Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘I have always been afraid of taking a leap into something that I don’t know. My wife taught me that without change and growth, you’ll spin your wheels in life.’

Ian MacManus, Huntington

“I remember the moment I first laid eyes on her. I was in my final clinical rotation for occupational therapy school at Cerebral Palsy of Nassau County. She was walking across the parking lot as I was pulling in, and I immediately thought she was stunningly beautiful. Her blonde hair and big smile caught my eye. To my luck, I went to pick up my first student of the day to treat, and she was in the classroom as an aide for the summer.

“I found out she was an OT student in Boston while I was finishing up at Stony Brook, and, on my last day of work there, I finally mustered up enough courage to ask her out. It has been a magical ride ever since.

“She was going back to Boston, so I only had a week to date her before she was three hours away. We talked on the phone for hours every night and found that we shared so many of the same ideals. This April, we will be married for 15 years.

“Three years ago, we started our own business, MacManus Occupational Therapy. Aside from our family, that was when we really had the pleasure of growing something together. I have always been afraid of taking a leap into something that I don’t know. The business side is new to me. My wife taught me that without change and growth, you’ll spin your wheels in life. Now, we’re providing occupational therapy for neurologically impaired patients, as well as people that have upper extremity injuries.

A lot of people ask, ‘How can you work with your wife?’ I had no idea how exciting growing a business and living out our dreams would be.

“When it comes to working with people who are neurologically impaired, it is so dynamic and diverse in its practice; you’re always learning, and there are opportunities for growth with patients. It’s helping recover life skills and building on lost opportunities. It hits home deeply.

“A lot of people ask, ‘How can you work with your wife?’ Doing it together has been more fun than anything else. I had no idea how exciting growing a business and living out our dreams would be. Working with her has been an adventure and an amazing feat. I look over and see my best friend treating a patient two tables down and I’m excited.

“We continue to grow as a couple, as a business, and as a family. We now have four little ones at home. I knew from the day I met her she was the girl I was going to marry.”

‘I learned early on what racism was because I was bullied for being Chinese in elementary school.’

Long Island

“I learned early on what racism was because I was bullied for being Chinese in elementary school. It was very difficult, because I would tell the lunch lady and she would say, ‘Ignore it or just tell the boys to stop.’ But of course, they didn’t. It was difficult learning at a young age that I was being bullied because of something I was born as. And that kind of takes away some of your innocence, to realize that at such a young age. I kind of learned that it wasn’t great to be different and Chinese, because I would get bullied for it. I didn’t want to be Chinese. But obviously you can’t change that. It wasn’t until I got to college that I learned to embrace my heritage. I went to the University of Michigan and there were a lot of Asians there, a lot of Asians who were proud and happy to be who they were. I started taking Asian studies classes, I joined Asian student groups and really connected in a way I hadn’t growing up because of the lack of diversity. I have a blog and I also started writing picture books, which have Asian American themes to it. I really wanted to do that not only because of my interest in writing, but to share with other children the Chinese culture in a way I never saw.

I never knew when I was younger, I would end up writing. I didn’t see it was a possibility because I didn’t see anyone who looked like me in the writing world.

“I never saw books that had Asian characters or talked about Chinese culture. I want to be able to show a new generation, whether they’re Asian or not, about different cultures. You don’t have to be Chinese to read a book about Chinese New Year—it’s interesting whatever your background is. I’m thrilled to see this journey of self-acceptance and I’m trying to pass it on to my kids. I never knew when I was younger, I would end up writing. I didn’t see it was a possibility because I didn’t see anyone who looked like me in the writing world. Sometimes life finds a way to bring you to where you’re supposed to be.”

‘Till this day, people know Ma. My grandmother’s ice cream and fudge.’

Huntington

“I grew up in Trinidad and my grandma was this strong woman who would put you in your place in two seconds. We’d go hunting, and it was so much fun. On our little hunts we’d go up in the trails, the cane fields, the cashew trees. She’d pick cashews, ‘cause when we’d go home, she’d roast them. And the smell and the taste of cashews you pick from a tree is incredible.

She’d stop and talk and then go to the next house. It was a really close-knit community.

“I grew up with her and coconut oil. She’d get the coconut and drink the water, grate the coconut, have the milk. And then the flakes, you’d roast them over the fire, and you get the oil. The most intoxicating smell of fresh coconut oil. She’d use it for everything — your hair, your skin. You had an earache? She’d put it in your ear. My grandmother would make ice cream, different Trinidadian desserts. And on Sunday she’d make fudge, everything fresh with her coconut milk. She had a cart and she’d go around the block. And by the time she came back home, everything was gone. We’d go with her and everybody called her Ma. “Ma give me ten of that!” And I mean she made money. And everybody waited for Sunday ‘cause Ma was coming. So, she had us and my cousins and we’d go with her, and I remember just watching. She’d stop and talk and then go to the next house. It was a really close-knit community.

“Till this day, people know Ma. My grandmother’s ice cream and fudge. She was such a character. My aunt was pregnant and wanted a coconut. My grandma said, ‘You want it? Hold on,’ and she climbed the tree at sixty-something years old. I swear to you, got the coconut for her! She used to tell us stories. She had these old folk stories that she told my mom, so passed down. And she’d sing and she would change her voice and be every character. Living in Trinidad, the electricity would go out a lot. So, when that went out, that was our cue. She’d light the candle and we’d sit around the candle and she’d tell us these stories. I remember when I was pregnant, I called her in Trinidad. I’m like ‘Ma, you have to tell me these stories’ and I recorded them. I have some that I started writing down ‘because I’d love to pass them on to my daughter.’”