We’re a generation of jugglers. We overbook ourselves, rarely slow down, and cram a lot of things into limited amounts of time.
On any given day we might be multitasking: making work deadlines, scheduling kids’ doctor appointments, planning ahead for vacations (including booking a last-minute haircut), finding an acupuncturist, calling for an estimate on getting the house painted, and picking up dry cleaning. Or maybe we’re trying to find a lawyer, a therapist, a tutor, a mentor to help get back into the workforce, or an architect, and don’t know where to begin.
One Wilton businesswoman and mom who was juggling a lot on her own plate realized how great it would be to provide an opportunity for Wilton women to network all in one place, to make more connections that might help them get done the things they need done and possibly get pampered all at the same time.
Andrea Topalian, a local family and portrait photographer (Moments by Andrea) has organized an event to help Wilton moms do just that. “A Moment For Mom: Networking Lunch for Wilton Moms” is a sort of ‘expo’ of resources, service professionals, and vendors as well as an opportunity to make more connections in town. It will be held Wednesday, May 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Trackside Teen Center (15 Station Rd.).
Topalian came up with the idea out of personal need. Like many busy women, she juggles a lot.
“I have three kids–9,12 and 13–plus my mom, two dogs and five cats plus some fish and a bearded dragon. Not to mention my full time photography business, a lifelong passion turned into a dream job! My mother has lived with us for 11 years. She has Alzheimers and it is advancing to a place where she is not safe at home. She’s had too many falls and it’s time to have her in a safe, memory care facility. Her last fall sealed the deal,” she explains.
But Topalian wasn’t sure how to go about that, and started to feel overwhelmed–and paralyzed with fear about not knowing what to do.
“I was ready with the home. We chose it together early in her illness and signed up for the waiting list in 2008, anticipating this day. Eleven years is a long time. When the day came to get the process started I literally froze! I got my kids off to school and went back to bed, which is something I never do. I couldn’t even get up to make lunch for my mother or check on her.”
A good friend and neighbor, Tina Stapkowski, immediately came over to help. Stapkowski happens to be a nurse at Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County, the agency that has helped Topalian and her mother.
“She came in, checked on my mom, talked with her and made her lunch. I could hear their conversation downstairs and felt such relief. She then called her agency and told them I needed a social worker to come over and help me with my mother’s medicaid application. That afternoon an angel, Marcie Carlsen LCSW, showed up at my door and said, ‘I’m going to sit at the computer with you and together we will fill out the application for Medicaid.’ I could almost see the halo over her head. I had been rescued by my friend, the agency and the social worker. She literally directed every move of my fingers on the keyboard as I was still unable to function. I was too overwhelmed with emotion and could not do it alone.”
That led to a realization, Topalian says. “I needed help that I did not know I needed. I had no idea someone could come out and help me with this process. I was so relieved to get support from my friend, the agency and the social worker! I still can’t believe it–I thought I would be all alone on this.”
Around the same time, she was working on a project with a photography client.
“I had been in the process of coordinating with a client, Melly Bonita, a Wilton mom who’s a Stella & Dot jewelry stylist, to do her head shots with the jewelry. We talked about offering free head shots to local moms with her jewelry on–what a great cross promotional effort and kind gesture to local moms. I then thought we needed my hairdresser/makeup artist, Wilton resident Janet Montalbano, to participate, and my friend Megan Abrahamsen of Blue Star Bazaar to bring in cute tops from her store for the women to wear for the headshot. The idea started that it would be a small event at my Wilton home photo studio.”
The wheels started turning in her head. Topalian kept thinking about the help she was getting on her mom’s Medicaid application, and all the challenges of being a mom. She reflected on the kinds of connections that have come out of the Wilton CT 411 Facebook page (which she had started), the connections she makes through her photography business, and thought how other moms probably felt a similar need for help of all kinds.
“Sometimes it takes a village. Being a mom is hard and being a sandwich generation mom and caregiver is even harder. I love to help others but I also am not afraid to ask for help when I need it. I reach out for help a lot but sometimes I don’t even know what help I need until someone gives it to me,” Topalian says.
She and Bonita started brainstorming, thinking about other types of professional services and Wilton people they could include in their event. As the list grew, it became clear they’d need to find a venue bigger than Topalian’s home studio. She created an event page on Facebook, began inviting people she knows after living and working in Wilton for 16 years. Her years working in the event business and being married to the President of LeftField Media events, a conference & meeting producer, came in handy when it came to the details of pulling the event together.
Fellow women business owners and service providers were excited by the idea–60 different Wilton women are exhibiting at the event. Plus several of them quickly stepped up to help plan and run the event–in addition to Bonita, Lisa Pannone, Caroline Unger, Anju Pandey and Deborah List are helping put it all together.
It was also free for the exhibitors to take part; Topalian asked them to voluntarily contribute toward the lunch and make a donation for the raffle. Proceeds from the raffle will benefit Circle of Care and CJ’s First Candle, two non-profits that are both run by Wilton moms and whose focus is supporting families during difficult times. What also made it possible to offer free admission and exhibition was the donation of the venue space from Trackside Teen Center, which benefitted everyone.
Topalian marvels at how quickly everything fell into place–the idea for the event was sparked only a month ago, and all the planning and organizing has happened in a short three weeks.
“It truly does take a village, not only to raise our kids but to support each other and to pull off a last minute event like this,” Topalian marvels. “It’s amazing! It’s going to be a magical event–the magic of moms helping moms.”
