08 Jun

It’s a new season

I‘ve toiled with this decision for weeks (months really). But today I woke up knowing exactly what I needed to do.

Starting today, I’m taking an extended sabbatical from The Integrated Mother blog to focus on other priorities in my work-life.

This means there will not be any new content posted. The blog and its archives will remain. The Get Your Groove Back! eClass will continue to be supported as well.

At this point, I do not have a definitive return date. It may be a few weeks, a few months, or this blog may lay dormant indefinitely. That path is not yet clear, but the choice to take a break is.

It was difficult to accept because I’m the kind of woman who doesn’t like to slow down or give in. I believe that as working moms we can be and have it all. At the same time, I believe that in life everything has its season. Right now, I’m entering a season of tremendous change and it requires that my focus be committed elsewhere.

Of course, choosing to walk away from this blog is difficult. It’s my baby. Plus, there’s the practical, business-minded person who worries about declining web stats, loss ad revenue and how it will affect a brand that I’ve been building since 2005. But none of those worries shine a light on what will be lost if I don’t focus on what matters most, and right now … as sad as it may be … The Integrated Mother is not on the top of that list.

Thank you

When I started this blog in 2005, I had a single purpose – to encourage, equip and support mothers juggling work and family. Thank you for joining in, reading and commenting on the posts here. Thank you to the contributors who offered their advice, experiences and insights on this blog. Thank you to the many sponsors and corporate partners who supported The Integrated Mothers over the years. My hope is that The Integrated Mother has blessed you as much as you’ve blessed me. Thank you.

A change of season

One of the gifts The Integrated Mother has given me is a new passion for something I’ve kept dormant for years – writing. Since I was a young girl, there was a desire in my heart to write. But the practicality of life dictated that I take a path more predictable, profitable and secure. I ended up devoting more than a decade to a career in HR/Organization Development. Even when I stepped out on my own, I started a consulting business specializing in that field. But the call to write was powerful and this blog became my outlet for it.

Last year, I decided to stop talking about my desire to be a writer and just claimed it – 100%. Earlier this year, I unveiled my new business Write to Incite as one more step toward my dream to be a full-fledged, professional (and profitable) writer. I’ve been fortunate to do work that uniquely blends my HR/OD background with writing/communication. So far, I’ve worked with amazing clients on projects from employer branding via social media to non-fiction book editing. It’s been an incredible experience as I see writing transform from a childhood dream to a fruitful new career path that inspires me everyday.

In the coming months, there will be plenty to keep me busy. I will continue to contribute content to the Moms of Hue blog, where a powerful collection of mom writers convene to share their unique perspectives on motherhood. In the midst of managing the growth of my copywriting and editing business, our family is relocating back to Southern California (going home – finally!) where I have an opportunity to support my church expand in a new area. I am excited about all the incredible opportunities that lay before me, and none of it would have been possible without The Integrated Mother.

So it’s with a joyful heart that I say, “Good bye for now,” to The Integrated Mother. But this doesn’t mean I’m saying “good bye” to you! Please stay in touch with me via Twitter (@MicheleAree). I’ll be around and look forward to continuing our relationship beyond The Integrated Mother.

Thank you once again!

p.s. For this post, I chose an image of a cherry blossom tree, known as “sakura” in Japanese, which is one half of my ethnicity. I chose this image for its beauty, but also for the symbolism of it. In the Japanese culture, the cherry blossom represents the transitive nature of life. It is fleeting and ephemeral, so it’s important not to be attached to an outcome because as with all things in life, it will pass. I could think of no other image as I wrote this post.

03 Aug

The Six O'Clock Scramble – Giveaway

Last week, I introduced you to Aviva Goldfarb, the founder of The Six O’Clock Scramble. She’s also a mom, cookbook author, and regular food contributor for national magazines and Web sites. Aviva knows food and she’s developed an innovative, simple way for moms – like you and me – to create delicious, nutritious meals for their families.

I love The Six o’Clock Scramble!

The Six O'Clock ScrambleThe Six O’Clock Scramble is an online dinner planning service that has made my weekly menu and grocery shopping ritual fun and easy. Each week, Aviva sends a ready-made menu that includes meals for five days. You can either print the menu as-is or customize it to your family’s unique taste.

