Friday, February 20, 2015

14,600 Days

It is the eve of my 40th birthday and I couldn't be more excited. I have always loved my birthday no matter the year, but I am told this one is a "milestone" so I figure I should think about what that means. To me, every birthday I have had has been a milestone of some sort and certainly a blessing. However, as I head into a new decade there are a few more things I know about myself and life that make this birthday, to me, much sweeter. A colleague asked me this week how I am feeling about turning 40 and then sort of frowned like it is the worst thing in the world. This is not how I feel about 40. Not at all. In fact, this might be my favorite birthday so far because of who I am today. Here are 10 things that are true going into the next decade that I didn't totally have my head around in my 20's or even most of my 30's.

1. I know who I am.
For most of my life I have been pretty comfortable with my individuality, but finally at this stage in my life I feel just about 100% clear about who I am and what I represent. I am not apologetic about my beliefs, decisions, or lifestyle. I wear clothes that make me feel good. I listen to music that moves me. I decorate my home in a way completely unique to me. I wear lipstick everyday because it makes me feel pretty.

2. I like who I am.
I have come to terms with the fact that not everyone in the world has to love me for me to love myself. I am less hard on myself and see my flaws in a more loving way. I am open to improvement all the time, but recognize that who I am right this minute is enough for today.

3. I know what I believe in and can back it up with reasons why.
I have strong political beliefs. I am an advocate for social justice. I am a feminist. If you say something that I disagree with I will tell you and I am prepared to tell you why.

4. I trust my life decisions and rarely question them.
Whether these choices are about my mate, my career, children, religion, where to live, how to spend my money. I am confident in my decisions and very rarely are they swayed.

5. I follow my heart.
At age 40 I will be married to my best friend and the other half of my heart. I will be in a career that I love and have created for myself in many ways. I will go on vacations with my girlfriends every year. I will spend time alone to reflect and sit in the sun. In some ways I have always followed my heart, but I definitely question it much less today than I once did.

6. I choose and not choose who I associate with easily and without apology.
My time is more valuable than ever these days and when I have some free hours I want to spend it with people who make my life better, plain and simple. If you don't, then I don't need ya.

7. I understand the world better.
Completely because of my very international job I understand the world I live in much better. I appreciate different cultures. I am fiercely interested in other people's experiences. I am much more sensitive to the plight of others at age 40 than I ever have been. I am also very resilient and able to handle very foreign situations with a sense of calm I never knew I possessed.

8. I take criticism well.
This is a newer one, but I will say that I am heading into my 40's much more self aware and able to handle critique. I am less sensitive about what others think of me and do not become derailed if someone does not like me. Of course, I still want everyone to like me, but I am much more aware that this is unlikely. And that's okay.

9. I know what is important.
I have better relationships with my close friends. I value making meaningful memories with my family. I have a niece that has changed my heart in so many positive ways. My husband and his heart are precious and I treat this relationship with the utmost respect. I value good sleep, healthy food, moving more than sitting around, having money in my savings account, and taking time for solitude and reflection.

10. I wake up happy.
No matter what is going on in my life I make an effort to wake up with a smile on my face. I am a positive person by nature, but this doesn't mean I am always happy. However, I do what I can to recognize the good in every day rather than focus on the negative. Some people say this attitude will help me live longer, which would be great, but I just want to live happier as long as I can.

So, as I move into my next decade on this planet I do so with excitement. I can't even imagine how this list will look at age 50, but I am pretty sure it is going to be even better!

By the way...
Patti Smith's Gloria and I are the same age!

In case you are wondering, these albums are also turning 40 this year!

Led Zeppelin's "Physical Graffiti"
Willie Nelson's "Red Headed Stranger"
Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run"
Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here"

Friday, December 26, 2014

Holiday Reflection

Although the temperatures outside would suggest otherwise, Christmas has come and gone, and boy has it been a wonderful year so far! And as we head into the new year filled with hope and possibility it feels like a good time to give thanks for the many blessings that found their way to me in 2014. I continue to have a husband, family, circle of friends,  and a career that constantly inspire me. For all of these gifts I could not be more grateful. So here goes:

The hubs:

I have known my husband for 10 (!) years this Christmas and we have spent these years building a life together for which I am grateful every day. He is the other half of my heart, my enthusiastic supporter, and my best friend. I have been so proud of him this year as he followed his passion and his dream to play music again professionally.  He is talented and smart and never lets a day go by without showing me his heart. We have had some great adventures so far and I look forward to many more. Thank you, Chris, for being just who you are, always authentically you, and perfect for me.

The family:

I could not be more grateful for my wonderful family. And this year I have watched my niece grow from a tiny infant to a little girl with the most incredible smile and personality you have ever seen. My brother and Brittany are wonderful and natural parents and my parents are exactly what I imagined they would be as grandparents. It has been a special time for us all this year and I just love being an Auntie. This year I also got to have Bonnie Mariotti as a house guest for a few days and though the miles between us don't allow for more frequent visits, the time I do have with her is treasured.

