King Cake

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

November 19, 2020

Months ago, my husband and I made plans to travel to Morro Bay for Thanksgiving, to spend it with my mother-in-law, and brother-in-law and his family. We had planned a big Easter gathering there, and well, that was obviously cancelled. So we would make up for Easter by spending Thanksgiving together, six people, socially-distanced, eating in the garden. 

 

Yesterday, we cancelled that plan. Indeed, it seems Thanksgiving as we know it is altogether cancelled this year. And as James Hamblin says in The Atlantic it should be: 

“This year is an opportunity to bond over the moral certainty of the moment. At its core, Thanksgiving is a nebulous day of atoning for the sins of colonialism by eating food and saying thank you. Now families and friends and communities can work together to achieve something meaningful and good: ending the pandemic. All you’re asked to do is eat food at home.”

 

Yes, I know this is the right decision. And yes, I wallowed in sadness for a moment yesterday. Why? Because I have to spend Thanksgiving in DC (a place I love), with “just” my husband (a man I love). Woe is me. 

 

Today, on my morning run, I made the decision to shift my perspective and think of this as a magical opportunity to do Thanksgiving a completely different way. So here’s what I am planning for the holiday weekend. 

 

Spending time helping others. Food and Friends, an organization I so admire, has amazing volunteering opportunities year-round, including meal delivery service on Thanksgiving Day. If anything can help me remember how lucky I am in my life and how much I have to be grateful for, this will do it. 

 

Sharing a romantic Thanksgiving meal “en tete a tete.” I will make the house sparkle and will set a beautiful table. I will dress up and wear heels and lipstick. I will light candles. And we will enjoy a takeout Thanksgiving dinner. A first, yes, but it’s not any takeout… 

 

Spending time outdoors. I have always wanted to hike Old Rag, and have officially run out of excuses to further delay this. Maybe we’ll even pack a picnic. 

 

And I’ll still do many of the things I love to do during Thanksgiving weekend. Put out holiday decorations. Address holiday cards. Wrap gifts. Watch Christmas movies. And most importantly, I will remember how lucky I am, I will say my gratitudes, and I will call my mother-in-law. 


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I Commit

June 7, 2020

This article was first published in Adamant About Beauty

 

I do not believe I am a racist. I certainly am not a hater. The events of this past week have awakened me to the fact that not being racist, not hating, is not enough.

 

Racism is not only conscious hate. “Racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on.” Scott Woods.

 

I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, a white city in a country where neutrality and diplomacy are national hallmarks (indeed, a country that has its own struggles with racism). I am a conflict avoider. Privacy is one of my core values. I am a “glass half full” person and always give others the benefit of the doubt, to the extent that some have called me naïve.


I have always known that my life as a white woman has been easier than the lives of so many – yet I have never asked myself specifically about white privilege. As a child, the extent of race conversations I had with my parents was limited to asking what “macaroni” meant when someone called me this in middle school. My Italian father explained, I ignored the slur, and that was that.


I realized this week that I have been so blind to the perspective of people of color that I have never had a race conversation with my oldest, bestest of friends – whom I have known since the age of 12. She is Indian. She and I have over the years spoken about everything, yet we have never spoken about race. Probably because I have never asked, because I didn’t want to have that uncomfortable conversation. For that same reason, I have been silent when my white girlfriends have said things (about politics, about race, about other topics not in the news today) I did not agree with. The events of this past week have awakened me to the fact that my silence is compliance.
I must speak up. Yet I have been paralyzed about what to say. I am afraid to say the wrong thing. I am afraid to sound tone deaf. I am afraid to offend. In a way, I am also afraid not to offend. The events of this past week have awakened me as to how much more I must do, as a human, as a white woman, to work against racism and hatred, to work for equality and opportunity for all. I must do better. I must be better.

These are my commitments.

 

I commit to recognizing my white privilege.

 

I commit to educating myself. And yes, it is a privilege to be educating myself about racism instead of experiencing it. To start, I commit to reading How to be Less Stupid about Race (Crystal M. Fleming)White Fragility (Robin Diangelo)Me and White Supremacy (Layla F. Saad) (including doing the 28-day workbook), Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates).

