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My Response to “Appalled Graphic Designer”

Published June 24, 2020 by Maryanne

Girls Life

Recently, an “appalled graphic designer” changed the cover of Girls’ Life to her liking. Apparently, the original cover wasn’t empowering to young women. You can read the article here: https://womenyoushouldknow.net/appalled-graphic-designer-shows-girls-life-magazine-what-their-cover-should-look-like/

My response is something not many women want to hear, but it’s a reality that isn’t talked about much.

I came from a broken home. My mother worked two jobs to support two girls. I went to a prep high school and did excellent freshman year, but because we lacked the funds, I had to transfer to a public school, which I hated.

Bottom line, I graduated by the skin of my teeth and went straight to work, without college. Nevertheless I got opportunities and became what I wanted to be — a writer!

The first magazine I worked at, I KNOW I was hired because of my looks (back then, I am now in my 50s and just mediocre). And I am fine with that because back then I had nothing else to go on. Prior to that I was a waitress, drinking on the way to work, because I lost my dear grandmother who helped raise me and I felt devastated. I felt hopeless day in and day out. Not every woman is born an Einstein; and not every woman has opportunities. Some of us work very hard at it and if being cute and stylish gives some of us an edge, why not? At the time it might be all we know.

Don’t hate beautiful women, you don’t know their story!

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. In addition to Love Cats, 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:Be (Extra)Ordinary

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: I Don’t Want To Be Like You

Her fiction book “Love Cats” second printing is now available, under the pen name Krystianna Mercury, from Pink Flamingo. You can purchase it here: Love Cats

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

 

Anti-Bullying Talk and Book Signing

Published October 5, 2019 by Maryanne

Photo by Jayne.JPGMaryanne Christiano-Mistretta (photo by Jayne DiGregorio)

This afternoon I was honored to do a book talk and book signing at The Caldwell Library, Caldwell, New Jersey. The event was sponsored by The Caldwell Library and The Women’s Club of Caldwell. NJ Hills Media Group was also there.

My book, “I Don’t Want to Be Like You” shares my experiences growing up in the 1970s and being bullied relentlessly.

The moral of the story is that it’s bullies who should be shamed, not the victim! According to psychology, it’s never the victims fault, but the bully’s fault.

How did my experiences end? When I fought back! My sweetest revenge is having an amazing life and a beautiful marriage. But I do forgive the bullies. My wish for them is that they have changed for the better and if they have children they are raising them right; that they have learned from their mistakes.

By sharing our experiences and being vulnerable, we take the “shame” out of bullying. The more we speak out against it, the more we evolve and have something done about it! I’m in my mid-50s, and God willing I’ll have another good 40 years left on this planet. I’d like to see us evolve as a human race to the point where bullying no longer exists.

Let’s make bullying extinct!

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: Ten Ways to Become Your Own Hero” will be available October 2019. To pre-order, go here: https://kicamprojects.com/shop/be-extraordinary/

“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: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLq6J9MSvcjd-haQ30ycLWA?view_as=subscriber

 

My Radio Podcast: Guest on The Bully Proof Classroom

Published March 11, 2014 by Maryanne

anti-bullying 101

I was very honored to be a guest on “The Bully Proof Classroom” a blog radio program hosted by James “Jim” Burns, author of “Anti-Bulling 101.”

The program is about 50 minutes long and I spoke about 45 minutes sharing my challenges: being bullied in both grammar school and high school, living with dyslexia, becoming an award winning journalist and self-employed home business owner without a college education, how bands like The Plasmatics gave me hope for the outside world when I was just a teenager and so many other cool things, some of which are featured in my book: “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” (available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/162903908X)

The podcast will be saved forever, so please feel free to tune in at your convenience: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bullyproofclassroom/2014/03/11/the-bully-proof-classrooms-speaks-with-maryanne-christiano-mistretta

Jim was a great host and I had such a wonderful time! Definitely a wonderful way to end the day.

AGAIN, PLEASE NOTE: If parents want to purchase my book, it IS a rock ‘n’ roll book and there are curse words, so please use discretion as to whether or not your child could read. I would suggest 16 and older.

Paterson Public School Aging Dis-Gracefully

Published May 2, 2013 by Maryanne

SAM_0746Paterson School 14 is 126 years old (Photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta)

The assignment I covered today was about the sad condition of the above and many other schools in Paterson and protesters wanting better school conditions for the kids.

A side note, this school is just one year younger than The Statue of Liberty.

You can read the full article here: http://www.northjersey.com/news/Paterson_education_advocates_hold_ironic_birthday_party_for_aging_school.html

Afro-Cuban Festival in Paterson School 24

Published April 27, 2013 by Maryanne

SAM_0690Photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Yesterday I had a very rewarding assignment, interviewing the students who participated in this amazing performance. (It was so cute, the younger ones that I interviewed were calling me “Miss Reporter.” I loved it!)

Here’s the full article, plus a video that someone else took. Enjoy!

http://www.northjersey.com/community/community_events/They_got_the_beat_Paterson_students_shine_in_Afro-Cuban_Festival.html?c=y&page=1

Letter to the Editor, re: Wreckless Driving

Published February 15, 2013 by Maryanne

Letter to the Editor

I wanted to share with all of you a letter I just had published in The Montclair Times: http://www.northjersey.com/news/opinions/191157581_Letter_to_the_Editor__There_s_no_hurry_that_s_worth_the_worry.html

I’m so glad this was published because maybe SOME DAY people will get behind the wheel and think of other people besides themselves and how fast they want to get somewhere.

It was bad enough being a witness to the crazy driver in a school zone, but I know, in my heart, if I EVER had to be a witness to someone hurting a child, it would probably be the worst thing that could happen to anyone.

PLEASE THINK TWICE ABOUT SPEEDING/CUTTING PEOPLE OFF/DRIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD/NOT LETTING PEDESTRIANS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY/MAKING YOUR OWN ROAD RULES

ESPECIALLY IN A SCHOOL ZONE!!!!

child traffic