Remembering April

This week my furry four-footed great dane “niece” crossed the Rainbow Bridge. At some point I will have more to say, but for now, please take a look at this tribute video slideshow that I made.

My July Adventure Home from Colorado

Originally written on July 7th, 2020. This sequence of events, in my opinion, led to my immune system weakening and getting COVID-19.

As I begin writing this, it is 7:30 AM eastern time on July 7, 2020. I haven’t slept since 5:30 AM eastern time on July 6, 2020 a total of 26 hours. My 12 PM mountain time (2 PM eastern) flight from Denver on July 6th took off on time. Somewhere near South Bend, Indiana (according to the captain’s announcement) the captain told us that due to severe thunderstorms, Newark is at a ground stop, this means that no flights are taking off and none are landing. He stated that we will be in a holding pattern over Pittsburgh, but due to fuel concerns as well as the number of hours the crew can work, we may have to divert the flight. At this point we were looking, at best, an arrival at 6:30 PM (flight was supposed to land at 5:35). After about an hour the captain announces that the conditions at Newark are not improving and we are diverting to Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia. At this point we have several upset passengers who will be missing their connecting flight at Newark (if Newark lifts the ground stop).

We land at Dulles at around 6 PM. We are told that unless you need to speak to a customer service representative, we should stay on the plane as the ground stop can lift as we refuel. About an hour later (7PM) we are told to de-plane but to stay near the gate as they are still waiting for news from Newark. At around 8 PM there is an announcement that the crew has reached their mandatory hours and needs to be replaced and they are trying to find a replacement crew otherwise the flight will be cancelled and we would be put up in a hotel overnight as there were no more flights to Newark that evening.

At around 9:30 PM they announced that they obtained a new crew and created a new flight and we are to go to another gate in another but connected terminal (terminal D to C) to be rebooked. The new flight was consolidating three flights into one. This flight was scheduled to take off at 11 PM as the ground stop was lifted. I stood in line and got a new ticket for this flight from Dulles to Newark. Around 10:30 PM (keep in mind this is already 8.5 hours after I left Denver) there was an announcement that they are waiting for a flight attendant to arrive, ironically from Denver and once they have the full crew compliment, we can then board and get to Newark. At this point I was looking at a 1:40 AM arrival time. I figured, this isn’t great, but if I get home by 2:45 I might get a short nap in.

The flight attendant arrived a little after midnight and it was discovered, unbeknownst to the gate agents, that this person was over their allowable hours and this “new” flight has been cancelled and we will get hotel accommodations and be booked on the 10:30 AM flight out of Dulles today (the 7th). This was shortly before 12:30 AM.

Since I have work today, this was not something I could do, nor it would be silly to sleep overnight just to fly from VA to NJ. I went to the main terminal and found the Hertz shuttle. He wouldn’t take me to Hertz unless I had a reservation. I quickly pulled up the web site and booked myself a Hyundai sedan. He then was able to drive me over. I go into the office area, give them my credit card and license and rent a car for about $100 and begin my 250-mile drive from Dulles International Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport (whose route takes me past my house). The biggest issue I had is that in VA and MD there were no toll-takers and you either had to have exact change or an EZ Pass. For one toll in VA I had enough change to be able to pay it, but not for the others. I know this is no big deal as I will get a bill in the mail at some point. Luckily in Delaware and NJ they had toll takers, so I was able to pay using bills. Since the agreement obligated me to refuel, I refueled in NJ in Hamilton on the Turnpike. I arrive at the airport a little before 5 AM and slowly navigate the craziness of Newark (remember, at this point I’ve been awake for nearly 23 hours) to find where to drop the car off. I finally find it (it wasn’t easy) but there was no one for which to return the car. I park it, leave the key in the car and take my stuff. I go into what I think is the terminal (it’s not) and find someone to “return” the car to.

At around 5:15 AM I took the AirTrain (first time for me at Newark) to Terminal A. I call the off-site parking people to pick me up and there was no answer. So now I am stuck at Newark less than 2 miles from my car. I try calling again and someone sleepily answers the phone and tells me they are on their way and where to meet them. I go to the spot and they were there within two minutes. I get taken over to the lot and I easily found my car within 2-3 minutes. I was never so happy to see my own car! I scan my reservation QR code (naturally charged for an extra day) and get on the NJ Turnpike in the opposite direction I came 30 minutes earlier. At this point the sun has risen, so without sleeping I saw it set in Virginia and rise in NJ.

