absolutely charming with rich architecture in it’s historic homes and churches. I’m so glad we went.

On the way to the airport, we stopped at Ryan and Kristen’s house for a quick goodbye,  then we were off.   We got stuck in a 2 mile backup which delayed us a half an hour. Luckily, Hartford Airport is pretty small so I actually got all checked in before the plane even arrived.  Once I got on the plane, there was a man sitting in my seat by the window. He jumped up, apologized and moved quickly to his aisle seat. I said “no problem”. I didn’t care if he kept the window seat. I don’t really like to look out. But, he stayed in his seat. We chatted on and off during the flight. He was commuting to DC to catch a connecting flight to Belgium for his job. He asked if I was leaving home or going home and I said “going home” from a family reunion. I told him that I had just connected with my family this Summer for the very first time. Of course, that lead to more questions.  I told him some of the story and found one last card with the glog address on it hiding in my bag,  so I gave it to him.  He said it would be fun reading on his 7 hour flight.  When the plane landed, we got up and he said it was nice meeting me and I asked his name. He said “My name is Joe and I’ll never forget yours because my wife’s name is also Kelly”. This is significant. Those who have known me for a long time know that my first husband’s name was Joe and our marriage did not go well.

I won’t bore you with the details.  The quick thought on that, if I were still married to Joe, none of this would even be happening. I would not have had the courage or support from him to have started the search or even gotten this far. My self esteem and personal value was so low at that time in my life,  I would not have even tried.

Fast forward to 1999 when I married my love, Steve. Steve is my perfect soul mate. He allows me to be who I am.  I’ve grown so much as person,  just being with him and I adore him for that.

I know how lucky I am. I don’t know if it will last and I don’t know where the journey will end, but my heart is open.  I’m going where the path leads, ready for the next bend in the road.

Finding Brother Ryan

Shortly after my Mother’s side of the family found me, I went in search and actually located my biological father, Nil.  My research journal provided rich detail on the Guillet side. There were 10 children, but my journal only provided me with 8 names. Of those, one would be my Father. Of those 8 people, 5 were men and I had their names addresses, birth dates and I could see that three of them had already passed away.  My Mother’s sister remembered that she had dated Nil so I began my search there. Based on the latest data, it looked like Nil and Eric were the only sons of my Grandparents, who were still living.

One clue I already had, Eric’s son, Eric Guillet, Jr. was already a 1st cousin match to me in my ancestry DNA group. I was pretty sure Nil was the person I was looking for.

Nil was not easy to locate. I was given a phone number and email, neither worked. I Googled his name and found his business but no website. I went to Facebook and there, located his Facebook company page.  I sent a message through Facebook messenger simply asking how to reach Nil for a “Private Family Matter”.  Imagine my surprise when I got an immediate response!

I had my research journal so I was fairly confident that I could share that with whomever was on the other end of this conversation and they would understand but I was trying to be cautious. The conversation went something like this:

me: hello. I am looking for Nil. Do you know how I might reach him? It is a private family matter

Ryan:I’m family.. what is the issue

me: I might be his daughter. no joke. I’m the daughter of Linda Louise Marchand. Given up for adoption in 1966. I realize this is not a good way to present this but there is really no easy way. I want nothing but to let him know I exist and that Linda’s family has been looking for me and finally found me.

I did not know the person on the other end of this message WAS Ryan, my half brother. He took it well. He has a great sense of humor too!   I immediately sent him the research journal and we talked on the phone back and forth for several days to figure out what do to next. Ryan called his Aunt Gloria (Nil’s sister) to see what she thought would be the right way to approach Nil.

In the meantime, my Ancestry match 1st cousin, Eric Guillet and I had been discussing this. I told him I’d made contact with Ryan and what the DNA research journal information was and Eric decided he would go over to Nil’s house one day and have a chat. And he did! I got a message from Eric one afternoon that Nil would be happy to talk with me. He did not remember my Mother but with more information, he might and he was “open” to having a discussion.