For example, the current week’s menu includes a recipe for Honey Sesame Spaghetti, but since one of the ingredients is soy sauce and my son is allergic to soybeans, I swapped that meal out for Not My Mom’s Sloppy Joes. I also added a sixth meal since we only eat out once a week.

Then, it’s as simple as printing your menu plan, which includes a grocery shopping list so that you’ll have every ingredient you need for the week’s meals.

Here’s what I love about The Scramble:

  • Flexible meal plans: Aviva sends you a weekly menu, but you can customize it as you wish . Search from tons of yummy recipes by ingredient, meal type or nutritional requirements (i.e. low-fat, nut-free, gluten-free, etc.).
  • Simple recipes: Although Aviva is a food expert, she has created approachable, easy-to-make recipes using simple ingredients and methods.
  • Delicious meals: The recipes may be simple, but the taste is amazing! Your family will love Aviva’s tasty recipes.
  • Organized meal and grocery plans: Aviva includes a personal touch to each recipe, along with nutritional information, serving suggestions and tips to boost flavor. Plus, the grocery list is organized by aisle, making your shopping for the week trip quick and easy.
  • Affordable: For less than $5 a month you can enjoy the calm that comes with knowing what’s for dinner every night of the week. Aviva takes all the guesswork out of meal and grocery planning, leaving you time to enjoy your family. Now that’s priceless.

Win a 3-month subscription to The Six O’Clock Scramble!
Three lucky readers will win a 3-month subscription to The Six O’Clock Scramble. That’s right there will be three winners! To enter, just leave a comment here describing your biggest meal-time challenge. Comment must be received on or before 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, August 12, 2009.

Earn up to six additional entries when you:

{1 entry} Sign up for automatic updates from The Integrated Mother via email or RSS, then leave a comment here letting me know you’ve done so.

{1 entry} Tweet about this giveaway on Twitter, then leave a comment here with a link to the tweet. Tweet up to 3 times. Here’s a suggested tweet:

Enter to win a 3-mo subscription to @thescramble from @integratedmom. Ends 8/12/09: http://bit.ly/thescramble

{1 entry} Become a fan of The Integrated Mother on Facebook, then leave a comment here letting me know.

{1 entry} Join the The Six O’Clock Scramblers group on Facebook, then leave a comment here letting me know.

Giveaway Guidelines
This giveaway is open to US residents only. I’m giving away three (3) three-month subscriptions to The Six O’Clock Scramble. You must enter a valid email address when submitting your comment; entries will be verified. Please note, any comments that simply say “enter me,” “pick me,” or something similar will not count. Entries must be received by 11:59 pm EST on Wednesday, August 12, 2009. Winners will be chosen at random by Random.org and announced here by Friday, August 14, 2009. Winner has 48 hours to respond to my e-mail request for their mailing address before forfeiting their prize. Forfeited prizes will be given to another randomly selected entry.

31 Jul

The speed of motherhood

My daughter at 3

She'll always be my baby (age 3)

Today I wrote a post about World Breastfeeding Week and it immediately took me back to May 2001. That’s when my daughter took her first sips of my breast milk just moments after birth. Whew. It’s a powerful memory and it’s hard to believe it happened eight years ago!

The realization of how quickly time passes actually moved me last week when I took my eight year old daughter to the pediatrician. She had complained about her chest hurting for more than a week, “Mom, it feels like someone hit me, but no one did.” Later she told me she felt a lump. When I checked her, I felt it too. Immediately, I was filled with dread as I thought the worse, “She must have a cyst. Oh no.”

I arrived at the pediatrician office as I normally do, with all three of my kids in tow – ages 8, 6 and 3. We all crammed into the examination room as the doctor asked me and my daughter about her symptoms. Then, the doctor looked at me and smiled, “So, has she talked to her friends about this?”

Me: “What? Uh, no. Why would she do that?”

Doctor: Silently smiling with empathy.

Me: Pausing. Thinking. Then going into a panic, “Wait. Don’t say it. I’m not ready for this. Don’t tell me she’s growing boobs!” Yes, my normally cool, articulate self had been body snatched and replaced with a panicked mom coming to the realization that her baby wasn’t a baby anymore.

