Women and Black History Month

Women and Black History Month

I watched last night as Viola Davis accepted her best supporting actress Oscar for her performance in Fences. She is the first black star to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony for acting. Bravo!

Oscar nominated film Hidden Figures star, Taraji Henson, who plays the role of Katherine Johnson, brought the real NASA physicist Katherine Johnson out on stage.  Johnson, now 98, made history as one of the first black women involved in the space race during the 1960’s. The film, an adaptation of Margot Shetterly’s book, tells the story of a group of NASA engineers, all black women, and how they computed the math that sent John Glenn into orbit. Henson, along with Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae did a fabulous job of making this piece of history finally come to life on the big screen. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie you should do both. My favorite film this year.

Throughout time there has been a long list of black women who have fought for freedom, made political and business history, and continue to fight for their right to inclusion and diversity in society today. In this country and countries throughout the world, black women continue to play a critical role in the past, present and future of our history.

A few that come to mind for me:

Hattie McDaniel was a 1940’s actress and radio personality.  She was the first black woman to win an Oscar for her performance in Gone With the Wind.

Rosa Parks, one of the most influential women in the fight for racial equality, refused to give up her seat on that Montgomery bus, leading to the desegregation of buses across the country.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is the world’s first elected black female President and Africa’s first female Head of State. Liberia has continued to move in a better direction since she took office. Ms. Shirleaf helped my friend, Katie Meyler, build her first school for girls in Liberia.

Maya Angelou was an actress, screenwriter and director who became a legendary poet and award-winning author. Her book, I Know Why The Caged Bird Cries, remains one of the most inspiring autobiographies of all time.

Dame Eugenia Charles, better known as Mamo, was the first female Prime Minister of Dominica. She was a tough woman who survived a coup led by the Ku Klux Klan and went on to reshape her country.

Madame CJ Walker, born to slaves in Louisiana, became the first black millionaire businesswoman with her successful line of hair care products. Her philanthropic efforts included donations to the YMCA and NAACP.

Dorothy Height, one of the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington was the only woman seated on the speaker’s platform.  She spent decades working for racial equality and women’s rights.

Ella Baker held posts with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP during the Civil Rights Movement.  She helped to organize the 1961 Freedom Rides, fighting segregation and promoted black voter registration during the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964.

This is just a short, very incomplete list of the many black women who have made significant contributions in history.

In the United States, Black history month is an important part of our nation’s tradition helping to create awareness of the historic challenges African Americans have faced and continue to face today. But, should we only be reminded of this rich history during the month of February?  There are a number of museums and institutions that offer a year-round opportunity to learn more about our African American history.   As Morgan Freeman once said, “I don’t want a Black history month.  Black history is American history.” He makes a very good point.

Peace and Love,

Melissa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Zac

Thanks Zac

Making a film is an amazing experience. Sometimes I feel like I won the lottery.  To learn something new at my age is exhilarating and exhausting in a good way.  This past year has been a tremendous opportunity to test myself, make mistakes, correct them and feel a great sense of accomplishment.

I just got back last night from Arizona where we filmed the Sun City Poms, a rather famous cheerleading group, all between 55-85 years of age. It was a long trip with a major flight delay getting out of Philly, but we made it in time to get some sleep and wake up early for our first interview of the day. Actually a rooster woke us all up at 4 am, but that’s another story!

Traveling with an experienced crew is awesome.   I travel with a Director of Photography, a Second Camera person, a Sound Mixer and a Production Manager. Each plays an integral role in the filming of the subjects and uses multiple pieces of equipment to ensure we get exactly what we need. I can’t begin to describe the amount of equipment that goes into a film shoot like ours.  I wish I had taken a picture of it all gathered together in the many shipping containers, special cases, etc.  Hours are spent packing, unpacking, building and dismantling cameras and other equipment.  It is a major process for each crew member.

