Friday, September 27, 2013

The Having It All Project: Jeannette Bellesfield

Jeannette is a rockstar who answered a last-minute call to participate in the Project this week, and I so appreciate it! Jeannette blogs about her adventures in motherhood and her crafting attempts (and fails) at Mommy Needs A Martini. Here's how Jeannette is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I’m not sure there is a brief answer to this! My best description, in the shortest of terms, is chaotic! I work full time in Corporate America, as does my husband, so our two daughters are in a public daycarefull time. I get up before the sun every morning to hurriedly ready myself for the day before the kidsmake their first appearance. Once we’re all dressed and groomed, I drop them off – all before 7am – and I head to work. When my day is done at work, it is merely just beginning at home. After I pick the kidsup, we head home, let the dogs out, fight off the witching hour tantrums and try to unwind. Dinner is cooked, dogs and kids are fed, and then we play a game or read a book until Dad gets home. Then, it’s snack and bath time and, finally, BEDTIME.

That may just sound like a day in my life, but Monday through Friday, this IS my life. Year round. Rain or Shine. By the time Saturday rolls around, I want nothing more than to sleep-in or veg in front of the TV. But I don’t. I’m up with the kids, who are up with the sun. We have breakfast together and we talk about what we might do that day. And it’s just perfect.

Would I like more time to myself? Sure. But when I do have time to myself in eighteen years or so, I’m going to miss these days. Plus, life with two toddlers under three is sort of like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Amiright?!

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
I’ve had people ask me, “How do you DO it?” and “Wow, you must be tired!”

I’m always so befuddled by those statements! How do I do what, exactly? Be a Mom? Do just what I desired to do when I set out on my journey into motherhood? How do I do that, you mean? And, duh, of course I’m tired. But so are most moms, regardless of their child(ren)’s age! I have found that keeping a meticulous routine during the week helps things go smoother. If the kids know what to expect, they’re more willing to transition to the next task. If we have something out of the ordinary to do during the week, the evening hours are much harder to manage. I’m sure I’m not doing anything special or different from other working moms. I’m just doing the best I can with what I have.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
Just a week ago, it felt like there wasn’t much else that could go wrong to throw off our routine!

Over the course of a week, our new hardwood floors started to buckle and bubble up, a pipe busted in our house rendering our only bathroom useless (with a potty training toddler in the mix) and I was in a car accident that ended in my vehicle being totaled.

I cried a lot that week. A LOT. But not because I was throwing a pity party. I cried because no matter what was thrown at us, we got through it. We didn’t freak out, we didn’t fight, and the kids hardly knew anything was amiss. We handled one problem at a time and found a solution.

I called the contractor about the floors and he came right out.

We called on my husband’s handy brother to fix the busted pipe and he did. I called on my Nana for an impromptu slumber party in the meantime.

The car accident happened within ten minutes of dropping the kids off at daycare. Just minutes. Everything would have – I won’t even finish that sentence. I walked away with whiplash. I walked away.Nothing else matters.

When I thought I might finally lose it, my husband simply said, “If God brought us to it, He will bring us through it.” That was all I needed to pull it together.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I was raised a military kid: moving every two years, making new friends, getting used to new surroundings. But no matter where we lived, whether we were in temporary hotel housing or in military housing, my parents ALWAYS had the same routine. We always knew what we should be doing at any point in the day regardless of our location. My parents instilled that same routine and balance keeping mentality in me so it has helped me to teach my kids the same. We generally try to avoid breaking the routine during the week but tend to not be so constrained on the weekends.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
On my 18th birthday, my Mom threw me a surprise party at my favorite Chinese restaurant. I remember walking in not expecting anyone but my family, wearing my Varsity letterman jacket, straight from the softball field and being overwhelmed with happiness when I saw the room full of people. The smile on my Mom’s face as she held a bundle of balloons and stood amongst my closest friends is an image that has never left me. On that day, I had plans to go to college for Athletic Training and Sports Medicine. I was going to be an Olympic Softball player. My best friends and I were going to be friends forever. I was going to marry my high school crush. My Mom would teach me how to be a Mom when the time came.

None of those things actually happened.

I went to college for Athletic Training and Sports Medicine but I only lasted a year. I switched colleges three more times and changed my major just as many. I got a “real job” in 2003 and that’s where I still am today.

