Sunday, October 23, 2016

Reflections on the friends I have, and may never meet...

Tonight I looked out of our windows and saw in the darkness of 2:00 in the morning a house on the hill with lights on- and was flooded with emotions.  Rewind six years ago and Jay and I had just moved in together and we would often take the fur kids on hikes.  There was this one hill way atop that had this beautiful view, and a gorgeous house atop it. We sat- overlooking the house on the hill and I looked around at my "family"- Jay, my then boyfriend- Luka, our dog, Mirage - our second dog, and Austin- our cat.  I never met the people who lived there- I don't know if they were old or young- if they had just moved in or lived there 20 years or more.  I wondered about them, what they looked like, what their family was like...Six years later and I still have never met them; I don't know if I will ever meet them, or if our paths have crossed, will cross, or may never cross.  Isn't that such a strange concept?  This happens millions a times a day-throughout our entire lives- we are just going by, living our lives while people are living their own lives.  Their joys and celebrations, their hear breaks and sorrows, their loves and losses- we are all just living.

My life is so different now from that first hike.  Jay proposed- Danica my stepdaughter moved in, Mila - my second stepdaughter would come to visit, and since then -we have had not one but two babies- Brooklyn and Cali.  We  have since lost two of our fur kids.  Sadly Mirage was in a hit and run  on a Christmas Eve last year- the  saddest christmas of my life- but four sweet days later my gorgeous baby Cali was born- and filled my darkest hour with some light.  Austin, our cat got sick, he rapidly began losing weight and getting what appeared to be cancer according to one of the vets.  Towards the end he did not leave my side- he even ate and drank which game me hope and then one day- he meowed to go out and has  never returned.  I read animals do this when it's their time- my heart breaks, but without closure of a final goodbye it does not feel real.  I often think I see him in the shadows of the night, only to realize it's not. So odd how I can spend 6-10 years so intimately, working from home, seeing them every day, sleeping with them, thinking of them as my "kids"... and then one day, just like that, they're gone, and my family as I knew it just six short years ago is so different in such a short period of time.

I wonder how those people who live in that houses life might have changed- if at all.  Do they ever look up at our house and lights in the night and wonder the same thing?

This area, unlike NYC and RTP is not transient.  More often than not the people I meet were born here, have grown old here and will most likely die here.  Very few travel outside these areas and even less have plans of moving.  Jay and I are nomads, Rolling Stones.  Between the two of us we have moved 20 times, multiple statues and even countries.  Although I am not shy at making friends, (I always say a stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet")  I often am reserved to really truly get close to anyone - - sort of unconscious affect to avoid the pain of losing friendships after I inevitably move as I always have.

I am thankful to social media - especially facebooked for this reason.  So many people get to participate and stay involved in our lives and vice versa- no matter where we live.

On trips -Jay and I have been to 75 countries and countless cities and towns- we often meet people through our adventures.  Jay calls these encounters- a reason, a season or a lifetime.  You never know how the person you meet- albeit a fleeting period of time in the scheme of your life will impact the rest of your entire life... or, perhaps just a flickering shadow in the memories of your life.  

Our most recent example would be our newest friend -Wayne; we met on the ferry from Ireland to Liverpool.  He only takes that ferry twice a year- we happened to be on one of those two voyages.  Out of thousands of people aboard, we happend to sit next  each other.  Rather then remain silent- he started a conversation about our accents and  inquired where we were from.  As an Irish fellow, he happened to live in the states when he was 16.  We ended up chatting for the entire three hour voyage- even while Jay fell asleep in between us.  I had plans of playing matchmaker with this delightful, polite single young man with the adorable accent to one of my single friends (you know who you are). He even helped me to entertain (and wrangle) some of the mischievous Irish, and UK baby/toddler girls who wandered around and became friends with Brooklyn and Cali to prevent them from waking Jay up while taking selfies while he slept with his IPAD and giggling.  We became friends- and then FB friends- -and now somebody who I might never have seen again will forever be our friends.

I am also reminded of Narayan, our tour guide in Nepal- one of our honeymoon destinations.   We spent three days with him and we loved it there, and being in his knowledgeable, warm and inviting company... we promised if we ever went back to scale Mt. Everest or simply eat the delicious local cuisine called MoMos-  it would be with him.  Imagine a few years later how devastated I was when the earthquake hit Nepal- and how relieved I was when he marked his family safe on FB (I would have always wondered and worried had we lost touch).

