Author: Renée Macisco

Inspirational Woman: November 2018, Kate

Every month on the 18th, I celebrate women.

This month I sat down with Kate, my dear friend and sorority sister from Emerson College.

She is a Resource Specialist Teacher (RST) in Los Angeles and breast cancer survivor.

Her strength, positive mindset, humor, kind heart and love for life makes Kate one special woman. I am incredibly blessed and grateful for her friendship and sisterhood.

Meet Kate

18th Style: Where are you from and where do you live now? 

Kate: I grew up 25 miles from Chicago, Wheaton, Illionis. I now live in Los Angeles, California.

18th Style: What do you love most about living on the West Coast?

Kate: The weather and the ability to ski, swim and horseback ride all in a couple of days.

18th Style: What’s your day job?

Kate: For the past 21 years, I have been a Resource Specialist Teacher (RST). I teach special education kids  with average and above intelligence and processing deficits, or that are on the ASD spectrum.

18th Style: What led you to teaching?

Kate: The reason I’m teaching and not doing theatre, when I was 37 years old, my 46 year old husband had an unexpected stroke and died. My whole world exploded. I needed to make more than I was an a actress. I had friends who walked me through the teaching credentials process and I ended up getting my 2 special ed credentials while teaching and in between breast cancer 1 and breast cancer 2.

You just do what you have to do and this was all before Facebook, so I had lost touch with all my schoolmates and sisters.

Kate and her parents at her aunt’s 80th birthday party (rare shot of all three)!

18th Style: I know the theatre is an enormous part your life, what do you love most about it?

Kate: Theatre transports you to a different place, and you get to experience many different kinds of emotions and journeys.

18th Style: You attended Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, (Central Royal College of Acting)  London, UK, how long did you live in London and what was that experience like?

Kate: I did the Graduate course for a year, stayed for another year and traveled back and forth for 7 years. The strange thing for me was when I got off the plane for the first time, my whole body sighed and it felt like I was coming home, though I’d never been there before.

18th Style: What is your favorite Broadway show?

Kate: There are too many! I love shows that I was in and others that I sang music from. West Side Story was my national tour, but I was always being in called for the Mystery of Edwin Drood. The last time they called me in for a replacement, they asked me what size shoe I wore and I asked them what size show did they need? 🙂

I loved song and dance, my go to audition song, Come Away, Hamilton, Follies, The Band’s Visit…you get the drift. Old and new.

I also love, A Chorus Line, Cats, On the Twentieth Century, Babes in Arms, Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein….a ton more!

18th Style: Switching gears here, and if you’re ok with talking about this, you’re a breast cancer survivor and an inspiration to me and so many other women.

18th Style: What would you say to all the woman out there who are afraid to go for their first mammogram?

Kate: It’s no big deal and a hell of a lot less painful than a mastectomy. So suck it up and get to it! 🙂

18th Style: What message do you have for others who have been diagnosed with breast cancer?

Kate: Everyone’s journey is different, know your own body and converse with your team. Now it the time to kick its ass.

18th Style: Where are you now in your journey with Cancer? 

Kate:  After 2 bouts and 3 years of battling, I am 11 years cancer cured! My oncologist states I’m no longer a cancer patient, heck it’s not a pre-existing condition!  That’s not to say it was easy. It was my belief, I had complications that sent me to the hospital a few times and ICU once and I had to work through both times to maintain my health insurance.  But ultimately I kicked its ass and had a boob job paid for my insurance. 🙂

What I learned was asking for help does not show weakness, but strength. You are part of a team, you know your body, they know all the beneficial stuff and humor really helps. For instance, all my hair fell out except that one annoying hair on the side of my chin! Of course! 🙂

18th Style: Ok, so I like to close with a few fun questions.

18th Style: Favorite show on Netflix?

Kate: There are few, but I;m obsessed with Outlander on Starz, Romance History, and A Little Bit of Time Travel. The books are stunning.

18th Style: What’s your go to podcast? Do you have one?

Kate: I don’t have a podcast, but I listen to Sirius – The Broadway Channel!

18th Style: Best thing you bought online within the last 3 months?

Kate: My bridesmaid dress for my sisters wedding. Art Deco beaded, stunning. Check out DECOHAUS.COM

The dress!

18th Style: What’s your favorite quote?

Kate: “Everyone goes to hell in their own way.”  Thank you Grandma Karp! (my late husband’s Russian grandmother!)

