Pandemic Self-Care

Everything is so hard right now. I say this as a person with extreme privilege, and I admit I feel so much guilt for even sharing that things are hard when I have been more than lucky during these crazy times. That guilt has kept me quiet, especially online. I decided to delete a few of the social apps from my phone and only check for work (which is my job, so I can’t completely disengage), but it wasn’t a planned hiatus. I just really haven’t known what to say.

I still have a job. So does my husband. I am still working from home. We have good Wifi access. My kids are schooling from home indefinitely. It isn’t easy (especially as I have become the de facto home teacher, which is certainly NOT in my wheelhouse), but many days it’s not totally awful either. I only know a few people who have gotten sick, and all are doing well now. All of the grandparents are okay.

And yet, it’s still hard. The days feel endless and also there is no time to get anything done. I have a friend who described having kids at home remote learning all week like having toddlers again. Every time I get started on one task or another, I’m drug away with a “Mooooommmmmm!” I have been able to keep up my productivity at work by logging in after hours or on the weekends to catch up. It’s the biggest election season of my lifetime, and I am the chair of a political action committee. I feel like I’m constantly working, advocating, teaching or parenting…and it’s all in the same space. And with a teenager and tween in our home, there are lots of emotions flying around. Our kids have handled this better than I could have imagined, but it still really sucks. I’d guess we are more cautious than about 80% of the people they know when it comes to social distancing, which means I’m the mom who says no a lot. In the last few weeks we’ve opened up our bubble, but we still aren’t allowing the kinds of activities that many of their friends are participating in, and that is hard. They miss their friends, their schools, their feeling of normalcy.

Me too.

And knowing this doesn’t have an end in sight just makes it all so much more difficult. I am, as always, very active during this political season, but again, I’m keeping it offline, at least on my personal accounts. I’m not sure why….maybe because I am sick of preaching to my own liberal bubble or I don’t want to argue with strangers on the internet anymore, but I haven’t felt the need to post and share and advise and comment. I have campaigned for amazing candidates, dropped literature on doorsteps, made phone calls, donated funds, and done what I can. I have reached out to everyone in my life to make sure they have a voting plan. I can barely watch the news, but I do listen to at least 10 minutes of NPR a day so I feel informed. I am trying. This marathon that began in 2016 is nearing it’s (hopeful) end, and I am more than winded. If you have a friend who is politically active, reach out to them. We are very tired.

Last year around this time I was in a major car accident. I sustained some injuries to my neck and back, which luckily cleared up by early this year. But in the last two weeks, the pain has returned, seemingly out of nowhere. Last week I was laying in bed reading when my sweet son came into the room and said he had a surprise for me. I didn’t want to get up, but I drug my tired body from my bed and down the stairs. He had set up an elaborate “spa” in our living room. He stacked pillows on the floor, had moved all my house plants to fill the room, and had rain sounds playing from the TV. He told me to lay down and then proceeded to give me what may be the best back massage I’ve ever had!

Last night he pulled me aside again, and this time he had set up his spa in my bedroom. He had built a cave out of pillows, and he had me lay down and stick my head inside. Inside this pillow fort, he had set up his iPad, and had it playing episodes of one of my favorite shows, “The Good Place.” He then rubbed my back while simultaneously hand-feeding me candy corn from a bowl he put next to the bed. This kid….

Everything is hard. But everything is okay too. I am just trying to keep swimming. And when all else fails, candy corn.

*Photos in this post by Sahsha Kochanowicz

Social Justice March for Educators

I am incredibly grateful the organizers of this event asked me to speak. I have been struggling with how to use my voice in this time in our country. As someone who has been involved in social justice for many years and has never been one to stay silent, the last few weeks have been a reminder to me of the importance of stepping back and listening. I am sometimes asked why I haven’t run for political office yet, and often my response has been “I don’t think our community needs another privileged White lady telling them what they need, I’d much rather support a female candidate of color.” I felt the last thing that these amazing, impactful protests needed was another cis-gender, straight, suburban, White women saying anything. But when the leaders of the Social Justice March for Educators reached out, they told me how important it was to them for us to speak out and speak the truth. They told me how impactful it would be to have someone who isn’t a minority speak up for Black students, teachers and families in our District. And while I do not want to center myself (I have much work to do), I hope seeing this will inspire some of my White friends to do the same. Maybe you don’t need to be speaking out in front of a crowd at the microphone, but speaking out in your own circles…to friends, to your kids, to family, at work. We won’t be perfect. You might say the wrong thing. You may get called out by a Black friend or colleague because you screwed up. I screw up all the time. That’s when you say, “thank you for teaching me, I will continue learning and will do better next time.” Then you take the time and initiative to learn, so you can be better and keep speaking out.