I never made it to the Olympics, let alone semi-pro, but I did become a youth softball coach. Watching “my” girls grow up both in life and athleticism has been more rewarding than I anticipated. My first 8 year old team is now in the sophomore year of high school!

Out of the 10-12 people at my surprise dinner, I’m still really friends with two of them. I’ve been in contact with some of the others, but only because of social media.

My high school crush broke my heart and I haven’t spoken to him since. But I did marry my best friend. I met him at the “real job” I started instead of finishing college.

I lost my Mom suddenly and tragically long before I had children of my own. But her voice and her smile and her lessons I never knew she was teaching still resonate with me today. My Dad is very much involved in my life as well as that of my children and he continues to teach me something new every time we talk!

Relate to what Jeannette is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Working (Mom) Moment: On the Road

The view from the car

I'm taking on a new role at work (any day now, I hope), and it's going to involve some travel. Thankfully, I think I'm going to have some flexibility about it, and it won't be too much, but seeing as my last work trip was in 2007, I'm excited to experience a change of scenery from the office life. That photo above was taken on my first trip last week, which other than a really delayed flight home, was very successful.

This particular trip was all done in one day: drive to the airport by 6 am, a few hours in the air, another hour in the car, lunch, meeting, car, plane, drive home. And honestly, it was the easiest weekday I've had in probably six months.

I couldn't do much actual work from the road, so other than replying to emails on my phone, I just had to be where I was. I didn't see Marc or the kids for the entire day, and while of course I missed them, I can definitely enjoy one day without parenting or any of the usual household tasks. I even found I wasn't as worried about flying as I often am--no kids with me (and apparently, no BlogHer-related anxiety/exhaustion), made me very accepting of the entire flying process.

While I was very excited about the success for work, by far the best part of my trip was getting to see Lauren and Denise, two friends with whom I spent many summers at overnight camp. I hadn't seen them in 20 years, and they came out in a rainstorm to join me for a cheesy airport margarita. The hardest part of my day was having to leave them after just an hour together. I'm really hopeful that I'll get to keep meeting up with people as I travel around, so be on the lookout for me to hit your town.

What about you? Do you travel for work? Any stories to share?

Monday, September 23, 2013

I'm Sorry, Mom (A Post on Self-Care)

I didn't know I needed smoother feet.

You see, I'm not a big fan of solving problems I don't know I have. So when my mom told me about this fantastic device for exfoliating your feet, I have to admit that I listened with just one ear. Then she bought me one for my birthday last year--nothing screams "you're almost forty!" like a foot exfoliator!--and I shoved it, unopened, in a drawer.

That was eleven months ago.

But this morning, while cleaning out some old items in the drawer and replacing them with new ones, I saw the exfoliator. It's been a while since my last pedicure. My feet had actually been bothering me this week, after three days in a row of breaking in three new, different pairs of shoes. I'd been on my feet most of yesterday too, prepping for and then hosting our annual sukkah party. So I got the two AA batteries, spent less than five minutes exfoliating, and now, my feet feel really, really nice.

Less than five minutes. Something so incredibly simple and not time-consuming at all just made me feel better. But I just assumed it was stupid--I'd gotten through the past 35 years without exfoliating my feet, why start now? Honestly though, when is the last time you spent five minutes on your feet? For five minutes, I wasn't doing anything else. I wasn't multi-tasking, thinking ahead to my next chore, or checking my email. I wasn't meditating either, but I think I was fairly mindfully paying attention to just this one thing, after probably two solid weeks of running from thing to thing to thing. I caught my breath while smoothing my feet.

So Mom, I'm sorry for blowing off your gift. It's almost time for my birthday again. I'll try to be more gracious this time around, but it was actually nice to find a bit of birthday magic on a random Sunday morning.

(No, this isn't a sponsored post.)

