A Harried Mom Speaks Out On The College Process!

get-attachment-53.aspxIt’s been a long, hard year for those of us with high school seniors. I don’t want to pretend our journey can be compared to that of our forefathers arriving in America in steerage – but in many ways it’s felt like that. The emotions have been tumultuous and now that it’s almost over, I’ve developed a handy list of lessons culled primarily from my daughter’s college search. These are my observations and I welcome any comments and input from yours as well.

  • ‘Dream’ School

A school is an institution that can help your child reach his/her dreams. Remind your child that they are steering the way and they are the only ones that can make their dreams come true. Though some schools may open a few more doors, perseverance, grit, determination and hard work will be the final barometers for success. So eliminate this term from your college vernacular, if your child does not get into their “dream” school, their dreams can be realized somewhere else.

  • Brand Name

Ever since I vied for those Jordache jeans (I know I’m dating myself here), I’ve been acutely aware of the allure of the “brand name.” I’m also aware that those jeans never really fit and well I felt like I was walking in a straight jacket. An education should not be reduced to the shallow allusion of a “brand.” I’m sure many Admissions Officers are mortified by the tactics they are forced to use today to promote and build applications. Today college is a big business, so shop wisely and don’t shell out your hard earned money for a “name.” A “name” that may not offer your child the major they choose or best opportunities or options for them. Look, if Harvard comes knocking that’s fine but at an acceptance rate hovering at 5%, the majority of us wont’ be stocking up on Harvard sweatshirts.

  • Major is not a Minor Matter

Even though your child may have no idea what they want to major in, you should still talk about it. At this stage of the game, you know if your son or daughter will be heading off to major in Marine Biology. Students need to think about what courses they’ve enjoyed and been successful at. Seriously, there are so many resources such and career aptitude tests out there that can help chart a course. This could save tons of angst when your child discovers they want to be a Marine Biologist and guess what there is no program at his/her school. Students don’t have to pin down exactly what they want to do but just knowing that your child wants to keep their options open can provide insight into the type of institution they attend.

  • Curriculum 

Guess what seniors? College is school! I’m only stating the obvious because of all the inane comments I’ve ever heard this year – some buoyed by “senioritis.” I forced my daughter to review exactly what courses she would take at the four schools she’s still pondering. Then I had her look at the electives. Since she is considering art schools versus art majors within colleges, I felt strongly this is important. Yet, I can’t emphasize enough that this is important no matter what major your child decides to pursue. Many colleges have core curriculums; please make sure you consider that before signing up!

  • Following The Crowd

We’ve heard this before, “If everyone jumps off the bridge, will you follow?” I know it’s enticing but if you really have to – please make backup plans. What I mean here is try not to be sucked into the vortex of applying to the “It” school in your town. That is the school everyone wants to go to, even if all of your stats are stacked up in your favor. Schools are only going to accept a certain percentage of students from your high school. Many of my daughters’ peers were disappointed by rejections or waitlist status at these schools. It’s fine if the school is a good fit, but cast a wider net just in case.

I’d like to end this with a little advice to students. College is just a start. It’s just the beginning of plenty of hard work ahead. You are going to change, the world will change. Your decision may be spot on or you may transfer. What won’t change is your drive and ambition. Don’t be shy; seek out the best opportunities for “you!” Chase your dreams; look for a career you are passionate about. Don’t sell your soul for money. The way the world is operating today, there’s no such thing as a sure thing -  so find something you truly love and go after it with gusto.




Equal Pay Day

small_7677801114Call it what it is…an issue for the 2014 elections or a ‘feel good cause’ for Obama we should hang our heads in shame that it’s an issue at all in the U.S. in this day and age.

I just didn’t want the day to slip away without mentioning that today marks “Equal Pay Day.” The date symbolizes how far into the new year the average American woman needs to work to earn what the average American man did the previous year. Today President Obama signed an executive order banning federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation.

The president also signed a presidential memorandum instructing Labor Secretary Tom Perez to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit to the Department of Labor summary data on compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race.

Obama is also urging the Senate to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act” which would impose new regulations on how companies pay employees in an effort to ensure women are not unfairly earning less than their male counterparts.

I’m posting my story here again…because not much has changed and seriously it is embarrassing which is what Obama stated today.

Lessons about inequality…the men’s room, getting tanked & a frog.

