May 28, 2015

Julie Dombroski #MomsWhoShine

#MomsWhoShine is a series about moms who have some kind of talent. The series was inspired by Dad of Divas Dads in the Limelight.

I am so thrilled to introduce to you, Julie Dombroski, another fantastic addition to our #MomsWhoShine.  I met Julie well over 20 years ago and spent quite a lot of time with her family, as my best friend in high school is her cousin.  She is a very talented basketball player who led Utica to the Class A championship.  She is currently an assistant coach at Oakland University and was recently named one of the top girls basketball players in Macomb County from the last fifty years (she was named #2.)

 Tell us  about yourself. 
Well I was born and raised in Utica, MI...which is actually where I think a lot of people associate me with because I am constantly telling people that "I'm from the U and I'm proud."  I love and am proud of my little hometown and I am very excited to be back close to friends and family.  I have been associated with the game of basketball for the majority of my life.  I started playing when I was in grade school and after high school I went on to play at Michigan State University.  I had an absolutely fabulous experience playing for the Spartans and happy to be part and have started a winning tradition there.  After graduation, I came back home and started to pursue my career in teaching/coaching.  I had an opportunity to work at University of Detroit Mercy as a graduate assistant coach in 2004 and after 3 seasons I decided to go back to MSU to further pursue my career and passion for assisting in the education of young people.  At MSU, I became the Director of Basketball Operations for MSU Women's Basketball team which allowed me to stay close to the sport I love at an institution that did so much for me.  After 7 years back at Michigan State, I decided it was time to be closer to my family and continue my career in the field of coaching.   I am currently an assistant coach at Oakland University in Rochester, MI and I am thrilled to be a part of this university and back near where it all began.

I think what makes me shine is my ability to make people feel loved.  I really try to get to know people on a personal level and I have been known to give out hugs without warning so yeah, I think that is what makes me shine.  I know that may be contradictory from my on-court basketball persona but people who really know me that I love to make people feel special.
Tell us about your family.
My family means everything to me.  They are the most important people in my life and I find strength in being close to them.  My husband, Jason (33), is also from the east side of Detroit and we have a 5 1/2 yo, Gibson, and have been married for 8 wonderful years (this August).  My husband is fierce about family and is incredibly supportive of my career - I am so thankful for him as I literally would not be where I am today without him.  My son is so full of love and life and brings so much joy to our family that I can't imagine how my life was before I had him.  My boys are my joy and my light and I am lucky to have them.

You can't talk to me about family without understanding that to me family means EVERYONE...My extended family are key to my happiness.  They are caring, honest and loyal and are always there for us when we need them.  My mother, Antoinette "Toni" Pagel is a retired teacher and coach in the Utica Community School District.  My father, John Pagel, is a finance manager at Buff Whelan Chevrolet and has probably helped more than 75% of our community when they really needed help.  I have 4 siblings - Suzanne (46), Michael (39), Christina (36) and Lori (32).  I have an incredibly talented and creative nephew, Chase (9), and an adorable and loving niece, Gisela (7), who are so special to me and our family.  They wouldn't be the people they are without their mom and my brother's wife, Melanie, who is also another incredible #MetroDetroitMommy.  She is a small business owner, fitness instructor and mom...and most of all she is a good friend.  My sister, Christina, is expecting her first child in September with her boyfriend Jon and I can't wait to have another nephew to spoil :)

Oh, I'm not done...My husband's family and my even greater extended family will not go unmentioned.  From my mother-in-law, Janie Dombroski, and my local legend father-in-law, Mark Dombroski, to all of my cousins, aunts, uncles, great-aunts and aunt-in-laws...they are all an important part of my life and I am have them so close to us.

What is a normal day in your home like?
Being a coach, my days are not normal...I hear that a lot from working moms and dads but it's true.  In-season (September to April) looks different from out of season (April to August) because we work everyday in season and rarely get days off but we try to keep a schedule so that we don't lose minutes guessing what the other person is doing.  

