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Being Authentic… to Ourselves and Each Other

Published May 28, 2020 by Maryanne

Being Authentic: A Memoir by Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, PhD

Review by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

While many people are complaining about being cooped up during the pandemic, I’m secretly rejoicing because I’ve been doing what I didn’t have much time for before—READING! Since the mid-March lockdown, I’ve read six books, all special in their own right.

Prior to writing this review, I questioned myself… Is it weird to say I can relate to a man who was born in Syria, two years after I graduated high school? A man who became both an MD and a PhD–whereas I struggled just to get my diploma?

First, I took the safe route and wrote the blog as a regular book review. However, after a re-read, my review appeared dull and stale. This author deserves so much more. After he exposed his deep feelings for all to read, I promised myself I should do the same. I do not see that as narcissistic, but rather compassionate. In this review I want people to see me as a person who can find something in common with almost anyone—male/female, young/older, rich/middle class/poor, black/white/mixed. Because this is what the world needs right now, to focus on what we have in common, rather than what sets us apart. (And, honestly, I’ve been quiet about politics for too long, so read on!)

Leo

Author, Morhaf Al Alchar, MD, PhD, and faithful companion, Leo! 

Morhaf Al Achkar has not reached his 40th birthday, yet he ponders death.

I question: Why is he thinking about this now? Perhaps because of his struggle with both Crohn’s disease and a stage four lung cancer; perhaps because he dealt with the devastating loss of his own mother at a young age; or perhaps because we are in the midst a pandemic, all of us facing a virus that has no cure yet. And so many people are at each other’s throats, making it political.

In his memoir, Dr. Achkar strives to be authentic—his true self. And that he is. His story is direct as he gets right to the point with no apologies. And he is vulnerable. There is absolutely no pretense. You do not feel like you are reading a book written by a doctor, with both an MD and a PhD. Instead, you are chatting with a brand new friend.

Growing up in Syria, in a family of nine children, Morhaf often locked himself in a room reading books. He was labeled the “philosopher of his family” by his father. Early on, one of his major struggles was living in a culture “with hypertrophied masculinity.” Men boasting of foolish things like beatings or shootings was the norm. There were also bullies and schoolteachers who were abusive. Wise beyond his years, Morhaf made sense of it all and did not let any of this hinder his growth as a human being. As a person who was also bullied, I relate to this.

Once I began sharing my story to others, I no longer felt shame, but rather a big relief—even empowered! When I read about other people being bullied, it’s a soft spot for me. I can’t help but get a lump in my throat. Then I immediately switch my brain to the good parts of one’s life; their triumphs!

The saving grace in this picture is Morhaf’s mother, a warm, trusting woman, but one of authority and one who greatly valued education. Reading about how his mom pushed Morhaf to take the first steps on the dance floor reminded me of my grandmother.

Grandma practically raised me since my parents were divorced and neither were around much. I think about a family reunion we had when I was about 12. My sister, cousins and I danced to the hired band. When the reunion came to an end, my grandmother encouraged me to “talk to them.” I was shy, but wanted to make Grandma happy, so with my older cousin, we went up to the stage and asked the musicians for their autographs. A parent or grandparent encouraging the kids to dance or talk to someone at a party is a great move to get a kid out of their shy shell.

Another way I relate to Morhaf is not being satisfied with religion and rituals. As a Muslim he reflects on his faith after his mother passes. I was raised without religion, so I had nothing to go by except the standards Catholic holidays that Italian families practiced. When I was 24, I met an older Filipino gentleman who became my mentor. Together we studied religions and philosophies from all over the world.

Remaining open-minded until I met some Christian friends, I decided to give Christianity a chance. But then after my grandmother died, I lost faith, the same way Morhaf felt his faith was faltering after his mother died.

I stopped going to church and celebrating any holidays that had to do with Jesus. When I returned to faith, I took it all with a grain of salt, saving the positive and discarding what seemed overbearing. I now believe in Jesus, but also Buddha, God, and The Universe.

Perhaps this is something people of all faiths go through, but not many admit. So once again, as I’m reading the book, I am grateful to Morhaf for his honesty.

