The Joy of Cooking

As every working mother with children of a certain age know, Mother’s Day is also judgement day.  It’s the day your young child makes you a gift at school that usually requires them choosing some descriptive words about how they experience you as a mother:  nice, loving, caring, time-challenged, insane.  And the best part is that you are certain that their innocent description of you will confirm what the teaching staff and mother volunteers have secretly thought about you all along.  So let’s say your child picks “busy.”  Now they’ve just confirmed to their teacher that you aren’t merely irresponsible in that you pick him up 5-10 minutes late on a regular basis but that at home you are equally as time-challenged.  No wonder little Timmy can’t read (or add, or sit still, or listen, insert your child’s deficit here) as well as the other children.  His mother is simply a disaster!  Let’s hope he can overcome his troubled beginnings.

And it’s no use prepping your kid the week before.  I mean come on, we’ve all watched enough sitcoms to know how that story line ends:  Timmy spills the beans about your coaching and now you look even more in need of a good therapist.  So you sweat out the week.  Maybe you let him eat cheeseballs for breakfast and get him an extra Skylander or two (if you don’t know what Skylanders are don’t ask and pretend you never read the word.  It’s crack for boys ages 4-10) to try to tilt the odds in your favor.

So I was looking forward to picking up my boys from school on Friday about as much as I look forward to stepping on the scale at the doctor’s office (and is it me or do their scales add 5 pounds just to make you feel like something must be wrong with you).  I got off easy with the youngest.  His pre-school class is still heavily arts and crafts oriented and not so much with the words yet – whew!  However, my first grader hands me an envelope and my insides turn to jello.  I rip it open ready to taste the bitter medicine that is surely about to be dealt to me, and nearly fall to my knees when I read it:  adjectives to describe your mother:  kind and sweet (so far the bribery seems to be working) and for verbs associated with your mother:  cooking, tending (vague but I’ll take it), and working!  Hallelujah working came in a solid third and the first two sound pretty damned domestic!  Take that whoever is actually keeping score (could it be that only I am keeping score?)

So the good news is you can be a workaholic and your son can still perceive you as a domestic diva.  The bad news is why do I care?  I mean shouldn’t I want my sons to be proud that I work so hard for our family?  And what kind of sell out am I if I am on some level embarrassed by my work ethic and secretly hoping my sons overlook it?  I’ll ponder these questions over a nice mothers day mimosa.  There’s no rush – I have a full year until my next judgement day!


Wine, Women, and Money – It’s Not Just a Rap Song

Some of you may remember that last year my friend Kelli and I were such bitter b**ches that we were actually sick of our own whining.  So to get our mojo back we decided to start off this year with an “empower women” event which would bring together all the women we love and celebrate our collective fabulousness – and you know, drink lots of wine.  At the last-minute Kelli had this great idea to bring in a local charity to present to the group so we could feel mildly justified in a night away from our kids and husbands getting sloshed with our friends.  The first event was a BLAST!  It turned out so much better than we could have expected!  Not only did we get our mojo back, but we raised money and recruited mentors for the Fresh Start Foundation (our featured charity), and we helped a lot of our friends get their mojo back too!  In fact one attendee was so inspired that she asked if the next event could be held at her wine shop, Vino 100.  So Kelli and I had this Dumb and Dumber moment when we looked at each other and said:  “Next one?”

I’m happy to report that last week we held our second “empowering women” event and it was awesome.  I know it was awesome because my mom went and told me it was.  But don’t let my mom be the only judge – you can check it out yourself on our Facebook group page:  AZ Women Inspiring and Sharing.  And accidentally it really did turn out to be an amazing event.  Because this time we not only hung out with our friends, drank wine, got our mojo working, and raised money for charity (Raising Special Kids – an amazing organization that helps parents of children with special needs) but this time we helped out a local business owner – and a female business owner at that!  Vino 100 is a wonderful local wine bar where most wine is under $25 where you can buy wines for your home, or hang out and have a glass there, or attend one of their very cool events like wine tasting with the actual vintner!  Through this event we were able to introduce a bunch of wine loving women to this shop who will now return as patrons.