My great-grandmother’s saying, “Everyone except me and thee is a little queer, and I’m not sure about thee!” 🙂 and “It’s a lot of work to remain neutral!”

Inspirational Woman: October 2018, Andrea

Every month on the 18th, I celebrate women.

This month I sat down with Andrea, my dear friend from Emerson College.

She is a full-time working mom and as genuine as they get. She has great sense of humor and one of the kindest people I know.

I hope you enjoy our interview.

Meet Andrea

18th Style: Where are you originally from and where do you live now?

Andrea: I was born in Wareham, Massachusetts, but spent my teenage years in Spring Hill, Florida. Portland, Oregon has been home for more than twenty years now.

18th Style: What do love most about living on the West Coast?

Andrea: While I joke that I’m proud to maintain my east coast “pace,” I’ve always appreciated the spirit of progress that exists out west.

Whether it’s in the arts, food or politics, there’s a tangible feeling of being able to make an impact on the world around you. There’s also a strong connection to the wilderness that is incredibly inspiring.

18th Style: What’s your day job?

Andrea: I’m Manager of Training and Support at a small database development company. I’ve worked here for 18 years, so I tend to wear many hats.

18th Style: Being a single mom is not easy. How do you balance work, life, kids and finding time for yourself? 

Andrea: Finding that balance is a process that continually evolves for me. All parents struggle with the guilt of not being there for every event or providing everything our kids want, and I feel that’s compounded for me as a single parent–especially with multiple kids dividing my attention.

I’ve tried to make peace with the reality of the structure of our life, and to appreciate the things we do accomplish every day. Because my children always come first, I’ve set boundaries with the demands of work so when I walk out the door, I’m on my time—period.

Making time for myself can be a struggle, but I’ve learned to embrace the times my kids are with their father and spend it with in the comforts of my incredibly supportive boyfriend and my inspiring group of friends.

I’ve learned to find joy in the quiet of everyday things like laundry and errands, as sometime that’s the only alone time that can be found! As a routine-oriented, structured person, learning to roll with the extremes it is something I strive to do.

18th Style: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Andrea: Duplication! If I could give each of my kids quality, one-on-one attention at the same time, that would solve so many of our daily hiccups!

18th Style: What’s the last great book you read that left an impact?

Andrea: My daughter has dyslexia, and I spend evenings reading with her. We recently reread “The Wind in the Willows.” It was my daughter’s choice, because we first read it when she was old enough to sit still on my lap. It’s a timeless classic filled with adventure, but has so many lessons about friendship, responsibility and appreciating what we have.

Whenever I read classic children’s books, it makes me feel like it should be required reading for adults for refresher material!

18th Style: What’s your go to podcast? Do you have one?

Andrea: I love Hidden Brain (NPR) and Stuff You Missed in History Class. I load up episodes to listen on airplanes, at work and in the car.

18th Style: Best thing you bought on Amazon within the last 3 months?

Andrea: I “treated myself” to a new phone charger and bought an obnoxious hot pink with gold trim super fast charger that was a “Deal of the Day” at $7.99. I don’t think of myself as a hot pink with gold trim person, but I was desperate to replace my charger and I didn’t feel guilty buying one at that price. Now I’m totally owning that hot pink awesomeness.

18th Style: What are your favorite three apps OR what are your favorite top three Instagram accounts?

Andrea: It’s so not exciting! It really highlights what dork I am.

1) I’m all about the Reminders app for everything from appointments and phone calls to kid stuff. I’m not sure I’d get it all done if it reminders weren’t constantly popping up for me throughout the day.

2) I frequently consult Dark Sky for weather.

3) Being a Disneyland nerd, I have an app called “Lines” with wait times, crowd levels, news and updates. It provides me with a little escape every time I use it.

18th Style: Who would you want to narrate your life?

Andrea: Kate Winslet! She’d use the proper inflection, and do it with a British accent.

18th Style: If you could be a cartoon character, who would it be? 

Andrea: The RoadRunner! He’s always on the go, outsmarting that coyote around every turn!

18th Style: What’s your favorite quote?

Edmund Spenser, “For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.”


 

Inspirational Woman: September 2018, Heather

Every month on the 18th, I celebrate women.

This month I sat down with Heather, one of my oldest and dearest friends for over 27 years.

She is a cancer survivor and a survivor of domestic violence. Toward the end of our interview, she asked if she could share her experience of surviving domestic violence.

Her courage to share this with all of us is incredibly brave and I hope you take a few minutes to read the entire interview.