Amongst his great successes, he has had his shares of disappointments too. His passion in activism inspired was an option to leave his family, but after failing a commission-based job, he returned home.

Some of the best times seem to be spent in America. At first, Morhaf lived in Columbus, Ohio with his sister and continued to study. He traveled extensively throughout the USA. In addition to his studies, he had fun adventures that young people experience like dancing, hookah nights, playing cards, consuming cheap drinks, and adopting a canine companion named Leo.

Sadly, dating was an issue, especially in Indiana, where he lived and where many women were prejudiced to his color and didn’t think twice about making racist remarks. It felt terrible to read this. I am sorry that many USA women put a bad taste in one’s mouth, but I want people from other countries to know we are not all that way.

I live in NJ, a democratic state where we are open-minded to making friends of all races and colors—without judgement. I know behind my back my conservative friends and family refer to me as a “Libtard.” It’s wrong and very hurtful.

As a spiritual person, I refuse to retaliate with words and placing derogatory memes on Facebook. Instead I pray for them. And I pray for our president, who I do not care for.

During the month Donald Trump was elected president, Dr. Morhaf was diagnosed with cancer. As a Syrian immigrant he felt affected by the ban on Muslims, fearing he would not be able to say goodbye to his family. He wrote a letter to speak of his struggles. It was published in a Huffington Post blog, entitled “Dear Mr. Trump, You Are Cancer and I Only Live If You Shrink!” The letter explained what it was like to live with what he had then perceived as a terminal illness and as a Syrian immigrant affected by the ban on Muslims. After writing the letter, he felt empowered and liberated him to engage with the Syrian struggle.

I suppose many have friends who have immigrated to the United States and have been affected by Trump’s stance. It is absolutely heartbreaking seeing families being broken up. I know one personally, and will leave it at that to protect their privacy.

Aside from the prejudice Morhaf experienced from American women, he has decided to stay single because he doesn’t want to be a burden to someone should his health fail. I seriously hope he changes his mind because true love is mending.

I’ve shared the story many times and am happy to share it again. When I first began dating my husband I was going to many doctors because I never felt right. A few doctors feared I had cancer. After many ultra-sounds, CAT scans, and countless opinions nothing was found. Seven months after dating my husband, I had one final test that showed I was cancer-free and perfectly healthy! A week later I felt better than I did my entire life! Having a supportive loving person by my side healed me. I believe that!

So, you can see why I’ve enjoyed “Being Authentic” so much. There’s enough to relate to, but also much to learn. And, that, is what a good book should be!

Morhaf’s reflections on life in his later years, while he is now, fortunately, in stable health, we see that he is a true humanitarian and invites others to be as authentic as he is. This is what I wanted from my book, “I Don’t Want to Be Like You.” I want others to share their stories without feeling disgrace. The troubled times are what got you to where you are today. Always remember that.

When we look deep inside ourselves, and share our notions in writing, the reader gets a peek at our true soul. A reader may not “get it” entirely, but the more open an author is, the more we can learn about each other; and love each other. After all, deep down we are more alike than different. This is a book everyone can learn from. And Morhaf will be remembered for writing it.

To purchase “Being Authentic” (and have a sneak peek inside the book) please click on this link: Being Authentic

Follow Morhaf Al Alchar on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/morhafalachkar

95849294_2817039011678255_9072810759997620224_oBeing Authentic book cover

 

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing. She is also available for book signings and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Extra-Ordinary-Ways-Become/dp/1733546227

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

 

Rover’s Relief CBD Salve for Pets

Published October 18, 2019 by Maryanne

Rover's Relief

Earlier this week I helped out at a pet expo for two reasons: 1. To network with those who were possibly interested in my professional blogging services or having me ghost write their books (after all, anyone who is self-employed should have a book no matter what line of work they are in); 2. I LOVE ANIMALS! And nothing beats a good score of new products for my kitties. They truly deserve the best.

When you’re a person like myself, either on the go (driving long distances) or at home plugging away on the computer (writing assignments or my next book!), no matter how much you love your life and what you do, you are bound to get a little stressed and achy.

A few weeks ago I noticed a pinch in my shoulder area. I was right on it with acupuncture and chiropractic treatments. Not quite yet healed, I was starting to feel a little achy in the shoulder area again.