I graduated from college in 1985 and secured a position at a small public relations firm. It was a gateway job to a better position. After the acceptable 365 days of employment, I searched elsewhere. My salary was abysmally low and while most of my friends headed off to work in management programs at banks or investment firms my job was more like a Seinfeld episode.

My boss, Mr. K, was a fast talking public relations guy. If a client (had a dearth of those as well) called, we were directed to conduct an extensive search. If he was in the men’s room knocking was required.

Though I patted myself on the back for being a college graduate and I loved to write, I was clueless and there was no training program. The senior account executive showed me the ropes. Our major account was Pan Am. We arranged radio promotions across the country to increase airtime.

I enjoyed creating promotions and writing copy for on-air announcers. There was also press release writing and other responsibilities. I was exposed to different disciplines and the responsibility line was blurred.

Now for the Seinfeld part of the story. I also answered Mr. B’s phone, he had lots of famous friends. Mr. B, who was getting on in years, was a former Pan Am public relations executive. Pan Am asked us to house him. I was so green behind the ears, it took me a month to realize that Mr. B was inebriated pretty much every day. When he returned from lunch and attempted to sit, I worried he would miss his chair. He couldn’t get my name straight, and when he saw me in the elevator he had no clue who I was. For Christmas, he bought me a frog filled with bubble bath.

After 365 days, I found a job at Revlon. A big company, better pay (though not great), no Mr. B, restroom knocking or a bubble bath bonus. I had made it big or did I?

Mr. K told me that I wouldn’t like it because I was accustomed to working in a small agency and I would have limited responsibilities.

After a week, I quit. This was very out of character for me but Mr. K was correct. The position was limited and very administrative which was not how it was sold to me. This was the clincher, when I quit I was actually congratulated.

My boss took me out for a farewell lunch and said, “I don’t blame you.” He then regaled, “There’s a woman down the hall from me that holds the same position that I do and makes significantly less money…plus she’s been here seven years longer.”

That was 23 years after the Equal Pay Act was signed and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics women working full-time earn 77 cents for ever dollar men earn. However, the figure is closer to 91 cents when you take into account women work in lower-paying institutions and those who leave the workplace.

Among college graduates women one year out of college are paid, on average, just 82 percent of what their male peers are paid according to research conducted by the American Association of University Women in 2009.

Things turned out well for me when Mr. K tipped me off about a marketing job at Pan Am and I was hired! I just want to go on record as saying I personally have nothing against frogs! Yet, I do take issue that we are still hoping to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act.”

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/speakerpelosi/7677801114/”>Leader Nancy Pelosi</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

‘Lean In:’ Great Dialogue But Just A Start


I wasn’t expecting to like Sheryl Sandberg’s tome, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” chronicling the female paradigm of “not leaning in.” We’ve all seen it, if not been active participants of this female tendency. In my past life, I attended business meetings where I would avoid front and center. Girls do it every day as well, not raising their hands for fear of seeming too smart. Of course we aren’t all guilty of such behavior but many of us are and the behavior starts young.

Is it genetic? Men are risk takers, women play it safe? Tons of research has backed this up. Sandberg does a good job of playing these scenarios out in her book; she even shares how she called out female executives guilty of this behavior at a business meeting.

My first thoughts were that she was going to alienate me. I left a career to raise my children but not my zest for “what could have been.” I’m still fascinated by the trajectory of women’s lives and believe that despite all the raucous about  women in the workforce and collective finger pointing we seem to get a lot done. True but we are not “Movin’ On Up.”

Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, doesn’t stand alone but she doesn’t have much company among the top ranks in business. This is what moved her to write her book. She had me at the story of how large she was when she was pregnant and suggested parking for pregnant employees. Come on, if men were carrying humankind, wouldn’t they have their own parking? She encourages women to ask for what they need. Despite her Harvard provenance, Sandberg is relatable and comes across as genuine. She shares snippets of her life that are not all sugar coated. I enjoyed learning about her mother and grandmother. She admires her mother, who was a stay at home mom and champions her volunteer work.

I also feel that she doesn’t condemn those who have chosen to stay home to raise children. She doesn’t advocate for a one size fits all approach. She tells it like it is which is that often women hold back and create their own glass ceiling. At first glance, it seems as though women are once again being blamed for the problem. To her credit, she’s decided to do something about it. Truthfully, the book was an undertaking she didn’t need to add to her already impressive resume. She’s also started an online movement, allowing women and girls to share their stories. Her goal is to create a global community dedicated to encouraging women to lean in to their ambitions.