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Having It All Project: Elaine Griffin

Elaine is another new connection I met at BlogHer13, over breakfast as she was about to go speak at one of the sessions. Yes, at BlogHer, the superstars often mingle among the public and are totally approachable to boot! Here's how Elaine is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I am a work-at-home mom of two kids, a 7-year-old boy, and a 3 year-old girl. I run a social media and web design business from home that I have built from scratch. When I say from scratch I mean I learned all of this on my own, pouring over books and the internet, practicing for hours and hours. Since I am still trying to pay for my sociology degree I am not using, I couldn’t justify more loans. DIY was the name of the game! I also write two blogs, Elaine Griffin Designs and The Laine List and I have a third blog, a food blog my son and I have been developing, coming soon! I also do some freelance work that is unrelated to my business and blogging. Oh! When I have the time I try to train for and skate in a recreational roller derby league or two. Unfortunately, this takes a back seat a lot of the time, as the demands of my growing business and family take over. You might say there is a lot of chaos going on here. And you would be right. I am constantly seeking that ever elusive “balance!”

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
I am a HUGE list maker. I am constantly strategizing how to make things run a little smoother. I list, and re-list, lather-rinse-repeat. Seriously, I think I am single handedly destroying the Earth with all my paper usage.

Ultimately, my lists really serve as a guide and as a way to calm the voices and worries in my head. Sometimes there just are no coping strategies that allow me to “have it all.” Take this summer for example. There just weren’t funds for daycare and day camp and a family vacation (which we REALLY needed), so I tried to come up with a system where everyone would get their attention and fun, and I would still be able to work. It all basically failed. My kids demanded more from me than I was able to give while also getting it all done. So, work didn’t get done. And although I’m still digging myself out and getting caught up not only on client work but also on growing my own business, I’m almost there. We survived, and we were happier for it. We did have it all! And I still have my lists as a reminder of what I had planned and how I planned to do it. You can always go back to your work, but you can’t go back to the hours missed with your kids.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
It all breaks down all the time! Not just the day-to-day scenarios with trying to parent, but also the general what the heck am I doing with my life scenarios.

For example, when we were on vacation we were in a car accident, and the stress and pressure of having to fund a new car has been getting the best of me. It made me ask the tough questions about my path as a business owner. Am I doing the right thing? Am I contributing enough? Is it all worth it?

After letting myself cycle through all this, I realize the answer to all of these questions is yes. Part of my ability to be a good mother and a good role model is my ability to chase my dreams and achieve my goals. My kids need to see that. I need to feel that.

My basic philosophy when it comes to breakdowns, whether it is my kids or myself, is simple. Let them happen. Because they do, no matter how hard you try to plan and strategize and scheme. Hungry happens. Feelings happen. Tired happens. Accidents happen. And that is where you get your breakdowns. So, let them happen, then take a deep breath, apologize if you need to, and put it all in a big bubble and blow it away!

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
My main life and mothering role model is my mother. Not only did she balance it all – work, children, and house, but she looked near-poverty and stress in the eye and kicked it in the face. She made a lot of our clothes, which were beautiful, and the envy of my friends. We always had enough, and honestly, I don’t know how she (and my dad) did it. She took frugality to a whole new level, and I’m pretty sure she has the secret key to finding the extra two hours in a day we all are looking for. I like to think I can make something out of nothing like she was able to.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
Ha! I thought I would have a PhD in sociology by now! I was going to be a world-renowned feminist, working to educate the public about race, class and gender oppression, raising my children without gender boundaries. I was ready to take on the world.

I think I’m still taking on the world, but on a much smaller scale. Through writing and web design I am able to stay creative. I still care, and am vocal about race, class, and gender oppression, although not as active in organizations as I would like to be. Mostly I’m trying to be a good role model for my children. I want them to care passionately about human rights, or about anything really, as long as they have passion. I want them to see me succeed, to fall, to be in limbo. I want them to know what chasing their dreams and living their lives looks like!

Relate to what Elaine is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Of Course I Read the Comments.

No, I couldn't take the advice everyone offered before my piece in the NYT Motherlode blog went live. I'm just not that strong--I had to know what people were saying about it. Honestly, I really wanted to know what they were saying, because if I was a huge failure in the eyes of the comments section, I'd want the opportunity to think about why that might be so.

As of this writing, 115 comments have been posted, though a fair number of them are in response to other comments. At first, some of them were hurtful, which I expected. I even got the "Why do people like this have children in the first place if all they're going to do is give them to surrogate parents to raise?" (and mentally replied "dingdingdingdingding we have the winner!" as I had most anticipated this reaction). But some do pose valid questions, some of which I will attempt to answer in future posts.