But not saying anything because you’re scared…it’s not good enough. We have work to do. As an educator said yesterday, now is the time to use your outdoor voices.


Special thanks to the organizers of this event, particularly Dr. Janet Carter who invited us to speak. It was an honor and I am so, so grateful.

The Return of the Working Mom

First of all, this blog title is an obvious misnomer. For all of my motherhood career, I have been a “working mom.” For the first seven years of parenting I worked full-time out of the home. But for the last five years, I have vacillated between working part-time for another company, freelancing, and building my own business. During those years, I also spent much of my time at home taking care of my kids. I was the primary parent, volunteering at school and with the PTA, serving as a kid-taxi to practices and events, and leading the charge for every doctor’s appointment, parent-teacher conference or kid-centered meeting. I loved it.

A few months ago, I started thinking about when I wanted to go back to work full-time. I always knew that I would go back eventually, I was just never sure what exactly that would look like for our family. I could take a full-time position with another company. I could invest in my own business and take it full-time. I could continue freelancing. I could cobble together a combo of several different options. While I loved the flexibility I had with my own business, I found myself exhausted by the grind of it all. I loved photography, working with clients and creating fun projects, but I wasn’t a huge fan of accounting, taxes, and the day-to-day of running a business. The part-time aspect was a struggle as well. I had enough work to take my business full-time, but not enough childcare to give myself the hours to get it all done. I was constantly working in bursts, having to take frequent breaks for my parenting duties, and I found that really difficult.

Also, as I learned soon after I left my last full-time job, a lot of my self-worth and confidence were tied to being a “working mom.” I found it challenging to be home more, especially as my kids got older and the duties shifted to a more “housewife” type role instead of a caretaking role. For me, it wasn’t fulfilling, and I found myself bored, tired and unmotivated. I have a strong pull to be financially independent, and knowing if something happened to my husband’s income, I couldn’t support the family, really stressed me out.

So a few months ago I started tentatively putting my name out into the universe when I’d see jobs that might be a good fit. Very soon after, the perfect job sort of just….appeared. I know that sounds incredibly annoying, especially if you’ve been in search of the perfect job for a long time. But keep in mind, I’ve been on a journey to find a job that fits with my life for years. It’s part of why I left my last full-time position and why I’ve spent the last few years happy, but still feeling like something was missing. In the words of a wise friend, “Isn’t it wonderful that you found a job that’s the best fit for your life RIGHT NOW?”

There have been some surprises since I began my new career adventure (I’m coordinating social media and website content for the cancer center that saved my dad’s life when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer), and oddly, most of them have been positive. I was prepared to be overwhelmed, anxious, and constantly searching for the elusive “working mom balance” that highlighted the years in my former career. However, so far, I’ve been incredibly fulfilled and I’m so happy going into work every day. I thought I would really miss not being able to be as flexible with the kids and not getting to hang at the pool during the summer. Instead, it’s been such a gift to be supported by other people in my life who have stepped up to help out. The kids are really happy too, and I think they are enjoying their newfound independence and time with their super-fun babysitter and family. I thought the commute would be a bummer, but I actually like having that buffer time between work and home, something that was sorely missed when I was working for myself. I would work right up to the minute the kids got into the car at school pickup, and I struggled a lot to turn off my work stress in front of them. Now, by the time I get home, I’ve usually had enough time to decompress and jump into parenting with a good attitude. I also have been really focusing on having as much quality time with my kids as possible, where as before I certainly felt like I was never fully in one place or another.

