Awesome Mami: Laila from Mami’s Coin Jar on Reinventing

October 30, 2013

LailaFamPlease help me welcome today’s guest blogger, Laila to My Friend Betty Says!

 Twelve years ago…

Bachelor of Arts. I did it. Somehow, though the years were tumultuous and filled with growing pains and a love relationship gone sour, I was a college graduate. A newly minted Sociology/Spanish major. Soon, I’d be leaving the small western Illinois town that I called home for 4 years, and I’d begin a new job, my career, as a caseworker for one of the largest child welfare organizations in the state of Illinois. I was excited, nervous…but ready. After a year, I began training other caseworkers, and then became a Program Manager for boys’ group home. My rise to the top was imminent and I was only 24 years old…but it wasn’t enough. Receiving news that I had been accepted to the Jane Addams School of Social Work graduate program should have sent me over the moon. The acceptance letter became worn and faded from the many times that I had read the letter…but inside a folder, tucked away, it remained.

Eight years ago…

Eleven o’clock on the dot—time to go. Quickly zipping up the canvas tool bag that held my battered off-set spatula, sharpened knives and wire whisk, I whipped off the white bakers cap that was lightly speckled with cocoa powder. Stuffing the hat into the pocket of my oversized black uniform pants, I untied the classic black and white striped apron that is the customary uniform for the cooks of the upscale Manhattan restaurant in which I was employed as a pastry cook. All around me, other kitchen personnel were doing the same—all in a rush to end the night with a few drinks from the bar a few doors down. Jogging down the corridor that lead to the women’s locker room that was already buzzing with female voices, flushing toilets, and barks of laughter—I pulled at the buttons of my white chef jacket, yanked off the white t-shirt I wore beneath, and threw on my jeans, brown turtleneck and fitted cream colored jacket (size small!) Tugging on my gym shoes, I tossed my black clogs into my locker, grabbed my bag and slammed it shut. Yelling out my good byes to the older ladies that weren’t in too much of a rush to head home, I balled up my soiled uniform and tossed it into the laundry bin. Running up the stairs, I chatted with the security guard who bore a striking resemblance to an elder Ralph Macchio, I pushed open the door and—Freedom!

My shift was over! Before breaking out of my shell, after work I’d quickly run down the steps of the subway that would lead me to my beloved “7” train…and home to Queens.

These days, my friends and I meet at the local bar, just a few doors down from the job, and tell kitchen horror stories to the friendly Irish bartender, Rory, and his sidekick, Mike. Downing margaritas and shots of tequila, we’d share a burger and onion rings…and we would just enjoy the night. Quitting my job in Chicago and enrolling in pastry school had opened so many doors for me; I was fortunate enough to have worked with world class chefs as I honed my craft. I loved that my hands could create art with food; loved that my new skill allowed me to make a living in New York City. I was 27 years old—and just learning to understand what it meant to “live”.

Seven years ago…

Steadily stirring a bowl of chocolate melting over a water bath, I remained focused on my task until a young man poked his head into the doorway of my pastry kitchen…tall, dark—mischievous eyes and all. We introduced ourselves and began a friendship. The energy surrounding us sizzled and sparked, and held promises of tomorrow. Together, we walked the streets of Queens and Manhattan; talking, exploring and laughing and loving. I was 28, and finally learned what falling in love felt like.

Three years ago…

I felt the insistent pangs in my abdomen and the tightening of my swollen belly…and I nudged Joe as he lay sleeping in bed. “Babe, I think I’m in labor”. Unbelievably, the element of excited panic didn’t set in. I was fine. I took a shower. Made the bed. (I mean, relatives would be coming over, right?!) Joe himself jumped in the shower. Not long after, we called our usual car service to come pick us up from our Staten Island apartment. Twenty minutes later, when the cab didn’t show up because the driver had gotten lost, panic set in. Lucky for us, our elderly Sicilian neighbor who was privy to anything going on in the neighborhood, drove us to the hospital. She blew red lights, swore in Italian to the car ahead of her who dared to stop at a STOP sign…but we made it.

Four hours later, after an emergency C-section, my 9 pound, 12 ounce bundle of joy was born. I was 32 years old…and I was a mom.

1 year ago…

After waiting 2 years for an interview, at age 34, I am officially a state employee, complete with a benefit package, Monday through Friday schedule and holidays off. I sit down at my desk and peck away at my keyboard. No longer am I an underpaid customer service worker—a job I accepted upon moving back to Illinois due to the lack of work in our area. My husband and I take public transportation and we are among those that carry monthly passes. Every day, we rush home to our son, eat dinner, bathe, clean up and get ready for the next day. Our lives have become routine…comfortable, and bound together by a love that is solid, stable…and still full of fireworks.

Two hours ago…

My three year old is now a dimpled, curly-haired and talkative ball of energy. He makes us smile and laugh and groan in frustration. His small body has been sick for the past few days, and his helplessness has tugged at my heart. His weak cries are able to jolt me from a deep sleep. Funny how I can sleep through the incessantly annoying alarm clock, but the pitiful moan , “mommy”, can jerk me awake as if someone had poured cold water over my face. I sit at my desk, turn on the computer, and I allow my creativity to flow from my fingertips to the keyboard to the screen ahead of me. I begin writing my latest entry for my new blog—my latest creative endeavor. At age 35, my life has fallen into place.


Always in search of “something great”, I realize I’ve invented myself several times throughout my life until I found what I was looking for. I’ve learned a few things along the way, though. Don’t be afraid to begin the journey of following a dream and always be in search of that “something great”. I look back at the things that I’ve been lucky to do. I started off in Chicago as a caseworker—and had my zany adventures in New York as a pastry chef. I fell in love, gave birth…and returned to Illinois once my search ended.


There are no limits. Continue working at my stable job? Manage a successful blog? Open my own bakery? I don’t have an answer for that now. But, I can say I’ve enjoyed my journey so far…and I look forward to seeing what’s next.

Have you “reinvented” as well? Would you like to? Please share! 

Laila is “celebrating food, fun and familia…on a budget” over at MamisCoinJar. com. “Like” her on Facebook too! 

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  • Reply Maritza De Leon November 4, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Congrats Laila!! Great blog 🙂

  • Reply Heather November 5, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Wow Laila, you are an amazing writer! I have to check out your blog!

  • Leave a Reply to Maritza De Leon Cancel Reply

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