So here’s the punchline, ladies:  you can do this too – and you need to.  Because if there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that there’s no politician, or self-help guru, or fairy godmother that will have the impact in our communities that we can.  No one is going to care about our friends, our charities, and the strength of our local businesses like we do.  We hold all the power to create the change we want to see in our lives.  And if the Romy and Michelle of North Phoenix (as Kelli and I have affectionately dubbed ourselves) can do it by God you can too!

1.  Choose a venue (a local restaurant/bar is a good place to start because they have all the stuff you need and will help with clean up).

2. Charge for a wine tasting with part of the proceeds to go to the charity of your choice.

3.  Choose a local charity and contact them to have a speaker present.

4.  If you can collect some items to raffle or for a silent auction (depending on how much time and energy you have).  It’s best if you find some local artists or business to donate because it’s all about driving business to your local economy.

5.  Send out the invites – we use EventBright.


I’ll Have What She’s Having

Remember that scene from “When Harry Met Sally?”  The one where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in the middle of Katz’s Deli?  I’ve provided a link for those of you who need a little refresher:  As hilarious as that scene is it is the gal at the next table who delivers the line that has embedded itself into popular culture:  “I’ll have what she’s having.”  I giggle every time I hear it.

But there’s a bittersweet quality to that line. Hidden in the laughter is the recognition that we tend to compare ourselves with others – and think that they have it better.  As women we are so good at this it’s almost like a super power.  I mean, how many of you have seen grown men with big bellies and back  hair so thick it looks like they’re wearing an Angora sweater, swagger around in swim trunks?  Whereas, if a woman gains 2.5 pounds she bundles up in a burqa?   And I’m fairly certain as a working mom we’re the worst offenders.  When was the last time your heart sank because you didn’t have time to make homemade treats for a school function and watched as a stay at home mom plopped her Martha Stewart animal head cupcakes next to your dry supermarket cookies in a plastic carton?  Or you run into another woman at the top of her game in your field and you think: “this woman has it all!”

Well cut it out – and while you’re at it cut yourself some slack.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  working moms are like ducks.  Above the water ducks look like they’re effortlessly gliding through the water.  But peek underneath and you see that same duck paddling like mad through the murky weed filled pond.  No one has it all.  And we’d be better off – by a lot – if we all just admitted how imperfect it is.  Because women have this other awesome super power.  It’s called empathy.  Women are really good at empathizing with other women.  We listen and soothe.  We do not try to figure out and fix.  And if we all could all just let our guard down and give each other a shoulder to cry on and a safe place to vent we’d truly be using superpowers for good not evil!

Sleeping Beauty is Dead

It’s official:  women are sick of waiting for prince charming.  66% of women in a Pew Research Center study place higher importance on being self-rescuing princesses than Sleeping Beauties.  66% of women ages 18-34 responded  by stating that being successful in a high-paying career or profession is “one of the most important things” or “very important” in their lives  Of the men interviewed only 59% answered similarly.

Now before you get all hot and bothered about the demise of the nuclear family, the study also showed that for both men and women being a good parents and having successful marriages trumps their career aspirations.

To me this is all good news.  Because let’s face it the days of women even being able to afford the luxury of staying home is dying out.  And between the rise of single parenthood and this last economic blow it’s not dying a slow death it’s getting hit by a Mack Truck.  The reality is that we live in a nation where over half of all married couples have dual income situations where both parents work full-time  So I’m thrilled that more young women want to work because like it or not they most likely will be working.

And bless our mens hearts!  My take away from the Pew Study isn’t that they are a bunch of slackers (we’re about 7 points higher on the “wanting to earn more” scale and with a margin of error plus or minus 3-4% that difference is teeny in my mind).  Instead my take away is that they are wanting to be just as engaged and active in raising their children and being awesome husbands!  Can I get an Amen?

The other point the report makes that spoke loudly to me is that we women want it all.  We don’t want to be June Cleaver and we don’t want to be Amanda Woodward (hello Melrose Place).  We want to be both –  and then some.  And let’s face it that is one tough balancing act.  But I am a firm believer in all of our ability to achieve exactly that.  So let’s do what we can to keep it real and support our fellow self-rescuing princesses!

Getting Old Kicks A**!

My aunt Anne is in Rwanda teaching medical professionals protocols for cancer and AIDS patients.   Here is this sweet unassuming mother of two grown sons who has spent her life taking care of everyone else – her sons, her husband, and the patients she’s ministered to as a nurse.  So she turns sixty and think to herself:  “What is it thatI really want to do?”  And then a year later she’s in Africa.  AFRICA!