Around this time I met RaChelle Lobre, of Rover’s Pet (roverspet.com). I’m always ready to share the story of how CBD oil made my cat Bennie more comfortable during his final days here on earth. Then I got to talking about my achy shoulder. RaChelle suggested taking a big glob of Rover’s Relief CBD salve and putting it on my shoulder.

I did as she suggested and within minutes, my shoulder pain stopped. This salve helped me more than any of the acupuncture or chiropractic treatments did! I was now able to dress and undress without being in pain.

That night I slept like a baby. I woke up the next day feeling like a brand new person, ready to face the world! Hell, if it’s good enough for Rover, it’s good enough for me!

This premium hemp salve contains 500mg CBD oil, and no THC. It’s easy to use and smells pleasant. I recommend using before bedtime because it truly relaxes you.

If Rover’s Pet worked that good for me, imagine what it could do for a dog?

Our babies count on us to give them nothing but the best. If your pet can use a little relief, this is a product I trust and recommend.

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing, and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Extra-Ordinary-Ways-Become/dp/1733546227

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

And check out her anti-bullying You Tube channel, Be YOUniquehttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLq6J9MSvcjd-haQ30ycLWA?view_as=subscriber

 

Sunday Happies!

Published August 24, 2014 by Maryanne

SAM_5883It’s Sunday and I’m ready to hit the road with my hubby!

Another gorgeous Sunday in New Jersey.

I was thrilled to finally be able to grab a bite at Cave in Avon-by-the-Sea. It’s a paleo restaurant. I’ve been eating paleo for a few months now and my body loves it! I had grass-fed beef chili, with avocado and a bullet-proof coffee for dessert. The place was cute and cozy and service was excellent!

SAM_5886Grass-fed beef chili with avocado

This dish was so heavenly. It took me back to my Girl Scout days when I had a dish called “Sloppy Joe.”

SAM_5888Bullet Proof Coffee!

Bullet Proof coffee is organic coffee made in a blender with coconut oil and grass-fed butter. Your body will love the healthy fats that give you great energy without the caffeine  jitters! Something about the mixture just does a body good! I serve it to my husband in bed. I also make a great oolong tea version with unsweetened cocoa — it’s killer!

After Cave, we cruised along the beach and then visited a friend. A lovely full day with perfect weather!

SAM_5891How cute!

We don’t know these people, but the dog was so adorable, I’m so glad I got a great shot on the way home!

Another Amazing Animal Story

Published May 3, 2013 by Maryanne

vintage cats

No, this isn’t yet another story about how smart my kitty Derick is.

This is a story that I heard on the news last night. A story that blew my mind!

During Hurricane Sandy, a woman and her daughter in Chadwick Island were rescued by boat, with their kitty Porsche, and ended up staying with family nearby in Point Pleasant, eight miles away. Porsche was disturbed by some loud noises and ran away.

The mother and daughter didn’t think they’d see the cat again.

Then six months later, the Porsche showed up — at the  home in Chadwick Island!

Read the full story (and see the video) here: Cat lost during Sandy finds way home!

HOW, did the cat know how to get back to the original home? I can only imagine an angel coming down from heaven, directing the cat to it’s home. And that owner must have been something special for the cat to be that determined to get back home. The cat was well fed too. Didn’t even look like it was lost.

Imagine that? Traveling eight miles, coming back healthy, avoiding getting hit by a car and other catastrophes! Don’t forget, this cat was traveling through the winter time.

I want to go to Chadwick Island and meet this cat. Maybe he’ll tell me the secrets of the universe!

UNBELIEVABLE! THESE AMAZING ANIMALS!

This reminded me of a similar story several years ago.

My mom was friends with a woman whose dad had a chihuahua. When the dad died, the chihuahua was missing.

Three days later they found the chihuahua at the father’s grave site.

Amazing … just amazing.

Another Amazing Animal Story

Published April 6, 2013 by Maryanne

ButtonsMaryanne and Buttons, Summer of 2011

I’m going through old photos in my email box and came across this adorable photo of Buttons, who I met at a car show two years ago.

