As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says, Lean In.

From very early on, I had it in my mind that I wanted to go out into the world and make my mark.  I was ambitious and curious.  And then I had a lightbulb moment about the perfect career path.  After catching part of a political convention during my sophomore or junior year in high school, I realized I wanted to become a broadcaster.  Being from LA, a lot of people I knew and grew up with were in — or seeking — show business. That wasn’t what I wanted long term.  But when I saw that young woman, reporting from the convention, I thought — perfect.  I’m in.

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I was ready to Lean In.

I moved to Arizona to attend the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.  I wish this for every single person who goes to college: The feeling of joy when I walked on campus.  Entering the broadcasting department, seeing the cameras, the equipment — I loved it all.  And I dedicated myself 100% to this career.

With a little good fortune and a lot of ambition, I scored an internship with 3TV in Phoenix while attending ASU.  I remember the day I first walked into the newsroom — a real working newsroom — where people were all in a hurry, there was always another deadline.  I loved it.  Every crazy, frantic moment.

This career has been interesting and challenging.  It has made me a smarter person with a broader view of the world.  What a blessed life.

And then came my babies.321874_10150357556969507_1909359951_o

The gift of motherhood is better than I ever expected.  I come from a family of 5 so I’m used to hustle and bustle.  Twins runs in my family, too.  So when I found out I was having twins — pure joy.  A boy and a girl!

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Late last year I was contacted by an incredible photographer based here in Phoenix, Mara Blom Schantz, about taking part in a project she was working on: A Celebration of Motherhood; Stories of the Nurturers.  It was a coffee table book featuring a variety of women and their kids.

Mara has quite an incredible backstory herself.

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She is the daughter of two professional photographers.  She worked alongside them since
the age of 13.  Mara thought for sure she would take a different path in life — set her own course outside of photography.  She went to San Diego State and then on to law school at University of San Francisco.   Mara told me her focus was becoming a child advocate.

But the universe has a funny way of pulling us in certain directions.  For me, it was broadcast journalism.  For Mara, it was photography.  Still she managed to stay true to the things she felt most passionate about.  While law didn’t end up becoming one of them, fighting for children certainly was.

photo-6I met Mara many years ago while working on a news story about a photography exhibit she was putting together.  She was taking pictures of children in foster care.  Those pictures hung in her gallery.  Haunting, sad, beautiful — one picture told a thousand stories.  I never forgot what she said when I went to interview her for that story:  Look at the eyes of the children.  In their eyes, you can see all that is possible.

Mara worked to give these kids a voice through her pictures.  She worked to give them dignity, strength, and, quite possibly, a home.  Several people who walked through that exhibit ended up inquiring about the beautiful children in these pictures.  This resulted in several adoptions.  One person, as I recall, adopted not only one child but an entire family from foster care.  Mara changed lives through those pictures.

So the chance to work with someone like Mara is an honor.  Not only is she an incredibly talented photographer with vision and passion, but she is a woman with heart and soul that she is determined to share with the world.

photo-7While sitting in her very chic Phoenix studio recently, she told me more about her motivation in doing this new book.  She said it’s about celebrating the different paths of each woman.

I represent one of the working moms.

But there are others who have dedicated their lives to staying home and raising their families — really, the hardest job of all.  Mara points out how incredible it is to see women who find so much joy and reward from putting dinner on the table for their family each evening.  Creating an atmosphere of love, as she puts it.  Today’s society seems to dismiss, to a degree, the value in being the rock of the family — as many of these women truly are.

There are mothers featured in this book who have suffered tremendous loss.  One friend of Mara’s lost her son – who had down syndrome – to a massive heart attack.  She lives every day with incredible compassion and grace.  The grief she feels will never go away, of course, but she has found a way to draw strength from that loss.  Another mother, Tiffany Goff, has a daughter with significant special needs.  She is a picture of beauty and dignity.

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This book represents the stories behind all of these women.  Each remarkable in her own way.

photo-10Just like the photographer who put it all together.  A mother, herself, to two boys.  Mara told me that she wants people to stop and care about motherhood.  Because each of these mothers is teaching their children how to be people in the world.  And we could sure use a few more decent people.

So while I feel incredibly grateful for my journey in broadcasting and a career I have truly embraced and enjoyed, my greatest accomplishment is — and always will be — my children.  They motivate me to be better.

Here’s to celebrating all the mothers out there!  All the women who Lean In and lead at home and in the workforce.

Mara leans into her life every day.

In fact, she is already hard at work on her next project: A Celebration of Fatherhood.

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For more information about Mara’s work you can find her on the web at

http://artisticimpressionsbymara.com

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