I recently read a fascinating book by Dr. Louann Brizendine called “The Female Brain”  It walks the reader through the various stages of women’s hormonal development from in utero through post-menopause.  And let me tell you the best section by far was when she started getting into menopause.  Because ladies something amazing happens around the time we hit menopause.  Our bodies actually stop producing all of the hormones that make us feel like crack addicts getting  a hit off a pipe when acting as caretakers.   So you know how you start thinking your mom must be going crazy when as an adult she now seems only marginally interested in what is going on in your life?  Whereas when you were fourteen you couldn’t go to the bathroom without her wanting to know where you’d been?  Or now she decides that she is going to take up water aerobics or jazzercise even though she hasn’t exercised a day in her life – I mean at least that is since you’ve known her.  It’s the hormones!  All those hormones that caused her to make us think we were the centers of her universe are drying up.  And now our mothers are beginning to remember that they had hopes and dreams and interests beyond keeping a clean house and raising children who wouldn’t end up in prison.

And you know what else is awesome about getting older?  We are way smarter now than we ever were ten years ago.  And we will be even more brilliant ten years from now.   As my friend Fredda puts it:  “I have a very special and close relationship with my mind.”  I think many of us have this same love of gaining knowledge and experience and how amazing is it to know that we can only go up from here!  I’m not knocking the twenty year old set but I wouldn’t do my twenties over if you paid me!  I had a blast and lived large but those were some tough learning years and I’m glad I can put the wisdom I gathered in that decade to good use.

Which leads me to my favorite part of getting old:  knowing who you are and loving it.  I don’t think this magic really happens for most until our sixties.  I think we acquire bits and pieces of it the older we get.  But my friends in their sixties just totally own who they are.  And being around a woman who owns who she is is exhilarating.   They are done with pretense and pretension.  They aren’t out to one up you, or compare themselves to you, or catalogue all that they have so they can rub your nose in it.  If they are hanging out with you it is purely because they enjoy it.  Because by the time you are sixty you’ve figured out that life is too short to wear tight shoes or hang out with fools.

Now I know the physical stuff sucks.  I get it.  I really do.  But I look at my friend Julie who is in her fifties and can literally run circles around me who hasn’t hit forty yet.  When we go running together she will run up and back to me and say encouraging things to me like “I enjoy running at this slower pace and chatting with you (I haven’t had the heart to tell her that I am running as fast as I possibly can to keep up with her “relaxed” pace).  We can be strong and athletic as long as we want to.  And stop rolling your eyes and click on this link to read about the woman in this week’s photo who just defended her title at Ironman in Kona in the 75-79 age bracket:

And in case you haven’t noticed women are staying hotter well beyond the age of 29.  Of course there are some that have benefitted from surgical enhancements like the always gorgeous Demi Moore.  But honestly if I looked like Demi Moore I wouldn’t really care how it happened I’d just wake up every day thanking God and winking at my reflection in the mirror.  But there are stars like Angela Basset and Susan Sarandon who are pretty much the epitome of sexy and I’m fairly certain haven’t had much done in the way of a nip or tuck.  And then there are just the real every day women who blow my mind at how good they look.  I’ve asked more women if they are drinking the blood of young virgins than I care to admit.   Who’s afraid of little wrinkle or two anyway?

So stop griping about getting old.  Choose to live a life that is excited to find out what is around the next corner.  Relish in your growing confidence and sense of self.  Look forward to a day when you have the time, desire, and means to do what you’ve never dared to do.  Because getting old kicks a**!

Get Your God On!

As working moms the concept we’re most familiar with is “rush.”  We rush to work, we rush from a late meeting with a client home to our families, we rush to make a vaguely edible dinner for our families, we rush to the grocery story to buy a dozen white eggs to hard boil at 10pm in order to have them ready for our children’s school craft project the next day – okay that last one might just be me.  Point is we’re rushing around like chickens with our heads cut off so often that we forget to take a breather and actually enjoy the full and beautiful life we’ve created for ourselves.