Women have heard this before but kudos to Sandberg for talking about it and encouraging dialogue. The whole “what would you do if you weren’t afraid” message she promotes via her online community is a good thing.

I personally feel that American women have spent a lot more time combatting each other than challenging their own internal dialogue or battling corporate America. Yet, I’m not optimistic that she will have more company at the top any time soon. I like Sandberg’s message and I love that more women and girls are challenging themselves but corporate America and government policies need to meet us half way. Small changes like workplace flexibility, daycare subsidies, maternity leave are lacking – and by the way should be considered family issues not just women’s issues.

I predict that the younger generation and women like relaunchers will set their sights on entrepreneurial options that provide leeway for family life and other personal needs.  The book is still a good read, especially for younger women; there are some great quotes and tips for the new graduate.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdlasica/4036278964/“>jdlasica</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/“>cc</a>







We Need More Women & Fewer Weiners

SONY DSCSeriously, we are missing the other half in politics!

I’ve been thinking about writing an article about the absolute chutzpah politicians like Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer have portrayed. I honestly mean that as a form of flattery, well before the latest Weiner scandal broke out.

Picking up the pieces, despite the derision their scandals have caused is truly an art form. I’ve been reading Sherly Sandberg’s tome Lean In and the revelation, honestly it’s not news to most women, that we set up own barriers to success due to our proclivity to hold back has made me even more fascinated with these comeback stories.

Every morning as I enjoy my caffeine, I’m inundated by politicians who think they can win back voters and take their rightful places – despite poor and sometimes illegal actions they’ve made.

That, my friends, is chutzpah. Imagine if we all had that kind of chutzpah? Sandberg has asked women, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I’d like to throw my hat in the ring and ask, “What would you do if you had Anthony Weiner’s chutzpah?”

Seriously, I think I’d become a politician and I wish more women would veer in that direction. We could use help passing The Paycheck Fairness Act, which has been introduced numerous times in Congress but hasn’t passed in both chambers. It would also be helpful if vital services that can help lower income women and their families, like subsidized childcare, weren’t always on such a slippery slope.

Women are under-represented at all levels of government. Here are some sobering statistics, according to Center for Women and Politics:

  • Women hold only 17% of the seats in Congress.
  • Only 22% of all statewide elective executive office positions are currently held by women.
  • State Legislatures are only 24% women.
  • Only 6 out of 50 states have a female governor.
  • Women constituted 54% of voters in the 2008 elections, but only 24% of state legislators.
  • Women of color represent only 4% of Congress and 23% of women Members of Congress.

It gets worse,

  • The United States trails behind much of the world—ranking 90th in the number of women in our national legislature. Note: The U.S. is listed as 73rd, but after accounting for tied rankings of other countries, the ranking for the U.S. is 90th. Data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Let’s stop recycling scandals. We need more candidates and I say the other half needs to find the chutzpah to run.




Creating Order One Client At A Time

get-attachment-41That Girl Is Amazing….um I mean Organized: Sue Dachille, Proprietor of Get Organized, Inc.

Have you been a stay-at-home mom and thinking about starting a business or musing about departing the 9 to 5 world? Well, your next venture may find you.

In 1995 Sue Dachille, a busy stay-at-home mother of three boys, was considering going back to work or starting her own business. Her eldest son was in nursery school and out of the blue a woman, who was familiar with her organizational proclivity, asked her to help organize a move. That’s how Get Organized started.

Dachille, a former airline executive, who also holds a teaching degree, had worn a lot of hats in past jobs so the ebb and flow of making order out of chaos was a great fit.

She helps clients in the New York metropolitan area navigate major life transitions such as moving, downsizing, renovating, starting a business, settling estates, staging homes for sale, preparing homes for guests, helping students get ready for college and more.

“My clients are busy professionals,” shared Dachille. “Every job is unique depending on the their goals.”

Dachille assists her clients with a wide range of needs from paper management, project coordination and memorabilia organization such as family photographs and more.

Regarding photographs, especially in light of the current spate of natural disasters, Dachille recommends scanning and downloading them to sites such as Shutterfly.

“Childhood memorabilia such as artwork and book reports are items parents have a tough time parting with,” added Dachille. “In addition to photographs, these items can also be scanned to minimize clutter and preserve memories.”