This photo has an adorable story behind it. Buttons is blind and she had only one eye, but when my husband took this photo, she turned her head to show her “good side” with the good eye!

Just goes to show — it never ceases to amaze me how smart animals are, especially the tiny but mighty Chihuahuas! She was so lovable it broke my heart to give her back to her owner. (Animals — so easy to fall in love with!) I hope to meet her again someday. Now that spring is here, there will be so many car shows. Yay!

Pictures from Easter

Published April 3, 2013 by Maryanne

SAM_0460The Easter Bunny came!

After opening my Easter basket, I went to my first Easter service as a Christian.

Then my husband and I headed to Park and Orchard.

 SAM_0473

Dennis and Maryanne, Park & Orchard, March 31, 2013

I’m not showing photos of the food because although it was DELICIOUS, it didn’t look very appetizing! We both had casseroles. Mine was a vegan lasagna with polenta, tofu and spinach. My husband had an eggplant casserole. I had a hard cider beer, one of my favorite drinks — ever!

Then we had dessert at my Mom’s — homemade ice box cake! What a wonderful day!

SAM_0483My nephew, Matthew, 11, and puppies, Alley Marie Paige and Oliver Pancho

Happy Birthday Miss Harper Lee!

Published March 17, 2013 by Maryanne

harper-lee-4-yrs-old-thek9harperleeMiss Harper Lee

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the cutest puppy on Word Press!

Check out her awesome blog, Reflections of a Golden Retriever: http://thek9harperlee.wordpress.com/

Wishing Miss Harper Lee a happy healthy year filled with love, joy, happiness, lots of chew toys and good eats!

At Work, Rest or Play, Animals are the Best!

Published February 27, 2013 by Maryanne

SexyeyesDerickMy Derick 

Monday I started working at the home of a new client (who will probably use my services once a week).

Within minutes of working, her beautiful, fluffy black cat with big green eyes, jumped on my lap and stayed there for almost the entire time I was in the client’s office.

This kitty cutie was a big fluff ball and it made me a little homesick thinking of how my Derick is always on my lap while I am working at home, knocking the mouse out of my hand when I’m working so I could stop and pet him! How cute is that?

And it made me realize — I think all my clients are pet lovers! That makes me so happy. Clients, friends, family, almost everyone I know loves animals. These little creatures are just too much, too adorable, too cute. All they want is to be fed and a lot of love.

When the kitty jumped in my lap, my new client said, “She knows you’re an animal lover.”

That is so true. They tend to gravitate to those who love them. But it’s also funny when they go to the ones who don’t love them. It’s as if an animal can sense the goodness in a person’s soul and knows deep down that someone who isn’t an animal lover may have it in them even in a little, tiny way.

I can’t imagine living in a home without a pet. All my life I’ve had: cats, dogs, a ferret, turtles, a guinea pig, fish, a snake and hamsters. The little that we do to take care of them, and all the love they give back to us.

Every day should be “bring your pet to work day” — the world would be a happier place.

And every night should be snuggle with your babies night.

I have just two cats — Billy and Derick. But if I had just one, or if I had 101 — they are all welcome on the bed to sleep with us!

Readers and fellow bloggers — tell me about your pet! And post links to pictures!

(Even if your pet is deceased, you can tell me about your pet and we can honor him/her and say a little prayer).

The Missy Award! (For Animal Lovers)

Published February 23, 2013 by Maryanne

the-missy-award

I stopped doing the Awards thing for awhile because it is a lot of work.

But I couldn’t resist this one from Ivonne: http://ivonnemontijo.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/the-missy-award/#comment-1703

Being an animal lover, I am soooo honored! Ivonne presented me with this award for being a vegetarian (Since 1986 I might add; and haven’t used products that tested on animals since the early 1990s!)

And isn’t her doggie the cutest?! I wanna snuggle with Missy all night!! AND RUB THAT BELLY!!!!

SQUEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The  Missy Award is presented to those bloggers who support and advocate for animals either in the blog as a whole or a blog post.  They can be animal lovers, vegetarian,vegan, rescue workers, doesn’t matter it’s all about the animals.