My friend just ran the New York Marathon this year.  She ran with a few women from her running group.  All the women were very much obsessed with their times.  They spent most of the race looking at their Garmin watches to make sure they were on pace.  One of the gals ended up tripping and injuring herself pretty badly.  My friend walked the last several miles of the race with her.   And as my friend tells it something amazing happened.  She realized that she was able to experience New York like very few people are ever able to experience it.  IN her words “They don’t shut down the streets of New York even for Oprah!”  So here she was forced to slow down and ended up realizing it’s never been about how fast you can get to the finish line it’s how much you enjoy the experience when it’s happening.

To me my relationship with God is that reminder to slow down and savor the experience.  To be grateful for everything – even the things that drive me nuts like dog hair and mateless socks.  Having a moment with God – no matter how you do it – gives you the space to clear your mind of all the “to-do” lists, stop running around like a maniac, stop screaming at your children to stop fighting and savor the beauty of the moment.  Because as working moms we do very little savoring and a whole lot of surviving.  We need to commit to make time to enjoy the fruits of our labors even more than we have to Pilates or soccer.  I mean isn’t there a point to everything we’re doing?  Isn’t there a reason we drive ourselves to the edge of sanity every day?  And the answer is yes.  But until you give yourself the space to realize it you are just going through the motions.

Easter and Passover give most of us a great excuse to kick off a commitment to creating space for God in our lives.  But as a child of an atheist and an agnostic I understand that organized religion doesn’t work for everyone.  I was very much reminded of this fact when I asked my dad to come to church with me a few weeks ago and he became so mad I thought I was for sure grounded and that he may in fact go get “the brush” and give me a good whooping.  If you think that grounding a 37 year old woman isn’t possible, you don’t know my dad.  So if going to church or temple isn’t your thing either try creating your own space where you are comfortable thinking about God.  You can get in touch with your God (or goddess) by watching the sunset, breathing in deeply the fresh spring air, or simly close the door to your bedroom and give yourself ten minutes of peaceful time to meditate.

So ladies, have an amazing weekend and just breathe!

“My Friends Are My Estate.” – Emily Dickinson

I’d be a raving lunatic if it weren’t for my friends.  I’d have divorced my husband, abandoned my children, left my job, walked away from my home, and be living in a van down by the river if it weren’t for the women in my life.  My girlfriends keep me honest and sane.  It’s almost as if my friends and I have this completely different language that allows us to say things to each other in that make us feel understood and respected.  Sometimes they can say nearly the exact same things that my husband says but somehow when the words come out of his mouth I want to punch him in the face.  For instance, last night after I told my friend Tig  that my game plan was to wake up at 5:00am in order to write my blog, a query letter, and a business plan before church she was able to tell me in a very loving a supportive way that my plan sucked.  And as I am sitting here writing in desperate need of coffee I realize she was right.

So why was it okay when Tig said it but God forbid my husband said the same thing?  Maybe it’s because as women we generally dont’ try to fix a problem.  We support and empathize.  Men want to solve our issues like they are math problems.  Women share similar stories with each other so we know we’ve walked in each other’s shoes. Women nod understandingly and make little “mmm-hmm” noises to assure the other person they’re listening.  Men furrow their eyebrows and look at us like we’re speaking Mandarin Chinese.  Plus none of my girlfriends think we’re going to have sex if they pretend to listen attentively.

Yet when the three -ring-circus that is the life of a working mother becomes overwhelming the first thing on the chopping block is time with our friends.  Let’s face it, if the choice is between a client meeting, a parent teacher’s conference, or wine with a few girlfriends our friends just can’t compete.  Yet we know that what helps keep us sane enough to perform the other two tasks is the free therapy our girlfriends provide.

I want you all to commit to clearing out space in your calendar for your friends.  Stop hiding in the bunker!  No more excuses!  Just as you need date night with your husband you need date night with your girlfriends.  Or better yet plan a girls trip!  Today’s photo is from my last girl’s trip and there’s no denying the therapeutic effects of the ocean, some wine, and some cool chicks to share it with!