Perhaps my biggest reminder is my South African friend "Dad Deon"- who was my tour guide in SA the month before I met Jay.  During that trip- My  grandmother passed away -and I got extremely sick.  Deon was more of a dad to me then my real dad ever was.  He cared for me, consoled me, took me to the doctors and insured I felt loved and taken care of....even when I was all the way around the world, without my closest family or friends, I was blessed to have my dear friend Jared- as well as the new friends I made.   I of course became FB friends with him and his beautiful wife Vinessa and family and think of them all often- all the way on the other side of the world- but just a click away thanks to Facebook.  We are like tech savvy new version of pen pals.

Heck I even met my sister and brother  thanks to  facebook - but that deserves its own blog.  :)

Sure, there are many more people I have met that I have not connected with and may never see again.      Times like this, when I am feeing melancholy and thoughtful I think of each of them.  I wish them health and happiness and hope that one day, someday our paths might cross again.  I am thankful for the evolution of technology-  and that people I meet along the way I can connect with and share in this crazy journey we call life.  There are so many people I have only met a few times but our lives have become interwoven and they have truly earned a place in my heart (and on my newsfeed).

I am not sure if we will grow old here, or move in a few months.  I don't know who will enter my life, or who will leave it... or who will cross my path along the way.  I do not know when the first time I meet someone if that is the last- or the beginning of a lifelong friendship... but I hope it is.  I hope to know you, I hope that my journey is filled with amazing people like the ones I have been blessed to know so far.  I don't know where my destination will take me, or any of us... but I am excited for the journey (and to have YOU in my it a reason, a season, or my lifetime).

Saturday, October 15, 2016

6 years ago I met a boy who changed my life...Jay McBain πŸ’™

On this day, six years ago, I met a boy.  A cute, smart, sweet handsome man- who made me smile and laugh - until six in the morning!  We sat in a crowded room of music and people and just talked and - fell in love.  He kissed me, and I knew I was in trouble!

The events that unfolded were more than I could have imagined.  We have traveled the world laughing and smiling.  We have been by each others side through good times and bad.  We made a house into a home- you took a young "moon eyed" girl and made her your wife (wif), and a mother (ma ma).

We have loved, we have lost, we have changed (mostly my hair πŸ’πŸΌ), we have stayed the same (mostly your hair πŸ’‡πŸ»‍♂️), we have fought - I have screamed, you've ignored, we make up 😜.  "I won't give up on us- even if the tides get rough".  You are the calm to my storm ⛈.  We lost fur children, and grandparents πŸ˜ͺ, we have watched two daughters grow into beautiful smart young womenπŸ‘―, and two babies be born out of our love ❤️ and grow.

Through it all I love exploring the world with you by my side- regardless of the place, language, or reason (50 + countries, countless cities, thousands of water ways, and infinite paths).  You share the same spontaneity and zest for life I do to make every day an adventure and make the ordinary extraordinary 😍!  We have so many memories in such a short time- a lifetime, and we are just beginning!  I cannot wait for our next adventure.  Or- just laying on the couch smiling and laughing.

I love holding your hand, kissing you, seeing the amazing father you are, the kind son, the loving partner, the good man you are and always strive to be.

You are the first person I want to run to when I have good news, or shoulder I want to cry on when I have the worst day ever, and everything seems to go wrong.  You help make our house a home 🏑- "when you put your arms around me I am home" #WeddingSong it amazes me how we can still talk for 8 hrs on a road trip - and yet few content in silence knowing what the other person is thinking πŸ’­ before they say it.  I like you, I love you πŸ˜˜πŸ’•.  I will always be here for you, no matter what - you are stuck with me πŸ’‹.

Some fun memories and inside jokes for you- "never take the same way twice- assassins", "I was making dinner", "do you want some ... cheese πŸ§€?" "Meow", "I do, I do that!" , "Schmoo1 and Schmoo 2", from sad love songs to fist pumping anthems, "that's my favorite song", "buffer the buffers", "Roses are red, Violets are Blue", "snuffapus", "I'll always have moon πŸŒ™ eyes for you" and love you under the stars ✨ "Up Above's".

