On patience

On Father’s Day, I watched my two year old “help” my dad assemble a shelving unit. Her busy little toddler hands sought out the parts he requested, lost half of them on the journey from her grasp to his, and scattered shreds of packaging and packing tape around the room.

A task that would have taken him 10 minutes ballooned into over an hour of this Sunday afternoon, while he taught her the names for various pieces and tools she found and lost.

His patience with her was as revelatory as it was familiar: I have so many childhood memories of assembling furniture or painting walls or completing other household tasks with my dad when the process was the whole point. I always felt like a valuable contributor, a BIG helper, and never like I was burdening or detouring from the finish line.

That incredible patience, too, feels uniquely foreign: if I had to identify my defining character flaws, impatience just might top the list.

The contrast between his tirelessness with that shelving project and my own tendencies was especially striking this weekend: restlessness and anxiety are the mood du jour as I watched my due date come and go, with nary a hint of labor.

No matter how well I intellectually understand that a due date is just a silly guess, that I am still pregnant, four days later, has me on an emotional high wire, second guessing and over interpreting every spark of sciatica and whimper of a would-be contraction.

40 weeks.

Part of me suspects my body is hanging on to this baby because it can’t bear to bring him into this world. Every time I think I’ve hit maximum heartbreak, the relentless cycle of lies and outrage and partisan howling cracks open brand new fissures in my naive understanding of humanity and the nature of progress.

I’m taking a break from the news, and all non-work-related social media. I’ve even taken the long-overdue steps of unfollowing a few people whose posts reliably send me into a tailspin of woe unto the world.

These are steps I should have taken long ago, but in a moment of clarity—thanks to a cleansing, affirming conversation with a friend—I realized that keeping these people as part of my online diet in the name of openness to other points of view was awarding them undeserved power. No longer will these strangers so casually manhandle the levers of my emotional equilibrium.

I won’t step back forever. Stepping back is a luxury and a privilege, and I like being informed so I, too, can howl into the algorithmic void. But right now, I have to chill the fuck out. There’s no vacancy in my headspace for trolls or tribulations. Instead, I’m nurturing my paltry reserves of patience to let this baby boy come on his own terms, in his own time.

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How I became a stronger runner while pregnant

Well, the bar wasn’t that high, to be honest. I’m a chronic dabbler in short-form running. How many times have I started the Couch to 5K program? Too many to count. How many times have I finished it? A handful. How consistent have I been about running, even short distances? Not at all.

Up until last year, that is, when two beautiful life events colluded to make me a more consistent runner.

  1. A friend and neighbor asked me to run with her every Monday morning before work, and assured me she not much of a runner—aka not too fast.
  2. Fit Approach started partnering with Gixo, which offers live coached fitness classes, including runs, and I felt compelled to give all the class formats a try. Because it’s for work. 

I guess there’s really a third life event that is important to this story, and it’s that I got pregnant, and the first trimester was unpleasant but nowhere near the evil mistress she was with my first.

Anyway, thanks to the happy coincidence of these things, I’ve made a dramatic shift in a few habits: I’m running way more consistently than I ever have before—to the tune of 3-4 times per week—and believe it or not, up until third trimester hit, I was actually getting faster and stronger. As I got more pregnant.

So fucking weird I almost can’t believe I’m writing those words.

Not weird, I guess, to everyone out there who recognizes, that duh, consistency is the name of the game when it comes to fitness or any other skill you’re working to develop.

And, guess what, I don’t hate it. Running, that is. Or, I am distracted enough by either my run buddy or by the Gixo coaches that I can actually not focus on counting down the seconds or the tenths of a mile until I can stop.

It’s also been the perfect solution to my #momlife crisis of finding time for myself and for fitness. Another weird (for me) habit I’ve developed is getting up early most weekday mornings. I do a 6 am run or workout, shower, drink coffee, and even have a few minutes to myself before the rest of the house is awake. Life-changing, that pre-sunrise quiet is.

None of these results are revolutionary, of course— so many people in my community figured this basic shit out years and years before I did, and have been singing its praises for forever. It just took the lifestyle crimp of toddlerhood + chronic excess of competing top priorities (#workingmom) to push me into trying something new.

If you want to join me, the training program I’m following is free, and you can get a 7-day free trial of Gixo to try the classes that are part of the program, or to participate in race day on May 5. Full disclosure: I’m getting free access to Gixo classes because they’re a partner, but the subscription price is one I’d pay in a heartbeat.