With over 18 years under her belt, Dachille has culled a wealth of information and resources for selling, donating and recycling. Here are five of her “go-to” tips:

  • Keep A To Do List – Commit to creating a “to do” list on your phone, iPad or in a notebook. A firm believer in planning, Dachille says a list forces you to acknowledge tasks and even better, when completed, they can be checked off.
  • Prioritize Tasks – She recommends tackling tasks you like the least first.
  • “Touch It Once” - When it comes to paperwork, adopt the “touch it once” rule which will prevent paper shuffling in your home. Touch it; decide what to do with it such as filing or shredding and you’re done.
  • Streamline Grocery Shopping Easier – Write your grocery list in the notes section of your phone to eliminate waste and running around trying to find that list you made.
  • Upstairs/Downstairs Strategy - If you live in a two level home, don’t go up and down the stairs empty handed. According to Dachille, the end of the day will look that much better.

For further information regarding Get Organized and a full listing of services and tips visit: www.getorganizedasap.com or via email at susan@getorganizedasap.com.


When The Unspeakable Happens


Stephanie Parente, Betty Parente and Catherine Parente.

In the town I live in, a successful suburban father killed his entire family and then took his life. A new book, Killer Dads explores this case.

“Family annihilation undermines the assumption about human behavior.” – Author, Mary Papenfuss

It’s hard to think about because it’s really the unimaginable – a parent does not kill their child, their wife. Yet, in the leafy, sleepy suburb that I live in an entire family died at the hands of the patriarch. The face they showed the world, was a happy, stable family – a very happy, stable family.

Betty Parente always had a smile on her face. She was the type of person who always said hello, was eager to volunteer and had many friends. If I had to describe her in one word, I would say she was radiant. The mother of two daughters, she reveled in her role as mother. Her husband Bill, by all accounts, was an upstanding citizen – a father, attorney and doting husband.

Life wasn’t always easy. Betty endured fertility issues. She was surprised when she became pregnant at 46 to her second child, Catherine. She also survived breast cancer.

What happened? Bill Parente killed Betty his two daughters, Stephanie and Catherine and then he committed suicide in a hotel room in Maryland. It was likely a premeditated plan as it was an unexpected visit to Loyola University to see Stephanie, although they had just dropped her off at college 48 hours prior.

Photo Christmas cards, lovely dresses, elegant homes, smiling parents, wonderful high-achieving children – the images of an ideal family imploded.

get-attachment-40Why and how can we prevent or predict such violence? Mary Papenfuss, author of Killer Dads tackles the subject of family annihilators. A profile, in her book, of the Parente case reveals that Bill was tormented by financial investments he made on behalf of clients that went bad. He had written checks days before the murder, that he knew would not clear. He was in trouble, investors were asking questions. He took matters into his own hands.

In a study conducted by Phillip Resnick, director of forensic psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, most parents who kill their children are not “insane.” Desperation in a “unique and seemingly inescapable situation” is cited as one of the main reasons for filicide.

Betty had a cadre of caring friends who sustain her memory. Marianne Quinn, a very dear friend, makes a yearly donation, in Betty’s name, to a family impacted by domestic violence while Stephanie’s college friends have created a scholarship in her name. Stephanie’s close friends, college sophomores when the crime occurred, have been deeply affected by their friend’s killing.

I hope that these small positive actions will raise awareness in this country about depression, mental illness, domestic violence, warning signs – something so that children are safe at the hands of their parents, the people they trust the most in the whole world.

Mary Papenfuss will be hosting a reading at Barnes & Noble in Manhattan at 83rd & Broadway on Thursday, July 18 at 7:00 p.m. All are invited to attend. For further information regarding the Loyola Scholarship contact Amanda Robinson at arrobinson@loyola.edu.


Sage Advice From Liza Huber

LizaHeadshotThat Girl Is Amazing: Liza Huber, CEO and founder of Sage Spoonfuls

Liza Huber was accustomed to playing roles as an actress so when the biggest role of her life threw her for a loop, she decided to take matters into her own hands. As a new mom, Huber was on the search for homemade baby food products that offered ease of use, convenience and quality.