 

I commit to listening. Including to listening about why the violence and destruction of the past few days is necessary to bring about awareness change.

 

I commit to evolving my social media feed to be more focused on race issues, more inclusive. Here are some accounts I am now following.
@naacp
@aclu_nationwide
@eji_org
@colorofchange
@bailproject
@blklivesmatter
@fairfightaction
@campaignzero
@mspackyetti
@blackwomensblueprint
@colorlinesnews
@theconsciouskid
@civilrightsorg
@tembae
@reneesrh
@meena
@ijeomaoluo
@rachel.cargle
@mvmnt4blklives
@laylafsaad
@munroebergdorf
@nowhitesaviors

 

I commit to donating regularly to associations that fight for racial equality. This week, these include NAACPACLU, and Equal Justice Initiative.

I commit to using my voice. This blog post is a start.

I commit to making my brand Alchimie Forever more inclusive.

I commit to voting. Locally, nationally.

I commit to doing the work. To doing better. To being better. Not just today, not just this week. But for however long it takes.

I commit to being anti-racist. “It is not enough to be quietly non-racist, now is the time to be vocally anti-racist.” Angela Davis


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What We Are Doing Right Now, Right Here, To Help

April 19, 2020

Two weeks ago, my youngest sister Roxane, a medical doctor at the hospital in Sion, Switzerland, asked a very pointed question on our Polla sisters Skype: “What can our beauty businesses do to help during this time of crisis?” I did not have an answer, but I did hear her question. A few days later, I saw on LinkedIn that Mathilde Thomas of Caudalie donated products to numerous hospitals in France. And I thought, well, we also have products that help with chapped hands and irritated faces… 

 

So I began my week with a donation of products to Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, the hospital that is affiliated with the business school I went to and that is less than one mile from my office. Similarly, in Switzerland, we donated products to my sister Roxane’s hospital (in Sion), the one affiliated most closely with my heart since she works there every day. 

 

In speaking of this with my sisters and my team, I was amazed to hear about their own initiatives to help and contribute to their communities.

 

Here is what they are doing: 

Angie (NYC): “I gave a donation to New York’s Food Bank last month. This month, I am donating to José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen. I like that some restaurants are feeding healthcare workers and that also helps support the restaurant during these times.”

 

Emma (Arlington, VA): “I am buying books (used and new) from eBay US sellers instead of Amazon. It makes me feel better that I deal directly with real people and contribute something to them instead from big companies such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The sellers that I’ve dealt with so far shipped everything from their house which is listed on the shipping label of the packages that I received.”

 

Jenna (Reston, VA): “I baked assortments of cookies and sent them to friends and clients to cheer them up. Also, I live across the street from a trauma hospital so every night at 7 pm people in my building and surrounding buildings go outside on their balconies to cheer for the hospital workers at shift change. A small gesture, but it makes everyone (including myself) feel good.”  

 

Kelli (Charleston, WV): “I have compiled lists of local restaurants offering delivery or carry out and local businesses doing online sales or online classes that I share regularly on social media.”  

 

Mandi (Washington DC: “I have been ordering food from all of my favorite local restaurants and taking classes from my favorite yoga instructors (some donation-based and some free) and posting pictures to my social media to help build their client base.”  

 

Rachel (Geneva, Switzerland): “I have been buying groceries for a few older women who are high risk and should not leave their homes, both among my neighborhood and among my Forever Institut teammates.” 

 

Roxane (Sion, Switzerland): “I have been extra ‘gifty’ to my friends who have had birthdays in the last few weeks, since they can’t celebrate as they usually would. I have been having cupcakes delivered to them (from a brand called Melazic, a business owned by two sisters) as well as personalized cookies with positive messages from the brand Bobiskuit, also a woman-owned brand.” 

 

There is no right or wrong way to help or contribute. There is no act of kindness too small or too insignificant to matter. And it makes me so proud to be a part of a family, a team that instinctively takes care of their communities, of their world, of our world. 


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