This is the fabulous Aleen! She is a bright and cheerful–a true ray of sunshine! Her energy is contagious. She truly lights up a room with her smile and joyful spirit! We chose to do her shoot, appropriately, at one of the city gardens–and incorporated her fun, eclectic and colorful style. You will can definitely get a true sense of her joy and energy in these shots! Enjoy her interview. She’s sure you make you smile!
us: Tell us a little bit about yourself Aleen . . .
her: Ok, well I’m not a Charlottesville native—I was born in Chicago and grew up in Lancaster, PA—but I’ve lived here since 1994. I work part time at Anthropologie. And, I work full time for Cultivate Charlottesville—which is made of program partners City Schoolyard Garden, Urban Agriculture Collective, and the Food Justice Network—as the Outreach and Resources Program Director. I’ve been a board member for the last six years at CSG and am over-the-moon to continue to work with the program as a staff member.
us: What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
her: Oh my gosh, I didn’t eat breakfast, because I knew I was meeting you for lunch. And also, someone was talking to me about intermittent fasting last week. So, I’m considering trying it. But you’re not supposed to eat anything at all until noon. I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to make it because I like to work out in the morning before work; so I get up really early. And, by 10am I’m starving! So, we’ll see if I can make it work or not.
us: Does pineapple belong on pizza?
her: Never, ever. Whatsoever. Don’t do it.
us: Do you sleep in your socks?
her: Yes, but I almost always wake up and they’re off.
us: Mountains or beach?
her: I LOVE the beach. And then each and every time I fly back into CHO those Blue Ridge Mountains just take my breath away.
us: Your current favorite song:
her: Oh gosh. Right now, I’ve started listening to Christmas music. There’s a guy named Dave Barnes, I think he is actually a Christian singer. I don’t usually listen to, religious music, but I love his voice. I stumbled across his Christmas album A couple years ago. I was listening to one on repeat last night called “Family Tree.” It’s about your whole family getting together at the Christmas tree, it always makes me like tear up a little bit.
us: Salty or sweet?
her: Salty AND sweet together!
us: Pet peeve?
her: Adults who pick their nose and eat it!
us: Favorite place you’ve traveled to?
her: My parents love to travel—so I come by it naturally. They were extremely generous in giving me opportunities to do so when i was younger. Spain is my first love, and the place I’ll never stop going. Buuuuuut, I’ve been to The Great Wall of China, and that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
us: What’s your favorite room in your house?
her: That’s a good question because I moved in April, and I don’t have all of my stuff up on the walls yet. Probably, my bedroom, because I’m a sleeper. I love to sleep. I haven’t done it as much over the last few years because I’ve been trying to be very good about exercising, but, to me, sleeping in a comfy bed–where it’s cold and you’ve got everything wrapped around you . . . and your favorite pictures are hanging on the wall–that’s the best! I’m looking forward to finally getting everything kind of back to the way it was before I moved. I moved because there was a school on the street that I lived on, and they have been trying to buy the house that I rented. They’ve been trying to buy that for a number of years, and they finally made my landlord an offer. So they bought the house, and they paved it and made it a parking lot! They tore it down, and made it a parking lot–like the Joni Mitchell song! It’s true!
us: Room entrance song?
her: Mo’ money, Mo’ problems–by The Notorious B.I.G. I was obsessed with this song when it came out and forced the car to listen to it on repeat on the way to beach week.
us: Who’s the most influential woman in her life?
her: My mom. Just watching her through my whole life . . . Take care of our family, take care of her family, her mother, her brother, her sister . . . she’s just really strong and is someone who has struggled with mental health issues, as have I. She’s really fought with that a lot. So, watching her try to take care of herself and be an advocate for other people in our family, as well, is something that really sticks with me. And just, you know, being a mom, being a working mom–she’s retired now, and I’m grateful that she is able to kind of take off from work–but she’s still a mom. She’s still always checking on me and trying to make sure that everything is great for me. I love her grace. She’s very graceful and also has a good sense of humor!
us: If you could give your younger self, a single piece of advice, what would it be?