Zac, one of the owners of Expressway Productions, is our Director of Photography, or DP. He has been with me since the beginning of the project and truly understands what I am looking for when interviewing the women.  He manages the rest of the crew to ensure lighting, sound and alternative film shots are capturing all possibilities.  Aside from that he is the “King of B-Roll.”  That stands for background footage.  No matter where we are, or who we are shooting, there is ample time set aside to capture film footage related to the subject we are covering.  A most recent example: picture me driving a 12-Passenger van/bus (the kind that almost needs a ladder to enter) slowly through the streets of Sun City, AZ with a huge camera set on a tripod, touching my right shoulder and completely blocking my view to the right.  The lens is pointed out the front windshield and is capturing the neighborhoods, the orange trees and the senior citizens on golf carts.  This goes on for an hour or two until Zac feels we have enough footage. On occasion he asks me to stop and he hops out, grabs another camera for a close up shot of a sign he likes.  Little pieces of this footage will make it into the film.  I love waiting to see what catches his eye.

Zac is a perfectionist.  He does not quit until he gets the lighting just right or the shot framed exactly as he wants it.  I watch him.  He’s watching the light fade to night and he is springing into action to go outside and secure a light panel against a picture window.  That amount of light coming in through the blinds keeps the lighting consistent and we go on. By the end of the filming, forgetting about the panel,  I am tricked into thinking it is still light outside.

We ended our second day of filming in AZ with the Wickenburg Rodeo Days Parade.  Two and a half miles. Zac, Ian and Sean walked, jogged and ran the distance getting shots of the Sun City Poms from every possible angle. Sometimes they wore harnesses that held their heavy equipment, sometimes not.  They kept up with the 80 year old baton twirler and the rest of the Poms, with an average age of 74, performing to the tune of Achy Breaky Heart. It was quite a sight. I don’t know who amazed me more, the Poms or our camera crew.

I have no doubt that when I begin editing the many hours of footage from Sun City it will all be good and once again I will have trouble choosing what to use in the segment. Stay tuned!

Thanks Zac, for being a great partner and a truly exceptional DP.

Have a great day!

Love, Melissa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is Something About Vermont

There is Something About Vermont

I have lived in a number of states and climates throughout my lifetime. I have been fortunate to have visited all but two states in the U.S. and several different countries. That said, I feel justified from an experience standpoint to say “there is something about Vermont.”  Those of you who know me have often heard me say I wished I was still there.

My family moved to Vermont when I was entering 10th grade.  I wasn’t happy about it then as you may imagine. Coming from a more urban area it was an adjustment. Walking into a new high school, (Go Rutland Raiders!), not knowing anyone, registered about a 7.5 on my anxiety scale.  Luckily I have the kind of personality that allows me to walk up to strangers and introduce myself.  Luckier was the fact that the first people I approached were kind and curious about the new kid.  It did not take me long at all to form friendships and get introduced to my new town.

At some point during this introduction I looked up.  I can’t remember the exact moment but I stopped thinking about what 15 year old girls think about and I noticed something. I saw the staggering beauty of the mountains that formed a circle around the town.  It was foliage season and the colors were spectacular.  The air seemed cleaner than what I had been used to and there was a slowness that existed around me that felt comforting.  It was like my breathing became slower there.  I actually recognized that at age 15, so there must have been something special going on.

Life went on, as it does, and I left Vermont for other places but came back twice and not because my family was there.  The second time I returned they had already moved away themselves.  I came back because I could breathe better.  I say that as a state of mind, not that I have breathing issues! It always felt safe and was a place where I could collect my thoughts and figure out my plan.  The combination of the natural beauty, the people and the simplistic way of life still suits me well.

Why then didn’t I stay?  Lack of opportunity for me back then was the real kicker.  I had two children I was going to have to put through college someday and the prospects of advancing my career were limited.  Add to that long, hard winters.  I was not financially equipped at the time to have the appropriate vehicle to live where I was living. Being semi-off the grid (only wood heat) in a drafty old farmhouse at the top of the mountain is a challenge in both winter and mud season.

Each year it took 9 cords of wood to heat the house using two woodstoves and I became adept at helping to split and cut wood. It was hard living but it was glorious.  Our view, all the way to the New Hampshire White Mountains, was breathtaking in every season. The kids could cross country ski out the door for as many miles as they wanted to.  The four room school house they attended had some of the best teachers they would ever have. My friends were the best.  There were locals and those who had come from all over the country because they too had felt that special something. I felt pretty rich then even though I had no money.

But it wasn’t to be forever given my nagging desire to grow and expand my future opportunities.

