May 9, 2008

Funny in Farsi at Silicon Valley’s Commonwealth Club

Posted in Inspiring mothers, silicon valley tagged , , , , , , at 9:35 pm by siliconmom

Fun with Firoozah

Last night the Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley hosted Firoozeh Dumas the author of bestseller Funny in Farsi and her latest book Laughing without an Accent.

The charismatic Judy Miner, President of Foothill was moderator and did an excellent job keeping the questions coming fast and furious. She jolly well had to because although Firoozeh is as funny as hell, she’s also pretty succinct with her answers, which had me a little anxious toward the end of the interview that Judy would actually run out of questions.

They quipped about how they both often get mistaken for one another since they share the same dark eyes, enthusiasm for life: and hang out at the same Writer’s Conferences!   Firoozeh recounted a number of stories from her life that had the audience in hoots of laughter. My favorite one was how, as a newcomer to America (age 7), the boys in her class plagued her until she told them what she described as the WORST swear word she could think of, and begged them never to use it. Needless to say, within minutes they were blasting round the school screaming it at the top of their lungs. But what they were actually shouting was: I’m an idiot, I’m an idiot! Classy gal.

But beyond the hilarity, Firoozeh shared her deeper message: to concentrate on our common humanity, to change perceptions of Iranians, and counter the attitude that EVERYTHING in the Middle East is to do with war and hatred.  Her book is now widely used in schools and she hopes that will help change the view of Iran for the Post 9/11 generation.

Her advice to parents to encourage reading: give them the gift of boredom – no TV. Smart mom. Unfortunately we’re a bit too late for that in this house. But thankfully JK Rowling has saved the day!

I ushered Firoozeh into a dark annexe at the back of the stage for a quick interview for my Women’s Radio show before the event started. She was very trusting and forthcoming! 🙂

We discussed how being in Silicon Valley influenced her writing and “go for it” attitude. She also shared with me that Alexander McCall Smith was staying with her this week. Hey! Now why didn’t she invite me over? I speak the same language after all. Och aye.

Took her book to bed and kept hubby awake with my guffaws of laughter. She really is hilarious you know!


May 1, 2008

Maria Shriver inspires the moms

Posted in Inspiring mothers, Radio, silicon valley tagged , , , at 11:50 pm by siliconmom

Maria Shriver with siliconmom in Palo Alto CA On Tue evening, Maria Shriver was in town to promote her new book: Just Who Will You Be? and I was lucky enough to be invited to a private reception in Palo Alto.

I had several burning questions for her, but was most intrigued to explore the theme of losing your sense of self when you get married and have children. She had some great advice for women who’re married to high achieving husbands (the majority of us in Silicon Valley). She encourages us to ask each day: what am I going to do with my one WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE? And points out that most men have no problem with finding their calling and going for it…

Here’s an extract of the interview I recorded:

 Siliconmom interview with Maria Shriver

I was most impressed with Maria’s grace. Despite her stunning appearance, she comes over as “just another mom”: no fancy airs, no superiority – despite the secret service guy hovering around; and she has seemingly endless energy to chat (indulged me as I asked about the dire state of California’s schools -high on Arnie’s priority list she assures me- and breaking the poverty cycle). Maria was completely honest about the challenges of having career and family (On having to quit her high profile TV job in NY/DC: “I hate hate hated that”) and described exactly the same conflicts we all face attending evening events and finding time for yourself. Maria even admitted to hiding in her closet the night before just to do some centering and meditation before dinner…though I imagine her closet is about the size of our master bedrooms in Silicon Valley!

Many thanks to Jill, Beth and Tekla of The Silicon Valley mom bloggers group for organizing this event.

April 18, 2008

Inspiring tech women

Posted in Inspiring mothers, tech tagged , at 5:22 pm by siliconmom

I had the opportunity to interview Sandra Bergeron last year for the Silicon Valley Business Journal.  Her story of giving back to her Georgia State Alma Mater to enable five young women to have a college education is truly remarkable. She’s now balancing board level positions in high tech with motherhood. What an inspiring Silicon Valley mom!