The old lady:

Ella has been in my life for nearly 15 years. I hate to even think of what life would be like without her. She has always been my companion and has traveled from place to place with me over the years never complaining, just adapting. I'd like to think that I have given her a good life and that she has been a happy dog. Of course, those of you who know Ella, her aloofness might not let on anything about her happiness, but I know whenever we come home from work she still jumps up (albeit a little slower these days) and greets us, tail wagging, at the door. She is a good girl, my summer porch companion, my best friend. And my life became infinitely better the day I met her many years ago.

The friends:

I am so grateful for these folks and many more that I call my friends. I have known some for 15 years and others for only a few, but they all are kind and smart and unique and wonderful. I am a lucky girl!

The gig: 

Whoa! What can I say about a job that inspires me everyday, allows me to help kids, lets me have friends from every corner of the globe, and sends me all over the world. Thankful. That is all. 

The privilege: 
I would be remiss not to mention the gratitude I have for the many freedoms I have just because of the country I live in, but even more than this, the privileges I have because of the color of my skin. I have spent time in communist countries and countries fighting to retain their democracy. I have seen people of color no richer or poorer than me experience great inequalities in my own country. I have seen same-sex couples together for longer than I have been alive fight for the right to marry. I have seen incredible inequities in education in the poorest parts of this country. I have seen children desperate to leave their countries for the chance of a better life in mine. And everyday I think about how lucky I am to have been born with the privileges I have and continue to support any movement that promotes equality with my whole heart. 

So, as we head into the New Year I hope we can all take a minute to reflect on what is good. The world is not perfect and our lives are not either, but the little sparkles of joy are what make it worth the journey. 

Happy New Year to you all! Thank you for being a part of my life. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ferguson Revisited

As an educational administrator, a diversity practitioner, and someone who has done a thesis'-worth (and more) research on equity and social justice in this country, I feel the need to express my feelings on the recent Ferguson verdict. I posted something controversial online shortly after I learned that Darren Wilson would not be charged in any way in the shooting death of Michael Brown. I reacted viscerally because I am very aware of the inequities in the justice system in this country. If you do not agree that there are inequities, I will not argue, but ask that you research the many years of documents that offer pretty clear proof. After my post which was, admittedly, emotional, I decided to take it down. The first reason being that I am convinced that an intelligent conversation cannot be had on the subject over social media. My mistake. Secondarily, because I had the opportunity to watch an interview with Darren Wilson. I truly feel that this young man who had never used his gun before this incident was terrified and panicked. I do not in any way, however, condone the fact that he shot at an unarmed person 12 times (6 hitting the victim, 2 in the head). Michael Brown by all accounts was aggressive and threatening to this police officer. He was not a "good kid" that got shot because he was black. But, in the defensive of the victim, I feel that excessive force was used to take him down. I don't think Brown needed to be killed. I think it is a shame.

This country has a history of racism that exists today in a very real way. People of color are profiled in ways that a white person could never even imagine. You can view online hundreds of police interactions with "aggressive and dangerous" white guys that are not shot to their death when they fight with police officers. There is a huge disparity in the treatment that white criminals and black criminals experience and there are pages and pages of legitimate research to prove it. 

With all of this said, I do not believe that Micheal Brown was some nice kid in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was doing illegal things and exhibiting behaviors which should have gotten him arrested. And if my husband, brother, or friend was in the same situation as Darren Wilson I would want him to do everything possible to protect himself. I just do not feel that the excessive amount of force used to finish off a kid that was unarmed and had no previous record at all was necessary. Again, I was not there, but it seems a bit suspect to me. 

Finally, the riots and chaos that have ensued since the verdict are depressing and unconscionable, but are simply another symptom of a culture that feels completely at a loss in their own country. There are too many black men (and women) in prison, too many stories like this one to feel like it is coincidental anymore. The perpetuation of poverty, inequities in justice, and embedded racism in our society are to blame and if you don't believe me, read about it, please. 

My heart goes out to Micheal Brown's family and also Darren Wilson's. Both families have a great deal of tragedy to deal with and I hope that they can find peace in this difficult time. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

A feminist laments on high heels.

I would absolutely consider myself a feminist. I believe in equal rights between men and women, I believe in and defending equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women in every way. But there is something about American feminism that has always confounded me. It is the belief that to be a feminist we must reject all things feminine. I understand this to a degree, because ultimately what is "feminine" has probably been constructed by men, but let me tell you this with no embarrassment: I love to look pretty. For me, not for men. And I have always felt this way. The catalyst for this blog tonight is simple: I had a "smart casual" work event in which after several hours of contemplation resulted in me wearing gorgeous, sexy (not sleazy) high heels. I had flats planned out with my very conservative outfit of black pants and a sweater, but when I slipped my feminist foot into those high heels something happened. My confidence exploded. I walked into my event tall and proud (and still an advocate for women's rights). Yes, do men like high heels? Of course, but this does not mean that as women we cannot embrace how they make us feel. That is the point. If you are doing it for you, then do it, girl! I also am known to not leave the house without lipstick on (ask Adrienne) and I would never be caught dead in Crocs. This does not make me an anti-fem, just a girl who has her preferences. Also, please don't ever wear Crocs unless you are 5 years old or work in a kitchen. Ugh, I am so sorry, Croc lovers, but I just can't condone them. 

Listen, I can quote more Gloria Steinem than most people and know every Ani Difranco song by heart. I love women, I am an advocate for every right we deserve, but I still like being a "lady". There is something to be said for putting on a great pair of shoes, a perfect shade of lipstick, whatever makes you feel good, and walking out that door with the "I am woman, hear me roar" attitude we all have inside. I never feel lesser by looking pretty because my worth comes from a place much deeper. Doesn't yours, too? Rock it out, ladies, however makes you feel good.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

If you want to sing out, sing out.

On my drive into New York City today I came across a public radio station that was playing a nearly perfect show for my sunny first trip of the hectic travel season which is now my life. I stayed tuned in initially because there was a weird Doors song on that I was unfamiliar with, but immediately recognized Morrison's sultry, insanely inviting voice. I am glad I stayed put on the dial (I am known for excessive scanning) and enjoyed for the next two hours a show about lead singers, vocalists that have made an impact on the two hosts lives in one way or another. It was, in a way, a "one up" show with two guys saying then playing who they believed to be the best vocalists of all time. Their choices were as different as I am sure ours (mine and yours) will be, but nonetheless they were all pretty spot on, in my book. I won't go into who they chose, but if I can ever find this broadcast online I will definitely share it. Rather, I will share my top five vocalists of all time and see if you agree. Please share yours if you feel so inclined. I am deeply in love with music and have been from a young age. My father instilled a great love of R&B and Motown in me early for which I am very grateful. I seem to be continually drawn to that soulful sound even in music today. So here are my five favorite vocalist in no particular order. Headphone up and enjoy.

1. Otis Redding.
I've Been Loving You Too Long

2. Jeff Buckley


3. Aretha Franklin


4. George Michael

They Won't Go When I Go

5. Joni Mitchell

OMG. There are so many more. But this is what strikes me now. Please add and comment. 
And just in case you need a little more...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When somebody does something nice..

Here I sit on a patio, 8 floors up, overlooking one of the most beautiful bays I have ever seen, in Naples Florida. A few weeks back I was bundled in a peacoat slurping down dining hall soup at my job when I said out loud to the colleagues at my table, "I wish someone would just give me their place in Florida for a few days over spring break so I could warm up!" This was mostly said in jest, with a hopeful sense of wonder that someone in the world would and could actually do this for me. Within seconds my colleague said, "You can stay at my place." And there you have it, folks: a completely selfless offering of kindness that I cannot ever be grateful enough for. This colleague and I have just recently begun building a friendship, one of which I believe has the possibility of becoming lifelong, but not because of this offering. Well, sort of. I mean, anyone who would just willingly offer their home to a coworker is good stuff, but moreso because I know she is just an excellent person. Anyway, I assume she and I will be drinking wine here one day together, so I will leave the gushing for then.

I have always been in awe of general kindness, but the kind that allows another person to truly find joy when they need it most is just incredible to me. It is like, we, as a collective consciousness know when another person is in need. This is why, in a way, house swapping has become a thing, maybe. I believe in some way we all want to share the best part of our daily lives with others and this makes me incredibly joyful. Side note: if anyone is dying to stay in Southington, CT this summer for a week, let me know!

As for those who have offered this joy to me, I hope I can someday repay it. Thank you Kim and family, thank you Brian and family, and thank you Miss Charlotte and family for forever touching my life with selfless acts of kindness and hospitality. I am quite a lucky girl.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The baby blog

Well, I'm sure you all have been wondering where my new niece blog has been hiding and truth be told, I just have been so overwhelmed by joy with her arrival that I haven't thought twice about documenting it. But today, Ryan Lee Macellaro has been alive for one whole month and I couldn't think of a better day to celebrate this! Surely, my brother and his wife will marvel in this day and wonder how she could possibly be a month old already, while the rest of us are marveling in the first day of warm weather we have see in many frigid and dark months. I like to think of Ryan's birth as a reminder to us all that life can change, become more important, more meaningful, in an instant and we should treasure each and every moment and gift that the universe provides. We won't all have babies, we won't all marry, we won't all experience the obvious or stereotypical blessings that life provides, but we all experience them in some way or another and aren't we so lucky for that?

Ryan Lee was born while I was in Italy. A trip of a lifetime for me, but a bittersweet one at that. I imagined being there in the sterile waiting room when my only brother, my heart, welcomed new life into this world, a life he had a part in creating! I have never thought much about having kids, but always knew my brother would and the fact that I couldn't be there was heart wrenching. But, all went perfectly and Ryan Lee entered the world with bright eyes and a healthy cry. I loved her immediately, thousands of miles across the phone line, I was madly and completely in love.

Since, I have been able to see my niece regularly and that is incredible; but what is more incredible is the way my brother and Brittany have so naturally taken to parenthood. I was there the day my brother was born and I witnessed most of his growth through childhood and adolescence (yikes!) and finally to adulthood. I couldn't be prouder of him and know he will make the most incredible father. And Brittany, well she is just a natural.

Here's to baby Ryan!