Be the Dandelion

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I was at the park with my 2 year old when I noticed it in a crowd of mulch. It stopped both of us in our
tracks. “What that doing here?” my son asked as he pointed downward.

Huh. Well how about that. A dandelion.

There it stood, tall and brave, yards in between the slide and the teeter totter. It looked completely out
of place, as if someone had buried and propped it just right. Yet, it was rooted and strong, growing
among all of the protective mulch.

A dandelion is tenacious. It can grow just about anywhere, regardless of soil conditions. A dandelion can
endure freezing temps, persevere through intense heat, and continue to thrive in crowds. Not much can
overpower it. Mowing over it will spread its seeds, causing it to multiply. Picking it will likely do the
same.

It’s name translates to “lion’s tooth”, and for good reason. This is the badass of all flowers.

Having this knowledge completely changes the narrative. That weed growing in your yard is not only a
sign of spring and warm weather, but it’s a sign of strength, determination, and the perfect amount of
stubbornness. I want to be like the dandelion.

Motherhood is freaking hard. Before I became a mother, I remember thinking childbirth was going to be
the most challenging thing I’d have to do for my child. Not even close. A three day stay in the hospital
with 24 hour room service, a care team, and unlimited cable is hardly roughing it. I remember looking
forward to my next stay while pregnant with my second, knowing I wouldn’t have meals to make,
schedules to maintain, or a full load of laundry and dishes to clean. Childbirth was like a weekend
getaway compared to what happens next.

But we are built strong, mamas. We are designed to withstand the tantrums, flood of hormones, the
growing pains, and the struggles. We are not only made to survive in every situation, but to GROW. Even
when we are stepped on, emotionally beaten, and withered to the ground, our roots are strong. And the
seeds we share only make our family stronger.

So, the next time your child brings you a bouquet of lion’s teeth, remind yourself of that bright,
determined spirit deep within you. You are a badass flower.

By Gracemarie Boland
Mama, yogi, health enthusiast, and lover of all things family and the perfect glass of red

The Incident

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I remember the moments leading up to what I’ll refer to as “the incident”.

I was at my favorite grocery store, with my sons sitting elbow to elbow in the firetruck shopping cart. It was a Friday afternoon and the weather was gross. And by gross, I mean that hot, thick humidity that has you question why you bothered doing your hair and makeup in the first place gross.

I had just picked up my oldest from school and needed a few things from the store before the weekend. I promised it would be a “quick stop” to grab a few staples. And I promised a stop in the bakery department. Because, well, it takes a village and the occasional sugary bribe.

I made my loop around the aisles in record time just as my kiddos bit into the last of their complementary sprinkle cookies. Ahh, perfect timing. And there I stood, with around a dozen other hot, sweaty, ready to be home shoppers, divided between two ques. That’s right. A dozen shoppers, with full carts and baskets. And two check-out lines. Fanfreakingtastic.

With every inch I made toward the cashier, my minis became louder, more tired, and downright done with this shopping experience. The sugar didn’t exactly help, either. They became impatient and loud. My oldest had to go to the bathroom and was “seriously at a 10” on the how-bad-do-you-have-to-go scale. My youngest was just over a year old at the time and more mobile than ever. He wanted out of that cart. He needed a distraction. I quickly became the mom that opened up the package of Goldfish crackers before paying for them. Then the Chee rios. And eventually, the milk. Yup. Did I mention the line was long?

Finally, my baby began to settle as we pulled up to the cashier. The cashier looked over at me and said “Bipolar baby, huh?”.

I couldn’t believe the words that came out of her mouth. Even more so, I couldn’t believe the way she said it. It took every ounce of self-control to redirect my attention. I so badly wanted to school this youngster on what it actually means to experience bipolar. Or why society has such a strong stigma against mental disabilities such as bipolar because of uneducated smart mouths like hers. I also really, really wanted to stuff my kid’s pacifier down her throat. But that felt harsh. And unsanitary. So I stood there, staring at my groceries, waiting to get out and get home.

I couldn’t believe what I just heard. And so casual. What gave her the audacity to say such a thing?

And then it hit me…

She simply doesn’t know anyone with bipolar, so why on earth would she understand it?

