A New Move

Just because chaos loves company, we bought a house two weeks ago! We are still living among boxes and tubs and sleeping on mattresses on the floor, but I have never been happier. (Note: These photos were taken in the rooms that we have actually unpacked!)

This is the home I have dreamt of for years. Literally, I’d walk by it on my daily walks with the dog and feel it calling to me. When it went up for sale, I panicked, knowing it was “our house.” When another offer was accepted by the sellers, I was weirdly calm. I figured I must’ve been wrong, it wasn’t my house at all. And then my husband worked his magic. Now, we live here. 

It’s so wonderful. I’m so grateful. We get to keep our community, our friends and our schools, while finally being in a home that fits our family. Totally worth the wait.

P.S. Pro Tip: This house was fairly inexpensive for what it’s worth, partly because our elementary school (a Title 1 building) is rated poorly on Great Schools and has a large number of poor and non-English speaking students. A REMINDER! Great Schools is dumb! There is so much more to an education than test scores and affluence. I am so thankful I found a home where I didn’t have to leave our Title 1 school. It was on the top of my must list. Don’t let any dumb ranking tell you how “great” a school is. Visit. Talk to parents. Learn about what makes a school really great. I promise, it won’t be standardized test scores.

All photos in this post by Kymberly Janelle Photography

State of the Blog 2019

State of the Blog 2019

It’s Saturday night and my house is quiet. This is rare, friends. So rare that it feels a bit scandalous. Here I am, empty house, nothing on the calendar, and I thought to myself, “I should write on the blog…I never do that anymore. I miss it.”

So here I am. I logged on and stared at the screen for a few minutes before I decided I had nothing to say. I went over to our money management software and started working on accounting because THAT is a good use of free time. (Did I mention it’s Saturday night? I party hard.) But then I finished that mundane task and opened up this tab on my browser to find the blog was still sitting there, waiting for an update. So I’m back.

The thing about blogging is it’s constantly in flux. When I started writing here, I updated every couple of days. I’d squeeze in funny stories or anecdotes during breaks at work or while I caught up on Grey’s Anatomy. It was 2005 and my time was my own. Most of my friends weren’t on Facebook or Twitter yet, so they’d come to my blog and share their own thoughts in the comment section. Then I had kids and the blog became a virtual journal of motherhood. This was the golden age of blogging, when women like Heather Armstrong, Alice Bradley, Rebecca Woolf and so many more shared their war stories of parenting with raw honesty. No one was trying to be an “influencer” or get paid, we were all just trying to survive this motherhood thing. And for me, after an unexpected pregnancy and a very lonely first year of parenthood, it was a godsend.

But then came sponsored posts. Don’t get me wrong, I benefited from the early days of paid blogging and I know many women who built a career and fed their families because of it. But it also felt like the end. The Pioneer Woman stopped being a fun site to read cowboy stories and get random photo tips and recipes and became a media empire. There were so many book deals. I started to feel, for the first time since I had started the blog, the wrath of comparison. Sure, I had a few sponsored posts, but I certainly wasn’t able to quit my job to blog full time. Social media only exasperated this problem for me. I felt the need to create a successful “online brand,” complete with a color palette for my Instagram posts. What was once a fun way to connect, felt like work.

And I already HAD a job! While the blog and “social influencing” wasn’t paying the bills, I was able to pull together a significant side hustle writing freelance for larger sites and doing segments on local TV. I would be lying if I said this blog didn’t directly give me those opportunities. When I would pitch my writing or a media segment to a producer, this blog served as my portfolio.

But somewhere along the line, I lost my love of writing “just to write.” I am not sure exactly when it happened, but I imagine it was somewhere between managing Twitter, Instagram, my newsletter, Facebook, August Light Studio, advocacy and life. The blog became another item on my never-ending to-do list. However, it also felt like the easiest thing to cut. So I did.