My last exodus from the Green Mountain state was 33 years ago. Seems I have lived a couple of lives since then.  I still go back, not nearly as often as I would like, and still dream of having a little house there that I can escape to.

Each time I go, as soon as I cross the border into Vermont, I take a deep breath and feel the same calmness wash over me that I felt 51 years ago when I was a sophmore in high school. It’s pretty magical and I have met others who say they have that same experience.

I get to have the feeling again this week as I drive north, entering into Vermont on Wednesday.  This time I will bring my work with me as I will be filming a woman in Lamoille Valley for the Beyond Sixty Project.  I can’t wait to get up there with the crew and hang out on Lake Elmore for a couple of days and take in the winter scenery.  Anticipating the feeling I will get is already making me smile.

I hope you have a place you can go to that gives you peace and calm.  Sure is worth the journey. If you haven’t tried Vermont I highly recommend it!

Love and Peace,

Melissa

 

 

 

A Look Back

A Look Back

2016 was quite a year. Unless you were hiding away all year in your safe place you know it was not a particularly good year.

In the United States we had a historic election. The battle to the White House was the nastiest in history. We had our first woman on the ballot.  She lost after securing the popular vote by more than 2.5 million votes.  I will not elaborate.   It has all been said.

Europe saw continued focus on terror attacks with the worst assaults in Istanbul and Brussels.

In Orlando a mass murderer opened fire inside the Pulse Nightclub, our deadliest mass shooting of the year.

Britain voted to leave the EU, a real shocker to folks across the pond with rippling financial consequences. There are efforts underway to block Brexit so we will have to stay tuned.

Cyber hacks and WikiLeaks contined to make regular headlines.  The Russians have been accused of hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s email server, attempting to sway the election in Trump’s favor.  WikiLeaks may have conspired with them by releasing thousands of the hacked emails.  Data breaches at many of large US corporations may have put your personal information at risk.  Yahoo just announced this past week that their system had been hacked…..again.

Aleppo. A humanitarian travesty of epic proportions. Pray for these people if you pray.

Fake news.  Apparently it is everywhere.  Will 2017 give us a guide to help us find real news?

_______Lives Matter.

I will stop with this list.  It is not nearly complete but certainly highlights some of the top issues we have faced as humans during this year, 2016.

However, good things happened in 2016 too.

A woman was acutally on the Presidential ballot.  We have to remind ourselves of that milestone. The thick glass ceiling was shattered by Tammy Duckworth, Kamala Harris and Catherine Cortez Masto, when they were elected to the Senate. Pramila Jayapal and Stepahnie Murphy grabbed seats in the House of Represenatives.

The US women’s gymnastic team took home some gold!

Sexual assault survivors got a Bill of Rights ensuring their cases will be regulated fairly.

Friends of mine were married.  New babies were born. There is healthy food on my table. My family unit is well and working hard at their life interests.

I have hope for 2017.  Even though I consider myself a realist, I am also optimistic.  I have seen countless tragedies unite people to improve common causes.  I have a feeling we will see more of this in 2017. I will certainly continue to do my best to be a part of something larger than myself.

I was supremely fortunate in 2016 and for that I am very grateful. I hope you can say the same. Thank you for following my blog and reaching out to me with ideas and suggestions for my new venture. Your kindness and support is a part of what keeps me grounded and moving forward.  I appreciate each of you and wish you all good things in the year to come.

Peace and love,

Melissa

“You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one”

John Lennon

 

 

 

 

I Met Santa Claus: He is Real

I Met Santa Claus: He is Real

Santa Claus.  You may know him. He is also known as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas or just plain Santa.  Our modern Santa is based on the traditions of old St. Nick, a fourth century Greek Bishop and giver of gifts, as well as the British version Father Christmas.  Santa’s place in history is well established.

I know him as very jolly, with a white beard, small spectacles and wearing a red velvet suit with beautiful white fur trim.  He lives at the North Pole and has a workshop there where he employs elves to help him create and assemble toys and games.  I am pretty sure he keeps a list of all children that tracks their naughty and nice behavior throughout the year. All well-behaved children receive gifts from him each Christmas morning. He seems to be a forgiving man.