Thank you for choosing me, for loving me, for making me fall in love with you over and over again, for keeping me sane, for loving me even when I'm insane, for opening my door, for bringing me chai tea ☕️, for going out even when you don't feel like it, for changing a diaper or two...(or thousands), for sharing your bed, your heart ❤️, your home, your love.  I am blessed - you really are the man of my dreams and I will love you until my last breath! I do, I will, forever! πŸ’—πŸ’™

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Volunteer at Cisco Global Services Week #ServiceWeek #WeAreCisco #BeTheBridge #CiscoCitizen #Volunteer #GiveBack #DoGood

Global Service Week was Cisco's new week-long employee volunteerism and mentoring campaign that empowers Employees to Be the Bridge in their communities by volunteering their time and talent with the charities they care about the most. Throughout the past week of September 26th - 30th,  Cisco employees around the world had a range of opportunities to volunteer with charitable partners that benefit their local communities.  Our goal was to Kick off the year with a focus on service and inspire employees to engage in volunteerism and giving during the campaign week and throughout the year.  CEO Chuck Robbins and the Executive Leadership Team were fully behind this initiative. Karen Walker, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer and Joe Cozzolino, SVP of Cisco Services also serve as our executive sponsors for this year's Global Service Week. 

I am proud to say for a small office we met and exceeded expectations by hosting one volunteer event a day!  Kicking off the week with Nick’s Fight to be Healed 5K,  Volunteering with  Soaring Words, and Zumba at Albany Med to help give kids a break from Cancer, Cooking Breakfasts, and Comforting Snacks and helping to beautify the Ronald McDonald House of the Capital Region, Harvesting Veggies Grown for Good at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, and completing the week making care kits for our troops and donating blood in collaboration with the Albany Division of the American Red Cross!

Everyone did such an AMAZING job!!! It was humbling to help lead and organize such an extraordinary mission for such incredible volunteers!  We have certainly proved a little office can make a BIG impact.  Every day, we were fortunate to meet new colleagues and friends (many of which did not know each other).  We also learned that Albany employees have big hearts- and there is a lot of local need and enthusiasm to continue local initiatives in the future- so we can look forward to that.  Thank you to everyone who volunteered, or expressed interest to volunteer in the future, especially:

Thank you again for ALL you do. Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless,
but because they're priceless.  ~Sherry Anderson

For those interested, here is some additional details about all the charities we supported:

  Soaring Words Arts and Crafts and Dance at Albany Medical Hospital- 3:00 pm- 4:00 pm

 Mission: Soaring Words - Soaringwords’ mission is to embrace hospitalized children, families and staff, encouraging positive health and healing. Soaringwords embraces ill children and their families both in person and online by providing fun, creative and educational modules based on positive psychology concepts.

  • Website: 
  • Volunteer Job Requirements:  I currently volunteer once a month, we do an hour of Zumba (I teach) and Arts & Crafts to children who cannot leave the hospital
  •  Address: 43 New Scotland Ave, Albany.  When you are facing the main pillars entrance (with the mobile MRI out front) the Physicians Pavilion is to the left (across from the College of Pharmacy). They have numerous events you can volunteer to partake in. 


This is sometimes hit or miss in my past experience all based upon the children and how they are feeling that particular day.  Luckily on this day we had a great turn out with a lot of children, parents, doctors, nurses and volunteers. There were a lot of smiles and happiness helping give these children a break from their time in the hospital.  Here are some pics from the events:

Albany Red Cross Flexible on Time- Facility is open 11:30- 7:00 pm

o Mission: Organizations gain goodwill from their community and build morale and camaraderie as their members work together for a good cause- and help save lives!  
o Volunteer Job Requirements:  Blood Donation
o Volunteers Needed:  Open, You can schedule your appt online or over the phone. 
o Address: 33 Everett Rd, Albany, NY 12208
o Suggestion: Go with a friend and email us your pictures, so we can post on Jive and share on social! #WeAreCisco

Experience:  The Red Cross makes it quick and easy to donate blood.  With a photo ID or two proofs of ID you can sign up (first time users can sign up to get a blood donor card which is even easier for future visits).  You check in, and they move you to a chair to start.  My nurse was very sweet and funny, and albeit my blood was not cooperative - it kept stopping and starting, they were able to keep it flowing and get the required amount in the allotted time. Not without bruising, and minor discomfort (the finger pricking to check iron hurt more)- but a small price to pay to save up to three lives! I also learned there are multiple donation types you can make ex double blood for those over 5'6 and 150 lbs, and platelet donations - essential for those with hemophilia, and cancer patients etc.  This process  takes about 2 hrs, but you watch a movie and relax, they only take platelets and filter and reinsert your blood so you can donate more frequently.