Doctor: “Well, let me just do a quick check to be sure.”

Me: Rambling, “Oh my gosh! I feel so old! What am I going to do? No. I can’t. I’m not ready!” Seriously, I lost my mind in that exam room.

Doctor: Still smiling, “Yes, she has breast buds.”

Me: Dying inside. Tears welling up in my eyes.

Doctor: So sweet and understanding, “I can see that you’re in denial,” smiling, “Let me suggest some resources…read The Care & Keeping of You first, then read it with your daughter…”

And with that, a quick office visit changed my life – again. But that’s the nature of motherhood. One day, you think you’ve got it all figured out and the next you’re thrown a curveball that rocks your world.

It’s been more than a week since that fateful doctor’s visit and I’m slowly growing into my new role as a mother of a pre-pubecent girl. Every day my daughter pops into my room to give me a status update on her breast buds and asks, “So, when can we go bra shopping?” She’s so stinkin’ excited about it! Meanwhile, I’ve been pulling out her baby pictures wondering how motherhood passed so quickly. If the first part went this fast, I’ll be sending her off to college in no time.

She must be thinking the same thing because as I wrapped up this post my daughter walked into my office, “Hey Mom, when I go to college how big do you think my breast buds will be?”

Dear Lord…

29 Jul

Just one of them days

You’ve had ‘em. I know, because I’ve had ‘em and I’m not that different than any other working mom out there. I’m talking about those days when, despite your best effort, nothing seems to go your way. You’re angry, annoyed, bitter, resentful and most of all exhausted.

It’s a lot like this throw-back song from Monica (gotta love a song that takes ya back!):

If you’re having one of them days, here are three quick tips to turn your day around:

Focus on what you can do.
There are just some days when feels like you can’t get much done, or at the very least, done well. You can’t find anything to wear. You can’t get 10 minutes of peace to work. You can’t get in touch with a client for a key project. You can’t figure out what to make for dinner. You can’t. You can’t. You can’t. On your roughest days, you may hold on to the “I can’t” attitude for dear life, as if it’s the lifeline that will save you from a hellish day. But in reality, it just sucks you further into a pit of negativity and frustration. To turn this around, make a choice to focus on what you can do. Stop fretting about what’s not getting done and turn your attention to what is getting done. Then, take it one step at a time.

Mind your business.
One of the fatal moves a mom makes is comparing her life to another mom’s life. When you’re having a rough day, you’re more inclined to peek into another mom’s backyard, admire her seemingly lush garden and long for it to be yours. Tend to your own garden please! Even the most beautiful garden must combat weeds and pesky bugs. Translation: Everyone has issues, so you may as well learn to handle your own.

Revel in the moment.
Most working moms are too forward thinking, which automatically creates imbalance in their work-life. In the midst of an especially hard day, your thinking might shift to “if only” or “someday,” as you long for a future as far away from your current situation as possible. While it’s important to set goals and think about your future, it’s equally as important to appreciate the moment you’re in – right now – especially when you’re having a terrible day. Even in the most challenging of times, there is good to be revealed but, you’ve got to open your eyes to it. Stop bitching complaining, and seek out of the goodness that’s already a part of your life.

27 Jul

Aviva knows what's for dinner

Aviva GoldfarbAround 4 o’clock every day I hear three words I dread, “What’s for dinner?” For the next two hours it’s a scramble to figure out what to make and then to make sure I have all the ingredients. If I’m lucky, I have everything I need. But unless I pre-planned my weekly meals, luck isn’t usually on my side and I’m left preparing meals that are missing a key ingredient or piecing together a delightful meal of hotdogs and mac ‘n cheese.

That is, until I discovered The Six O’Clock Scramble, a Web site started by a Aviva Goldfarb. Intrigued by the concept, I wanted to learn more about the woman behind the unique concept. Here’s what I learned about Aviva, a working mom of two based in Maryland.