I Shop at Goodwill

Actually it’s even worse than that.  My mother shops at Goodwill for me.  And only on 50% off days.  And only when she can get her senior discount.  I really hate clothes shopping.  I think it’s a hold over from my days at Catholic school.  I mean who really needs more than two plaid jumpers, five white Peter Pan blouses and a handful of navy blue knee socks?  And besides I am a cheap skate.  For real.  I am an old school Yankee from Massachusetts.  Cheap makes me happy.  If I pay full price for anything I feel like someone else is winning.  If it’s not on sale, from a flea market, or given to me by someone I pretty much have no interest in it.  True confession:  I went to the Inaugural Ball in a dress my cousin found for me in Filene’s basement (the original one in downtown Boston that consists of three basement floors with bins full of clothing)) for $34.

Before 2008 I didn’t embrace my inner cheap skate.  I hid her away and tried to keep up with the Jones’s .  I bought a new car from the dealer with chrome rims.  I went to Saks monthly and bought Creme De La Mer  at $150 a pop and so much Bobbi Brown makeup I could have opened my own boutique.  I even sunk so low as to buy full priced items from Pottery Barn.  The sad part is I never really enjoyed it.  It felt like I was wearing a really fabulous outfit that everyone else loved but I felt incredibly uncomfortable in.  Bottom line it just wasn’t me.

Then 2008 hit the nation – and the Corning house.  My job had always been 100% commission based which meant in 2008 my income plummeted.  This also happened to coincide with the birth of my second child which meant we now had two sets of child care to pay for.  A few years later just as we thought the free fall had stopped, my husband lost his job.  Even though Peter wasn’t out of work very long it was frightening to see how quickly our safety net dwindled to near nothing.

Having lived through a prolonged period of economic uncertainty with two small children depending on you puts things in perspective.  I was forced to put aside all of the bad spending habits I had adopted during the years of economic stability and no children.  And I began to remember how much I loved playing the cheap skate game.  The thrill of the hunt for the ultimate bargain.  The sense of accomplishment I feel when I refurbish a piece of furniture that I found at a flea market and breathe new life into it.  The sense of satisfaction I feel when I find the identical shade of lipstick at Wal-Mart to the Lorac brand I used to wear.

Since I am coming clean about my inner cheap skate I thought I’d share a list of my proudest accomplishments – and please post your’s:

1.  Drugstore makeup is just as good as the stuff in department stores.  If you haven’t tried Elf go to Target right now.

2.  Every other haircut from Super Cuts is a huge money saver and really they haven’t screwed anything up that my regular stylist can’t fix the next time.  Hair color is still only handled by the best stylist in the world:  Chad White of Zolton’s Salon.  I didn’t say you can never splurge!

3.  You don’t need a housekeeper.  you think you do but you don’t.  You do however, need a husband who participates in the cleaning process.  So if he isn’t, spend the money on a couple’s therapist and skip paying the cleaner.

4.  There is no decorating job that a can of black spray paint can’t handle.

5.  Don’t be afraid to get your shoes re-soled.  it’s not only cheaper than buying new shoes but it saves you from having to shop.

6.  Cars are depreciating assets.  Drive your car until it falls apart.  Anyone who cares what you drive isn’t worth impressing anyway.

7.  Think crock pot instead of restaurant.

8.  Wal-Mart has $3-$5 frames the big ones – and some of them are even as cute as Pottery Barn frames.

9.  Fructis shampoo and conditioner are just as good as any expensive brand I’ve ever tried.

10.  Hand me down clothes for children are the best.  Especially if you have boys like I do.  Boys will trash a free shirt from your neighbor just as fast as the $50 version from Nordstrom.  It’s a fact.    Also little boys love getting clothes from older boys because they think older boys are super cool.

Ode to My Dog

Four years ago it dawned on me that there were only two things in my life that brought me Pure joy without any accompanying angst: my assistant Anne Cowley and my dog Rupert. Anne has since moved onto bigger and better projects besides my sorry self.  But Rupert remains, as always, loving, loyal, and by my side.

He’s not particularly loving or sweet.  He’s prickly at best and not a huge fan of most humans. He’s not aggressive he’s just not that interested in making new friends. He’s basically the doggie equivalent of those two guys on the Muppet show who heckle everyone from the side balcony.  No one every really loves Rupert when they meet him.

He’s not a good looking dog by any standards.  I found him in the parking lot of a construction site and it shows.  He’s not nearly as good looking or playful as either the new dog we just got who replaced the equally good looking and well mannered dog we just lost.  When folks ask what breed he is I can’t even  begin to bluff my way through guessing which breeds might possibly be found in his DNA.  He’s just a plain old mutt – no way to sugar coat it!