But I love writing here. As I’ve been re-evaluating how I spend my time, I’m realizing I do have time to write at least once or twice a month….maybe more. It doesn’t have to be perfect or stylish or sponsored. It can just be a grocery list or a funny story about the cat (did I mention we have two cats now? #catladystatus). I have wondered if it’s time to retire the blog altogether, but I really do feel I still have a voice in this space, and I want to use it.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Thanks for clicking off social media and staying a while. I appreciate you. As Kathleen Kelly would say (in the greatest movie ever), “Goodnight dear void.” I’m glad you’re here.

Social Media Break : Update

Reflections on My Social Media Break

Back in May, after a couple of months of overwhelm and anxiety surrounding my social media use, I took a step back and decided to take a break from all social media. What was supposed to be a few days or a week, quickly added up to almost two months away from Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back! But the nature of my work and my advocacy means that I have to have some social media presence, and I know that FOR ME, completely abstaining wasn’t the goal. My social media break was about evaluating how it was affecting me so I can use these tools in a way to enhance my life, not to quit them all together.

Social Media Break : Update

I learned so much during my break, and I wanted to share some of this new knowledge with all of you. If you’re worried about your social media consumption or behaviors, I think these tips might help you figure out a solution!

  1. Take a week to look at you social media behaviors and track them somewhere. I have a bullet journal where I keep everything, but you could use the notes app on your phone if that works better for you! I also installed the Moment App, which tracks how much time you spend on your phone during the day, and can break down what apps you’re spending the most time on. This was a HUGE eye opener for me, as a person who is perpetually “busy” and often feels overwhelmed with all I have to do. Once I literally saw how much time I had been wasting scrolling social media, I knew a break was in order!
  2. Do your research! Two books that really helped me were How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price and Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time by Victoria Dunckley. The latter was actually a book I picked up as a parent of screen-obsessed kids (more on that soon), but I found a lot of into that was pertinent to my own screen-time habits. The first was an awesome, step-by-step plan of how to cut down on your screen-time as an adult, with lots of tips and hacks (like apps that will block other apps so you can’t use them at certain times of the day!). I highly recommend them both. This podcast (iTunes, Stitcher) actually came out while I was on my social media break, but I thought it was so great I wanted to share it too. It’s a really emotional conversation with Brooke White, the singer and creator, who makes her livelihood on social media…but had decided she needed a break.
  3. Delete all social media apps from your phone. You guys, I tried to keep the apps on my phone so I could still check my work social media and everything for August Light Studio, but it was impossible for me. I kept wanting to “just check in” and see what people were up to. In the end, deleting the apps and then checking work social on my desktop was the only solution and it worked for me.
  4. Make sure you let friends, family and followers that you’ll be on a hiatus. I do a lot of my advocacy work through social media, and a ton of my kids’ school activities are coordinated through it as well. If I just cut off everything without notice, I knew I’d miss out on party invites for the kids and DM’s that needed to be attended to. So I put together a “Social Media Break” post for each social network and posted with my plans, along with ways for people to get a hold of me if needed. I also reached out to friends and family to let them know they should text or call, rather than message or tweet.
  5. Make a list of a few things you’d like to accomplish during your break. I had been struggling to find the time to complete my family photo book from 2017 or submit for a project I’d really been wanting…so those went on my list and I was able to complete both! I also had a few other goals (read some real books, work on content for the blog, get some new clients, etc.) that went on there as well. It made me feel great to know I was using my “free time” wisely and to make my life more full.

After two months away, I felt refreshed and excited about social media again. However, I didn’t feel that way until that point. Earlier on in my break, I wasn’t sure if I’d EVER go back. But I reached a point where I knew I could moderate my social media in a way that was healthy for me and my family. If I reach a point of overwhelm again, I will probably take a mini break before it gets too bad in order to reset. I’ve also evaluated how much I’m posting and when. I no longer post to social media when my kids are around (I save the photos and videos to my phone and then upload them later), and I’m posting only a couple of times a week, instead of daily. I’ve also decided to focus most of my energy on one social media outlet (Instagram!) that I enjoy, instead of spreading my time to all of the platforms. I still have Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but they are fairly specialized. For example, I mostly use Twitter for my advocacy and political work, while LinkedIn is all career, such a posts from August Light Studio or client work. I also still don’t have most of the platforms on my phone, and instead post when I’m sitting down at my computer (other than Instagram, which is difficult to post to from a desktop). This helps me create a separation and makes me much more intentional with my posting and scrolling. So far, it’s working for me, but I’m definitely going to continue to evaluate and make sure I feel good…social media shouldn’t make you feel like crap!

