whoSay My Name. Say My Name. Wait Who Am I Again?
Who is Mary Fran?
Well, here’s the “official” line—“Author, Speaker, Humorist, Teacher”—all of which comes from the other stuff, namely: wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, business owner, newspaper columnist, blogger, founder and author of Not Ready for Granny Panties—book and blog—reluctant social media participant, former church youth minister, church singer, substitute school teacher, elder care-giver, wall-paper remover, painter, housemaid, cook, butcher, baker, candlestick maker. Okay, I made up those last three, but you get the idea. I do actually bake, but I kind of suck at it and I hate it, so I only do it on birthdays and at Christmas.
Family & Career for $300 Alex!
Tell us about your family life?
Wife of 33 years to great guy, Dave, proud parent of three wonderful kids: David, Laura and Megan (who are all full-fledged adults, but will always be kids to me), soon to be mother-in-law to Kelly and Jimmy, and newly minted grandmother (Yikes!) to brand new baby Emma. Also a former doggy mommy and missing my pups greatly.
Tell us about your education/career/life before your books etc.
I graduated with a degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in English and Communications from LaSalle University—College back in my day. Married right out of college and went to work with my husband in our business, an executive search firm presently called The Bontempo Group, with which I still work. After having children, I served as a substitute teacher at my kids’ elementary school, eventually adding on a part-time position as the Youth Minister at our church.
During the time I was teaching at the kids’ grade school (and yes, I did have all of them in class, much to their horror), I also wrote and directed plays for the school, which was great fun. After teaching for a number of years, and always scribbling my musings on paper, I was offered a regular column in a local newspaper after my husband sent in a few of my ramblings—a.k.a. columns—to an editor, unbeknownst to me. I began writing my “Everyday Adventures” column, relating my modern- woman experiences with an Erma Bombeck-type sensibility. A number of papers picked up the column and I also began writing for several local magazines.
And then, the internet exploded, effectively ending my, as well as many others’, newspaper careers. Realizing that I had to “join ‘em” as I couldn’t “beat ‘em,” I took to the internet with my work, creating the blog, Not Ready for Granny Panties, and eventually writing a book based on the same. Currently, I’m writing another book in the series with an eye towards a third.
It was a wild ride, but it’s resulted in really wonderful opportunities to speak to and connect with many, many women.
Balance +Reinvention + Self-Discovery + Fun. And in that Order?
How would you rank these regards to the hardest to the easiest to maintain?
Well, I think balance is a myth; or rather a bill of goods we’re sold that makes us feel lousy about ourselves, especially if we view it as a constant that we must attain. It just isn’t possible to have a continual balance in life—stuff changes too often. I think the best we can do is recognize that life is full of a myriad of things every day and the balance comes from knowing that we aren’t going to ever get everything accomplished on our lists and that’s okay. Do what you can and leave the rest for tomorrow and make sure you throw some fun in there. It’s also okay to indulge in copious amounts of wine and chocolate—that could be the fun part.
As for reinvention, women are experts at this; we just don’t give ourselves credit for it. On any given day, you bounce between all of your different hats—wife, mother, professional, chauffer, nurse, tutor, chef, etc., etc., reinventing yourself every time. It’s important to recognize that when you come to one of those points in life where you want to make a change and be/do something different. You got this, girl—you already got this.
Then, if we allow ourselves to acknowledge all of the wonderful things we do so naturally, the process of self-discovery develops naturally as well. And that’s where the fun starts, when we realize what we’re capable of. Fun is easier when you’re confident, when you know who you are and it doesn’t matter what anyone else says or thinks. Then you can sing karaoke to your hearts’ content and not give a damn what you sound like as long as you’re having fun.
Oh, and ranking? It’s all relative. On any given day, it could be more important to you to tune in for some self-discovery, do a little reinventing, step back and do a balance check or just go ride a bike!
Why do you think, in your opinion, they are cumulatively important in a woman’s life?
Each element represents something intrinsic to being a woman. As men have known for millennia, we’re a complicated lot, we gals. But that’s what makes us interesting, don’t you think?
What advice would you give a woman who is struggling with creating a meaningful life that doesn’t leave her own care out of the equation?
First, I think I’d advise avoiding the phrase, “creating a meaningful life,” and phrases like it. The idea behind the words is a good one, but too often , the implication is that a “meaningful life” is this grand thing that we only get to experience after a lot of angst, soul-searching and “working on our inner selves,” or some nonsense like that. For me, meaning can be found in the smallest of things, like finding an actual full-grown zucchini in my little garden, especially after I thought the damn rabbits ate all the flowers.
When we open ourselves up to the realization that little things can be glorious affirmations that our lives mean something, self-care becomes less arduous and more fun. And yes, that zucchini was delicious!
Tell us about your book(s), and your goal in writing them. What did you discover about yourself in the midst of doing so?
The whole Granny Panties concept came about through a perfect storm of events in my life: my newspaper jobs were disappearing, the economy was tanking, I was turning 50 and my son was struggling with serious addiction issues. In short, I kind of felt like I was at the threshold of Hell; no safe havens at work, home, anywhere. After a great deal of whining and feeling sorry for myself, I realized that I could live in that place or not. It was my choice. Since I didn’t like it much, I picked “not.”