Speaking of working motherhood, this interview with Selina Tobaccowala  is the best I’ve read on the topic. There are no generic platitudes about priorities and self-care; just honest, practical examples of what sacrifices and decisions she makes as she wins at both business and parenthood. Reading her example about what she chooses to say yes or no to was a liberating moment for me: there’s no capitulating to the ‘should’ or the mommy guilt; she just makes decisions that work for her and her family. Now that’s #girlboss.

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Sometimes you can have it both ways

Last time I was pregnant, I read all the earth goddess birthing books and was thoroughly convinced that hospitals were anti-woman assembly lines of procedural misery. Ina May Gaskin and Ricki Lake and a host of other birthing gurus delivered up via Amazon algorithms made me feel empowered and inspired to trust my body to give birth. Their message that birthing is natural, that we are born for this, that our bodies know better than anyone, reverberated with every feminist, girl power instinct in my soul. I was sold. I would give birth, at home, powered by yogi breathing and soothed by “nature’s epidural” (a birthing tub). I’d feel connected to the universe and the stars and billions of women who had gritted and squatted and groaned before me.

Like any good birth plan, mine was a complete fantasy.

Birthing brought me to my knees and kept me there long after I’d crawled through the revolving door at the hospital. It took me months to lick my wounds and fully process the experience. I imagine hormones and sleeplessness contributed to my moving past the traumatic parts, to beginning to forget the hardest moments, to even having lost bodily memory of what the worst parts felt like.

What I’m left with is the acceptance that things turned out just fine, and that while most of it I’m happy to let time soften and blur, there are pieces of what happened that I would like to repeat: namely, midwives and the epidural.

The midwives I worked with were nothing short of wonderful. Our appointments were relationship focused, highly personal, validating, and thoughtful. And on time, too. My pre- and post-natal care was beautiful.

The epidural is something I would log in my gratitude journal every single day for the rest of my life, if I were a person who kept a gratitude journal.

This time around,  I think I’m going into it a bit more clearsighted than last time. I (think) I have no illusions of control, though I’m sure this baby and this birth will prove me wrong, again, in ways I can’t yet fathom.

But, one thing I think I’m doing right, is that I’m cherrypicking those two best things about the first time, and I’m having it both ways. After a brief stint of prenatal care with an OB (who was great, but wow, a whole different model of care) I’m back to the home birth midwives I worked with during my first pregnancy. I’m getting that lovely, low-intervention, and respectful care I loved so much, but I’m also having a planned hospital birth. My midwives are so women-friendly—and so understanding that the experience of birth isn’t a one-size-fits-all—that they  100% support my desire for drugs. When the time comes, I’ll go to the hospital, and one of them will come with me as my doula.

I have no doubt this birth will bring me to my knees in brand new ways. But I’m pretty happy with this ‘plan’ and that I (might) get to have it both ways: the earth mother pre- and post-natal care, plus all the miracles of modern medicine.

We’ll see in what ways this turns out to be a fantasy, too.

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Pregnancy insomnia and the power of influence

I bought a jacket online sometime in the wee hours this morning, when pregnancy insomnia had me mindlessly scrolling fashion blogs and then Facebook.

I bought a jacket that I likely won’t wear for nearly a year—something about vegan leather moto jackets and summer in Austin doesn’t quite mesh.

I bought a jacket I didn’t really need because a random woman in a fashion blogger’s Facebook group looked really cute in it, and she happened to mention the brand in her caption.

As I was clicking purchase, the momentary shot of new-clothes-dopamine was tempered by a pang of regret that this blogger, who produces incredibly time-intensive, thoughtful, and high quality content, and who brings together hundreds of women in these community groups, will never ever get any kind of credit for this purchase. To my knowledge, it’s not a jacket she’s ever even discussed on her channels. There’s no affiliate or tracked link to follow. There’s no discount code to apply that identifies her as my source.

Her sponsors and advertisers won’t see my purchase—or undoubtedly, the hundreds or thousands of purchases just like it—as part of her sphere of influence, but it is.

I have so many discussions with clients about ROI. We talk, too, about content quality and follower counts and engagement rates, but at the end of the day, all those conversations are circling the real question at the heart of every sales call and every analytics report: ROI. It’s a frustrating problem, no matter what. We all want to be able to track, end to end, the entire universe of influence, and to be able to identify and measure with scientific precision what actions drove which sales.