I'm tremendously grateful for the opportunity to share some of my story on such a large scale. Those of you who know me personally, or have known me online for long enough that you understood the post and where I'm coming from, I genuinely appreciate the article shares, comments and support. I look forward to continuing to explore these issues with all of you.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Welcome, NYT Motherlode Readers!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed my column, "With Kindergarten Started, She Can Say It: I Work." I'm really excited you're here.

I'd love to keep the conversation going. You can follow me on Twitter, join our community on Facebook, or subscribe to posts via email by filling out the box a bit further down and to the right.

Be sure to check back here every Friday for a new edition of The Having It All Project. Want to catch up on earlier entries? Check out the photo album of past participants.

And if you're wondering how Max did on his first day of school? Well, it was great. Keep scrolling down for more details.

Again, thanks for reading!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Having It All Project: Sarah Sardinsky

I met Sarah when we were both in the fifth grade at Orchard Middle School, where she relieved me of my "new girl" status that I'd had for only a few weeks when she joined my class. We were fast friends back then, and I'm proud to still call her a friend now. Here's how Sarah is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I guess I look at myself as somewhat ordinary with an extraordinary job that I am blessed to get to do each day for a company that I love. 

I grew up part of a fantastic family; loving, supportive and all around wonderful.  I participated in all kinds of fantastic high-school activities and was lucky enough to get to attend my dream college, The Cornell University Hotel School. I had this silly notion that I was going to be the next Michael Eisner. If he could run The Walt Disney Co., Why couldn’t I do it? 

Well, sometimes we make our own “Disney,” and mine is Marriott International. Thirteen years later, I still love all that Marriott stands for; “We take care of our associates so that they take care of our guests.” There is a solid reason that we are global hospitality leaders, and I am honored to be a part of the company.
For the past ten years I have planned some incredible events, hundreds of weddings, conventions, film shoots – “Smoking Aces” & “Las Vegas,” and had the honor of planning the Birthday Party – Mohammed Ali, “The Greatest,” during President Obama’s 2009 Presidential Inauguration. 

In 2011, I had the opportunity to be part of the Marriott Headquarters Team to lead the largest Information Technology roll-out in the companies past 60 years.  Since then, I have been traveling the country supporting our hotels during their launch in using our new sales, inventory and event management solutions system.
From NYC to Boston > Atlanta to Orlando > Dallas to Detroit > Phoenix to San Francisco > Seattle to Maui…I have had this fantastical opportunity that I never thought possible. I am constantly trying to grab each experience every week as they happen!

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
  • "Be grateful for each moment we have and be happy – but more than anything live it fully." – Valerie Harper.
  • Life never throws you what you expect. I have found that it’s easier to cope when I can smile and be grateful. What’s the alternative? Be thankful that you even have the experience.
  • My 1st boss with Marriott told me once when I was completely overwhelmed and emotional, “Sarah, I don’t pay you enough to get this upset. You are great at what you do, so just take a deep breath.”
  • I find myself using this advice each day, and I pass in onto my hotels each week.  Change can be overwhelming, and not many of us get paid in dollars what we are truly worth, so it’s not worth getting overly upset about any situation.  Everything works out in the end the way that it was intended to.
  • Always sleep on it.
  • I am a very passionate person, and feel very deeply. I know that I tend to overreact immediately after a situation happens.  So, I have learned that I always need to sleep on it before I make a big decision, or react to a challenge. That situation never seems as bad the next day. Then I am able to make a more level-headed decision.
  • I am a List-Maker! Pretty self-explanatory. My dad taught me during high school, to keep a list and be organized. This has helped me immensely in my academics and professional career. When I can see it on paper, I can visualize it getting done.
  • Be Kind to One Another - You never know what another person is going through. Be kind to one each other, it will be returned to you.
  • A Glass of Wine Always Helps! 
Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
That’s Funny! I can’t target one particular moment or situation, but my coping methods are always the same:
1.      My friends – I have a fantastic core group of friends that are always there to listen and talk me off the ledge.
2.      My family – Simply couldn’t get through life without them!
3.      Never being too proud to ask for help. – If I have bitten off more than I can chew, I always ask for help. I think that people sometimes mistakenly think asking for help as a weakness. I don’t. I look at it the opposite, that I am a confident enough person to ask for help when it is necessary.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
My Parents have always been my role models – in every way. They are both strong, smart, hard-working, loving, kind, supportive people.  My sister and I did a ton of extra-curricular activities growing up; competitive swimming & dancing, played instruments, participated in show choir, musicals, and a bunch more. My parents both worked full-time and always took us to and from our activities, never missed a piano performance, dance recital or swim meet.  Each time I start to feel myself losing balance, I think, “What would my mom do? How would my dad handle this situation?”  