When she couldn’t find anything that fit the bill, she began to think about creating something herself. The busy mother of four says that her oldest son, Royce was her inspiration but it was her second son’s birth that gave her the nudge she needed. Brendan was born premature and Huber was determined to provide him the best quality, highest nutrient foods she could find. She turned to homemade baby food and Sage Spoonfuls was well on its way.

Sage Spoonfuls provides a complete homemade baby food system allowing parents to make, serve, store and take homemade baby food on the go. Homemade baby food is higher in nutrients and tastier. Huber also believes that in the long run, having children exposed to fresh, natural foods may stave “the picky eater” syndrome so many American children seem to have.

Based on her own trial and error, Huber designed her system to make it easy for parents. The system includes jars, trays and labels which make storing homemade baby food a simple one step process.

“If you put aside one hour every two weeks, you can have a freezer stocked with healthy and delicious baby food,” said Huber. “You don’t need intricate kitchen skills.”

Huber’s award-winning book “Sage Spoonfuls-Simple Recipes, Healthy Meals, Happy Babies” accompanies some of the packages or can be purchased separately. Huber’s recipes include tasty pairings such as pears and asparagus and cherry banana quinoa.

Huber, who works from home, feels she has just the right balance as an entrepreneur and mom. She has found the opportunity to help parents embrace healthier living to be very fulfilling.

For women launching a business or getting a product ready to market, Huber provided the following advice:

  • Explore The Market – Do your homework and find out what products are available in the market.
  • Obtain Legal Advice - It is important to protect your business and company right from the start. Seek legal advice during the initial stages of the process to be sure you gain the proper protection for your business and your idea such as trademarks, copyrights and patents.
  • Protect Your Idea – Sage Spoonfuls took two years to launch from concept to creation. It’s important to keep the business under wraps during the development period.
  • Believe In Yourself – Huber credits her husband for both supporting her and believing in her skills even before she did. Initially wary, because she didn’t have experience in the business world, he pushed her to overcome those thoughts. Many of the skills she honed as an actress have helped her as a business owner.

Huber, who has acting in her genes as the daughter of Susan Lucci had planned to return to acting but as it turned out she found a larger role by helping families live a cleaner, greener life.

Sage Spoonfuls is available nationwide at Buy Buy Baby, diapers.com and is coming to Babies R Us this summer. For further information regarding Sage Spoonfuls visit www.sagespoonfuls.com.





Wordle Day!

I’ve been participating in a blogathon and today is the final day! Our theme today is to create a Wordle. If you’ve never heard of it, Wordle is a fun site where you can create  “word clouds” from text that you provide. You can also input a website and Wordle gets to work to create a cloud based on the words you use on the site. The cloud give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently on the site.

You can even play with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.

Here’s the Wordle I created from my blog. Try it out, it’s a lot of fun! Think about using it for your next presentation!Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 6.16

Wishes For New Graduates

small_4651661453Be the driver in your life. Don’t be a passenger in your own life. You may be tempted to just coast along as a passenger but remember this is your life and you should always, always be in the driver’s seat.

I’m not famous for anything in particular, so I’m not the type to get asked to make a commencement speech. I am, however, queen bee of my little blog here, so this is the speech I would make if someone asked me!

This is also in honor of my niece Sara who graduated from Ridgefield High School in Connecticut last week – and in anticipation of my daughter’s graduation next year.

Congratulations graduates of 2013!

  • Maintain your work ethic. Just when you think you have things figured out, something else will rear its ugly head. That is what you call “life” – so be prepared to work a little harder!
  • Be the driver in your life. Don’t be a passenger in your own life. You may be tempted to just coast along as a passenger but remember this is your life and you should always, always be in the driver’s seat.
  • Chase your dreams. Sure they may not be practical but your dreams are what make you who you are, giving them up is like cutting off on arm. Find a way to make them come true!
  • Believe in yourself. Don’t let a lack of confidence stand in your way! Even if you have to bluff your way the first time around.

Now go and do it! Don’t let your thoughts get the best of you. When you start to think of all the reasons why you can’t do something, stop and just do it.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/makenag/4651661453/”>Makena G</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>


Summer 1947

Photo Friday: A Great Summer Photo

I’m sharing another vintage photo today of my mom and my aunt. My mom is on the right and my aunt on the left. It was taken at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, May, 1947.

My brother, the keeper of all family photography, posted this on Flicker and it has been viewed almost 5,000 times!

I just think it captures a beautiful moment in time of two carefree young girls.


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