The Rules are:

1- You must post the Award Picture onto your blog–but who doesn’t love putting award pictures on their blog?!!!

2- Link back to http:ivonnemontijo.wordpress.com

3-And answer two questions.

A- What inspires or motivates you to write?

B- Why do you love animals?

4-Nominate other worthy bloggers or just simply accept the award and do #’s 1-3

5- Oh yes, please let your nominees know you nominated them :) .

My answers are :

A. What inspires or motivates you to write? EVERYTHING. Life is just one big story waiting to be told. I can write about my life, your life, my cat’s life … it’s all good!

B. Why do you love animals? Animals are just the sweetest things ever. All they want is to survive and to be loved. You give them a little love and what you get in return is tenfold. My little cat Derick looks at me as if I am God. It’s just so amazing. And they are so smart too. From fish to a monkey — all animals have something to offer. Just pay attention and you’ll see!

My TOP 3 nominees for this award are:

MISS HARPER LEE: http://thek9harperlee.wordpress.com/

(For being the cutest, most reflective Golden Retriever on Word Press!)

RACHEL MANKOWITZ http://rachelmankowitz.wordpress.com/ 

(For sharing stories about her adorable doggie, Cricket!)

LONG LIFE CATS AND DOGS http://longlifecatsanddogs.wordpress.com/

(Check out Susan’s blog, she does SO MUCH for animals, such an inspiration!)

Congratulations to my winners, please spread the award around, animals are a GOOD THING!

First Christmas Without Fawn

Published December 19, 2012 by Maryanne

FawnFawnie, RIP: 1995 to 2012

Earlier this year my mother’s beloved dog Fawnie died in her arms.

My mother got Fawnie as a puppy in 1995 to keep her mind occupied the year my beloved Grandmother passed away.

Fawn, turned out to be the best dog I’ve ever known. Now mind you, I’ve had many wonderful dogs over the years and can tell so many stories about them. Taffy, the toy poodle who, as a child, I always “accidentally on purpose” let outside because I knew when she came back, a few months later she’d give birth to a litter of puppies. Misty, the beautiful German Shepherd who was so good with children that she let me touch her eyeballs when I was a little girl. (Her eyes were so beautiful, big auburn marbles that I couldn’t help but touch). And then there was Cher, my pocket-sized poodle who jumped high in the air whenever my great grandmother said, “Bye-Byes!” which meant she’d get to go outside.

And just like all the other pets, Fawn was super amazing. She was a little lover. She was always happy to see people, jumping up and down. She loved to play with my cat, Derick (Derick was bigger than Fawn who was a mere six pounds). Fawn hated walking on a tiled floor and preferred rugs, so whenever she went into the kitchen to eat, she’d do this cute little back-step as she returned to the dining room rug — as if that would get her off the cold floor faster.

But the cutest thing of all was one day when she was over, my husband had Bruce Springsteen playing. Fawn was on the couch and “Old Dan Tucker” came on. Fawn jumped off the couch and started moving her front paws, tapping left to right — in perfect time with the music!

She was a little doll, just absolutely precious. Knowing Fawn made me a Chihuahua fan, whereas before, I never really thought much about them — just that they made a lot of noise. But Fawn wasn’t yappy like that. She was just this perfect little thing. People who weren’t necessary dog lovers or Chihuahua lovers always took a liking to Fawn.

Now we will all have our first Christmas without this precious little pet (who exchanged gifts with my cats). After Fawn died my mother got two new puppy Chihuahuas, Oliver and Ally. I met them over Thanksgiving. They are cute and funny.

When I see my Mom this Christmas Eve, I will try not to bring up Fawn, as I do not want to upset her. I will have a blast seeing my Mom, sister, nephew and the new puppies. It will be a beautiful, fun day. And Fawn will be close to my heart  — close to all of our hearts.

The best way I can deal with death is something my beloved Grandmother once said: “You have to make way for the new generation.” And there are many new puppies (and other pets) out there just waiting to be adopted and to have your love! No two pets are alike, but they all share ONE thing in common — their ability to love unconditionally!

In memory of Fawn, do me a big favor today and hug your pets for me!

Tell them: “This is a Christmas hug from Maryanne!” 🙂