As I have gotten older, I have realized that Always Saying Yes does not work for me. At one point in my life, I would never say No.  This does not work for me, and it took a lot of personal growth for me to not look at this as a failure, but being more productive and available to those I did say Yes to. 

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then? 
That’s the funny thing about expectations, they don’t normally turn out the way you envision them.  On my 18th birthday, I don’t know if I knew how to dream to achieve what I am living now. Did I think that I would see myself a 35 year old, single, career-focused woman, probably not. It amazes me each day as I wake up that I am living this crazy fun life.  Each day may not be perfect, that’s to be expected, but each day a door closes, another opens and I walk through to the next experience. 
I have always lived by the following statement, There is more road ahead of me to experience and conquer than there is behind me.  So I lift my chin and move forward with a grateful smile on my face. 

I cannot wait to see what life has in store for me next! 

Relate to what Sarah is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Working (Mom) Moment: Breakfast Dishes

Linking up with Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary and her Just Write Project, its 100th installment!
I'm not home on many weekday mornings anymore, since I leave the house for work so early now. Usually, I'm out the door by 7 am at the latest. Most mornings, the kids are barely even out of bed by then, much less dressed, so it's a treat to see their fully-dressed, eating breakfast selves on this Tuesday morning, Hannah's first day of school.

I used to enjoy this bit of time, I know now that I no longer have it. Yes, I used to be stressed and rushed in the morning, but now that it's not my routine, I found myself enjoying the tasks before me at that 7 am hour. First, empty the drying rack of hand-washed dishes. The heavy, wooden, square cutting board usually gets put away first--it's used in preparing almost every meal around here. The sharp, long knives that fit in the just-right spots in the knife block. The pots and pans and then on to the dishwasher itself, racing to finish emptying it before the kids finish their cereal and the newly dirty dishes should be loaded again. Only I am aware of the race against them though, and usually I win.


"Enjoy your last day of freedom," Hannah says to her little brother, who won't start kindergarten for ONE. MORE. DAY. He doesn't get it, and I don't bother to explain. I ask her if her life is really that bad, is school really that hard, and she admits that she knows it's not, but she can't help dispensing her cautionary tales. She is excited, all rainbow loom bracelets and Converse and neon, to see her friends and have the teacher who is "really nice." She packs her water bottle and her snack, which pleases me because I worry when I'm not there to do it for her. I know there are days when she forgot them last year, and she survived, but my working mother guilt persisted too. No lunch to pack today because of course the "first day" of school is our usual early release Tuesday, and she will be home before I can catch my breath.


The scene repeats almost verbatim on Wednesday morning. Again, I am grateful to be home with them for this first day of kindergarten. Again, I'm unloading the dishwasher and realizing that it is foolish for me to stay home late on Monday morning to watch Max get on the school bus for the first time. I will get to see him on Tuesday, do the same exact act, just for the second time. I know I don't need to be there, but my heart still hurts over it. I have already cried this morning, looking at the pictures from Hannah's first day of kindergarten four years earlier, when one year old Max wore his then-favorite train shirt. How is it really his turn to go? This time, the kids are smarter, and ask for breakfast from Starbucks as a treat. We say no, that the morning is busy enough, and so I have won the race again and am waiting for their cereal bowls. Neither kid is very hungry this morning--it's too exciting--and I run the disposal after putting the bowls in the farthest lane of the top rack of the dishwasher, which has just been emptied from an extra run after Marc had prepared Rosh Hashanah items for our holiday dinner taking place that night.

Max is ready. He has been ready for years.  I am ready, too.

I come home after drop off, and a few hours later I tackle the remaining dishes, needing to run the dishwasher one more time before the holiday dinner. I scrub potato peels off the counter, sweep flour off the floor.