I, on the other hand, have a great amount of understanding of bipolar. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced what a bipolar episode can do to a loved one, and what that in turn does to a family. I’ve witnessed extreme highs and lows coupled with denial and anger. I’ve written the long list of previously prescribed medications, recent hospitalizations, and triggers that resulted from a manic episode. I’ve watched someone I love become someone I didn’t know. I’ve had to mourn the person I knew my whole life and accept new normals of the person he is today. I’ve had to explain absences to employers, behaviors to acquaintances, and hard truths to close family. And as painful as all of this has been, the most devastating part is knowing that the person experiencing all of this is being robbed of a life they once had.

The grocery store incident gave me insight into how much the average person really understands mental disorders. If we truly took the time to learn the meaning and causes of someone’s struggle, we’d likely be far more understanding and supportive. And in turn, the person struggling with the disorder would be more likely to receive the help they need on a consistent basis and likely have more long -term stability and success. Why? Because support is the cornerstone of success when attempting t o function with any illness. Again, there’s that village. When we know we have a team rooting for us, we tend to play our best.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI), 1 in 5 adults in the US experience mental illness in a given year. Look around you. Chances are someone you know and love has experienced mental struggle. But did they share it with you? We live in a world that loves the highlight reel. We see filtered photos and funny memes, beautiful family photo shoots, and the perfect angled selfie. But how often do you read about someone’s experience in the psychiatric ward? Likely, never.

If I could redo that day at the grocery store, it would go a little like this: Instacart.

But if that wasn’t an option, I’d turn to the cashier that made the comment and simply say, “No, my child does not have bipolar. But my brother does. And his life is not easy. Not a day goes by without me praying that he finds peace and stability, and not a moment goes by when I’m not worried about my DNA. So for the sake of my brother, and my family, I’d really appreciate it if you took the time to understand what bipolar actually means and how you could support them if you ever encounter someone with it.”

And then I’d drop my bills as if I’d drop my mic, and strut out of there with my loud, sweaty, babies…and trail of Goldfish crackers.

By Gracemarie Boland

Mama, yogi, health enthusiast, and lover of all things family and the perfect glass of red

Career break to care for children

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Career Break to Care for Children

I still remember the resume writing class I took a million years ago back when I was in college. The instructor told us that our resume shouldn’t be just a list of jobs. It should be the “storyteller of your career.” So how do you write the story of your career when it has a long intermission, a couple of plot twists, and a surprise ending?

After graduating from college, I dabbled a bit in marketing and advertising before landing in public and media relations. I loved what I did and planned to keep working in some form when I started a family.

Then came the intermission. I had three babies all at once.

I stepped away from my career when my triplets arrived. I had fought so hard to have them, and I didn’t want to miss a single minute of their childhood. Not to mention, my entire paycheck would have gone to childcare! I knew I’d probably go back to work at some point. Little by little. Maybe I’d freelance or find a part time gig.

Then came the plot twist. I got divorced.

I had been out of the workforce for over ten years. In those ten years, newsletters were replaced by websites and press releases were replaced by social media. Public relations was not the same field I had left. My computer and writing skills were rusty, and I needed way more than a “gig.” I needed to support myself and my kids. I was worried and overwhelmed and had no idea what would happen next.

Then came another plot twist. I completely started over.

That was 2014. Today, I work for a global, billion-dollar company, have traveled to Australia and Europe, hold four professional certifications, and manage processes that I’d never even heard of until five years ago. I work every day from my home office. And I’m not in PR. I’m in IT Security.

No matter why you want to – or have to – go back to work after taking time off to care for someone else, you can do it. Here’s how.