This is the first time Heather is speaking publicly about all that she went through.

When I asked her to be our Inspirational Woman, she didn’t think she was an inspiration.

When you’re done reading, I believe you will all agree with me, she is!

Meet Heather

18th Style: Where are you originally from and where do you live now?

Heather: I am a New Yorker through and through. My family and I lived in Queens until the summer I turned 10 when we moved to New Rochelle. I say I’m from New Rochelle, but the Queens never left me. Recently I moved to New Jersey from Long Island. It is quite a change, but very positive since I wanted to be closer to my family.

18th Style: Tell us a bit about your background.

Where do I start? I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1983 (right before we moved from Queens to New Rochelle). I was an awkward kid (and I think I am an awkward adult).

I had my first major surgery in 1993, moved to LA right after college graduation. Changed careers and came back east two and a half years later.

I was a successful event planner and planned, or was involved in planning every kind of event. From society weddings at Tavern on the Green to outdoor concerts and Thanksgiving parades.

I left event planning to slow down a little, I was living to work, not working to live.

I started temping as an administrative assistant until I figured out what I wanted to do next, but that turned into a full time job. Four years later, I resigned to get married.

A few months later I was diagnosed with cancer and now, four years later, I’m going through a divorce.

I loved, and still love the man I married, but his addiction to cocaine and alcohol stole him from me.  Although his physical being is still here, the man who swept me off my feet, left long ago.

18th Style: You attended Emerson College and had the opportunity to study abroad in the Netherlands. What did you love most? What do you love most about Europe?

Heather: It was such an amazing experience and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity. I would encourage anyone, should they have the opportunity (or their children), take it.

Money is always a concern with an adventure, but I offset my cost by being an RA (resident assistant), which covered some of my expenses and was not much more than a semester in Boston.

But that is not what you were asking. 🙂

You want to know what I loved most. I loved everything. I loved the setting, I loved the bonds I made, I loved meeting people from all over the world and being immersed in different cultures, I loved the sightseeing, going to Amsterdam, Paris, Antwerp, Brussels, Brugge, Dachau, Vienna, Florence, Rome… I can’t narrow it down. It was just the overall experience that was amazing.

My one major takeaway was to appreciate what is around us.

As Americans, or at least New Yorkers, we tend to fly through life without really seeing life. As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

So, when you’re out walking, enjoy peoples yards, watch the wildlife, look past the obvious and see the design, wonder what the dog smells in the wind, the way the leaves blow.

Just stop and enjoy the moment, that moment could change your life.

18th Style: What are your favorite hobbies or pastimes?

Heather: My favorite hobbies or pastimes? Does spoiling and playing with my dogs count? After my pups, I love to cook and entertain.

One of my favorite things to do, going to the farmers market, buying a bounty of goods and trying to figure out what to make.

I love creating things from cooking, to painting, to crafting. I also love my NY Giants. If you want me or my brother-in-law to show up for family gatherings, they all know to not plan anything on Sundays during football season (unless there is a TV).

NY Rangers are a close second and NY Yankees are right behind. And books! I don’t want to leave my books out. I am an avid reader and can spend hours in the library.

18th Style: You are incredibly witty and have such a great sense of humor, where did this come from? 

Heather: As I mentioned, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 1983. I was still only 9.

A few months after my diagnosis, I was sent to sleep away camp for the first time, and when I came home, my family had moved from Queens to New Rochelle (I did know we were moving).

So I was 10, going into 5th grade at a new school with kids who had known each other since at least 1st grade, if not kindergarten, all while dealing with an illness that not a lot of people, including doctors, knew a lot about. I think my wittiness and sense of humor was borne out of necessity. Sometimes you have to laugh because the alternative is to cry.

We’re going to shift gears now.

18th Style: You’re a cancer survivor, if you’re comfortable talking about this, when were you diagnosed and what is your diagnosis today? 

Heather: Two weeks after I got married, on March 10, 2014, I received my diagnosis. I had a very rare form of cancer called Perianal Mucinous Adenocarcinoma.
It is so rare that Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City treats, at most, two a year.

As of this writing, I am still cancer free.

18th Style: Where are you in your cancer journey and how are you doing today?

Heather: Since I am on a fairly powerful drug for my Crohn’s, I still see my oncologist every few months for screenings.  So far so good, but I still struggle daily, both physically and mentally.