No sooner do I go to the Turnpike, I see all the vehicles are diverted to the car lane as there was a crash in the truck lane (a bad one). Normally I take 1 & 9 home, but I figured this was going to be faster. I was stuck in traffic for about 10 minutes (luckily it was early) and I got home at around 6:40 AM. So, when Dad called at 7, I was home for not five minutes, but twenty, however, I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours by then and had work at 7:30 so I had to run out and get something before work started.

Welcome To My New Site!

You may be thinking that the site looks pretty much the same as it always been.  Recently my web host provider, Surpass, who I have been using since 2005 dramatically increased their prices.  Essentially my web host costs would have gone from around $60/year to over $300.  At the same time, my domain registrar, Yahoo Small Business has been steadily increasing their prices as well.  I decided to simplify things and moved my domain registration and web host provider to TMD Hosting in which I am now paying the equivalent of what I used to pay for domain and web hosting.  Additionally, I don’t have bandwidth or usage restrictions.  Now all I have to do is get back to blogging!  Look for new posts coming soon.

Chat With Adam’s Uncles & More About Wendy

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to chat with Adam’s uncles, Bill and Seth (via two separate conversations) and got to find out more about them as well as Wendy. I never thought in my entire life that I would ever get to talk to someone who is genetically related to me. While it is hard to explain, the fact that I got the opportunity to do that was both a surreal, interesting, nerve-wracking and exciting experience. With both calls I didn’t know what to expect. While planned, I didn’t draw up a list of questions I wanted to ask, I decided to let the conversation flow naturally and see how it transpired. It was interesting to get the perspectives of both of Adam’s uncles on Wendy and their relationship with her. In the case of Bill, being only a few years younger I got the sense that the relationship was more brother-sister, where with Seth, being ten years younger than Wendy (and only ten years older than Adam) was more parent/child. Both conversations sort-of had the same structure. I asked about Wendy, what was her personality, details regarding the circumstances of giving Adam up for adoption and how she passed away. I then told them about my life and family history, though a lot of that is easily gleaned from this blog as well as my Facebook posts. I also discovered that they were curious about me and were very excited to find out what became of the “mysterious” Adam. Like myself, they even discussed it with their friends and family.

    So, what did I find out about Wendy Wood (nee Madway)? I found out that she died from tongue cancer. She never smoked but it can be caused by a bacterial infection, which is what happened with Wendy. I won’t go into the details of what I was told, but from the explanation she sadly had a horrible time of it. I’ve had various mouth issues (impacted bicuspids, baby teeth not falling out, braces, etc.)., while I do take fairly good care of my teeth, I’m going to be extra vigilant. In talking to Bill and Seth, both described Wendy as difficult, argumentative but also caring and having a heart of gold. I know this is more of a nurture over nature thing, but anyone who knows me knows that I can certainly be argumentative and difficult at times, I’ll let others decide the other (good) part. I got a sense that while Wendy was a very private person, and kept Adam a secret, there was a sense of curiosity. I asked both Bill and Seth if given the opportunity, if she would’ve wanted to meet Adam. Both said that she probably wondered whatever became of the child she gave up and most likely would’ve wanted to know and perhaps meet me. According to Seth, he got the sense that she may have even considered trying to find Adam, but that is all speculation. Seth being so much younger never really knew about Adam until after Wendy’s passing, while Bill, being that much closer in age, did know but it was never discussed. I found out that Wendy was dating someone when she became pregnant with Adam and it is inferred based on the conversation I had with Bill, that this “someone” was most likely Adam’s father. During Wendy’s pregnancy, she went to New York City to live with an aunt. My understanding is that her relationship with this aunt, who would be Adam’s great aunt, was a difficult one.