  1. Find an in. I started at my company as a part time office assistant. If you used to be an HR manager before you left the workforce, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll re-enter as an HR manager. Instead, look for a good organization with a culture that supports career growth and take whatever job they’ll give you.
  2. Prove you’ve got what it takes. You may not find your inspiration by filling up the coffee machine or stocking office supplies but do it well and do it with a smile on your face. I did, and someone noticed.
  3. Tell people your story. It surprised me to find that most working people support stay-at-home moms returning to the workforce and want to see them succeed.  A few of my coworkers – all with 25+ years in the field – heard my story, supported me in my first IT job, and mentored me as I learned the ropes.
  4. Prepare to work hard. “It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.” Amen. No matter what level you were at when you quit, you will have to sharpen your skills and get yourself up to speed. I realized that going back to college was not financially or logistically possible as a single mom. So I studied at home every night for two years – in between fixing dinner, driving carpool, and helping with homework. I took four exams, passed them all, and now hold some of the top professional certifications in my field.
  5. Consider a different path – especially if you need to work. Don’t limit yourself to only what you used to do. My approach to this second career was very different than my first. I recognized that my decision to be a stay-at-home mom coupled with my current life circumstances might not afford me the luxury of pursuing the job of my dreams. This time, it was about finding a career that would bring me financial independence. I’m well on my way to that goal because I was open to doing something different.
  6. But don’t forget what you’re good at. As I was settling into my new career, I talked about my communications background with some coworkers. Turns out that a lot of IT folks aren’t very fond of writing. Now, a large part of my job involves translating technical information into written policy. Surprise ending! I still get to write every single day.

The story of my career has an intermission, some plot twists, and a surprise ending. How do you disguise all of that craziness when you’re writing your resume and interviewing for a job?  You don’t. You own your crazy story and make sure you share it. It’s what makes you interesting and illustrates just how resilient you are.

Sandwiched in between my PR job and my IT job, my marketing degree and my technology certifications, my resume reads “Career break to care for children.” And I typed it in bold.

-Monica Hultgren

Monica is a single mom of teenage triplets and a cocker spaniel named Lucy. She is also a former SAHM with a background in communications and a career in IT security. Her favorite food is pizza, her favorite place is the beach, and her favorite word is “resilience.”

Mom Guilt

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Mom guilt

I was thinking of switching up my “Mom In Business” blog post this time to something more MOM focused.  Let’s be honest, there are so many topics to choose from that can make you laugh, cry, or both than mortgages I was thinking of what I would want to talk about since I am not a parenting expert, but rather a work in progress. I have a 5-year-old, 3-year-old and one on the way due March 4, 2019.  Every time I think I have the hang of things, the rug is pulled out from under me. Does anyone else feel that way?

I’m not officially a stay-at-home mom, or a mom that works full-time outside the house, but rather I’m somewhere in between. See, I have an awesome job as a mortgage advisor that allows me to work and be my best professional self, while also being able to raise my kids. I hear the struggles of parents that work outside the home full-time, but also the struggles of losing your “self” staying home to raise your kids full time. No matter which side of the coin you land on, ALL moms experience guilt. Whether the guilt is not enough time with their families or not enough time for their professional selves.

My parents both worked full time outside the home. My maternal grandparents were instrumental in supporting my mom as she was often left as a single mom over the years until the divorce finally happened. Nowadays, it seems like more of us are raising our kids without as much help from family since so many of us must work and work longer in life. My mom always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards for her. She had to go to work in the early 80s during the recession when my dad was laid off. She had 3 kids under 5. Currently, she is still at the “temp job” she got way back when.  However, while she worked long hours, she always made us feel special and tirelessly made sure all our sports uniforms were cleaned multiple times a week, even if that meant doing laundry until the wee hours of the morning. My mom always wished she could do more for us whether that was a bigger presence in our school, or at extracurricular activities. My mom always had the mom guilt as a mom and what she missed.

Reflecting on that, as her only daughter of three, I never thought she was less than amazing. She still made every holiday, birthday and “just because” day so special for each of us, despite how she might have felt during that time.

Personally, after I had my first in October 2013 I was finishing up my masters in the art of teaching and set to student teach March 2014. I went on maternity leave from my loan officer/assistant position and didn’t come back to Perl as an assistant. I had to student teach a few short weeks after my return and had to resign from the salary portion of my job. We paid someone to stay with my 5-month-old daughter while I made no money as a student teacher. However, I finished my degree in May of that year. The following year, I finished my additional endorsement required by the Chicago Public Schools (ESL) just 2 weeks before I had my son. So here I was, an overeducated part-time loan officer and mom. Daycare was going to be somewhere around $3,500/mo., which would absorb my entire salary as a teacher. So, I stayed a loan officer as I have been since entering the business in 2002.