Have you ever thought about taking a break from social media? If you have done it, I’d love to hear how you felt about the process? And if you haven’t, I’d love to know why not? What’s holding you back from taking a break? Or do you not feel you need one?

My Social Media Break

For as long as I’ve been writing about my life on the internet (so…14 years, holy crap) I’ve taken intermittent “digital sabbaticals.” I’ve written about them here in the past, with the main objective being taking a break from blogging and focusing more on my day-to-day life. That time has come again, my friends, but it’s different this time around. In fact, I have no idea how many of you will actually even see this post, since I won’t be promoting it on Instagram or Twitter or my personal Facebook. That’s right…I’m taking an extended social media break.

Why social media instead of a “digital sabbatical?” Well, it’s complicated. Except it’s not. The world has changed and while in the past I spent much of my computer and online time perusing and commenting on blogs, these days I find myself scroll, scroll, scrolling on the various social media apps. Most of this social media interaction happens on my phone, meaning it’s within my reach at almost all times of the day and night. This is a disaster for someone who likes to escape from reality…ME!

In the last few years, I’ve found my social media habit increasing as my other poor coping habits were cut out of my life. Don’t get me wrong, quitting alcohol, working toward eating healthy, and exercising are all awesome life changes that I’m really proud of. However, when I need to rest my brain or check out for a bit, my options have become a bit limited. Enter social media.

I’ve felt the need for a break for a while, but in the last few months, it’s really gotten loud out there and my brain was on overload. However, I always found reasons to stay online. I’m a small business owner, and my income depends on me getting the word out about what I’m creating. I’m involved in advocacy, and most of our events and actions have to be shared online. How could I continue to do these things that mean so much to me if I wasn’t posting on social media? I assumed it would be impossible.

In May, there was an incident where I found my social media interaction leading to physical and mental strain. I wasn’t sleeping, my anxiety was through the roof, and while on the surface I handled the situation fairly well, underneath I was exhausted. I knew this was the final sign that I needed a break.

I started with wide perimeters, but quickly realized if I had any access to my social media feeds on my phone, I’d end up scrolling without even knowing how I got there. In the end, I deleted all the social media apps from my phone and posted a social media break message on Twitter, Instagram, and my personal Facebook page. I then deactivated my Facebook account. I am still managing my Twitter and Instagram for August Light Studio and Education First Shawnee Mission, and have kept all of my Facebook business pages up and running, including the page for this blog. Facebook pages don’t require you to scroll through a newsfeed, so I figured I was safe keeping those active.

It’s been about a month, and I’ve found my anxiety has dissipated immensely. I take photos of my kids and upload them to a shared family drive so my close family members can still see them at baseball or camp, without sharing them with everyone on the internet. I have gotten between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. I’ve still been able to do my advocacy work, attending meetings, forums and even hosting a tabling even at a farmer’s market. I have read five books and listened to a ton of amazing podcasts. I talk to my friends daily using the phone (what a notion!) and my Voxer app. I finished my family photo book from last year that’s been sitting on my desktop for six months. I applied for a speaking engagement that’s been on my wish list for ages. I watched the first season of Schitt’s Creek.

But most of all, my focus has shifted in such a positive way, I feel it affecting everything I do. Originally my plan was to be off social media for a month, but a month has passed and I still have no desire to go back. So for now, I’m staying dark on social media, in order to stand in the light in real life. It’s a good trade.

Introducing: August Light Studio

Can you believe it is already close to the end of August? I can’t either…summer flew by this year, and for good reason. I had planned to slow down the business a little bit, restructure, focus on my advocacy work, and spend as much time at the pool with my kids as possible! By those standards, I’d call this summer a success!