    Education was very important in the Madway family. Pete Madway, Wendy’s father graduated from Harvard (yes, that Harvard) and proceeded to get an MBA from that university as well as a second Master’s Degree, however, Seth was unsure if the second degree was also from there. Pete worked in insurance and finance, which co-incidentally is a hobby of mine, a taste I got from my own grandfather, Frank. Wendy herself, who had a good career working for the New Jersey Division of Taxation as an administrator, never graduated from college, despite her father’s strong encouragement. Unlike Wendy, both Bill & Seth graduated from college, University of Wisconsin and University of Pennsylvania respectively, sorry guys, I’m a Hoosiers fan, go

I always known I was born Jewish. When my parents were going through the adoption process, one of the things that Mrs. Wentworth, the social worker who handled the adoption asked is if my parents were observant. My mom interpreted this as that my biological family were Orthodox. I found out this wasn’t the case. Bill & Edie were Conservative-Reform and that Seth’s family keeps kosher and goes to I think, a reform synagogue in Rochester, NY. While Seth himself has not been to Israel, both of his daughters have been. I myself grew up in a religiously, a right-of center Jewish household who kept kosher both at home and out (never ate non-kosher foods/meat/fish). I went to a “Conservodox” synagogue (Conservative synagogue with an Orthodox rabbi) that was not egalitarian. I have since rebelled of sorts since then and no longer keep kosher, though I won’t eat shellfish and avoid pork but cheeseburgers are yummy.

At some time in the future I certainly hope to meet both Bill & Seth and while Seth does travel a lot and lives approximately 329 miles (529 km) away in Rochester, Bill lives a mere 61 miles (98 km) away. Ironically, Wendy’s town of work, Trenton is the halfway point.

Adam Madway’s Family

While Adam and I are biologically the same person, I do not identify as myself as Adam, so going forward Adam will be referenced in the 3rd person whereas any first person references will be related to Michael.  Below are a couple of photos generously provided to me by Bill Madway, Adam’s uncle via Facebook.  In the first photo below from the 1960’s are, going from left to right, Adam’s grandparents Edith (died August 3, 2007) and Pete (October 29, 1926- July 7, 2000), Seth is in the front, Bill behind him and Wendy (1951-2010) to the right.  While I will have to see if my parents still have physical photos of me as a child (some of my grade school years is posted on Facebook), there is a very strong resemblance when looking at Wendy as well as Seth.  The photo was taken in Levittown, PA in front of their home.  The 2nd photo is from about twenty years ago (so late 90’s one would presume).  It shows from front to back and left to right Adam’s cousins Arial and Tori (sorry, unsure which is which), their mother Wendy (Seth’s wife, Adam’s aunt), Adam’s cousin David (Bill’s son), Seth (Adam’s uncle), Edith and Pete who are Adam’s grandparents (shoot that explains the receding hairline that I have), Bill, Adam’s other uncle, Wendy who is Adam’s mother and Megan (Bill’s wife and Adam’s aunt).  Below that, I may have found an even older photo of Adam’s grandfather.  Also included is a brief video of Adam’s aunt and uncle talking about their best Jewish moments. If all goes as planned, I will have a phone conversation this Saturday, so stay tuned for more on this ever unfolding story.

Call Me Adam?

Some of what I am about to explain is fact, while some of it is interpolation.

Wendy L. Wood (nee Madway), age 58, passed away on January 21, 2010.  She was an administrator for the New Jersey State Tax Department who resided in Levittown, Pennsylvania.  Sister of Bill (Megan) Madway of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Seth (Wendy) Madway of Rochester, New York.  Wendy was born in Pennsylvania.

Approximately 35 years earlier a 20-year-old Wendy Madway, who by then had attended two years of college, went to the Helene Fuld Hospital in Trenton, NJ.  At around 7:55 AM on a late winter’s morning, she gave birth to a healthy 5 lb. 15 oz. baby, whom she named Adam.  Dr. James A Gribbin assisted with the caesarian birth on that day after the Ides of March.

Being unmarried, Wendy gave up young Adam Madway for adoption.  Approximately three months later Adam, known as Baby M, was adopted by Kenneth and Carol Bernstein and renamed Michael P. Bernstein.