My treatment consisted of chemo followed by a surgery to give me a permanent ileostomy pouch  (an ostomy is an opening created in the skin to which a pouch is affixed to catch refuse), followed by radiation, then a month in the hospital and an emergency surgery to fix my ostomy, then, in December of 2014, I was finally strong enough to have the tumor removed. Because of its location, I had a team of surgeons play Tetris with my insides.

My body will never be the same and it has taken some time for my brain to understand that my body just can not do things which used to come so easily.
Couple that with dealing with the realization that I have a bag attached to me 24/7, I have some pretty down days, but I work really hard to not stay there.

Life goes on and I have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other because I need to believe that “it” will get better.

18th Style: Any words of wisdom to other cancer survivors out there?

Heather: Trust the process. It will get better. As bad as it is today, tomorrow might be worse, but the day after could be better. Don’t bury your head. I won’t go away on it’s own. Get on it as soon as possible and fight because you have a life to live!

18th Style: Who or what inspires you?

Heather: My dogs inspire me. I know it sounds weird, but have you ever just watched a dog? Mine are funny, inquisitive, curious, intuitive, happy and loving.

They enjoy moments. They love playing, going for rides, meeting new friends (human and four legged), swimming, smelling the wind.
I love watching them enjoy their world. It constantly reminds me to enjoy my world, both the big events and the small moments.

When they come to me to play, I stop what I am doing and play. With their attention span, it will take no more than 5 minutes from me, but makes their day.
There is nothing so important that I can’t walk away for a few minutes. It is the least I can do for them considering everything they do for me.

18th Style: What’s your favorite quote or saying?

I have many favorite quotes. One of them is, “This too shall pass. It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.”

18th Style: Lastly, what’s your favorite movie?

Heather: My favorite movie is an old movie that very few people have ever heard of. It is called, Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?
The film pairs my love for mystery with food. What could be better? 

18th Style: Lastly, is there anything you would like to share or talk about that I didn’t ask?

Heather: I had mentioned earlier I love the man I married but that he turned to cocaine and alcohol. It was hard.
I was trying to take care of myself and continue my recovery while battling him and his demons. He was destructive, not just to himself, but his behavior effected me, the dogs, his kids, his father, his business.

He was in and out of jail and rehab so many times I lost count. He was angry and took his anger out on me. He did hit me. Once.

I had the wear with all to grab ice, call 911 and went outside to wait. He was arrested that night. I was embarrassed for a long time, but I had an epiphany and realized I did not do anything to warrant anything that he did to me.

I was a loyal, devoted wife through all of his indiscretions, drinking, coking, disappearing acts, etc.

I made sure his daughter’s rent and tuition was paid, I made sure the credit cards and taxes were paid.

I didn’t cause it, I can’t control and I can’t cure it. That has to come from him and it was not something he wanted. He would yell at me, degrade me, call me names, but I would remind myself that he is projecting his shortcomings on me.

I am strong, I am a good person and I try to do the right thing. Heck, I had already battled cancer!

I set boundaries. I would not keep alcohol in the house, I would not get alcohol for him, I stopped helping him.

My final straw happened the day after he came home from a rehab to avoid jail. He drank and was calling and texting incessantly while I was in NYC at Memorial Sloan Kettering with my surgeon to find out if I needed another surgery.

He was supposed to start outpatient treatment. Clearly he did not. When I got home, I did not go in the house. I knew that would result in something unspeakable happening to me.

Instead I got in the car, pulled out of the driveway and as soon as I turned the corner, I called him and told him we were done and to get the &%$! out, I then called a divorce attorney I had previously met with and told them to file the paperwork and have him served.

I am still not officially divorced, but I am no longer living with his chaos on a daily basis.

If anyone is in an abusive relationship, whether it has to do with drugs, alcohol, or anything else, it is not your fault.

All you can do is take care of yourself, the best way you see fit. I know it is painful and emotional.

The man who was supposed to be my prince became a bigger monster than cancer and the hardest thing I have had to do in the last couple of years is mourn a man who is still living.

Do not be embarrassed about your situation and do not be embarrassed to ask for help. You are worth it.


If you or someone you know, needs help, please contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Inspirational Woman: August 2018, Barbara

Every month on the 18th, I celebrate the strong, intelligent and kind women in my life.

This month, meet Barbara, entrepreneur (founder of BLF Entertainment).

We met and became friends during college. There are many things I love and admire about Barbara: her free spirit, kind heart, drive and determination are just a few.