Click here for the Biz Journal story:

April 15, 2008

Aspiring to be an eco-mom

Posted in green living, Inspiring mothers, silicon valley tagged , , , at 6:29 pm by siliconmom

Aspiring to be an eco-mom

My weekend is never complete without reading Chrystia Freeland’s excellent column in the Financial Times Weekend section however, a recent one really made my blood boil. Titled, “Save us from the eco-mom” my hackles were up before I’d even scanned the first paragraph. She reports to “feeling the first stirrings of eco-resistance” as she’s forced to hand wash her daughter’s glass milk bottles…and then extrapolates into a whole peeve-fest about “eco-moms’ tendencies to complicate and belabor domestic life.” Oh my!

I agree that we shouldn’t forget the emancipatory power of the dishwasher and washing machine, but I think we should also be prepared for a little inconvenience. Saving the planet is worth a little hassle, is it not?

I aspire to be an eco-mom; I aspire to recycle, buy local, drive a hybrid, reduce my carbon footprint etc., but I certainly don’t aspire to the fundamentalist eco-mom definition she describes…moms who’re completely consumed by the eco movement to the point of turning the clock back, abandoning science and technology. Brings to mind an image of  women down by the river, scrubbing their underwear with carbolic soap for hours…Oh, please!

And another thing…

I think Chrystia was so busy with her eco-warrior warnings she missed an important part of the eco-picture: that the eco-movement is pushing for scientific and technological advancement (not regression); that eco-moms are pushing for renewable energy , hybrid cars, low carbon footprints and energy saving ways to run their homes.

Eco-moms are looking for ways to get their groceries from local producers, not from half way round the world. Eco-moms want green solutions, not ways to chain themselves to the sink all day. It’s opportunity not tragedy; a wee bit of inconvenience for the common good. I reject her branding eco-moms fundamentalist: we’re pragmatic, we’re realists and we’re more than ever aware that we’re all in this together. Al Gore says it best in his surprisingly funny and self-effacing call to action

Finally: I’m curious to observe that Chrystia is the one who tries to sneak recyclables in the trash and her kids are the ones who catch her red-handed. Why is it the complete opposite in our house and I’m forever fishing plastic yoghurt cartons etc out of the garbage? Are the New York schools so much better at making the eco-message stick than the California schools? Am I pushing too hard? Fodder for another column perhaps?

Original post

March 18, 2008

Exclusive interview with Elaine Alquist

Posted in Inspiring mothers tagged , , at 5:14 pm by siliconmom

Meet Elaine Alquist, California State Senator for District 13 (the heart of Silicon Valley), former State Assemblywoman, proud Greek-American and mother of two. Despite her high profile job she says, “nothing is as important as my being Peter and Bryan’s Mom and Jasmine and Logan’s yia yia – Greek grandmother!”

She recently took some time from her busy schedule at the Capitol to address some questions for siliconmom readers.

Q: Did your identity change when you became a mother? How?

A: Yes, “mother” superseded my personal identity the first three years of older son’s life.

Q: What hurdles have you overcome since becoming a mom?

A: Getting back into the workforce – reinventing myself. Balancing family and individual needs and priorities.

Q: What tips would you give a new mom?

1) Set your priorities.  You can do all things – not necessarily at the same time.
2) Be sure they are your priorities.
3) With each child you get one chance to be a good Mom.
4) Know that all things will pass.

Q: How have your notions of motherhood changed as your children have aged?

A: At 63, I better understand the impact of parents’ behavior on a small child’s world and on a small child’s feelings and behavior.

Q: Have you had an “ah ha” moment as a mom? Could you please share it with us?

A: The first time Peter said “I love you, Mommy” and Bryan said “I love you, Mommy.” And as adults when each said “you’ve always been there for me, Mom, and I’ll be there for you.”

Q: Did you take time off when your children were young? If so, what were the challenges re-entering the workforce?

A: I created a self-referral K-8 counseling program for a public school district in St. Louis in 1969. The program was presented at the national APGA conference as I gave birth to Peter.  I took three years off; my self identity decreased, then got my realtor associate license, sold houses in St Louis and took eight weeks off after I gave birth to Bryan. When I showed or sold property, my parents were always there to help. My sons were four and eight when we moved to Santa Clara County. I had double hurdles of finding a good job (I became a financial analyst at Stanford University) and good childcare. I should mention that I was elected to a college Board of Trustees during that 3-year period that I did not have a professional job.

Q: Do you have a mother mentor? If so, who is it and how do they fill that role?

A: My Mom and Yia Yia (Greek grandmother) – both have passed on.  The main focus of their lives was to be a great Mom and a great yia yia – which now is my goal.
For more information about Elaine, check out her website at{73CEE83C-3804-41C4-9B27-D0779CA9D150}
Elaine also invites emails:


March 15, 2008

Must read (get real) books for mothers

Posted in Inspiring mothers tagged , , , , at 3:37 pm by siliconmom

Do you ever get mad at the Hallmark view of motherhood? Fed up with the media’s soft focus lens?

Get real books

Get real books

Here’s your antidote.

This list has been compiled by siliconmom contributors for your delectation.  Enjoy the real world of mothers, laugh with them and cry with them…and don’t feel so bad when you mess up! We’ve all been there!

Inconceivable, By Ben Elton
The truth about trying to get pregnant. Witty and real.

Operating Instructions, by Anne Lamott
An achingly funny and poignant tale of first time motherhood. This should be compulsory reading for every first time mother.  Can relieve massive guilt buildup.

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a hurry, by Katrina Kenison
Vikki Bowes Mok says, it’s a great reminder to savor the moments of childhood and just let kids be kids.

Perfect Madness. Mothering in the Age of Anxiety by Judith Warner.

I don’t know how she does it! By Allison Pearson
A hilarious tale of investment banker mother of two, who tries to keep all the balls in the air in a mean man’s world. Excellent read for anyone who is trying to “have it all.”

Surrender to Motherhood
A mother’s journey from high flying journalist to full time mother

Mothers who think
Excellent collection of short essays from a cross-section of articulate mothers including Anne Lamott (don’t miss her essay on temper control!)

Babyhood, by Paul Riser

Misconceptions, by Naomi Wolf

The Myth of the Perfect Mother by Jane Swigart [Siliconmom contributor, Eileen Bordy says that this is a must read item and good reality check]

The Mommy Myth By Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels

Dispatches from a not so perfect life by Faulkner Fox [career choices/ family choices from Duke University teacher]

The Price of Motherhood By Ann Crittenden [outlines the major financial impact of taking time off work for your children and how other countries are more family friendly]
Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk (same authors as above)

Raising Financially Fit Kids by Joline Godfrey [a very worthwhile book with practical tips and age-appropriate tools to teach children the important skills of financial savvy. Joline is a financial guru for children and gives workshops and advice worldwide]

Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler
Siliconmum, Deb Gales says, “it’s as depressing as H*** but even though it looks at a marriage of our parents’ generation, it has many relevant and potent themes.

Poetry Speaks to Children, Edited by Elise Paschen [read and hear some of the world’s best poetry, from Robert Frost to Roald Dahl and JRR Tolkein

BOOKS by siliconmom contributors
Getting it right: How working mothers successfully take up the challenges of life, work and family, by Laraine Zappert

Caffeinated Ponderings on life, laughter and lattes by Shana McLean Moore

Femail, A comic collision in Cyberspace by Shana McLean Moore and Linda Sharp

Star Baby, by Margaret O’Hair

The Sport of Motherhood, By Genevieve Butcher: filled with marathon training techniques for busy mothers, from the  cable TV show presenter and mother of four.
Please contact us with your ideas!
Cheers Alison, Editor