There is no race this time, just the constancy of washing dishes, even on the days that make you cry.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Having It All Project: Danielle Barnsley-Cervo

I can't remember which session it was when I first met Danielle at BlogHer, but we kept bumping into each other at more sessions after that. Clearly, we had similar ideas on what we wanted to get out of the conference, and so I figured we could become friends. I had no idea what a tough, resilient woman she was until I got home and started reading more of her story. Danielle maintains two blogs, and I recommend you check them both out. Here's how Danielle is having it all. 

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I'm a work at home mom who has three children, one of whom was relinquished in a forced adoption when I was 18 years old. When I'm not wrangling the kids, I'm writing content for, maintaining my two personal blogs, and writing my novel. This is a new venture for me, as I used to work part time in customer service, and had been in that industry for years. This was an adventure that I was dedicated to taking, where I put my writing, and my dreams in the front seat with me, rather than in the trunk of the car, waiting for the right time. Now is always the right time. 

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
Make time for you. Always make sure that you are taking care of yourself because if you lose yourself, which I have in the past, it makes it hard to juggle all the different balls that come with motherhood, and career. It's easy to think that we can have it all, but it comes with sacrifice and hard work, and the realization that sometimes you won't get it all. 

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
Last year, in June, I was in the middle of a personal crisis of sorts. I'd been dealing with a lot of stress at work, at home, and also dealing with my mental health through therapy but was avoiding medication. I was on a back country road, and I had a plan to end my life because I was so overwhelmed with all of the chaos that was surrounding me. It really felt like it was the only option. I spent hours watching the sunset, and planning what I would do. As I was doing this, my loved ones were frantically attempting to reach me. Do you know when you are so far gone from reality where it seems like everyone else is moving in slow motion and you are invisible to them? That's how I felt in that moment, like I could reasonably disappear and no one would notice, care or mourn. 

It was my best friend who got into the proverbial water with me, and told me that I had to be the one to make the changes. I had to be the one to pull myself out, that I could only get so much help from others before it was on me to take control of this life and make it mine. She talked me through the drive home, and has been a huge support for me on this journey of healing and getting better. 

It was a hard situation to comeback from. Realizing that there were still many demons in my life to overcome, knowing that I still couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel, and understanding that I did have more of a choice in managing the chaos than I originally thought. 

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I don't think I do, honestly. I learn from my own errors, and know what my limits are. I take one day at a time, one crisis at a time, and know that it's okay to say you are having a bad day. As well, knowing that the next day will bring new opportunities and new perspective. 

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
When I was 18, I was a much different girl, with much different goals. I'd like to think she'd be happy with the way I have lived my life, but I know that she'd have much sadness for the choices she'd made then, and the lifelong impact that they have on my life now. Where I thought I would be career wise, and the like is much different than where I am in actuality. I'm okay with the detour my life has taken and even though it's not what I imagined it's still pretty great. 

Note from Cheryl: If you're having a hard time, there are many resources to help you remember that you matter. Visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Relate to what Danielle is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: "The Orange Line: A Woman's Guide to Integrating Career, Family and Life"

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book reviewed below. All opinions are my own.

In June I attended a panel discussion on "Lean In" where I met Jodi Ecker Detjen, who told me about a book she and two colleagues had just written, "The Orange Line: A Woman's Guide to Integrating Career, Family and Life." Jodi asked if I might review it on Busy Since Birth, and it took until now to find enough hours for me to string the time together to do so, but I'm really glad that I did.

The book came out two months after "Lean In," and even includes a reference to Sandberg's idea that women should not "leave before they leave," but other than that, I thought "The Orange Line" was a much better read and left me with more concrete advice, rather than a feeling of unease.

"The Orange Line" refers to Detjen, Waters and Watson's idea that there is a life to be lived where work and family can take on equal importance (as opposed to a career-dominant Green Line and a family-dominant Red Line). The book explains this concept and follows it up with a discussion of "The Feminine Filter," ideas that come together to create the ideal woman. This filter influences the decisions women make as they strive to "do it all, look good and be nice." Trying to maintain this ideal can cause women to sabotage their lives through self-sacrifice, lowered career expectations, and the avoidance of asking for what they need. The authors used both interviews and extensive research to see the filter at work, and then applied their re-framing techniques to various career phases: the "Green Start," Approaching Burnout, Family Matters, The Sabbatical, and Re-entry.