This year at Thanksgiving I was having a conversation with my oldest brother.  We were talking about Christmas Eve 1957 or 1958 when we lived in Fairfield, CT.  I was shocked to learn that he too saw Santa Claus flying through the air with his sled and eight famous reindeer that night.  I have known since then that I saw him.  For sure.  I don’t bring it up much. Who would? But now I know it’s true.  It’s like when two people see the same UFO. You can confirm it!  We saw Santa Claus.  It made me feel vindicated and happy.

This weekend I took my youngest grandson, Owen, to Rodale Institute in Kutztown, PA. They were having a winter festival and we thought it would be a nice drive to the country, away from the holiday shopping crowds.

When we arrived we parked the car and talked about how it seemed cold enough to snow. No sooner had we finished our short conversation and little flurries started falling from the sky. It felt kind of magical and we looked at each other in that knowing way, where you don’t have to say anything but your thoughts tumble out. Magic!

As we walked toward the little shop we noticed Santa Claus sitting in an old sleigh out in the yard.  Owen grabbed for my hand and slowed his pace.  He said, “Hey Grammy, let’s go in the store first.”  I sensed his hesitation about going to meet Santa and we headed into the store to browse.  When we had browsed thoroughly we headed out. Once again he grabbed my hand and steered me in the opposite direction of Santa.  We found ourselves at the organic hot chocolate table and ordered one.

Looking for a place to sit we found benches around a roaring fire pit, situated about 15 yards from Santa.  Owen made it clear that he wasn’t interested in going over to the sleigh to meet Santa but he was enjoying watching him from a distance.  Occasionally a small child would be lifted into the sleigh to sit with Santa and we watched as he talked with them. He seemed very interested in what they had to say, spending a good amount of time with each child.

Soon the short line was empty and we watched as Santa climbed down out of the sleigh. He started slowly walking in our direction and stopped at the fire pit, warming his hands. Not looking at us he said, “sure is cold today, isn’t it?” Owen stiffened a little next to me and I answered that yes it was cold.  We started a little conversation and eventually he asked if it was ok if he sat down on the bench with us.  Owen, eyes averted, nodded yes.  Then there we were. The three of us sitting on a bench by the fire talking about Christmas, the weather, about friends and elves and favorite toys, especially Legos.  Owen told him all about his friend Roman and they both agreed Roman might make a good elf someday.  As Owen and Santa continued their conversation I noticed a few children lining up at the sleigh to meet Santa.  Santa saw them too but he hadn’t finished his conversation with Owen yet and seemed in no hurry.  He was busy telling Owen how he had made a birdhouse out of Legos that was later destroyed by squirrels!  They have squirrels at the North Pole!

When it was time to leave and let Santa get back to his sleigh and the waiting children, we wished each other a very Merry Christmas and then Santa winked at me. He had a real twinkle in his eye. I saw it. Owen was silent on the walk back to the car.  When he was all buckled in he said, “Santa Claus is real Grammy, and he is very nice.”

I met Santa Claus on Saturday and he was as real as real can be.

I hope your holiday season is filled with magic!

Love, Melissa (aka Grammy)

 

 

 

Making a Movie and Finding My Pace

Making a Movie and Finding My Pace

For those of you who have followed me since the end of last year, thank you! For those of you who have joined more recently, welcome! Hanging in with someone who is working on a film project can be a bit of a time commitment, and I appreciate yours. I hope you will stay for the finale.

When I started this project a year ago I thought I would be finishing up about now. To me, a year seemed like more than enough time to complete the film. I looked on in astonishment earlier this year when I met with Directors and Producers at Sundance who gave me their film timelines. Five years, three years, two and a half years. Why did it take them so long?  It took me some time to digest that news and look at my project in a more comprehensive light. Remember, I came from a corporate culture where everything I designed and implemented was done quickly.  I was very used to producing quality deliverables in short time frames. Why should this be any different?

December 31 will mark one year since I “retired” from my long career and headed out to follow my dream.  I never saw this as a hobby or part time gig, but rather my new job. Since the end of last year, I have developed the idea for the film structure, partnered with a production company, set up my own LLC, trademarked the Beyond Sixty Project, spent more time with entertainment lawyers than I wanted to and completed the first six interviews for the film, including the post production phases of the process.  Oh, I almost forgot one of the more exciting aspects of this process.  I am ready to ink a deal with our first sponsor!  Even with all of these milestones completed, I still questioned the timeline.

I had the opportunity to speak with an established Film Director out in LA a couple weeks ago and she implored me to get off the phone, go stand in front of a mirror and and tell myself that I have accomplished more in the last 11 months than any new film director or producer she has worked with, and she has been around the business of filmmaking for a while.  Needless to say, that call left me feeling pretty positive and a bit more realistic about time frames.

My production partners have kindly cautioned me to not get ahead of myself more than once. They were right too. We have a nice balance together. I am lucky to work with them and draw upon their experience when it comes to production timelines.  I think my pace adjustment is now almost at a level of comfort.

Recently a friend asked me what I hope to accomplish with the film. The answer was easy. I want to produce a high quality, full length documentary film about women over sixty.  I want to help tell their stories of resilience and continued relevance.  I do not want to re-tell the stories of famous women. I want to help tell the stories of women that people would not recognize if they passed them on the street.  I want this film to bring to light the incredible strength inherent in so many women and maybe figure out where it comes from.

There are lessons to be learned from women, especially those who have stayed in the game past sixty and continue to be relevant and in pursuit of challenges and personal improvement. I hope young women who see the final production will be moved to seek out older women as mentors.  I hope older women who see this will be inspired to try something new no matter how old they may be.  I hope men, young and old, will walk away with a deep sense of appreciation and admiration for women’s struggles and their hard earned accomplishments throughout history.

At this writing I have completed my first six interviews and have several more to go.  It has been incredibly rewarding spending time with each woman and I am humbled by their honesty, self-awareness and willingness to share their stories.  While they each come from different geographic locations and family backgrounds, the common thread of resilience is always there.  I am fascinated by this and in the process of researching this trait in women throughout history.

Now back to scheduling my next set of interviews, editing current footage and meeting with my partners to continue on to the next phase of this wonderful project.  Thank you for sharing in my journey and stay tuned.

May your day be filled with all good things!

Melissa

 

Light and Happy or Doom and Gloom

Light and Happy or Doom and Gloom

I flipped a coin today as I was torn between the above titles naming my blog topic choice. Light and Happy, or closer to light and happy won.  I am thankful for the win as I could not bear another hour at the keyboard discussing the latest in the race for the Presidency or other trending topics about women that include the gender wage gap, violence against women, efforts to kill Roe v. Wade or the garden variety discriminations bestowed upon women each day. Today I will write about happy (mostly).

Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.    Did you know that March 20th has been designated as the International Day of Happiness? Not sure everyone got that memo.

Thomas Jefferson was into it. He was the one who coined the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” in relation to the 1776 Declaration of Independence. He saw it as much more than just an emotion. He felt it was a right.

We shouldn’t have to chase or hunt down happiness. If we stop for a moment and quiet our minds we may find it is right there waiting for us.

This past week, for me, hovered mid-point on the Happy/Gloom Meter. I spent most of the week working on my film, reviewing recent footage, screening interviews on the phone and wrapping up a sponsorship negotiation. Not intense joy but happy, interesting, fulfilling and motivating. So why wasn’t my meter pointing more toward the happy end? It was the unsolicited phone calls that I received and continued to listen to. Back to doom and gloom for just a minute.

I usually don’t answer the phone if the caller ID gives me reason to believe it is a robo-call, but my curiosity got the better of me and I started answering and listening.Throughout the week I received robo-calls and live calls from both political parties. The robo-calls were the worst, especially the ones with a Presidential wannabe actually yelling into the phone. Negative and disturbing.  I listened through all of the calls because I became curious after the first.They were all pretty awful. Did they assume at this point I didn’t know who I was voting for? Did they think that their messages were helpful to me in any way? By roughly the 18th call I decided I would not answer another and was feeling pretty cranky about the whole “in your face” style of communication. The needle on my meter was headed in the wrong direction.

It’s pretty easy to be affected by the gloomy assaults coming at you daily through television, news, phone calls and the stressors of your own personal issues.  So how do we maintain a sense of contentment and possibly intense joy? Are there things we can do to balance out the negativity without hiding from it?