One of my largest projects this summer has been creating a new business, and I’m so excited to be finally launching it TODAY! The name of this new project is August Light Studio, and if you’ve been following me on social media this summer, you’ve probably seen the name bouncing around! I wrote a post over on the August Light Studio website explaining more about the in’s and out’s of August Light, but I wanted to post something here as well, because I’ve had a ton of questions from friends and family wanting to know, “Wait, does this mean it’s the end of Crazy Bananas?!”

The short answer is NO! Crazy Bananas will still be here, just like it has been since 2004 (OMG, I’m seriously a blogging dinosaur, you guys). But things will change a little bit.

One of the main reasons I wanted to start a new brand is because my family life has been slowly changing. I suppose that’s actually one of the mainstays of this blog…it’s constantly evolving based on my life situation. When I first converted this space from a blog into a business almost three years ago, I had just quit my full-time job and one of my kids was still only in preschool part time. I wanted to find a way to convert this space into a place where I could still write about our life, but also share my photography and freelance writing projects, in the hopes of building a sustainable business. I focused on photography, because that was a place where I felt I could grow myself and create a business that would work for my family. I could be home (mostly) during the days with my son, and then work at night and during the weekends. It was a great fit! And by keeping it all in one space, here on Crazy Bananas, I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. I already owned the domain, all the social media handles and had lots of content from all of my blogging years. It worked wonderfully!

But in the past year I’ve felt a big shift in my life and my family’s schedule. Both of my kids are in school full time, but are very active in evening activities. I found myself hiring babysitters to take the kids to and from skating practice and soccer games. I was missing out on important moments, like helping with homework and evening time together as a family. I realized that while I love having a flexible schedule, I needed to focus more of my work hours during the day, between 8:30 and 3:30, when my kids are in school.

With my background in public relations, advertising and marketing, I realized that I had something unique to offer to small businesses and commercial brands. I have extensive knowledge of social media marketing, online branding, and more…and I wanted to combine those skills with my photography business to help brands get more clients and do better work. In the last year I’d started taking on a few business-to-business commercial photography projects, such as headshots for staff or project photography for architects and engineers. It felt like the perfect fit for me, but not necessarily a perfect fit for Crazy Bananas.

The idea for a new studio was formed, one that focuses on branding and business photography, as opposed to personal and family portraiture. I’ve worked for months on putting together a business I’m proud of, and I’m so, so excited to be launching today! Along with our online home at augustlightstudio.com, I have moved into a new physical studio space at the Bauer Building in the Crossroads District in downtown Kansas City. This is literally a dream come true, and I’m so fortunate to have this opportunity!

I have to give a huge shout out to the amazing Jenna Murillo from J. Lynn Designery, who created my logo, branding look and website. She is simply incredible, and her process was simple, streamlined and fun. I always loved getting her emails because I knew there would be something beautiful inside! If you’re looking for a web designer or someone to refresh your brand look, I highly recommend her! Please head over to the August Light Studio website to see more, and make sure to follow August Light Studio on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up for the August Light Studio newsletter by clicking here.

Now, back to what this means for Crazy Bananas Creative Studio…don’t worry, it will still be here! I created this blog over 13 years ago, and I have no intention of quitting now. The blog will still exist as it always has, a space for me to share my thoughts, loves, happy moments, advocacy and life in general. The photography section of the site will also be around for the time being, as I plan to continue shooting personal and family portraits. As August Light Studio is only focused on business-to-business and commercial photography, I’d like to keep my portraiture side of the business right here for now. So if you’re looking for family photos, newborn sessions and senior photos, Crazy Bananas is still the place to be. This may change in the future, but I’ll be sure to let you know if and when any changes occur!

Finally, I have to thank my family for their endless support and love as I navigate this new adventure. I don’t really have a rational, linear brain, so the idea for this new studio came in bits and pieces and was often difficult to articulate, but I’m so excited they stuck with me and trusted me to make something great! Onward and upward!

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