On March 7, 2017 Michael remembered that a law was passed unsealing the original birth certificates of adopted children, which can be used for informational purposes only.  Under this law, an almost 45-year-old man, filled out the form from the Office of Vital Statistics, provided two forms of identification, and a processing fee of $25.

March 29, 2017, Michael decides to check his mail early in the morning.  Included amongst the junk mail was a photo copy of his original, thought to never be seen, birth certificate.  While he now knows the name of his mother, the father, as listed on the certificate, is unknown.  That may be a mystery that is never solved.

Michael, once, even if briefly, known as Adam, did not find photos of the late Wendy L. Wood, but did find photos and even a video of what is presumed to be his biological uncles as well as, through marriage the other Wendy Madway.  Adam/Michael apparently does not have any siblings but has at least two female cousins through Seth and Wendy and at least one male cousin through Bill Madway.

It doesn’t change a thing (click the link) for Michael.  His parents who he loves, and loves him will always be Kenneth and Carol, but it does solve an enduring mystery about his early life.

I called my parents and essentially read them this post.  They were supportive and happy for me.  They always were in favor of me looking for my biological family and filling in some of that mystery.  It could not have gone any better.

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”Adam Madway Birth Certificate.compressed”]

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

To my colleagues and friends at Merck and on the Internet,

Due to a corporate realignment, my last day with Merck is the 9th of May.  I thought I’d take a few minutes to reflect on my career at Merck.  In the over sixteen years at the company, I have grown, both professionally as well as personally.  To those who are reading this blog post, whose paths have crossed with mine in real life, there is no doubt that I learned at least one thing from you.  When I started at Merck I was a mere twenty six years old and realized that there is a lot to be learned.  Starting at the old Technology Support Center (TSC) I got to meet some great people who have become more than co-workers, but friends as well.  Working at Merck has been a truly wonderful experience for me.  Professionally, I learned so many great skills.  I learned about proper help desk methodologies in an industry that was still young and developing.  I’ll never forget the “tap taps” I’d get from Cathy Wilson when I misclassified a ticket in Vantive.  Who can ever forget the evening staff meetings after working a long 8 or 10 hour shift?  Merck was not always about work.  I remember playing indoor golf or video games as part of our weekly team building events.  The beeps of the SYMON board when the queue got high will forever be ingrained in my brain as well as how quiet the phones got on September 11, 2001.  Christmas at the help desk was always a fun time.  We had the support team of Cohen and Bernstein (yes, it does sound like a law firm) waiting for the phone to ring.  This gave us practice for Y2K when absolutely nothing happened and I mean nothing.  I think we were on “ready” for 90 minutes before a call came in and it was a minor issue with some obscure Oracle database in China.

I developed so many new skills and found ways to make good ideas better.  I remember how David Wilson‘s Techtionary (aka “technical dictionary”) was a giant, 100 page Word document that was printed out every few weeks.  Oh, how I would frantically flip through that thing to find out what app the customer/client/end-user was calling about just so that I can sound reassuring on the phone that I knew what they were talking about.  I then made it easier by introducing the new Techtionary and as a result, my skills in MS Access, IIS, Oracle (and thanks to Jason Victor‘s expertise), JSP grew.  I admit, that it was one of my greatest “claims to fame” at Merck.  Yes, at this point I was still not known as the “Outlook guy.”

Not all of my development at Merck was technical.  There were a lot of personal growth and “new chapters” in my life.  In 2005 I took a major leap of faith and bought my first home (well, a condo) and went through all the stress of construction delays, lawyers, inspections, mortgage approvals, etc.  In April 2006, I became true to myself, my family and my co-workers and told them I am gay (see my post about that here).  Thanks to a supportive family, friends and co-workers, this opened up a whole new world for me and I embraced my true self wholeheartedly.  With the encouragement of my family and my best friend Neil, who is like a brother to me, I became a member of GLEAM, legacy Merck’s LGBT employee resource group.  This opened up a whole new world of Merck people in my life.  I got the opportunity to get out of my “IT silo” at Merck and work with other people from the business side of the company.  As a result of this, I made some new friends like Shari Johnson, Brian Bernstein (no relation), Eric Thalasinos (via Schering), Dean Hancock, Kar-Chan (Casey) Choong, Alex Kelly, Rachel Feller and countless others.  Thinking to myself that GLEAM’S web site could use some work, I decided to run in a contested election for the Technology Chair.  To my complete surprise, I won the election and became a member of their Steering Committee.  It was the only time I ever won a contested election.