Granted, I am only six weeks into this new adventure, and I may TOTALLY eat my words once school starts for the kids and my busy season begins at work in the fall, but for now, I’m enjoying the change. It’s so important that we all give ourselves permission to change as our lives change. While a few years ago I never could have imagined wanting to work for anyone other than myself, I am finding it was the best choice for me right now. I’m sure things will continue to evolve, but for today, I’m just going to enjoy the ride.

Lucy in the Snow 2017

Snow Days and Chasing Slow

Lucy in the Snow 2017

The last few weeks have been short ones around here. We got back to a somewhat normal schedule after the holidays, just to be slammed with more days off of school for the kids than I can count.

Just kidding, I’ve counted. Twice.

Basically with the combination of national holidays and inservice/teacher learning days, we have four-day school weeks from now until mid-February. Which, let’s face it, isn’t ideal. Not only does this make my work schedule difficult, it is hard on the kids as well! It’s almost impossible for any of us to get into a groove when our schedule is all over the place.

When I’m faced with these types of working mom problems, I tend to get extremely over-stressed and anxious. I find myself making lists in my head of everything I won’t be able to do because I won’t have the time. I torture myself by looking at the social media feeds of my competitors and colleagues, seeing all their perfectly lit images and the work they have been doing, and instead of cheering them on, I feel resentful. I worry that I’m falling behind, yet again, and that I’ll never get ahead of the game. I decide that I’m destined to fail, resign myself to my bed with some fuzzy socks, ratty PJs and Netflix. Why bother even trying, right?

WRONG. Because I don’t have to live fast in order to find success, and the whole idea of hustle equating happiness just doesn’t resonate for me anymore. When my kids have a day off school, I enjoy being with them. I like stepping away from the computer and being present as we throw snowballs at each others heads or read books. I don’t feel lazy when I’m in my PJs with them until 11 a.m. I feel happy. Joyful, even!

Tate in the Snow 2017

So why I am I torturing myself? When they were babies and I worked out of the home full time, I felt guilty for missing all these moments. When I started my own business and they were in preschool, I felt guilty because I couldn’t work as much as I wanted to. Now I’m feeling guilty when they have days off elementary school. I keep waiting for the next phase of life, when things slow down, but I’m starting to think that’s NEVER gonna happen. There will always be something pulling me in one direction while another is pushing me the opposite way.

This year I am planning to focus more on being present, but also on listening to my inner self when it comes to my schedule and work. I am finding doubling down on hustle when it comes to work isn’t always resulting in success. Instead, when I focus on doing what feels right in all facets of my life (working, creating, mothering, reading, meditating, eating chocolate, whatever) the success seems to follow. Recently I was fortunate enough to be asked to read the new, beautiful book Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner, which really speaks to this topic. Erin chronicles her journey from a fast life, to a slow life and back again…and her conclusions aren’t what I expected. Instead of being a book about slowing down your life, this book was more about the question of why do we believe we have to have any particular sort of life for it to be a happy one? I related so much to her journey, and it made me think twice about my goals. Do I want a fast life? Do I want to be a minimalist? Do I want to disconnect from the internet and live in a yurt? Do I want to move to New York City and take my kids to school on the subway? Do I want neither? Both?

Chasing Slow

Do I have to decide?

Maybe we can just be balancing along the middle…sometimes wanting to throw out everything we own because the clutter is strangling us and other times buying a shirt on sale just because it looked cute online. Who knows? But for now, I can only be where I am. And I am a mom of two kids who are growing into grown-ups faster than I can fathom, so if they have a day off school, I’m probably needed on the front lines of the snowball fight. Afterward, when they are sipping on hot cocoa and fighting over marshmallows, I’ll likely sneak away for a little editing session or to answer a few emails. I’m not perfect, but luckily, no one is.

Lucy in the Snow 2017

If you’re looking for more info on this topic, the podcast “The Lively Show” is an amazing listen. I recommend starting with this episode!

Instagram, Algorithms and Social Media Stress

Since it’s a Monday morning, I figured we should start out the week with a light topic….like how Instagram is ruining EVERYTHING!!!

Instagram Changes

Okay, seriously, I’m kidding. Everyone take a deep breath, we can get through this together.