 Here are some additional  blood facts I learned as well:
  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
  • Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S.
  • Nearly 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily in the U.S.
  • Nearly 21 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S.
  • The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 pints.
  • The blood type most often requested by hospitals is type O.
  • The blood used in an emergency is already on the shelves before the event occurs.
  • It is estimated that sickle cell disease affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. About 1,000 babies are born with the disease each year. Sickle cell patients can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives.
  • More than 1.68 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.

Ronald Mc Donald House – Two Time Options/Jobs Available

  • Mission: Providing stability and resources for families everywhere.  Helping a sick child fight their illness takes a big enough emotional toll on a family. Adding a financial strain can make it all almost too much to bear. RMHC can help address those problems, whether they involve housing that’s near a hospitalized child, the expense of staying together in another city, or even getting basic medical and dental care in a vulnerable community.
  • Times: Option A : 7:30 am-8:30 am (if interest) – Can go and make Breakfast for the house guests.  If interest, will need a lead contact. 
  • Volunteer Job Requirements:  Making Breakfast, baked comfort goodies for Families and Children staying at RMCH and helping to beautify their grounds.
  •  Address: 139 S Lake Ave, Albany, NY 12208, Their # (518) 438-2655

Experience:  I have always been a night person, so the idea of waking up at 6:30 am after a sleepless night with a nine month old did not sound appealing at first glance- but I know my schedule is not everybody's so I still left the option available.  We had three volunteers at that time, and five for the 10:00 shift- so I was all set, but as coordinator I could not leave the morning shift without a leader or a photographer.  So I sucked it up and woke up.  Once awake- I was excited to get there and start the day.  I was more excited when I realized that breakfast was a rare treat for the guests there.  They are always receiving dinners, scheduled months in advance- but breakfast (especially warm breakfast compared to standard cereal) is a treat.  We had a feast- cream of wheat with all the fixings, cranberries, almonds, brown sugar; a variety of toast and bagels with a variety of cream cheese, hot pancakes, bacon, corned beef hash, and the piece de resistance was eggs cooked to order by our volunteer John - omelettes, over easy, scrambled- you name it- he made it for all of our excited guests.  I learned later that John himself was once a resident of the Ronald McDonald House when his daughter became ill, and though she was now healthy it meant a lot for him to be able to pay it forward and share a warm meal with the 25 families in need of some food and kindness during their time of struggle. Meeting the amazingly gracious, and brave guests and parents was a feeling I cannot put into words.  Two of the guests were four year old boys fighting brain tumors- their adorable smiles despite their battles, their hope and thankfulness made me want to wake up every morning to serve these amazing people- regardless of the time. We then welcomed the second group who helped bake lemon cake, cookies, muffins and work to organize the toy room and beautify the grounds.  Each guest was so grateful, as they ate and hurried out the door to start their treatment, or visit family at Albany Med Hospital.  We brought them food, but what we received in return was better than any gift we could give them.  I cannot wait to do it again. 

     Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York

  • Mission: The Regional Food Bank has been helping to feed the poor and hungry in our communities since 1982. It is the only organization of its kind in northeastern New York. The Food Bank collects large donations of food from the food industry and distributes it to charitable agencies serving hungry and disadvantaged people in 23 counties. From Plattsburgh to Newburgh, in urban, rural, and suburban communities, the Food Bank provides over 30 million pounds of food a year to 1,000 agencies.
  • Website: 
  •  Volunteer Job Requirements:  Opportunity to help harvest Patroon Land Farm near Thacher Park.  We are harvesting all the wonderful vegetables that have been growing all summer.
  • Volunteers Needed:  - OPEN! 
  • Address:   Harvesting Crops, Weeding, 132 Ketcham Road- Voorheesville, NY

Experience: Our mission - shuck garlic- shuck? well, maybe - that is my terminology.  As the food bank was under construction, we had the option to "harvest crops" - I did not know what exactly that meant... but as an Italian walking into the pungent smell of a green house filled with garlic made me happy and hungry.  Plus, we had the duplicitous benefit of warding off Vampires... just in case ;). It was great as we got to stand on a line and chat as we all got to know each other....most people had never met each other- for all of the events, because many of us our telecommuters or remote workers.   Even when in the office, most of us are too busy on calls, telepresences, or working with our respective teams to meet each other so this  Volunteering was a great opportunity to meet each other, new team members and friends in fun non work setting/sans office in the beautiful outdoors of Upstate NY. 

