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Storytelling, writing

 

I wrote this piece following the Democratic National Convention 2016, after watching Hillary Rodham Clinton accept the Democrats’ nomination for President of the United States of America. 

“Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at hello. You had me at hello.”

Dorothy, Jerry Maguire (1996)

In 1995, I turned ten years old the same week our then-First Lady of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton stood in Beijing, China and boldly declared, “human rights are women’s rights…. And women’s rights are human rights.”

The Magnificent Seven took gymnastics gold in the Atlanta Olympics when I was in fifth grade.

The Spice Girls showed the world that Girl Power comes in many different colors, styles, and temperaments when I was navigating the early days of middle school.

Gwen Stefani taught me emotion and creativity make for one powerful voice and wrote the soundtrack to most of my adolescence.

Princess Diana embodied the strength of grace and proved there is no greater act than an act of kindness.

Power, equality, vulnerability, grace, and resilience proved key ingredients in the making of my ‘90s girlhood.

The women in my life each played their own role in shaping my feminist identity, and though they were most likely under the impression I was busy incessantly talking, I was always watching and listening.

Balancing Act

Storytelling, writing

I read this piece at a Writers of Central Florida or Thereabouts’ Short Attention Span Storytelling Hour event at Stardust Coffee & Video on June 22,  2016.

I started “practicing” yoga last fall, but I’ve never been good with balance.

 

My first yoga class was an act of resignation that I couldn’t keep up the workaholic mentality I had adopted since founding, launching, and managing a brand new digital magazine for my brand new boss. After seven days to get the site live & then seven months of the high highs and low lows of new partnerships and lost team members, new subscribers and budget issues, I needed to carve out some “me time” for my personal well being.

 

I spread my arms flat out to each side of me, my fingertips reaching for the baseboards on opposite sides of the room. I wound my legs around one another and flopped my knees to the left. My torso twisted around and I pushed my shoulder blades into my mat. Bending and twisting have never been my problem. I’ve just never been good at balance.

 

I try to remember to breathe in between the thousands of thoughts that I try to push from my mind. My gaze darting to the zipper compartment of my yoga mat carrier, I wonder if my emails or my texts were waiting for my response.

 

Last Christmas, I went home to Upstate NY to “take a break from work” at least physically. I tried to show my cousin a yoga pose that could help relax her after a long day working as a nurse. She said she could never bend like a pretzel the way I did. I found that hard to believe considering she did ice skating and gymnastics when she was little while I lacked all the power, strength, agility, or grace necessary to even muster a handstand or a cartwheel.

 

As a beginning yoga practitioner, I have excelled in Yin classes, poses held for longer periods of time and the muscles of the body relaxing into the position with each purposeful exhalation. Before I found my preference for Yin practice, I attended some classes that incorporated balance poses as well as reclining poses.

 

Balancing is a pain in my ass.

Orlando Story Club: Pet Surprise

Storytelling, Video, writing

I attended Orlando Story Club‘s April charity night, supporting Pet Alliance, not planning to perform. The leader of Orlando Story Club, Robin Cowie wanted to have 10 storytellers total, but at intermission there were still a couple spots open on the presenter list. I was so inspired by the amazing storytellers during the first act, I signed up to talk about my cats, Noah and Moses.

Watch my story below and see the other talented presenters on here.

Wedded Bliss

Published Elsewhere, Storytelling, writing

I read this at Writers of Central Florida or Thereabouts’ Short Attention Span Storytelling Hour at Stardust Coffee & Video on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. This post was also published on ThoughtCatalog.com on July 27, 2016.

One of my dear friends from work got married the other weekend and I was asked to accept the honor of being her day of wedding coordinator. My background as a former Pre-K CCD teacher, office baby shower hostess, and my reputation at work for being the most obsessed with schedules, calendars, and to-do lists apparently qualified me enough to ensure a small parade of Southern belles made it down the aisle and the bride had a stress-free day… ok, ok, low-stress day. I’m no miracle worker.

At The Movies

Storytelling, writing

I read this piece at a Writers of Central Florida or Thereabouts event at Maitland Public Library hosted by Tim Rumsey and Jeff Rembert around the theme of movies on April 4, 2016.

When I was a kid there wasn’t much that could go wrong on a family outing to the movies, therefore movie-going became a frequent activity for my sister, my parents, and me. I don’t even recall what the first movie I ever saw was, but grew up hearing that babysitters and family members putting a movie on to relax me into sleeping always had the opposite effect. I would be alert, awake, and captivated by the stories on screen. Meanwhile my gramas would be dozing, or worse snoring.

My sister would cry and cry and cry when Dumbo was separated from his mother and yet we would beg our parents to rent the VHS over and over. They did so reluctantly and endured our inevitable sob fests.

Once we moved from Upstate New York to Winter Springs, Florida we would often pile in the car and head to the old Litchfield Theatre on 17-92. One day our intended showtime was sold out— this was the early ‘90s pre-Fandago and you had to look up the movie times and descriptions in the newspaper. Missing the showing meant my parents were left with the options of leaving and convincing us into a different, sub-par, activity or staying at the theater for the next show.

Open Your Arms!

Editing, Storytelling, writing

Written by Jim Toukatly. Edited by Jessica Toukatly. Shared with the author’s permission. 

 

In 1915, the Toukatly family were Syrian immigrants fleeing an Islamic government which was carrying out the first genocide of the 20th century, the Armenian Massacre. They fled their home in Mardin, Turkey. My grandfather, who was about 25 years old, had no education. His wife was 14 years old. They offered America nothing in terms of skill. They didn’t speak English, could not read or write, and they had no money, yet America let them in. The US soon after passed laws to forbid immigration from Asia. (The Middle East is considered part of Asia.) Court cases ensued and after a lot of fighting and confusion Arabs from the Middle East were allowed to stay.

Americans didn’t hate them because they were different. They were given a chance. A chance that they didn’t have in the Turkish/Syrian town that they were from. Although Mardin is in Turkey, it is just across the border from Syria and the people there are predominantly Syrian. Borders weren’t a big deal at that time and everyone there said that they were Syrian.

In America, specifically Utica, NY, they failed. 

For Jeanette

Storytelling, writing

 

I read this piece at Writers of Central Florida or Thereabouts event “Short Attention Span Storytelling Hour” on August 12, 2015 following a trip back to my family’s home of Upstate, NY. This is dedicated to my grandmother, Jeanette Doyle, and all of us who love her so.

I slide into the backseat of my Gram’s teal Toyota Camry. My feet ache from stomping the tile floors of Sangertown Shopping Center, the local mall of the Utica, NY “metro area”– Charlotte Russe, Aeropostale, both a Hot Topic and a Spencer’s Gifts– this mall had all the haunts of a middle schooler’s Friday night out dreams. The only stores of interest for our party were H&M– the cheap and trendy shop for my sister and I to try on a bunch of clothes we did not need, and Macy’s which is basically a place of worship for my 88 year old Grama. She Christmas shops and harasses sales associates there year round.

I Got So Mad I Wrote This Last Night

Storytelling, writing

Despite my inability to do a cartwheel or even a handstand, I am NBC’s demographic for Team USA Women’s Gymnastics.  I was born in 1985 and the Magnificent Seven of the Atlanta Olympics took gold at an impressionable age for me.  Combine that with a display of flashy hair accessories and undoubtedly no sport holds my attention like women’s Olympic gymnastics.

After viewing day one of the “Fab Five” I find myself turning off the TV not with the usual admiration and inspiration of witnessing others dreams realized, but with outrage.

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