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Not Ready for Granny Panties
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The Woman’s Book of Dirty Words–Coming Soon! (FOR NEW NRFGP POSTS, SCROLL DOWN!)

FOR NEW NRFPG POSTS, SCROLL DOWN!

By: Mary Fran Bontempo

DirtyWordsCoverWell, it’s been a labor of love (and sweat, and tears), but it’s finished! The next book in the Not Ready for Granny Panties series, titled The Woman’s Book of Dirty Words, will be published this summer! In fact, the e-book will be available even sooner. See what it’s all about below. Stayed tuned for the publication date and check out this fabulous video below by NRFGP own amazing illustrator, Pat Achilles! (Am I using too many exclamation points?!!! I’m really excited!!!!!!)

The Woman’s Book of Dirty Words

We women talk—a lot. Yet, the words that take others to their happy place often make us miserable. Words like “vacation,” “dinner,” and “holidays” can leave us breathing into a paper bag with our head between our knees. It doesn’t have to be that way. Join Mary Fran Bontempo and redefine the “dirty words” that make women cringe. You’ll laugh, learn, make some changes and trim your “dirty words” list down to size!

 

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Summer is For Sitting

By: Mary Fran Bontempo

WVM-August-2015-Mary-Fran-LIFE-Image--300x225As I write this, I’m sitting. But it’s not genuine sitting, it’s work sitting, which is not the same thing.

Summer should involve more sitting, as I note in this latest piece for Women’s Voices Magazine. Check it out while you sit down and maybe have a glass of wine–another thing summer should have more of!

http://www.womensvoicesmagazine.com/2015/08/01/planning-a-spontaneous-summer-of-sitting/

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When Fear is a Good Thing

By: Mary Fran Bontempo

Remember when fear was fun? Roller coasters, haunted houses, scary movies? As women become the caretakers of everyone, fear always comes to mean something bad is in the works.

But fear can be a good thing. Being scared and pushing through that fear can open the door to new adventures and, dare I say it, FUN.

Watch below as Mary Fran Bontempo and Jamie Broderick from Network Now tackle the subject of fear and tell you how to turn fear into fun! (Special thanks to Jamie Broderick and Periscope for this great interview!)

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When Nothing is Everything

By: Mary Fran Bontempo

This column first appeared last August in Women’s Voices Magazine. After recently marrying off two children, helping both move into new houses and helping another daughter move back from Florida, nothing is pretty much all I want to do right now. Read on for more….

Beach Chairs Watching Ocean ca. 2000 Mississippi, USA

So, I belong to this women’s networking group that is full of wonderful women whom I love. They’re smart, accomplished and ambitious.

Which is kind of the problem.

It’s July. July.

Around Philadelphia, that means hot, sweaty, sticky summer weather. Exactly the kind of weather that makes me want to get things done. Or not, “not” being the operative word.

Yet, it seems not everyone feels the same way.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from the founder of the networking group (who shall remain nameless for her own protection) extolling the virtues of summer and the need to kick back and recharge. At least, that’s how the email started. It quickly devolved (opinion, here) into a call to choose one (“or two or three”) projects to “bust out over the summer.” Jamie (Oops!) then proceeded to list the projects she intended to master by summer’s end, and…well, read for yourself:

VACATION AND SUMMER PROJECTS
I’m back! How great is vacation? I encourage everyone to take some time to recharge your batteries (so important to prevent burnout) Afterwards, pick a big project or two (or three) that you can bust out over the summer. Personally, I will be focused on changing office systems to reduce expenses, improving the website navigation and making design changes, implementing the dues increase, planning the anniversary party, working with our conference speakers to ensure we deliver an amazing experience to attendees, launching a membership campaign for the fall, creating consulting packages and continuing to grow my network of resources which I will, of course, share with you. What improvements will help your business or nonprofit organization?

Needless to say, Jamie is high energy, which is good, especially if your job is to inspire others. But, and far be it from me to criticize here, especially given that math isn’t my forte, that looks more like nine projects to me.

I’m not gonna lie; I kind of wanted to hurt her.