Michele: What inspired you to start The Six O’Clock Scramble?
Aviva: Back in 1998 after my first child was born, I struggled to put a nutritious dinner on the table amidst the chaos of family life. As I started experimenting in my own kitchen, I realized I could help other parents with their family dinner challenges.

I launched “The Six O’Clock Scramble” as a system to help busy families put easy, healthy and delicious meals on the table each and every night by giving them a weekly menu and a grocery list.

Michele: What kind of work did you do before?
Aviva: I used to do media relations for nonprofit organizations in Washington, DC, and before that I did some journalism and advocacy. I still stay involved in public policy by being an advocate for healthier children and better school lunches.

Michele: What do you enjoy most about the work you do now?
Aviva: There’s nothing better than hearing from a customer about how The Scramble changed their life for the better by helping their family eat better, reducing their stress, and saving them time and money. Many people have also told me that they have learned how cook by following my simple recipes.

Michele: What advice would you give to moms juggling family and work priorities?
Aviva: No matter how easy you think the mom down the road has it, we all struggle with balance and we do the best we can. One thing I try to do is to disconnect from my computer and blackberry for at least an hour when the kids come home from school so we can interact and they can see my face instead of the back of my head. We also sit down for dinner together nearly every night without the TV or any other electronics, and the kids usually help cook, set the table and/or clear.

Michele: What’s next for your business?
Aviva: I’m excited about my next book coming out next Spring. It’s called SOS! Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Meals for Busy Families and will help families make easy, healthy and delicious dinner while following the seasons with their meals. We also have some more upgrades to our website planned, including the ability to scale the serving sizes to your family.

More about The Six O’Clock Scramble:

Stay tuned! Be sure you’ve subscribed to receive updates from The Integrated Mother because next week, I’ll announce a giveaway featuring The Six O’Clock Scramble and you won’t want to miss it!

23 Jul

Mommy Wars: A tired but on-going debate

Mommy WarsWhen I created The Integrated Mother® in 2005, I was a working mom. I’m still a working mom, but the kind of work I do and the way it fits into my life is definitely different today. Then, I was a naive corporate expatriate making her way as an independent Human Resources consultant. Even though I was calling my own shots, my mentality was definitely still “corporate” as I essentially recreated my outside-of-work life inside my home. It took awhile to find my groove as a work-at-home mom, but I did it.

Then in 2006, I happened to catch a bit of Good Morning America where Diane Sawyer announced a segment on the “mommy wars” that essentially pitted working moms against those who left their careers to raise their children.

I was intrigued and annoyed. Having worked in Human Resources, I had seen and experienced my fair share of woman-on-woman bitterness in the workplace. I noticed that women who were friendly as individual contributors became fierce enemies when one of them rose through the ranks faster. My observations were later confirmed when I read Pat Heim’s provocative book, In the Company of Women, that explores how women undermine the success of other women in the workplace. I venture to say, women just plain undermine other women, regardless of the environment.

The battle between working moms and stay-at-homes moms being played by the media was frustrating and rocked my groove a bit. I began to question my value and worth as a career professional compared to the moms who had decided to maintain their traditional careers outside the home. I felt stuck in the middle as a work-at-home mom. I aspired for greatness in my business; my career was and is important to me. Yet, I also wanted the flexibility and ability to be there for my kids when they needed me (and in all truth, when I needed them).

So I watched the drama over the “mommy wars” unfold on the TV for the next several months. After awhile it bored me. And without sounding completely indifferent, I just didn’t care what other moms decided to do with their careers and kids. To each her own. We’re all adults and we’re all free to make decisions for our families. I presume you’re doing your best, and I thank you for letting me do my best.

I’ve been living under that guidance for the last few years and essentially put the whole “mommy wars” crap out of my mind. But there is always someone who has to fan the flames of the “mommy wars” in me and send me emails exhorting how I’ve got it all wrong. How all moms are “working moms” – yada, yada, yada. Please hold, while I grab my trash can and vomit.

Ok, so I don’t mean to be totally insensitive, but this is a huge peeve. But let’s just be honest, a mom who is holding up a career – whether that be a side business, a full-fledged entrepreneurial venture or a 9-to-5 gig – has vastly different issues compared to a mom who stays at home to raise her kids. Yes, both are “working,” but the work we do is different. Yes. It just is. And while I’m sure a Web site that addresses the needs of every mom on the planet is a terrific idea, it’s just not what this site or my Examiner.com column is all about. It just isn’t and it’s not likely to change in the near future. So gimme a break, alright?