For me it doesn’t take too much.  Quieting my mind is my go to.  Simple meditation helps and I try to do it once a day.  I learned the simple techniques of quieting my mind and connecting to the positive years ago when I took a class at a retreat.  It’s not complicated and it works. The music I use while I meditate is now enough to settle my mind. On equal par with meditation is taking a walk.  As much as I sometimes avoid this because I am “too busy,” I feel totally rejuvenated and more peaceful once I have done it. I am lucky to live in a neighborhood that has beautiful trees and zero traffic. Last week I got out there only three times but it was so worth it given the fall temperatures and beautiful foliage display. Having fun is also tops on my list. Laughing is key. I am drawn to people who know how to have fun and will laugh along with me and I seek them out regularly. And lastly, giving. The more I give the better I feel.  It can be as small as making a favorite meal for loved ones or helping a friend with an issue or supporting a cause. Giving of yourself can be very satisfying.

This all sounds pretty simple and it is. Feeling fine with what you have and secure with where you are going and what you offer to others brings a great sense of contentment, maybe even bordering on joy.

I hope you have a beautiful day and find that your dial stays in the happy and light zone. Would love to know what you do to keep it pointed in that direction.

Peace,

Melissa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Day Filled With Love, Connections and New Traditions

Joanna table.jpgMeghan barn.jpg

I started my day on Saturday, October 1st in my favorite Chester County barn, Life’s Patina at Willowbrook Farm. It was here that my friend had decided to have her eldest daughter’s wedding shower brunch. What a perfect setting to celebrate Meghan who loves horses and all things rustic.  I first met Meghan in 1998 when she was a little girl living in California.  I traveled to California regularly for business and worked with Meghan’s father. He was generous in sharing his family with me and I became friends with his wife and girls. Fast forward a few years and this family became almost neighbors, when they moved just 7 miles from where I live. I have seen Meghan grow from a spunky little girl into a beautiful young woman (still spunky!) now prepared to marry the love of her life.

What I loved most about this shower was the simplicity and atmosphere. Guests were asked to leave the gifts unwrapped so they could be displayed for everyone to see and Meghan was spared the time it takes to open each gift. Instead, we were able to wander the barn and spend time talking with old friends and new. Add to that the delicious catered brunch and it made for a delightfully relaxed and happy way to start the day and honor the bride to be.

I am looking forward to traveling to Arizona next month to witness Meghan’s transition to wife and celebrate with her family.

Part two of my day started as I left the barn and headed home to meet up with my husband, grab our bags and hit the road for the Poconos. We had a 5 PM wedding to attend!

I was looking forward to this wedding very much.  This special couple came into my life just a couple of years ago, in the funniest way. I met Jo on the set of a movie and after spending a full day with her something clicked. Our rather large age difference did not hinder our future conversations and I found myself looking forward to each time we got together. Meeting Jo’s family was a treat and gave me insight into where her deep zest for life comes from. She is one of the happiest, most loving people I know. It is good to be around her.

Jo was one of the first people I talked with about my desire to make a film. When she told me her boyfriend was an owner in a film production company and he would probably agree to meet with me I was thrilled at the prospect. I have always enjoyed networking and jumped at the chance. The three of us met for dinner and the next connection was made. Not only was Zac willing to give me advice, he was interested in my project idea and promised to take it to his partners. Another fast forward and we are partnered and knee deep in the Beyond Sixty Project. Zac is the Director of Photography and chief over the crews working on the film.  We have traveled together, shared meals and have had some great discussions about life. Zac and Joanna together are pretty amazing and one of my all time favorite couples.

Just as I expected, this couple chose to create a wedding that reflected their spirituality. It was beautiful, meaningful and warmed my heart. The setting was outside, facing a lake. No fancy adornments, just nature. The Officiant was a long time family friend of Zac’s and personalized the ceremony perfectly. There were no cameras allowed and a beautiful meditation to ensure we met Joanna’s expectation of being present in the moment. Native American tradition came into the ceremony as Jo and Zac performed a version of the Seven Steps. Their personal vows were stated and we all danced into the night. What a great way to end a day filled with love.

Celebrations of love are important. At the end of the day it’s what life is all about.

My heart is full for Meghan and Quinton and Jo and Zac.  Thank you for letting me share in a piece of your stories.