Being a good little soldier, however, I dutifully compiled my “to do” list:

1. Finish writing third book
2. Finalize artwork on book
3. Submit book for publication
4. Finalize and approve book layout for printing
5. Update blog and website
6. Re-work and update speaking presentations
7. Research webinar platforms
8. Finish work on new webinar
9. Complete and execute updated marketing plan

Then, we have a first grandchild arriving soon, plus two weddings in the next year, so there was this:

10. Remove 29 years of junk from David’s bedroom
11. Steam clean bedroom rug
12. Paint bedroom
13. Purchase and hang new curtains
14. Get crib from attic and assemble in bedroom
15. Make sure crib is safe according to new standards, which it probably isn’t despite the fact that I raised three children in it
16. Throw out crib and purchase new one
17. Repeat assembly portion of number 14
18. Repair and repaint back deck
19. Repaint hallway
20. Replace carpet on stairs

I could have gone on, but I stopped there. I wanted to keep things realistic.

So far, this is what I’ve accomplished:

1. Wrote six pages in third book

In my defense (yes, I do feel it necessary to mount one—see guilt-inducing reference to smart, accomplished, ambitious women in paragraph one) I’m blessed to be able to escape Philly weather and head to the Jersey Shore, where we’ve owned a tiny shore cottage for 25 years.

Bought when we had no business buying it—two young children, expecting a third, and a big, fat mortgage on a primary home—we took the plunge and never looked back. And I do mean never. As in, for years, when my kids were working summer jobs at the shore, we’d arrive mid-May and only leave officially after Labor Day. (Often, when I returned “home” in the fall, I’d actually forget where stuff was in my kitchen.)

It’s the primary reason I get not much of anything done during the summer. It’s also the primary reason I get stuff done during the other nine months of the year.

Summers are for relaxing. Period. They are for eating junk food, sitting and staring into space, or into the ocean, if you’re so lucky. And for no guilt when you indulge in the sitting and staring—that’s essential.

The beauty of it is that you don’t need to be at the beach to reap summer’s restful bounty. Wherever you happen to be this August, by all means, make your busy lady, “look-at-me-go” list. Fill it up with as much stuff as you can think of.

But here’s the catch: Start writing your list at number two. When you’re through writing, return to number one and write the following: “DO NOT DO ANY OF THIS CRAP UNTIL SEPTEMBER.”

Then, pour yourself a glass of iced tea, say a prayer that your networking friends will eventually let you back into the club, find a comfy chair and DO NOTHING.

After all, it’s July.

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Styling Outside of the Box

floyds barber shopBy: Chrysa Smith

They say that personal growth comes from trying new things; stepping out of the proverbial box. So, I have to hand it to my husband Mark. He stepped completely out of his comfort zone in a very stylish manner.

Now mind you, Mark is probably the most conservative person I know. He grew up in Montana–a very homogenous, small and simple environment. He has donned the same couture for decades: jeans and golf shirt in the winter; shorts and now, Tommy Bahama t-shirts in the summer. (The shirts are thanks to me).He votes conservative, listens to conservative news and much like everyone else, is a creature of habit. Which is why I am so surprised that we found him a new barber shop–and it’s, to say the least, a bit bizarre, even for my tastes.

Floyd’s is a chain—described as the original rock ‘n roll barbershop for men and women. Concert posters for all sorts of rock bands plaster the walls and all sorts of ink plaster the stylists that work there. Blue and pink hair, skin covered with green and red ink, jeans with slits, lots of black.

Check out the photo. Do you see my juxtaposition here?  A middle-aged conservative—here, at Floyd’s in Willow Grove, PA. Go figure. But I shouldn’t be totally surprised. Sometimes, he comes home to tell me that he’s thinking of buying another business, looked at a car, hired new people—all seemingly out of the blue. And I think it’s one of the reasons why he’s always engaged in his days. There’s always something new to try, even if it might be at first, slightly uncomfortable.

Whenever MaryFran and I get together, there’s always this discussion about stepping out of the box. We’ve both done it, just by deciding to make careers out of writing on our own. For better or for worse, there is something to be said for a passion and taking a chance. Although many of those with 9 to 5 desk jobs often don’t understand, there’s a freedom in doing things differently, your own way, managing yourself and yes—stepping out of the box.