She is a sweetheart and I hope you enjoy reading about her.

Barbara

18th Style: Where are you originally from and where do you live now?

Barbara: I am originally from Montreal, CANADA and proud. I currently live In NYC, although I consider myself part anglophone and part Southern (haha!).

18th Style: Tell us about your background.

Barbara:  I was raised in a large Jewish family, very social, very loud, loving and happening! My house was the center of where all the action took place!

18th Style: What is BLF Entertainment?

Barbara: BLF Entertainment is a talent management company that represents actors and actresses for TV, film and, Theater (Broadway) both on and off Broadway.

I also am involved in producing several film and TV projects. The most exciting project coming up is my novel entitled “Failing Upward.” It has the same DNA as Bridget Jones, perhaps, more of a “Modern” Bridget Jones!

FAILING UPWARD also tears a page from Lena Dunham’s playbook with a character navigating her twenties “one mistake a time,” not unlike Hannah from the hit television show Girls. Andy Sachs, the heroine of Revenge Wears Prada: all these heroines on and an epic journey of self-discovery.

Very timely and female driven.

18th Style: As an entrepreneur what advice do you have for those balancing their day job and life?

Barbara: My answer is simple- You need to TURN off your phone!

You need to have balance and set boundaries and put stock into whom you are sitting across from, a dream friend once said to me, make sure- you keep your apartment separate.

Make sure you have rooms where you DO NOT work, they are your “play ” rooms, or social rooms so to speak, otherwise it is 24/7.

Make sure you LIVE.

I travel, I keep up with my friends, I cycle, I make sure I am the best Auntie possible, I turn my phone off when I am having a meal with others- as much as possible.

18th Style: What do you love most about your job?

Barbara: I love when I DEFY gravity! I love turning NO into YES, I love creating, being out of the box.

18th Style: Who or what inspires you?

My late grandfather was my biggest inspiration as was was probably the greatest influence on my life to date. He was a rags to riches story and all the while, helped many people along the way. I still hear endless stories from people all over the world on how he helped them, it is incredible.

My father is another HUGE inspiration to me. He is one of the most brilliant yet humble people I have ever known. People everywhere seek his advice. He is my rock.

With regard to the business, I feel privileged to have relationships where I go to different people for different things, I think Ken Weinrib is a big inspiration and mentor for me.

18th Style: What is your favorite place to travel and why?

Barbara: I love EUROPE, because they work to live. I can’t say that I have one favorite place. I definitely would say London has a piece of my heart, although this past trip, it was all work, little play.

Bordeaux is pretty chic too. I also LOVE Charleston, I am a total foodie so no where is more charming and FUN!

18th Style: What is your favorite Broadway show and why?

Barbara: My all time favorite Broadway show is BLOOD BROTHERS by Willy Russell the original one, I saw it in London on the West End.

18th Style: Name one thing you want to do in life that you have not done yet.

Barbara: I want to Run the Boston Marathon …(unsure I ever can with my permanent knee condition, but hey anything is possible…)

18th Style: I always love ending an interview with this question. What is your favorite quote?

“In the end only three things matter: how much loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

Refuel Your Soul

Life is crazy, don’t you think? We run around all week trying to get ‘it’ all done.

How often do we pause and do things that make us happy?

We’re focused on creating a comfortable life for our families and our futures, but what about today?

Planning for the future is important, don’t get me wrong, I am the queen of planning!

But what about making our hearts and minds happy?

Parents

When I was a new mom figuring things out, I pushed ‘me’ to the side a little.  My kids were and are still my priority, however, I’ve tweaked things a bit.

Over the years I have learned that I need to also put myself first. If I don’t take care of my mind, body and soul, how can I take care of my family?

Whether it’s hitting the gym, meeting friends for dinner or sitting in front my computer writing this post to help inspire other moms and parents, we need to pause.

“Sunday is the perfect day to refuel your soul and to be grateful for each and every one of your blessings.”

Enter Sunday

A perfect day to relax. Spend the day with your kids and have a great time.  Later in the day or that evening, meet friends for dinner or call a friend you have not talked to in a while.

Read.

Write in a journal.

I know it’s difficult to find 10 minutes alone when you have kids, especially younger kiddos.

Perhaps you need to wake up 10 minutes early OR sneak in to your bedroom after the kids are asleep and savour the silence.

In life we have to make ourselves a priority. I know it’s not easy. I really do.

All I ask of you, is to try.

Have a great week!

XO

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