I have been thinking over the years the direction I wanted my mortgage business to go. Finally, last fall I decided I wanted to have a website and use this platform to educate and discuss topics related to my experience as someone who has been in the financial field for 16 years. It’s been fun, and I finally launched this website July 2018.  I still have my masters and started substitute teaching in District 203 when time allows this school year. I like having options professionally, whether I am using my teaching degree now or not, it’s my story that I am writing every day.

For those of you on the fence about going back to work, or staying home, check out www.themomproject.com. This website was introduced to me back in 2014. The woman that created it left the workforce to raise her kids, then realized it was hard going back to work after taking that time off. She is from the northern suburbs of IL and has grown this business to help educated moms with real experience find work that works for their lives, whether it’s full-time, part-time, contract, remote, or in office. You can customize your profile and the team helps find jobs that you might be a match for. This can help you get the best of both worlds should you feel you are missing this.

I felt so lonely after I had my first baby at 34, and often still feel that way since I am not profiled as a stay at home mom or full-time mom. However, I am still writing my story and wanted to share it with those of you struggling. It’s weird to work your whole life, then shift to a life about others and shift your priorities. I feel like I am always holding on to my professional self. This makes me feel good about myself. Perhaps my next topic will be self-care. This can mean so many different things for each of us.

Please be kind to yourself, you are doing a great job. No matter what kind of mom you are, working or not, we need to support each other and be kind to one another. Let me know what you think of this blog post, and how you might relate.

Happy Holidays!!

Mortgage Mom  www.mortgagemom.biz

Pamela Harambasic

 

Meet Halina: #thebeautifulsoulmovement

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Meet Halina: #thebeautifulsoulmovement

Lindsay Chan- Lindsay Chan Photography

This sweet girl… oh my heart! There truly are no words to describe what it was like to spend time getting to know Halina and her amazing family. Maybe it was the way her eyes lit up when I smiled at her and said, “hello beautiful”… or maybe it was the way she looked at her Mom and Dad and showed me her best smile when they asked for “bunny teeth”- either way she captured my heart immediately. Her story and life are just as remarkable as her beauty, inside and out.

This past fall some photographer friends of mine in the Chicagoland area started spreading plans for #thebeautifulsoulmovement across national and local networking groups online. Jessica Weinstock Photography shared a gorgeous black and white image with a caption for her vision for gifting free portrait sessions to families to help start a movement of “showing the beauty of a child’s soul no matter what their circumstances are.”

It was an absolute honor to receive an email with a nomination for Miss Halina and meet her in my Naperville Photography Studio for a portrait session.

Halina is a strong, sweet and joyful 4 1/2 year old. Within the first year of her birth she was diagnosed with Leigh Syndrome. Leigh Syndrome is a very rare terminal degenerative neurological disorder (estimated to affect about 1 in 30,000 to 1 in 40,000 people at birth. Mitochondrial DNA-associated Leigh syndrome, which is more rare than nuclear gene-encoded Leigh syndrome, is likely to occur in about 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 140,000 births). Halina’s Mom shared with me how truly remarkable her sweet girl is, as most infants diagnosed with Leigh Syndrome don’t make it past 2-3 years old. Halina is defying all odds and proving to her doctors that hope and strength in God’s plan can’t be measured in medicine.

As with any rare condition, awareness is key as there is currently no cure. Halina’s Mom and Dad hope her spirit and attitude can encourage other parents going through similar situations to never believe what doctors tell you but instead let their kids drive their destiny.

Thank you to Halina and her family for allowing me to be a small part of sharing her story! I’m still accepting nominations for #thebeautifulsoulmovement this winter. Do you know of a child who has a condition or special needs but may struggle to smile some days or see that light within themselves? Nominate them for a complimentary studio session, with digital images included so they can see how truly beautiful they are! These sessions will take place throughout the winter and early spring, I can’t wait to share more amazing stories of these kids soon!

Please send your nominations including a little tidbit about the child along with a photo to lindsay@lindsaychanphotography.com – If you don’t have someone to nominate, please at least share this post to help spread the word!

Together, we can make a positive change in how children see beautiful.