So, if you haven’t, maybe give it a try.  It could be something as simple as a new salon, way different piece of clothing, off-beat furniture purchase. While it can feel uncomfortable or unusual at first, it’s amazing how you can be moved to try more and more, until you find yourself in a new and different place—a place of personal growth. So go ahead and run with scissors. You might even wind up at Floyd’s or for heaven’s sake–with pink hair.

 

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Wedding Week–And a New Kind of Independence Day

By: Mary Fran Bontempo

Megan, me, and Laura at Megan's bridal shower

Megan, me, and Laura at Megan’s bridal shower

It’s wedding week.

This weekend, my youngest daughter, Megan, will marry her fiance, Jimmy, and life will change.

Yes, it’s what is supposed to happen, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m not, if my bursting into tears in the grocery store, at church, or while doing the dishes is any indication.

Future son-in-law Jimmy is wonderful; I’m simply not ready to let my baby go. As my friend, Carol, who is also marrying off one of her daughters said last week, “It just came too fast.”

The fact that the wedding is in July made me think about Independence Day, and resulted in my latest column for Women’s Voices Magazine. Take a look and let me know what you think.

And I know everything will be wonderful. It’s just going to take a few boxes of tissues to get me there.

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Shore to Shore

sandy-beachBy: Chrysa Smith

A couple of weeks ago, within the span of a week, I had very divergent experiences.

For my husband’s birthday/Father’s Day, I booked a trip to Ocean City, NJ for two days of sunshine and shore time. We stayed at a very nice B&B which was centrally located in the town. The Atlantis is a nice alternate to those 1950’s outdated motels, renting ‘seedy’ houses for the week or opting for Atlantic City casino rooms. These particular rooms are themed and decorated with elegant linens and furnishings—actually quite different for a shore location. I would recommend it, especially before July 4th, when all shore lodging jumps in price.

We sat and walked on the beach, along the boardwalk and through the town. I actually bought a couple of items, including the cutest cotton dress and some very ‘shore’ themed earrings. And we ate a couple of towns down the Parkway in Avalon one night; the other in Atlantic City. All in all, a very nice, relaxing couple of days where I could ease into the surroundings and feel comfortable among folks I know down there.

Fast forward two days later, and we were off to the Hamptons. Mark’s business associate annually rents a home in Bridgehampton. After an almost six hour commute through NYC traffic, we arrived to an entirely different experience. Beautiful and laid-back, sprawling estates greeted us, complete with privet hedges, which I assume, is meant to keep out the gawkers. The home has a backyard swimming pool and tennis court, and grand kitchen (which I must admit, I did covet). Two separate wings offered room for the hosting family and their guests. And there is always another couple each year with which to chat and share meals. Meals were prepared by the nanny and the guests, and we sat for lunches with a long table stocked with healthy food. Dinners were out in Easthampton, as was shopping. But my family did manage to head off to some outlets in Riverhead, where we could actually afford to shop.

OK. So I have no problem with wealthy people. But I must admit, the Hampton uniform for men was a bit laughable. On most streets you could spot the local or town  frequenter.  He would have on a pair of nice shorts, from Ralph Lauren or similar designer. The shirt would be a button-down white shirt with tail untucked. A designer pair of sunglasses, leather loafers and structured facial bones, and there it was. Right out of the pages of GQ.

For women, bone thin is in. Maybe it’s a haven for models or just those who prefer not to eat. Almost gaunt, loose flowing clothing, a nice pair of sandals or ballet flats, designer sunglasses and purse, and there it was. Right out of the pages of W.

I appreciate the finer things in life and do enjoy our annual trips to the Hamptons. But quite frankly, I don’t feel at home there. And I do at the Jersey Shore. It’s not Snooky and the ‘gumbas’ of reality tv, but rather, real people who say hello as they pass you on foot or on their pretty cruisers. They have families with kids dressed like you’d expect kids to dress.  And they don’t have attitude.

Give me the Jersey Shore or The Hamptons, even with a pocketful of cash, I’d take the uncomplicated, simply and common Jersey Shore every time. As they say, it’s nice to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there—even if I was 30 lbs lighter and had better bone structure.

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My Father’s Hands

By: Mary Fran Bontempo

I wrote this piece a number of years ago, but I like to rerun it around Father’s Day, because despite the fact that my dad has been gone for twenty years, I still miss him every day. This is for you, Dad, and Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there.