But none of that matters to me. Because Rupert pretty much lives for me.  Also I’m fairly certain he has a direct connection to my brain and can commiserate with me as much as any human.  When the children are driving me to drink, he looks deeply into my eyes and I know he’s silently telling me that hiding in my closet with him is perfectly reasonable.

He follows me to bed and sleeps next to me on the floor every single night like it’s what he has been waiting for all day long.  Who am I kidding? It IS what he waits for all day long.  I am always his first choice.  What more could a woman want?

When I get up in the morning he will sit patiently with his whole body wiggling until I give him a deep ear rub.  Then he makes a noise like something you’d expect to hear from an eighty year old man – which I find oddly satisfying.  It’s like his way of saying:  “Great ear rub, my dear!”  In his eyes I can do no wrong.

And that is the best part of our relationship.  I never disappoint Rupert.  As a working mom I don’t have enough fingers and toes to keep track of all the people I disappoint on a given day.  I feel as if I constantly short change my children, my husband, my clients, my friends, and my family.  But my dog Rupert is always completely satisfied by even my smallest gesture.  Truly every working mother needs a Rupert.

If you have a Rupert, I’d love to hear about him!

Embracing Your Inner Slut

Slut:  noun


a dirty, slovenly woman.

an immoral or dissolute woman; prostitute.

I have been beyond furious with the comments Rush Limbaugh made about the law student who testified that it would be helpful if her birth control were covered by her medical insurance.  I mean I’ve been having fantasies about tying my hair back in a pony tail, putting on all my rings, greasing up my face with vaseline, and challenging Rush to a street fight.  I want to pound this man to a pulp.  I’ve been thinking about all the awful things I would call him.  My favorite so far is “fat bastard junkie.”  I mean I am going there.  Just fighting mad and ready to sink to the lowest level I’m capable of – which is really freaking low for those of you who don’t know me.

And then I started thinking:  why in the world am I having such an over the top reaction?  I don’t know this woman.  Am I really surprised Rush said something shocking I don’t agree with?  Where is all this anger coming from?  And then I realized it’s that word:  slut.  It’s the female equivalent of being kicked in the balls.  If all else fails calling a woman’s sexual ethics into question will undermine most of us – if even for a brief moment.  It will make us flinch.  It puts us on the defensive. 

It’s not even the word but the concept itself that frustrates me – particularly as a woman who works in a male dominated field.  Just a few weeks ago I made in roads with a very important referral source who I have been wooing for months. The referral source offered to take me and a few clients of his to a basketball or hockey game to make introductions to them on my behalf.  When I reported my success to one of my male colleagues by sending him an email with the subject:  “Better than being asked to the prom.”  He responded by emailing back that I should just make sure to keep my dress on.  I emailed back to him a one word answer:  “Always.”  Now I know my co-worker didn’t really think I would have sex with this referral source.  I know he was just teasing as he is a good friend of mine who has a great sense of humor.  But it got my hackles up.  Because on some level we all know that there is this unconscious belief that any woman’s success is in part due to her sexuality.  That my success with this referral source was because I’m cute and not because I helped him in a small way smooth the path for a $50 million dollar deal he was working on (which truly was the case).

Maybe it is just me – and please leave me comments and let me know if you think I’;m being crazy – but I am sick of my sexuality having anything at all to do with whether I am capable in my career or whether this Georgetown Law student has a valid point about her medical coverage.  I’m sick of it always being brought back to sex.

The irony is that most women couldn’t care less about sex.  Especially us working moms.  Honestly if I were given the choice between an uninterrupted full eight hours of sleep or George Clooney naked with a diamond necklace wrapped around his manhood George would be S.O.L.  In reality I wish I cared about sex more.  I wish I had the energy to want to jump on my husband every night.  I ASPIRE to be a slut.  Because I am certain that acting like an “immoral and dissolute” woman with my husband will ensure a happy marriage a lot more than anything I learned from the two day marriage seminar we just attended at our church.

So Rush, you can call me a slut as often as you want.  I won’t be offended anymore.  And henceforth I will not be miffed when  a co-worker infers that my breasts have more to do with my success than my mind.  I’ll just smile and nod.