Everyone is called to follow a passion and purpose in life. Some of us are called to stay at home with our kids. Others are called to continue in their careers, no matter how that looks. In my view, your choice is just as valid as my choice, but let me make it totally clear in case I’m still a being a bit fuzzy about my opinion – a mom’s decision to stay at home or continue in your career is a personal choice. I’m not wrong, and neither are you.

So there.

20 Jul

Can we do it again?

I‘ve always been a basketball fan. In fact, love of the game was a commonality that brought my husband and I together when we first met. He even worked for eight seasons for the Los Angeles Clippers before we left California. Needless to say, we’re a family of basketball fans, but we never thought twice (or once) about attending a WNBA game.

Visit www.wnba.com/mercury

Visit www.wnba.com/mercury

That is, until we received an invitation to attend a game on Saturday night (“Rock the Pink” night in honor of breast cancer awareness) when the Phoenix Mercury hosted the Detroit Shock. Special thanks to One2One Network and the WNBA for welcoming us at their guest.

Arriving at the game

We arrived at the game!

Having attended plenty of live NBA games, I wondered how my husband and children would receive news of attending a WNBA game. My husband’s initial response, “Oh, do I have to go too?” sums up his opinion rather well. My kids, on the other hand, were beyond excited. My girls, age 8 and 6, squealed with delight. My three-year-old son ran to his room to grab his basketball, “I gotta get my ball so I can practice,” he tells me. I think he thought he would get a chance to play on the court.

Mommy and me

Enjoying the pre-game action

On the day of the game, my husband reluctantly got into the SUV, while the kids and I hopped in, ready to fully experience the energy of a live WNBA game. We arrived at US Airways Center and settled into our terrific, lower level seats.

Scorch is eating my daughter!

Scorch is eating my daughter!

The kids sat wide-eyed looking at all the action happening around them, from bustling fans to the antics of Scorch, the Mercury’s team mascot. My husband sat listless and I could tell he’d rather be at a Phoenix Suns game. Me? I was just happy to enjoy a night out with my family! :)

De-fense! De-fense!

De-fense! De-fense!

The game was fast-moving and exciting. During the last few minutes, the energy was high as the Mercury and Shock battled out for a win. By this time, my husband was fully into the game, though I assumed it was because he was happy that it was nearly over.

Then…the game went into overtime! My husband’s face deflated as an additional five minutes was put on the clock. My kids started to ask me when we could go home. But then the energy of the crowd and Mercury Hip Hop Squad turned it all around. We cheered, hollered and stomped to support the Phoenix Mercury to a 97-90 win over Detroit.

On your feet!

On your feet! Game went into OT!

After the game, the kids were invited to a special autograph session with Scorch and two of the players. My oldest daughter was thrilled to see Temeka Johnson sitting behind one of the tables. During the game, my daughter had picked Temeka out as her favorite player.

As we walked out to the parking lot, my daughter spotted Tay-Tay, a member of the Mercury Hip Hop Squad waiting at the elevator and swooned as we rode the elevator car up to the parking lot with her. During the game, my daughter had commented about Tay-Tay, “She’s pretty and the best dancer out there,” so the chance meeting on the way out was icing on the cake.

Buckled up in the SUV, my daughter let out a sigh and said, “Mom, I had so much fun. Can we do it again?” My other two kids voiced their agreement. Meanwhile, my husband was silent, but he’s always been a man of few words.

Special Offer for Readers! Use the promo code WNBABLOG (all caps) to purchase WNBA tickets online at a special rate. Get ‘em while their hot! This discount code is good through the end of the current season.

Also see WBNA offer more than basketball to working moms and their families on Examiner.com.

16 Jul

When is enough, enough?

