October AMA: You Asked, I Answered

Oct 11, 2023

One of my favorite things about social media is answering questions from all of you.  So I thought I would bring a bit of that energy to the blog with a monthly Ask Me Anything.  Here are some of the questions that popped up on Instagram.

If you can’t do ALL THE THINGS, how do you prioritize?

It’s no secret that life can get full some times.  There’s what you have to do, what you want to do, and what you dream of doing.  For me, if I can’t do it all (and who can?), I prioritize Sloane first and the thing that will bring me the most joy second.  That’s why after work, you’ll often find Sloane hanging out in her carrier as we dance around the house vacuuming and cleaning.  She loves to be with me, and I get a lot of mental peace from a clean house.

Best winter gloves to wear to work that look nice but are actually warm/functional?

A great glove is one of winter’s few joys.  No, seriously, there’s just something so elegant about taking off gloves when you get to work. I own these Brooks Brother’s cashmere lined gloves, and they’re pretty warm.  The key is to know what size hand you have.  Land’s End also makes a good glove that allows you to use your smartphone while wearing them.  But if you’re looking for straight warmth, Smartwool makes a thermal glove you should check out.

How do I address a career gap in my resume when interviewing?

I got nine questions that were some version of this one.  My best advice is to be up front and confident about it.  “I’m returning to the workforce after some time away and here’s what I learned during that time that makes me an excellent fit for this job…”  Or “while I was prioritizing my family during a hiatus, I realized that working fulfills me in a way I didn’t anticipate, and now I’m interviewing for roles that give me . . .”

A hiatus is all in how you frame it.  We’re taught not to take breaks, that breaks are for the weak.  We’re also told that no one will understand or they’ll worry we will just leave again.  But the idea of taking mid-career breaks is being normalized, and as long as you can frame the break as intentional, thoughtful, and beneficial to your career goals, it can be an asset.  The less sheepish you feel and the more confident you are, the less it will seem like a concern.

What does a 40yo wear to work conference in VEGAS?!

Comfortable dresses and cool flats. Try this red Boden dress with leopard flats.  This cobalt dress with silver shoes (or flesh-toned if that’s not for you).  For evening, pull a printed wrap dress that can be dressed up with shoes and jewelry.  So many people will be clueless about what to wear that if you put any effort in at all, it will look like a lot of effort.

What’s your best advice for a 35 yo who wants to wait five more years before having kids?

Go see your OBGYN and ask for a referral to a reproductive specialist, ask all the questions.  You don’t know if your body can wait five years.  You don’t know that it can’t.  You need all the information before you decide on a timeline that meets all of your needs.  Maybe you freeze your eggs, maybe you don’t.  All I’m saying is have tests, get information.  So many women make these decisions with 10% of the information they need.  If you’re not ready for the doctor visit, Modern Fertility sells at home testing kit that will give you some of the info you need and you can share the results with your doctor.

If it’s in the cards to wait, start saving up money.  Having a kid is expensive.

I just bought a pair of Michael Kors flex pumps and the quality is bad now.  What else?

Cole Haan makes a great shoe.  They were bad for a bit also, but they’ve come back.  And they’re almost always on sale.  Women speak highly about 27 Edit from Naturalizer.  I own a pair of flats and I like them.

I’ve been thinking about trying the Inez heels for a Saw It On Social; so if you have experience with them, leave a comment.

Do you have a stroller you love to travel with?

We use our Doona car seat when we travel, and it folds into a stroller.  It’s a miracle.  But when Sloane gets a bit bigger and that’s no longer an option, we’ll use our Liki Trike.  It’s perfect for a kid that wants to walk everywhere but is cool riding in a push-trike.  And it folds up so small, you can fit it in a carry-on.

How do you stay motivated at work?  10 years in the law and it’s difficult to stay motivated.

I feel this.  The middle part of the career can definitely stagnate.  On a day-to-day basis, I just started chunking out my day.  I try to set 2.5 hours blocks.  Otherwise, I look down at my phone or check my e-mail for a minute, and I look up and it’s 3:00PM.

When it comes to long term goals, career coaching is worth the money.  Start looking on LinkedIn.  Find someone who has had a career (no 29 year olds whose only jobs lasted 1.5 years each, thank you!), and see whether you gravitate toward their content.  Ask friends for referrals.  Among Type-A chicks, you’ll be surprised how many have used someone.

Are black, opaque tights still in style?

Tights are a classic, they never go anywhere, they’re just not as popular at some points.  If you’re looking for a good pair, the Spanx tights are my very favorite.  If you want something different for a while, I love a micro-fishnet (up to size 2X).

I’m preparing for IVF in a few weeks. Any tips for this stage?  Anxiety management?

Congratulations! That’s very exciting.