her: I would tell my younger self to travel more. I was going back and forth between save your money and travel more, but I love to travel! And I feel like if you can do it–if you can work it out– and find the good deals and stuff like that, it’s such an interesting way to connect with other people. It never make sense to me when people say they don’t want to travel–at all– even within the United States. There’s so much to see and things that are unbelievable! So, I would tell my younger self get out there even more–travel more!
us: Can you tell me about a challenge that you’ve overcome?
her: I would say my own mental health. As I started college, I started feeling like there is something going on that I couldn’t put my finger on that was making me feel down. I was class president in high school and just involved in sports and other things. So I, all of a sudden started feeling kind of lethargic and lackadaisical. I knew that wasn’t right. I came home at break, I think after my first semester, and said to my parents “Something’s wrong. I need to see a therapist.” So, I think that was the beginning of a journey of my own mental health, and being able to come to the place where I am now which is–I always see a therapist, and I take medicine and that works for me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being able to know that that’s what I need, and also to be able to talk about it with other people, as well. There were times where I was ashamed. There were times when I couldn’t find the right medication, and I was dealing with different doctors,but right now I feel pretty comfortable. Again, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have, different times when I’m more depressed than other times, but I feel comfortable knowing what I need to do to take care of myself and being able to share that information with other people too.
us: Where do you find your inspiration?
her: The people that surround me. My friends and family that I see and interact with. And I find a lot of inspiration from this community. One of the reasons that I’ve stayed in Charlottesville, even though I’m getting older and I’m still single, is that I feel like I have a community of people here who know me and I know them. There’s so many cool things–whether it’s a business or just a person that I see all the time. There’s so much here to be inspired by. I love that! And, I love just knowing more about this place. I love finding out more about Charlottesville–it inspires me to want to be involved in different things, or tell my friends other things that I’ve learned. Charlottesville and the people who I’ve met here are very inspiring.
us: Any embarrassing or fun nicknames we should know about?
her: Some people call am Al. My god-daughter calls me Owl, because that’s what she thought people were saying when they said Al. Some of my friends call me Leeni. When I was in high school, I hung out with a group of friends that would always call each other like, K-DOG–or A-DOG. So I had a personalized license plate, when I got my first car. Instead of A-DOG, which was already taken, it said A-PERRO because I spoke Spanish.
When I was little, like an infant, my dad was in love with White Castle hamburgers. And apparently, one day, I was in my little carrier and he looked at me and said, “you’re just as cute as a little hamburger.” So his side of the family calls me either Burger, Burger Head or my dad just shortens it and calls me Burg all the time. I love cheeseburgers so I feel totally fine about it!
us: What’s your go to midnight snack?
her: Probably,ice cream. If I’m up late, I want ice cream. I love Ben and Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie with Reese’s Pieces in it. That’s one of my favorites!
us: What’s the accomplishment you’re most proud of?
her: I would say . . . my students. I used to be a high school Spanish teacher, and I taught for 10 years in Northern Virginia and then, here, I taught at Monticello High School. And, being able to watch them, since I taught them, as they’re growing–having babies, getting married, these jobs that they are getting . . . it makes me very, very proud. Knowing that, I mean I didn’t raise them but, seeing what they’re doing, gives me a sense of pride and also keeping in touch with them. I definitely keep in touch with a lot of families of students that I taught. I was just actually in a wedding of one of my students—I was a bridesmaid. I am so proud of those relationships that I’ve built with students over the years.
us: Any hidden talents we should know about?
her: I’m very good at The Washington Post crossword puzzle. My grandmother was an avid crossword woman, and I got into it when I taught in Northern Virginia. Now my friend, Jane, saves the Wa-Po style section for me EVERY DAY and brings me these fantastic bagfuls of crosswords every time we meet–pre-folded–she even folds them for me ahead of time!
us: What’s your favorite thing about living in Charlottesville?
her: That’s a hard one! I feel lucky to be learning more and more about the background of this place that has become my home. I went to school in the county, but now that I am a resident of the city. So, it’s even more important to know about what has made this place what it is—the good, the bad, and everything in between.
Thank you for sharing with us Aleen!