The timing is perfect for my second “interview” in a series about women I admire. “Tis the season of giving, and Dawnielle Chaney is the gift that keeps on giving. A friend to all and advisor to many, she is not only hilarious and smart but talented and charitable. Whenever I am contemplating how to handle a sticky issue, I often think to myself, “What would Dawnielle do?” Centered and wise, yet spirited and spicy (her maiden name is Congiardo after all!) Dawnielle has been married to her long time love, Doug, for 26 years, and together they have three truly awesome kids, Claire (23), Julia (21), and Mac (18). I would safely label the multi-talented Dawnielle a true multi-hyphenate, but she prefers the title “expert generalist.” With a background in sales, event management, and advertising/marketing, Dawnielle’s superset of skills almost always finds her in that “chairperson” role, in charge of everything from the school fundraiser, to hockey team accountant, to help found the San Jose Sharks Alumni Foundation. Now officially an empty nester, Dawnielle has the time to dive deep into what fills her soul, reflect on the early stages of motherhood, and what it means to give back. She is an all-around good human that can create flower arrangements like a professional and sing the words to any song you challenge her with; she is an epic “boarder” (and I’m not talking about the snow or surf variety) and has a storytelling talent like none other. I’m honored to introduce you to my friend, Dawnielle Chaney.

Looking back on raising your three kids, what were your biggest joys and biggest struggles?

I’m super grateful to have had the time at home with my kids when they were young (although I loved and missed working) but thankful I always kept my toe in different endeavors, classes, and consulting to keep my mind and skills sharp. This allowed me to enjoy being home more. My biggest struggle was that I hated being the enforcer. My Mom was pretty strict, ridiculously strict, so I’ve had more of a hard time managing expectations, meaning not expecting everyone to be perfect and not letting them get away with stuff! But at the same time, allowing your kids to make mistakes is so important. I’d rather have them screw up when they’re home than when they’re 2,000 miles away, and I can’t help them. It’s how you learn. By the time my third kid was a teen, it was a lot easier to let go!

What is your “Mom Mantra”?

It is what is, but it will become what you make of it.

What are you most proud of?

Our family. I’ve fought hard for it!

What is the one thing you wish your kids knew about or understood about you?

I didn’t even realize until I was 51 how my actions (as a mom and wife) have been subconscious. I never realized the emotional impact of my parents’ divorce(s) and how it impacted my own relationships. I hope they always know that even though I’ve missed the mark a million times, my intentions were to be here for them and give them all that I didn’t receive as a kid. Amen, sister.

You know this, but most people do not- I LOVE to sing! I’d love to have been a backup singer even though I have zero talent or vocal training. I think you’re a natural and should be the lead on center stage.:)

Empty nest usually means big plans on the horizon…what’s next?

Getting vaccinated! And with that, hopefully, some travel outside of the country and I’m also actually excited to visit my kids during the school year at their universities. Also, I’ve got Portugal on the list and possibly Ireland. I’m also totally open to moving abroad if the right job came around for D. And possibly starting a nonprofit. Stay tuned, I’m still noodling.

Whose opinion matters most to you?


Who inspires you?

I don’t have just one person, but Massimo Bottura and his wife Lara come to mind. Restauranteurs who have used their skills and connections to elevate soup kitchens in Italy, they are eliminating food waste and providing meals to the underprivileged. Their kitchens have been “decorated” and outfitted by high-end designers and filled with art and flowers to elevate the human experience. There’s no soup line, and people are served and even share meals with the volunteer staff. I love that they incorporate all of the senses and humanize world hunger. I love that they pushed creativity to the limit to solve a problem.

Wow! I think I see your future philanthropy project. It truly combines all of your interests- service, food, flowers, and most of all, connecting the human experience through beauty and dignity. I love it. Speaking of which, your culinary skills are straight-up Ina level. What’s your favorite meal to make for your family?

There’s not one thing I love to cook, but I have perfected my short rib ragu this year! But I think ricotta gnudi with tomato cream sauce is what everyone gets excited about because I don’t make it often. And you know I love my boards!

What are you currently reading, listening to and watching?

Reading Moody Bitches by Dr. Julie Holland and the Bible simultaneously. Listening to 10 Percent Happier by Dan Harris and watching Ted Lasso for the sixth time and the Flight Attendant.

If you could live anywhere, it would be?

Somewhere like Santa Barbara, on the water. Spanish style, bougainvillea everywhere, place to plant lots of flowers, zero humidity and about 72 degrees. Not too mush to ask?

What makes you most proud?

Doug, Claire, Julia, Mac and Stan, my dog, named after the Stanley Cup.

Your favorite quality in a man is?


Your favorite quality in a woman is?

Being exactly who she is.

What terrifies you?

Anything terrible happening to my kids.

Cocktail of choice?

Greyhound, but the grapefruit must be fresh:)

Celebrity crush?

Don’t have one.

If you could go back in time or one decade, which would it be?

Would have to say the 2000’s because my kids were all little, and I liked my littles! But I don’t miss that time has passes. I like to think forward.

What do you splurge on?

Tennis shoes, cheese and wine.

When you were a kid, what did you envision as your dream job?

I wanted to write advertising jingles.

Okay, very important question- a dinner party for ten, who’s invited? Dead or alive.

Mother Teresa, Julia Child, Massimo Bottura, Chris Martin, Jesus, Dabo Swinney, Chris Farley, Gilda Radner, Chance the Rapper, Mindy Kaling, Leon Bridges, hubby Doug, and you and Brian. And our other two couples’ friends-it would be a hoot!

Sounds fun! But that’s more than ten people. What are you cooking for this eclectic, raucous crowd?

Probably not lamb since there’s already one at the table.;) I guess I’ll make my ricotta gnudi and grill some fish.

What is one thing that really pisses you off?

When people don’t stand on the circle for social distancing in line at Trader Joe’s. It makes me feel OCD and I’m not.

What’s the one thing that makes you very happy?

To have all my kids at home sharing a meal, and there’s lots of laughter.

Dawnielle, you are truly a gift- thank you:)!

Cheers to the new year, everyone!


The Mom Mystique

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