The book is designed so that you can read the chapter that is most applicable to your current career, but I read them all. For me, I didn't have too long in "The Green Start" phase, so I think I've had to combine that with the "Family Matters" section. I know there have been moments when I've approached burnout, too. The Sabbatical section had information I found relevant to my blogging pursuits, and the Re-entry was interesting for anyone who is looking for a new job, not just those who have been away from work for a while.

I found myself highlighting many different sections of the book as I read, particularly portions dealing with the need for perfection. I need to work on being comfortable with imperfection, and to work at noticing parts of my life where I might avoid risks to maintain the look of perfection. I liked the anecdotes from the different interviewees, but was disappointed by the lack of women in finance. I also thought that the context of some of the women's roles might have been helpful (multi-national corporation, law firm, non-profit, etc.). The book's format is repetitive, but if you read only the relevant sections, you risk missing out on specific examples that can resonate.

While I understand marketing the book towards women in order to differentiate it from other career books, I do think it had a lot of valuable advice for men as well, especially men who strive to live more balanced lives including time for their families. I think many men now feel pressure to excel in their careers but also find time to balance family responsibilities, and it's creating a need for perfection in their lives too. I think men also need the advice about starting second, or mid-life careers, and I hope they're not dissuaded from reading the book because of all of the feminine messaging.

The book reminded me of a time a few years ago, when we had to make a really tough daycare decision for Hannah. I still think back on that time and how hard the decision was. Had I had a few of the tools from The Orange Line, I might have been able to see more of the filters at play in my decision-making process, and maybe it wouldn't have been as difficult. I'll certainly be taking steps to embrace more of this thinking, particularly on my need for perfection and to ask for what I'm worth, in my life and career going-forward.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

General Busy-ness: August 2013

In our last installment, I was about to leave for BlogHer. Thankfully, that's been well-covered here, so let's move on to some of the non-blogging news of the past month.

First there was a bit of excitement at work as we hit the billion dollar mark in our newer product, which I've been involved in since the very beginning. It's been really thrilling to see it take off the way it has, and I'm proud to be part of it. Now on to the next billion.

We joined the JCC outdoor pool for the month of August, and I tried to take the kids swimming as often as I could. Hannah is a strong swimmer, but Max is still a beginner, so I spent a lot of time at his side in the water. However, he now can back float unassisted, and I got them to pose for this picture for me.

Both kids really enjoyed their time at Kaleidoscope Arts & Sciences Camp this summer, particularly Arts Nite. It was so fun to see Max participate for the first time (as a Bass Fish in "Rainbow Fish") and Hannah really entertained us as a sailor, sea creature, chef and princess in "The Little Mermaid." I was so proud of both of them.

Arts Nite also marked my first outing with my new camera! I've been wanting a DSLR for quite a while now, and I'm excited to learn to use it. Already I've gotten some great shots that I know I wouldn't have gotten with my old camera, including this one of Max's first lost tooth after an exciting morning riding the Duck Boats in Boston.

After camp ended the kids got to spend a fun few days in Connecticut with Grandma Fillis and Grandpa John while Marc and I worked and enjoyed a couple of fancy dinners out. No pictures as we were too busy enjoying ourselves. :)

It wasn't too long before Max lost his second tooth, but this time it was at Grandma Susan and Grandpa Hal's house, where the Tooth Fairy has been known to be a bit more generous. The kids and I had a great trip to Ohio, including a trip to President Garfield's home where the kids became Junior Park Rangers, and a stop at Chagrin Falls for some Superman ice cream (Uncle Ryan's favorite).

And with one last long weekend, summer is coming to a close. Hannah starts fourth grade on Tuesday, and Max starts KINDERGARTEN on Wednesday. What's that you say? You can hear my excitement right through the screen? Could that be because I have a column about just this subject coming out in the NEW YORK TIMES MOTHERLODE BLOG next Sunday?!? Yes, after dropping a hint last month that I had something up my sleeve, I'm so excited to finally be able to share this news. I hope you'll all forgive me for the excess self-promotion next week, but this is just such a big deal for me and this little writing hobby. When I started the year hoping for "more," I could never have guessed that it would come in this form, and I am very grateful.

Another summer gone too soon, but there's always more to look forward to doing. For those celebrating this week, l'shana tova umetukah! Happy new year to all of you! Wishing you all the best in 5774.