I called Nil right away and he was jovial and very open to this discussion. He said he did not really remember much about Linda but knew that they grew up around the corner from the Marchand family and that Gloria and Linda had been friends in school. Nil was 4 years older than Linda.  We had a very nice chat and at the end I told him that Ryan and I had planned to do a sibling DNA test. Nil said he would prefer that he and I do that so we could be absolutely sure.   I appreciated that and the test was ordered, sent and received in a few days. The hardest part was waiting for the results because we sent our kits in right around 4th of July so there was a holiday holding up the mail.  On 7/11/2017, I received the DNA test results. I was really afraid to open it but I already knew the answer….Nil and I were a 99.9995% match for parent/child. No denying it- he was my Father.

I emailed it to Ryan and we talked on the phone for a bit. Then I think I called Nil. I can’t remember the day was a blur but I’m sure I sent it to Ryan before calling Nil so he could get a printed copy.  Ryan then sent a copy to his brother, Cory. Cory had no idea about any of this so I can imagine his shock!  Everyone took it well and then I called Gloria to let her know she was “off the hook” for telling Nil. I thanked Eric for his help and let him know we had the extra DNA test so that was that. Nil came to visit us for several days in August. That story is written please enjoy!

Pictured below:  Me with my half brothers, Ryan on the left, Cory on the right.

Next up- the Guillet Family Reunion!

The Stress Test

Yesterday, I had to go to the heart doctor and have a stress test. Not because I’m stressed but due to the fact that I was born with a heart murmur and have had several episodes of irregular or missed beat over the year that were a bit concerning.  It doesn’t happen often, but the doctor said let’s do it for a baseline to have in the file.  When I went to my annual appointment with Dr. Aziz, I updated my medical forms. Now that I have discovered my family, I now have a ton of medical history.  Sadly, there is heart disease on both sides. My biological mother, Linda, died from a sudden and massive heart attack at 62.  There is plenty of heart disease on my Father’s side as well.

We scheduled the stress test 4 weeks ago.  I have had to move it 4 times due to work conflicts!  Finally, I got there yesterday afternoon. As the nurse was prepping me for the test- putting the electrodes on for the EKG and monitoring during the test, we chatted. She asked if I had any changes, symptoms or worries that had brought me in for the stress test. My answer was “yes” but only because I had recently found my birth family and I now had medical history to share. She was intrigued and asked me more questions.  I showed her the photos of me and Kelly and told her the story that we have the same name. I continued with more of the story as we worked and as I began the test. Walking at a slow speed on a 12 grade incline gets your heart rate up quickly so I was out of breath but I she kept asking more questions simply enthralled so I shared this blog address with her so she could read the entire story and see more photos. I’m happy for you to share this with anyone who might find it interesting or who might be going through something similar.

I love to tell the story. People always ask me how do I feel? There is no simple answer.  Of course, I’m excited and happy!  I found both sides of my family. My Mother has passed but I have her brother and sisters and I know now she’s been all around me my entire life. She never forgot me and did the very best thing she could for me.  I have 4 half siblings that I never knew about and my Father is alive and well.  We have met and will spend more time together. We all have a lot of catching up to do on both sides of the family.  There doesn’t seem to be enough time for all we want to do but we are trying to make it work every spare weekend we can and we keep in touch by phone, Facebook, texting and Facetime.  I am enjoying meeting and talking with everyone, learning about their lives and families I am only just meeting.  It’s fascinating, amazing, enchanting, joyful and sometimes a bit overwhelming (in a good way).  I still feel like I’m talking about someone else at times then I realize, this is MY story!

Ok, back to the stress test. There are 7 levels. No one ever makes it to 7.  If you get to the 4th level,  you are golden…..I made it to the 4th level!  By the fourth level you are on a 21 grade incline going about 5 mph. The only issue I had was my biceps started shaking because I was hanging on so tight to keep my feet on the treadmill.   My heart and body are healthy. I am in excellent shape for my age.  I had only one PVC (Premature ventricular contraction), right at the beginning.   I never knew what it was. It feels a little like a shock or a bump then it goes away. It showed up on the EKG and it’s benign unless they become more frequent.  I am thankful that I have found my family and for the medical history that they have shared with me.  I have always been proactive about my health,  instead of reactive.  Now I can do more because I know more.

Live well, be well.

More updates are coming soon.  Next weekend is the Guillet Family reunion. I will travel to Connecticut to see my Father, Nil and meet my brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews on the Guillet side. I’m very excited. I will update you and post photos soon!