My Father’s Hands

I remember my father’s hands.

They were perfect “man” hands, large, rectangular, just enough hair between the joints of the fingers. His nails were squared, always clean, neatly clipped, never bitten, with a clean edge. They were hands that did desk work, but also, on the weekends, yard work, home repairs, and, on every holiday, dinner dishes from large family meals. Mom cooked; Dad did the dishes.

He never wore a wedding ring; I don’t even know if he had one. One year, my mother gave him a pinkie ring with a tiger eye stone. It was the only jewelry I ever saw him wear. I always thought the term “pinkie ring” sounded foolish, effeminate, certainly not something a “man’s man” like my father would wear. But I remember how it looked on his hand, almost regal, as though it knew it would never find a more handsome hand, a more fitting one.

My father’s hands always inspired deep emotion in me. When I was little, it was often fear, because he did hit us sometimes, back when “spare the rod, spoil the child” was the childrearing advice given to most parents. As I got older, the fear was of a different sort, especially when his hands were “fixing” something around the house. If the repair of the day involved plumbing, those hands could be frightening indeed.

He would start early on a Saturday morning announcing, “I’m fixing the leak in the basement. The water will be off for about an hour.” My sister and I would begin to shriek and wail, “Mom, we’ve got to go out tonight! Can’t you just get a plumber?” Followed by, “Oh girls, don’t be ridiculous; your father will be done in a little while.”

Six hours, three trips to the hardware store, eighty-five swear words and two rolls of duct tape later, the water was still off and my sister and I were reduced to using “dry shampoo” and lots of talcum powder. Later that week, the plumber, observing the duct-taped pipes would say, “Your husband was fixing the pipes again, huh?” before undoing my father’s handiwork.

After I left home for a husband and marriage, I didn’t see as much of my father’s hands. We lived in an apartment so there was nothing for him to “fix”. But when I would visit, he would insist on walking me to my car. He would take my elbow in his right hand and walk me, practically lifting me off of the sidewalk until I was deposited safely in the driver’s seat. I was always so annoyed by the time I got home; the ritual became in my mind, one last effort at controlling me, one final way of letting me know he was still in charge. I couldn’t seem to break completely free of those hands and I hated it.

When my children were born, my father’s hands became gentle, something I do not remember from my own childhood. His grandchildren had him completely befuddled, because they were not afraid of him. They laughed at him, and the ogre disappeared as he shrugged his shoulders and threw up his hands at these babies who found him amusing instead of frightening. He played ball with them, wrestled with them, still “man” things, but they enjoyed him and I enjoyed him then, too.

The last few months of his life, my father was again working with his hands, wallpapering the home in the suburbs he had just moved into with my mother. He was happy with the move; he had grown up outside of the city, but spent his married life raising his children in urban Northeast Philadelphia. For as long as I could remember, he longed to move and live in his own little “kingdom” in the suburbs. My mother, a city girl born and bred, felt as though she had been exiled to Siberia, even though their new house was only minutes from my own. My father once again dove in with both hands to fix something. Surely, a redecorated interior would make the move easier on my mother.

When he wasn’t inside wallpapering, he was outside in the huge yard, weeding, hammering, fixing the old fence, his hands always busy, even if they were covered with poison ivy. (Though he fancied himself a gardener, he didn’t know the difference between poison ivy and a grape vine, even if it were covered with fruit.) My father loved that house. He lived there for eight months, not nearly long enough.

When my father lay in the hospital, with no hope of recovery from a stroke he suffered just two weeks shy of his sixty-first birthday, I recall looking at his hands. How could these hands, which had insisted on inserting themselves into our lives, like it or not, be stilled? No more fixing, controlling, duct-taping, gardening, or playing with his grandchildren.

At my father’s viewing, my hands took over, shaking hundreds of other hands, occasionally reaching over to touch him, as though they needed another sense to confirm the reality, since my eyes would not believe what they saw. I don’t know if they use make-up on hands when preparing a body, but his hands still looked perfect, except that they were still, perfectly still.

My father has been gone for twenty years now, and I miss him every day. But mostly, I remember my father’s hands.

Share your memories of your father with us by clicking “comments,” below.