However, more often than not - I wake up the same time as my son and we get each other ready for school/work.  I say get each other ready because sometimes, I won't be moving very fast and he keeps me on time by getting himself dressed and reminding me that he is hungry :)  After I take Gibson to the bus stop, I try to get 30 minutes to myself - either walking our dog, Belle, or getting caught up on my emails.  My husband leaves for work about the same time Gibson leaves for school, which works when I have road games because he can take over full time for Gibson's needs when I travel.  I get to work and work with the other coaches on our game plan for practice or the day ahead and around 6 pm, I leave and return to home.  Now, that changes on "game days" because I will be at work all day.  If there is a game at 7 pm, I usually wont' get home until after midnight but my boys and parents are supportive and come to my games when they can and will visit me at work when they can so that I don't go too many hours without a hug or a kiss from my special little guy.

In the off season (again, April to August), things wind down a little.  I do work "normal" hours, unless we have a recruit on campus or an event we need to attend then we stay until the job is done.  That is the thing about "normal" doesn't really exist.  We take our days for what they are - when we are at work, we work; when we are at home, we're at home.  When there is something from work that needs my attention at home (like a recruiting call or a conference call with our staff), I excuse myself from the room and do what I need to do but I really try to be present when I am at home.  

What is the most rewarding thing about being a mom?
 Oh man - where do I begin...?  I think it makes you appreciate what you have been given.  Children are a gift - they are a gift from your spouse and partner, they are a gift from your parents and they are the greatest gift you can give yourself.  You see all these wonderful things from this little person who is 50% of you.  Then you see things in him that are 50% of your partner.  It's just really been cool to watch him grow up into this charming little man with a HUGE personality...and I can't wait to do it all over again.

What is your biggest challenge of being a parent?
 I don't think the biggest challenges have come yet.  When your a parent of an infant, most of the time, you're just trying not to drop the baby and worry about keeping them fed and sheltered.  When they get older, you try to raise someone who will be looked with favorable eyes and make sure they know where they came from and what is REALLY important in life.  But when your raising teenagers and young adults, you are trying to mold them into decent human beings and productive members of society...that's where I think you get challenged as a parent because the most challenging part may be the NEXT part of their lives.

How do you find balance between being a mom, working and having time for yourself?
Haha - I firmly believe that "balance" for parents is an illusion.   It has been brought to us in many different forms but all in all, "work-life balance" is not a real thing.  Parents who work, feel guilty when they miss stuff but sometimes you HAVE to miss stuff for work.  Parents who stay home feel guilty because they don't want to smother their kids or become helicopter parents and many miss having something outside the home that is "THEIRS".  I have talked to some moms who want to go back into the work force but can't because their families have come into a lifestyle to which they are accustomed and don't want to lose the "normalcy" of their day.  There are some parents who are made to feel guilty when they constantly working and they miss stuff for work - recitals, field trips, sporting events, etc.  I believe that the "work-life balance" term came to make people feel as though they have some control over things they cannot really control.   

I think a better word to use instead of "balance" is PERSPECTIVE.  There will never be a time when my life is in perfect balance.  However, I try to keep perspective on what needs my attention at this moment...I listen to the needs to my family and my life around me as well as listening to what I need for myself.   The key for me is flexibility and compromise...those two values have lead me to a very fulfilling life.   Just because you're doing a lot doesn't mean you're getting things done.

What are some of the lessons you've learned since becoming a Mom?
I have learned that I cannot control what other people think or say nor should I care.  What matters is the amount of effort that I put forth will dictate the happiness I feel in my own life.  I find joy in things that make my family happy and that is really what matters.
What is the best advice about being a parent you have received and who gave it to you?
I can't recall a single piece of advice that I have received that has meant as much as one of the values I received from my parents.  The value of FAMILY is what my parents taught me and I hold that very close to my heart.  Above all, I put family first and it has served me well.  I can't thank my parents enough for teaching me what was truly important in life.

What advice would you give to other moms?
Do not try to live up to the expectations that others have put on you.  Live your life in accordance to your goals and values.  Don't aspire to make a living...inspire to make a difference.

Have a question for Julie?  Please leave a comment below and I will make sure I forward it to her!
Thank you Julie for taking the time to answer our questions:)  Are you a Mom Who Shines or know a mom who would be great for this series?  Email me their contact info at

Metro Detroit Mommy Writer: