How old are your kids and how long have you lived in Westport? I have two children, a daughter age 12, and a son age 10. We moved from Brooklyn in 2009 when they were toddlers. It’s hard for me to believe that we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary in Westport this fall. The other day someone referred to me as an “old timer” which I thought was funny considering I don’t feel that way at all, and I’m still discovering new things about Westport all of the time. I do love the fact that I have lived here long enough to run into people I know every single time I leave my house. It makes me feel very connected to and invested in Westport.
How did you end up where you are now in terms of your job, or whatever passion project it is you might be doing? When I started out working in project management at 25, I never dreamed that I would eventually be a part of a startup nonprofit. I joined AWARE, which stands for Assisting Women though Action Resources and Education and originated in NYC in the late 1990s, six years ago as a volunteer when my friend Amy Saperstein, a founding NYC member, decided to start a CT chapter. At that time, AWARE CT was just a small group of girlfriends getting together occasionally to learn about a single cause affecting women in our area and providing financial assistance to an organization focused on this cause. It was an easy and fun way to participate in community service and spend time with smart, like-minded women.
By 2015, after several years of successful projects, AWARE CT’s volunteer base had grown significantly, and local nonprofits started reaching out to Amy asking her to partner with them. As the workload increased along with the impact, Amy asked me to step into the role of Director of Operations. I had loved volunteering with AWARE and was excited about the idea of working with Amy to grow our small volunteer group into an organization that can impact more women and children in Fairfield County. I love meeting people who have heard about AWARE and who are interested in becoming members. I also love getting to know our partner organizations and learning about all of the amazing work they are doing to help empower and uplift underserved women and children in Fairfield County.
What is your favorite family activity to do in Westport or the surrounding towns Weekends are usually packed with sports and trips to and from the Trumbull Mall (this is what 12-year old girls love to do!). Most weekend evenings we end up inviting friends over for a home-cooked meal and play board games or watch a movie. For those elusive weekends when we don’t have activities, we love heading back into NYC to check out a museum or to eat at one of our favorite Italian or Chinese restaurants. When we stay local, we love renting kayaks at Longshore or from Down Under and going for a hike with the dogs up at Lake Mohegan in Fairfield.
What’s your favorite app right now- for you- and for your kids? For me it has to be Our Pact which, conversely, is my kids most hated app! I’m a big believer in all things in moderation when it comes to screen time, and Our Pact lets me set a schedule for each child and block certain sites and apps from my phone. It also makes it easy for me to use screen time as a reward for things like getting ready for the school bus on time and without drama. Another favorite is Cozi, a scheduling app, also not beloved by anyone else in my family, especially my husband, because he can no longer say, “The fourth-grade chorus concert wasn’t in my calendar; I scheduled drinks.”
My 10-year old is currently playing with an app called Big Bang Racing where he can create different go-cart style racing scenarios and then compete against his friends. I like that it gets him thinking creatively and problem solving, he likes socializing with his friends online and, of course, winning races.
Not surprisingly, my 12-year old is obsessed with Instagram. Her account is linked to my personal IG account and monitored by me very closely. I have very mixed feelings about this. As nervous as I was about allowing her to open up an IG account, it has led to some very good conversations about navigating peer relationships and what is and is not OK to share online. My hope is that she figures out how to responsibly use social media now so that it does not become an issue, when she has gained more independence, down the road.
What’s your can’t live without beauty product? Hands down Chanel Inimitable Mascara in black as well as Rodan + Fields Lash Boost! I feel like a really amazing mascara can transform a person’s appearance, especially when applied to long, lush lashes.
If you could pick one restaurant or store to come to Westport that isn’t here now, what would it be, and why? There isn’t one particular restaurant or store that I would bring to Westport (with the possible exception of Sahadi’s in Brooklyn Heights) but more than anything, I would love to bring back DOCS. I really am a Westport old timer! I would love to see the return of a really good casual coffee shop, that’s not a see and be seen place, where you can get an egg sandwich or locally made muffin, meet up with friends, and spend some time just relaxing or working on that novel you keep meaning to write.
What are you most excited about in life right now? Everything, truly. This is a time of tremendous change, both personally and in the world. While this can be incredibly stressful at times, I love having older children that are learning about the larger world around them, and their place in it. I am particularly excited that both of my children are brave enough to ask why things are the way they are, and to think critically about what they are seeing and hearing. My children have become very interested in the work that AWARE is doing and enjoy sitting in on meetings and spending time volunteering with our partner organization.
AWARE’s current partnership with CIRI (the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants) is especially exciting, because we have created a Girls Club for the daughters of political refugees and asylum seekers. AWARE has helped to create a safe space for the girls, all of whom have been in the United States less than three years and are often struggling socially and academically. Through the Girls Club they are able to connect with one another, practice their English, and just have fun. Spending time with these girls and witnessing the impact we are having on their lives is incredibly uplifting.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you? I have my degree in Culinary Arts and used to work as a line cook at Al Di La Trattoria, an amazing northern Italian restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
If you weren’t doing what you are today, what do you think your career path might have been? Truthfully, I’m not sure. But, I think any path would ultimately lead me back to philanthropy in one form or another.
If you had 24 hours to do whatever you wanted – what would you do? Sleep in late, work out, take my dogs for a long walk or on a hike, make a fire in the fireplace and work on a puzzle, then end the day with a delicious dinner and snuggle on the couch with my family while watching a movie. I am basic, but I’ve learned that it’s the simple things in life that really are the best, and sadly don’t happen nearly as often as I would like — especially sleeping in late.
What is your most marked characteristic? I am a highly organized planner. Organized to the point where I’ve color coded my family’s life (thank you Cozi!), I geek out over project plans, and I firmly believe that you should always have a contingency ready to go, sometimes two, especially when traveling or entertaining.
What was your most memorable family vacation and why? I’m projecting into the future a bit, but this summer I am taking my daughter to Tanzania for 3.5 weeks on a humanitarian mission trip as part of her Bat Mitzvah project. She is currently raising funds to send a young Tanzanian girl through secondary school and university and is getting to know her by sending videos through What’s App. We will be spending time with her and her family while in country. We are then flying out to Israel for ten days as a family for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah ceremony. I have a feeling that this will be my most memorable family vacation!
What is the best white lie you have told your kids? I just asked my 12-year old this question. She looked at me like I have three heads and said, “Wait! Do you tell white lies? You have got to be kidding me! YOU DO NOT LIE!” Then she asked me why I was laughing.
What is your proudest mommy moment? The moment my typically shy and anxious son walked out onto the stage at his elementary school dressed as Chef Louis and belted out “Les Poisons” during the school production of The Little Mermaid Jr. He blew everyone away with his hysterical fake French accent and improvised choreography. We had no idea, literally NO IDEA, he could sing let alone perform in front of a full auditorium. He surprised us that weekend and reminded us to never make assumptions or underestimate what he can do when he sets his mind to it.
What do you most value in your friends? Honesty. I find myself very attracted to people who know who they are and their core values, and don’t feel the need to pretend to be anything but themselves. I also appreciate when my friends call me out when I’m not being truly honest with myself. When I am being held to that standard I strive to be at my best. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.
What is your greatest regret? All things being equal, I wish I had traveled more with my husband before having children.