Melissa

 

 

 

 

 

Collections and Reflections

Collections and Reflections
Collection: the action or process of collecting someone or something
Reflection:  serious thought or consideration
On Friday night I attended Celeste Walker’s one-woman show at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival.  Celeste is an actor, college educator and a subject of one of my interviews in the Beyond Sixty Project. Of course, she is much more than my brief description and she revealed herself in great detail during her one hour performance.  Colette Reloaded tells the story of a woman in her early 60’s who is examining her life experiences, the choices she has made and why she made them. It was brutally honest and left a road map clearly showing her route to the play.  Aside from being a talented writer and actor, Celeste is a complicated and deeply analytical woman who has a collection of life experiences that she is willing to share with the world.  How brave, cathartic and healing. I related very closely to some of Celeste’s experiences, many women probably would.
My “collections” seem to be on a re-run reel and are in much sharper focus these days.  I suppose it is a matter of my age combined with the fact that I have more time for reflection. Some years ago when I would re-live an experience or a choice I made, I may have become angry or sad or regretful.  I am now at the the point where those emotions have been replaced with acceptance and I can embrace each experience with minimal angst. Reflection is a good thing, a necessity for continued self-improvement.
In interviewing women over the age of sixty, I find they are all in the process of reflection and understanding of the choices they have made. I probably should have and if I had done this instead of this comes up regularly but not in a negative way. They are common phrases used to clarify the path while discussing their continuing journeys.  Each of the accomplished women I have interviewed has a couple things in common.  They have collected a wide variety of life experiences and they are able to reflect on each experience to clearly understand themselves and their place in the universe.  To top it off, they are not done!  They continue to create new experiences and are open to change with the ultimate goal of being the best version of themselves they can possibly be.  I admire them all.
Most people will think of a collection as something you can see and touch, such as art, books or beautiful objects.  While I have some of those things, and I love them, it is my vast collection of experiences that I cherish the most because they make me who I am and help me to see who I want to be.  If I had not taken all the risks I did. If I had not made each decision, positive or negative. If I had not traveled and immersed myself in other cultures. If I had not stepped outside of the prescribed boundaries given to me who would I be? What would I have to offer?
Our collection of experiences shapes us.  Our ability to reflect on those collections and change our course of action or improve in any way is very important.  Ah, such is the cycle of life.
Bravo, Celeste Walker.

Labor Day 2016

Labor Day 2016

It’s that time of year again.  The unofficial end of summer.  Yellow school bus sightings, a nip in the air at night and that one leaf you find in your tree with a hint of color. Oh, and the official kick-off of football season.  At our house it is also a time of celebration to toast to another year of marriage on September 5th and my daughter’s birthday on September 6th.  A nice time of year, heading into my favorite season.

But let’s not dismiss the history of Labor Day and why many of us in America get a day off from work.  The first Labor Day celebration was held in 1882, organized to celebrate the many labor unions and their contributions to the US economy.  It was named a federal holiday in 1884 and falls on the first Monday of every September. Except for those in service related positions, most American workers can count on this day off as a thank you for their various work contributions.

Since my project is related to women I thought it would be interesting to highlight women in the workforce. Today, women make up about 50% of the workforce, a big difference from the number of women in 1882!  Women have broken barriers and glass ceilings placing them in almost every job category once reserved for men.  Women owned businesses have increased at a rate of 2 1/2 times the national average. These remarkable accomplishments deserve to be celebrated and younger women may want to thank those women who have paved the way for them in the workplace today.  Happy Labor Day!

Some of the women breaking barriers that stand out for me are;

Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice, appointed in 1981

Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO of Xerox and the first African-American woman named CEO of a Fortune 500 company, in 2014

Muriel Seibert, the first woman to hold an seat on the New York Stock Exchange, in 1967

Ann Dunwoody, the first female in the US Military to achieve a four-star officer ranking, in 2008

I recently saw a picture of my high school Board Members taken in the mid-1960’s.  All men.  I don’t think I would have been surprised then but it made me pause today.  Was there not one woman in Rutland, VT interested in sitting on the School  Board, or was it not allowed?  Makes me wonder.  Curious, I looked up the list of board members today. Nine men and four women. Not an even split but at least there is female representation.

Whether you are male or female I hope that when you read this posting you are enjoying a day off from work and that you feel recognized and appreciated for the jobs you perform each day.  If you are in a job that doesn’t allow for a day off on the first Monday of September, I hope your boss provides an alternative to recognize your hard work.