When is enough, enough?The girls and I just finished having lunch with my husband. The bill came to $50 before tip and I didn’t even get a real drink – just water with lemon – sheez! Of course, the server asked, “Would you care for desert?” and I mentally thought with my usual attitude, “Uh, only if you cared to include it in the meal I just overpaid for,” but instead replied, “No, thank you,” and smiled (or maybe it was a wince). The girls protested, “But Mom!” and persisted to whine until I was finally able to get the lingering server to go away.

“When will they ever be satisfied?!” I furiously wondered. Then, my thoughts turned on me and asked with equal fervor, “When will you be satisfied?” Touché.

I realized, then, that a large part of the I’m-out-of-balance argument bellowing from the mouths of working moms doesn’t always relate to an imbalance of time, which is where most of the attention is given. It’s an imbalance in focus.

Our thinking is often forward-focused and goal-oriented. So much, that we rarely stop to enjoy the life we have today. We think in terms of what we will achieve, what we want to have, and how we’ll go about getting it all. Rarely do we linger (like that pesky server at the restaurant) long enough to feel satisfaction in the moment.

As I look back on my life, I recognize a pattern of continuous discontent. Not because I was unhappy, but because I was always striving for more than what I had. I still do it today. When I wake up in the morning my prayers are filled with exhortations for God to answer my deepest desires and open the floodgates to my dreams. As I move through my day, I constantly asking myself, “Is what I’m doing right now, moving me closer to my goal?” And when I end the day, I evaluate my activity against my goals and put my head on my pillow thinking about the future.

It’s no surprise that I’m raising children who seem to be insatiable. I model insatiability every single day!

Of course, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have goals. I believe in them! I know that having them gives us a purpose and a focus, especially in the midst of a day when you’re consumed with menial tasks like cleaning baseboards, making photocopies, or picking the boogers your kids wiped on your jeans off. But, we must balance that intense focus on the future, with an appreciation for today. We must just be satisfied that all the hard work we’ve put into our lives, today, is enough.

I’m enough.

You’re enough.

We’re enough.

Enough.

16 Jul

Road Trippin' to General Mills

General Mills Eat & Greet 2009Yep, I got the golden ticket.

I’ve been invited to visit the General Mills headquarters in Minneapolis, MN for their first ever Eat & Greet event for bloggers next month. And technically, I’m not “road trippin'” since I’m flying, but I’ll be passing over plenty of roads!

So far, it sounds like an awesome line-up of activity that includes a behind the scenes look at General Mills, a tour of their 13,500+ square foot Betty Crocker kitchens and an opportunity to meet celebrity chef Aida Mollenkamp.

I’m personally looking forward to learning more about their gluten-free line of products AND discovering why every stinkin’ processed food has to have soy in it. My little guy is allergic to soy (among a million other things), which severely limits what we can buy for him. So frustrating!

What questions do you have for General Mills? Please send ‘em my way. And if you’re a fellow blogger going to the event, gimme a shout out here and add a comment. I can’t wait to meet you! :)

15 Jul

It's Launch Day!

The GYGB eClass launches today!Hey work-at-home moms, let’s face it – trying to manage work, family and life all under on roof is no easy feat! I know the challenges. I’ve been there. I also know there’s a better way, which is why I’m excited to announce the official launch of my all-new Get Your Groove Back! eClass (beta) for work-at-home moms.

I’ve been working from home since 2003, when I left my traditional 9-to-5 corporate job to start a business with the intent to achieve better balance in my life. Initially, I struggled to get into a good groove; work consumed me and home life overwhelmed me. And there are still days when I get stressed and exhausted (I’m not Super Mom, just Michele.).

But I figured out the formula that gets me back on track and back into my groove every single time I’m knocked off balance. Knowing it and applying it has been the saving grace that enables me to succeed and love my life as a work-at-home mom.

So, if you’re struggling, you’re frustrated and you have no clue how to get back into your groove, this eClass can help. You can read more about the class and sign up here.

Of course, if you’re not a work-at-home mom, have the “balance thing” all figured out, or just want to earn some good karma points, please help me spread the word on this eClass! You can grab the badge below, tweet about it, blog about it, or just casually mention it to a frazzled work-at-home mom you know.

Whatever you do, I’ll be grateful and so will the mom you refer to the eClass.

Learn more about Get Your Groove Back!