To sign up to attend, visit the event Facebook page and indicate that you’re “going.” Organizers need a count of attendees.
What the Event Offers
Entrance to the event is free to moms of all ages. And for attendees, there will be so much great information and offerings.
- Free on-site Child Care organized and run by Sharon Cowley of create learning center. (Sign up with Sharon by calling create 203.762.6161.
- Free “Finger Food” lunch and wine so moms can focus on networking and enjoy the meal too.
- Sign up on-site for: FREE Professional Headshots, FREE hair/makeup touchups, FREE tarot card readings, and FREE mini chair massages
Local female professionals from all sorts of industries and services will be on hand to help with (almost) every possible need. The women scheduled to exhibit include (partial list):
Health & Wellness
- Massage Therapist (*Free Mini Chair Massages)
- Pediatric Dietician (10am to 12:30)
- Pediatric OT & ST
- Naturopathic Doctor (Women & Pediatrics)
- Physical Therapist
- Orofacial Myologist
- Special Education Advocate
- Youth Counselor
- Marriage & Family Counselor
- Adolescent & Adult Psychotherapist
- Children’s Mental Health Advocate
- Special Needs Family Social Worker
- Geriatric Social Worker (questions about your parents)
- Youth Counselor
- Child Care Providers & Experts
- Child Safety Expert
- Portrait Photographer (free headshot on site)
- Event Photographer (get some pics with friends)
- Hair & Makeup Artist (free touch up before headshot)
- Wardrobe Stylist/Closet Organizer
Financial & Legal
- Family Law Specialist (Divorce Lawyer)
- Financial Advisor specializing in Women
- Social Media Marketing Expert
- Legal recruiter offering Resume help
- LinkedIN Expert/Employee (Rock your LinkedIn Profile)
- Local Recruiter
- Local Author with tips on getting your book published
- Local business owner offering entrepreneur advice
Home & Garden
- Builder/Remodeler Rep
- Architect (to be confirmed)
- Real Estate Agent
- Mortgage Broker (to be confirmed)
- Interior Designer
- Alteration services (curtains/home fabrics and clothing)
- Pet Sitting/Training & Containment
- There will also be a Pet Adoption Center, with a few adoptable dogs and cats from ROAR (Ridgefield Operation for Animal Rescue)
GMW asked a couple of the women who will be participating to tell us about themselves:
Anju Pandey, Meditation and Mindfulness Expert–I started my meditation practice almost 10 years back when I was extremely depressed. My world was spinning out of control as I tried to go about my daily activities, trying to simply survive each day. I realized that no one outside of me was going to come rescue me but only I can save myself. That began my meditation journey. As I struggled with self-pity, loathing, uncontrollable tears, sadness and pangs of suicidal thoughts, I held onto meditation, my only hope. Meditation literally saved my life. I am now on a mission to spread the joy and benefits of meditation, not only for adults but children too.
Today I am a happy Wilton mom with two kids. I understand the pressure, never ending to-do list and the feeling of overwhelm that comes with the joys of parenting. Many of us tend to neglect ourselves as we run around taking care of others. With the busy lives we all have, taking care of ourselves has now become essential.
Meditation is like pressing the pause button and taking a break from all this chaos. Its like going to a mind spa and relaxing/resting, leaving all the stress, and anxiety behind. Meditation empowers you to see clearly, make better choices, be less reactive and feel liberated from fears and needless worries. It helps you feel emotionally well, centered and happy. And a happy mommy means happy kids and happiness all around you.
I offer both group meditation workshops and one-on-one, parent-child meditation session in Wilton. I also run a free private Facebook Group, Soul Space where I share tips and techniques to help you be the best version of yourself, and a website.
Rachel Pencu, Family/Matrimonial Attorney–I’m a partner at Cohen and Wolf, PC with offices in Westport, Bridgeport and Danbury. We’ve been in existence for over 60 years and we provided a wide range of services applicable to moms, such as wills, trusts and estates, civil litigation, real estate and personal injury. I’ve been with the firm since 2004 and I practice family/matrimonial law–I help people who are going through or are curious about divorce (both mediation and litigation), people who have custody issues regarding their children, people who have post-judgment enforcement or modification matters, people who are in need of restraining orders due to domestic abuse, and people who are seeking to enter into prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. My Westport office is right over the Wilton line and I am regularly in the Stamford, Bridgeport, and Danbury courts. Although I maintain all confidences, I also have the benefit of working with several other amazing attorneys who I can refer Wilton moms to if they’d prefer to work with someone who they won’t also run into on the soccer field, for example.
Jennifer Iannuzzi, Special Needs Family Social Worker–When I first received my daughter’s special needs diagnosis 10 years ago I was lost, confused, and felt extremely alone. I so desperately needed someone to talk to that would intimately understand what I was living. For years I struggled trying to figure out how to live this life and I thought there just has to be an easier way to figure it all out. Here I am, 10 years later and I finally feel like I have a handle on Living Special Needs and I am ready to help others do the same. So together with my social work background and my real life special needs experience, I created a service that fills a big void in the world of special needs–a place where families can go to receive counseling, consulting, life coaching, and whatever else they need to learn how to be successful at Living Special Needs. Having lived in Wilton for 15 years I am very familiar with the struggles moms go through trying to juggle it all and the juggling gets even more complicated when you throw a child with special needs into the mix. Nothing would make me happier than if I could make all the juggling just a little bit easier.