At the same time, I also realized that I likely wasn’t the only contemplating running away on a daily basis. I figured that many, many women “of a certain age” were going through huge transitions and sometimes losing themselves in the process. After the Not Ready for Granny Panties blog was up for a while, and through conversing with readers, I realized there was more to say on the subject of aging, transitioning and finding some joy in life, so the idea for a book was born.
I’d already written my first book, Everyday Adventures, or, As My Husband Says, “Lies, Lies and More Lies,” which was essentially a compilation of my musings on modern-day womanhood. But I wanted this book to be different. I wanted to confront, in a fun way, the things that keep us stuck in ugly places and then give women the encouragement, through some very practical advice, to step away from the edge and throw away the list of fictitious names they were working on for when they opted to disappear!
What do you think is the biggest “joy stealer” in a woman’s life is the most fun?
Real life can be glorious, but women tend to get stuck in mental Granny Panties, which are far more dangerous than anything a gal wears “down below.” Mental Granny Panties are big bolts of fabric drenched in fear, which prevent us from enjoying the best of life as we move on.
It’s fear of what’s coming next—because, let’s face it, some of it’s gonna suck—as well as fear of change. Women tend to see change as negative as generally its thrust upon us. But if we make a conscious decision to effect change in our lives, even if it’s something as simple as buying and wearing a leopard-print scarf, and we step out of our comfort zones, we open ourselves to all kinds of new possibilities.
What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you during your own joy journey that will resonate with other women?
I know more about the kind of underwear women wear than Fredrick’s of Hollywood. Just the title of the book and blog invites women to share their underwear with me—and I mean that literally. Women will pull down their pants waistbands and show me their “drawers.” It’s hilarious! It’s also a great conversation starter. We ladies like to share; it fosters a sense of community with us, and that sense of silliness helps us to be honest about what’s going on in our lives. I’ve had some really wonderful conversations after seeing someone’s undies.
Everyone says apply sunscreen before going out into the sun, so what would you tell a woman to cover herself with before going out and battling this big bad world called A WOMAN’S LIFE?
A love blanket and a sense of humor. You’ve got to love and respect yourself enough to know that you deserve to live well and have fun every single day, even the crappy ones. Oh, and when a woman inevitably encounters a crappy one, I’d tell her to hide all of the sharp objects in the kitchen until the next day.
Granny Panties in a Bunch Much?
What do you do to relax after a rough day when your own JOY has run off with a younger woman? What do you do for fun?
A Say Yes to the Dress marathon always gets my juices flowing. I’ll admit without shame that I LOVE wedding gowns. One of my secret desires is to work in a bridal salon. I’m also a closet watcher of the SYFY network, but don’t tell anyone. A bike ride on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ, works, too. Being on the coast (the actual edge of our country, if you think about it), always brings me peace. In fact, being on my bike anywhere is one of my joys. My husband gave me my bike, which is purple and has daises on it, for my 50th birthday. It’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Oh, and wine and chocolate. Did I mention that before?
Save Me! I’m Drowning!
You have been hired by the local police as a “SHEgotiater”. You have been called to help get a woman currently on the ledge in her life somewhere between granny panties and an ill-fitting bra and skydiving and hiking through Canada. How do you convince her to put on her hiking boots instead of jumping and being forever known as the “GRANNY PANTIE JUMPER”?
I think I might actually tell her to jump. One of our problems as women is that we’re the keepers of everyone’s safety and well-being. It makes us crazy and paranoid and so risk-averse that we’re suspicious of the potential of everything to do us and our loved ones harm. It’s no way to live. So if we jump, if we just take a leap, sure, we may get banged up a little, but it likely won’t kill us. And we’ll probably be exhilarated by the process, which will allow us to approach other opportunities with less suspicion and more of a sense of adventure. We ladies need more adventure in our lives.
Oh But There’s More.
What makes you a connected woman?
I’ve realized through my writing and speaking with women that we all have the same story—only the details differ. We all want the same things: the best for our families, to feel loved, joyful, confident and successful. Plus, every woman I know works her butt off every single day to make all of that happen. We’re women; we have the souls of women. We’re all connected.
What final thought would you like to leave with our readers?
Toss the mental Granny Panties, gals! What you wear down below is your business, but make sure that you’re trying new things, taking risks, having fun and letting everyone else in your life handle their own stuff so you can get a manicure, or take up Tae Kwan Do, or just sit on your bum and do nothing once in a while. Be self-centered and find the joy in every day.
Oh, and please check out www.maryfranbontempo.com and www.notreadyforgrannypanties.com and look for my books—Not Ready for Granny Panties and Everyday Adventures, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org –would love to hear from you!
*Update: Mary Fran has a new book out! The Woman’s Book of Dirty Words
About the Book: 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 heads between our knees. It doesn’t have to be that way. Join Mary Fran Bontempo and The Woman’s Book of Dirty Words 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! Get Your Copy Today!
All Rights Reserved. Connected Woman Magazine. 2014
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