Remember when social media was simple? Ah, the good ole’ days, when you could follow someone on social media because you wanted to see what they were up to. And then, like magic, you could see what they were up to! But then came the Facebook algorithm and the whole internet lost their collective minds. No longer could we see the posts of our friends or companies we followed, now Facebook was deciding what we get to see! For small businesses like mine, it was the beginning of the end of my Facebook strategy.

I’ve talked before about how Instagram is my favorite social media platform (while Snapchat is closing in….) and it still is. But Instagram is about to change how the app works in a pretty dramatic way. If you’re totally confused and wondering what I’m talking about, this New York Times article lays it all out for you:

The photo-sharing service plans to begin testing an algorithm-based personalized feed for users, similar to one already used by its parent company, Facebook. That means it would shift away from the strictly reverse chronological order that the service has used since it began in 2010. Instead, Instagram will place the photos and videos it thinks you will most want to see from the people you follow toward the top of your feed, regardless of the time those posts were originally shared.

Sound familiar ? Instagram is now owned by Facebook, and while we all use these social media platforms for free, they are still companies that need to make money somehow. I get that, and I totally understand why they are changing. Technology evolves faster than we humans, though, so I also understand all of the freaking out. We liked how things were, and we don’t want them to change. I’ve worked really hard to grow my Instagram following, and have more than doubled in the past six months, so to know that all that hard work is now being compromised isn’t a good feeling. However….

I’m learning more and more that real social media reach isn’t about having a zillion followers, it’s about engagement. Sure, I don’t have the following of some photographers or writers, but I engage with the community I do have. I think 10 engaged and excited followers that are participating in your conversations are worth 1,000 followers who never like or comment. It’s about COMMUNITY, not POPULARITY.

(This is a great post about the algorithm change by Jasmine Star that is chock full of info!)

And so, I’m doing my best not to freak out about all the changes afoot. Yes, it will hurt small businesses. But as a blogger and an entrepreneur, the rules are always changing, and being adaptable is part of the game! If you’re looking for some ways to stay ahead of this thing (or if you’re just a recreational Instagrammer that wants to see your favorite posts) there are a few things you can do:

1. You can turn on “Post Notifications” – I’m sure you’ve seen this about 300 times in your feed by now, but by clicking on the three little dots in the upper right hand corner of a user’s photo, you can turn on post notifications and never miss a post by that person or brand. This is similar to what I’ve recommended with Facebook. However, at the moment this means that you will be receiving constant alerts and pop ups on your phone with notifications that people have posted a photo, which is no bueno for me! In the Facebook app, you can have the notifications turned on, but only popping up when you’re in the app. For Instagram, there is no way to do that, so it’s constant DING DING DING from my phone when I turn on post notifications. Soooo….that one doesn’t work for me, and I won’t be asking my followers to do that. But if you don’t mind the notifications, go for it! You definitely won’t miss a post! (My friend Cody wrote a fantastic post on this for her blog, if you want to learn more!)

2. Unfollow Accounts You Don’t Love – Are there certain accounts you never really even glance at, just scrolling by when you see their photos? Unfollow them! The less clutter in your feed, the less likely you’ll see images you don’t really want to.

3. Interact with Accounts You Do Love – The new algorithm is based on interaction, so if there are accounts you love seeing in your feed, let them know! Like, comment, and be a part of the community. The algorithm will see that and promote those posts to the top of your feed. If you’re a small business owner, make sure you’re engaging with your followers. Go to their pages and like/comment as well! The more you interact, the more likely your posts will stay at the top of their feeds as well.

4. Post Good Photos! –
This is a no-brainer, but make sure you’re posting quality images and captions if you want people to see them. The algorithm will be looking at images that are most pleasing to the eye, and those posts that have no captions will probably be bumped to the bottom.

Here’s the deal…Instagram isn’t trying to ruin our lives. Currently, according to their research, we only see about 30% of the photos in our feed. That means that 70% of what’s posted, we aren’t seeing anyway (unless we plan on scrolling through for hours on end). All they are trying to do is ensure that 30% is filled with our favorite posts. So let them know your favorites! And if you’re a blogger or small business owner, show your followers why you should be a favorite!

Instagram Changes

Then take a deep breath, chill and remember…it’s social media. It’s not the end of the world. And maybe get some ice cream. Ice cream always helps!

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