2005 was also an interesting year in my Merck career.  I remember getting a call from Lorraine DeBrodi on Valentine’s Day.  I knew something important was going on because a director never calls me, much less at home on a weekend.  Apparently a VIP was having a remote connectivity issue.  This led to the establishment of the Expert Help Desk (EHD).  Without so much as an interview, thus began my second job at Merck.  Being a founding member of the EHD brought new challenges and new experiences.  I now wasn’t so tied to phone metrics and was afforded the flexibility to be on new and interesting projects.  I handled the tough tickets and got those we could not resolve to the right folks who could.  I got to interview people for the first time.  This was new for me, after all, I have had lots of experience being the “interviewee.”  My role at the EHD allowed for some personal growth and adventure as well.  I flew by myself for the first time and it was an international trip to Canada.  I got to provide in-person EHD support to the Australia help desk located at Ajilon in Montréal.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Schering-Plough.  While I am considered a legacy Merck employee, my career started at Schering-Plough, first in Union and then in Kenilworth as an intern doing deskside support.  The merger was an interesting and exciting time for me.  Despite the world becoming smaller with the Internet and social networking, seeing “long lost” Schering colleagues was a bit like a high school reunion.  I don’t know what they got in the water over at S-P, but I swear none of them aged in the intervening years.  This merger gave me the opportunity to be involved in integration activities.  I got to be part of “day 1” hyper care support.  I remember needing to test “Merck Today” with a corporate vice-president to see if it worked with people at various levels of the company but I was a little afraid to “annoy” a VP with a “friend request.”  Luckily George Llado was sitting next to me and I got to “annoy” him with my friend request.  The merger also allowed me to take my first trip to Mexico and meet some truly wonderful, dedicated and hardworking analysts of the Americas Help Desk (AHD).  I had the opportunity to provide integration support for when the AHD started providing support for our new co-workers from Schering-Plough.

The merger afforded me the opportunity to work with new colleagues from the Rainbow Alliance Network (RAN), Schering’s LGBT employee resource group.  Due to my role as Technology Chair, I got to work on integration activities as we merged GLEAM and RAN to form the Merck Rainbow Alliance (MRA).  A new web site was created using SharePoint which allowed for prospective members to electronically join the group, plus each chapter got its own web site which allowed for more member engagement.  Eventually I would go on to be the New Jersey co-chair of the group, which allowed me to have new opportunities.  I got to learn leadership skills, organization, and planning.  I got to meet new colleagues from other companies and industries thanks to participating in the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Los Angeles, Dallas, Baltimore and Minneapolis.

The merger brought new management for the Expert Help Desk with Mike Landsman.  His new way of doing things lead to a more engaged and cohesive group.  The mix of Merck and Schering cultures had a good synergy that made our team a successful one.  As we moved away from Expert Services and the Hands on Helpdesk, I got a new job (again without so much as an interview) as I learned Service Management.  My role evolved from being an incident manager, to a problem manager.  This is where my ITIL certification and Six Sigma Yellow Belt training really came into play.  I got to learn how to find solutions to prevent them from happening in the first place, sort of like putting out the fires before the first spark.  I got to learn a new way of thinking and analyzing and as result; my skills with PivotTables have never been stronger.

As I look back at my career at Merck, I also look forward.  No one can predict the future.  Who knows, perhaps my path will someday intersect with Merck again.  My Merck experience has truly been a wonderful time in my life.  I know there are lots of people I didn’t mention who have been so influential in my Merck career, but they’re playing the music and it’s time for me to get off the stage.  I have often wondered what I would write, when the time came for Merck and I to part ways, though Markella Saliaris mentioned it first and wrote about it in her own farewell statement, the video below pretty much is how I feel.  Be positive!  Always look on the bright side of life!  Most importantly, be well.

Contact me at mbernste at gmail dot com