I actually have an Amazon wishlist of IVF essentials.  If you only buy one thing, get the Shot Blocker.  It makes the shots hurt less somehow.  I couldn’t have made it without mine.

As for the anxiety, this experience is going to be what it is.  You just have to live in the suck.  The early mornings for blood draws, the shots, the pills, the hormones, the exhaustion.  But it’s just for a few weeks.  You can only make it so much better, so don’t overthink about how to improve the experience.

My best advice is to take the first two days off to get the hang of the process.  Then, plan something you want to do every day — TV show, meal, facial, whatever.  And after your retrieval, drink lots of fluids, avoid salt.

What do I wear to a three day CLE to sit in a ballroom and listen to tax law presentations all day?

Comfortable pants.  I really like these NYDJ SculptHer pants and these Spanx ones.  I wear them with a structured, not black blazer.  I choose another color because the blacks and materials won’t match, but with another color it’s not noticeable.  Just choose a blazer you can move in.

Top/Sweater for outside family photos.

This photographer put together a guide about what not to wear and what patterns work well.  And the most important thing she put in her post is about textures.  Textures like cable knit can look so rich in a photo.  I gravitate toward softer colors, especially for fall photos.  If you like turtlenecks, this one is sublime.  And don’t forget to fold the neckline in instead of out, it’s a cleaner look.

Beyond that, the most important thing is that you’re comfortable.  So just pick a top that is flattering and spend more time on hair and makeup.  The clothes really don’t matter as much as the makeup and hair.

Where did the name “Belle” come from and why did you decide to stop being anonymous?

When I first moved to D.C. some friends from home and I kept Blogger blogs so we could keep each other updated on our lives in our respective cities.  Mine was called Beauty and the Beltway since moving to D.C. was my fairytale.  I was working in politics at the time, and Abra is a pretty unique name, so I just listed the author’s name as Belle to go with the theme and keep people from finding it when they Googled me.

When I started Capitol Hill Style, I stayed anonymous and kept the name.  Then, a few months later, my hairdresser started comping my service in exchange for ad space.  A co-worker who was kind of a troublemaker made a fuss about it being an ethics issue and my boss asked me to get an opinion from the Committee on Ethics. Blogging was still really new in those days, so the attorney who answered was concerned lobbyists could use the site to funnel cash to me since I identified myself as a staffer.  But they agreed I could keep the blog going and try to earn money with it if I stayed on anonymous.

Between 2009 and 2012, I ended up passing on a lot of opportunities — magazine spreads, paid appearances at events, etc. — because I was anon.  When I left the Hill, I didn’t need to live by the Committee’s guidance anymore, so I decided to reveal my identity in a Time Magazine piece about the “new” D.C.  It’s crazy to me how many staffers have influencing side hustles and no one says a thing; the culture around this topic has really changed.

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  1. Jess D says:

    I remember Beauty & the Beltway from the OG Blogger days. I found you through a mutual friend’s blog roll. When you started CHS, it never occurred to me that it was the same writer except both blogs made clear your love of rose salve. ☺️ it’s been fun to see it grow and change over the years.

  2. AB says:

    Been reading since almost the beginning, and love hearing the more detailed story of what it was like blogging while working on the bill. So glad you’ve stuck with us all these years!

  3. AB says:

    Also wanted to assure the person headed to Vegas, don’t over think it. Yes, there are drunks walking the strip, and people in club attire, but the majority of people there during the week are attending conferences just like you. Wear what you would normally wear to a conference anywhere else. Prepare for air conditioning and wear comfortable shoes. I’ve been twice this year already.

  4. Diane says:

    I tried Inez Lola pumps two years ago. You could get an extra size for free to try. I am between an 8 and 8.5, regular width, so ordered those. I could barely get the 8.5 on my foot and they were very, very narrow. I would have needed at least a 9W (and I was not even all that confident in that) and that size was sold out so I didn’t try an exchange. Even if I could have got the correct size, they didn’t strike me as being all that exceptional.

  5. Anna says:

    I have two pairs of INEZ shoes. I am a sucker for any brand that offers a narrow width. They seem to be well made but I’m also between an 8-8.5 and had to take an 8N in both pairs bc the 8.5N while better length wise was still too wide (so opposite problem from other poster). I think they are worth trying but not exceptional. I haven’t tried 27 Edit but I am a big fan of Naturalizer (another narrow friendly brand).

  6. Julianne says:

    I bought the Inez Sara sandal for a wedding and while they look really nice, they were actually more uncomfortable than other heels i have owned. They feel different than other shoes with the top strap sort of trying to shift you more onto your heels, but it feels like there just wasn’t enough coushioning in the ball of the foot.

  7. Emily says:

    Oh wow, my mom sent me that article when I first moved to DC. Maybe that is where I heard of your blog? Ten years later and I’m still here, haha.

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