 Albany Red Cross Flexible on Time- Operation Care Kits for our Troops 

o Mission: our Service to the Armed Forces department is gearing up for a large Stand Down event in Albany this weekend, and we have a large amount of hygiene product that came in at the end last week that needs to be sorted and prepared to be distributed to veterans in need. We would probably need about 2-4 people for a few hours.
o Volunteer Job Requirements:  Help make care kits for our troops! #ThankyouforyourService
o Volunteers Needed:  Open, You can schedule your appt online or over the phone. 
o Address: 33 Everett Rd, Albany, NY 12208

Experience: This rounded off our fifth and final event.  Although we only needed two - four volunteers, the room was full of anxious people willing to help.  As my grandmother (Babci) often said- "many hands make for light work".  Our goal was to fill bags of hygeine products as care kits for our troops in need as a thank you for their service.  We made quick work of this task and were anxiously planning our next event (collaborating to hang smoke detectors in population dense urban homes/apartments in need.  Finishing ahead of schedule the volunteers also had the opportunity to donate blood/head back to work satisfied with a job well done. 

As I jumped in to lead the events last minute, I made all of this happen two weeks before the events. It was challenging because there were so many different contacts and schedules to manage- luckily everything worked seamlessly through planning-scheduling, marketing and communicating the events,  to our 100  person office.  I thought - in a worst case, I will show up and volunteer- in a best case we will get one to two others to help.  Expectations surpassed as all events were a smashing success
"I just want to pile on - Michelle you did a truly AMAZING job.   A reminder of what someone with great leadership skills can get others to do!!  Thank you for everything (even love that I still smell like garlic)!!" - Laura Tilton, Sales Training Development & Delivery, Cisco 
"Great job organizing these events.  You made it so easy to do some good.  Wish I could have done more.  Thank you. " Mark Culotti- Regional Manager, Cisco 
" Great effort by all.  There was also a Junior Achievement effort to add to that list. Thanks so much to the team for organizing all of this.  Incredible effort and success." Tony Suraci- Business Development Manager, Cisco 
" From all of us, I would like to say THANK YOU for a tremendous week and all your work to organize us!"- Ann Alexander- Sales and Business Development Manager, Cisco 
"Thank you so much for organizing a great team of volunteers to help at the Ronald McDonald House today. Our guests enjoyed being served breakfast by your friendly crew throughout the morning and the House smells amazing still from all the wonderful baked goods.The Toy Shop, hallways and playground look amazing after all their efforts too.  Thank you all so much!-  Tina Woodward, Volunteer coordinator at Ronald McDonald House
"#ServiceSundays.  We'd like to thank @Cisco for their #GlobalServicesWeekParticipation!  Thank you @miragusa for #Volunteering at #SoaringZumba!  We love reading about your experience.  Thank you for your contribution!  It does not go unnoticed!" - Lisa Buksbaum- CEO and team of Non Profit, Soaring Words

I am so grateful to work for a company like Cisco that supports and encourages us to volunteer and give back to others for this very important week, and throughout the year.  I feel blessed thankful for my many blessings- above all health.  Nothing is promised and for those people who selflessly sacrifice day in and day out for others - you are true inspirations.  Above all for the families and brave little warriors- you are the REAL Super Heros, and your positivity, and glowing smiles in the face of adversity is a lesson we can all learn from.  May God watch and protect you and I wish you health and happiness- and hope to visit again soon if only to hear you are being released and cured! <3.

I also think we proved small groups can do BIG things with great heart.  I realized there are many people who want to do good- and just need some direction on the many options which are available to them.  I used to do events coordination at my College- so this came natural to me.  Having a week dedicated to this was a great opportunity to realize some of the many volunteer opportunities available to all of us in our community.  We don't need a week, or a company, or even a team.  Each of us can take action by calling some local places and seeing if they want or need volunteers- nursing homes, animal shelters, Red Cross, Soup Kitchens, large or local non-profits all are looking for volunteers.  If you can organize a day and throw it on your teams calender's, or invite your neighbors or family  you will be surprised how many people want to join you, but don't know where to begin.  It just takes one person to lead the effort - let that one person be you!
#ServiceWeek #WeAreCisco #BeTheBridge #CiscoCitizen #Volunteer #GiveBack #DoGood

 "I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do for any fellow being, let me do it now..."     
                ~William Penn