Don’t get me wrong: few things make me happier than hearing a client share that our campaign achieved an X:1 ROI. I know that when they report those kinds of results, that that’s just the baseline impact of our work together, because that’s what they were able to track.

Those reports don’t count the prAna sweater I sold to my dermatologist, a full six months after we wrapped up a fall campaign. I watched her purchase my identical sweater on her office computer. I didn’t have a discount code to share with her, and I sure didn’t ask her to follow some (by then surely expired) custom link.

They don’t count the time a personal training client asked Tasha from Hip Healthy Chick about her Momentum Jewelry bracelet. Tasha took hers off, gave it to the client, and the client went on to purchase another. Untrackable.

It doesn’t count the time an woman in our community brought homemade protein powder energy balls to a friend’s house, and in that moment transformed her friend into a brand loyalist. Untrackable.

It doesn’t count all the people who have bought the same Sparkle Skirt Toni wears for many of her races—she recommends it to everyone on her running team and gets questions about it constantly. Untrackable.

It doesn’t count the number of coworkers in Vicki’s engineering office who have downloaded the C25K app on her recommendation. Untrackable.

It doesn’t count all the times the extended networks, the friends of friends, the anonymous online audience, make purchase decisions whose trail leads back, in indirect and surprising ways, to an influencer. Untrackable.

These are the examples we know about, and they barely scratch the surface of the kinds of interactions that we all have around products we use and love. It’s why we always encourage clients to think bigger picture: that demonstrable ROI is really fun to see happening, but it’s the cherry on top of a bigger picture: of showing up in organic conversations, being included in evergreen and authentic content, and gaining access to a network of purchasing decisions that, despite big brother’s ever-increasing encroachments on our lives and habits, are as yet invisible.

It strikes me as not uncanny that yet another form of invisible work is largely carried out by women, and that credit and reward for this kind of work are begrudgingly doled out, regarded suspiciously unless validated with black and white line items on a sales report.

Women drive 70-80% of purchasing decisions. Social media users are predominantly women. #MeToo has begun to prove the efficacy of whisper networks; it bears considering that those networks operate just as powerfully under other, less serious hashtags, too.

So: what are we do do about it? I have a lot more to say about this, but here’s the short version:

Brands: treat influencer marketing as marketing and brand building. It’s incredibly validating and fun when you can measure concrete results, but that focus is shortsighted at best. Building a brand and working with influencers is a long game. This is not to say every Jane Smith with a blog is a good investment of your time and resources, but that people who treat their work as professionals and who are passionate about your brand are doing more than you’ll ever be able to see or quantify.

Influencers: know your worth. There’s a tremendous lack of standards around compensation in our industry, and a huge variance in brands’ ability and willingness to invest in your services. Treat your job like a job; choose clients and opportunities for the right reasons; and include those softer measures—such as anecdotes of how your audience responded to your work—in reports back to clients in addition to more traditional metrics like traffic and engagement rates.

These are my initial thoughts, anyway. I used my early morning hours (up at 4am, WHY WHY WHY) to hash out this first draft of a topic that’s been percolating for me for a while now. And then I did a Gixo workout, and drank coffee, and enjoyed the early morning quiet even as I knew it would come back to haunt me later in the day, in the form of inevitable naps.

Is this the ultimate early Monday morning insomniac selfie or what?!





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Breakfast burrito recipe swap

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m no recipe whiz. I consider myself more of an assembler of food more than a cook. Occasionally I’m a baker, too, but that seems to be a whole different category of making.

Every year, it seems like, my goal is to improve my kitchen skills, introduce a few new recipes into my highly limited repertoire, and also get better at meal planning and prepping. The results have been middling.

So, when we decided to do a community recipe swap presented by Eggland’s Best eggs, I gamely signed up, knowing that participating would be just the accountability I needed to inch myself closer to those goals. I got paired up with Sara from Nymph in the Woods, an amazing blogger, jewelry designer, and human being, who I had the pleasure of meeting at BlogFest last year. <3

Sara sent me exactly what I needed (she’s clearly psychic): a not-too-complicated recipe chock full of protein that also nets you a ton of freezer meals.

Her recipe for breakfast burritos is here. I mostly stuck to it, with a few edits: this being Texas, I made tacos instead of burritos, because I don’t think I’ve even seen burrito-size tortillas here. I also had to halve the recipe, more or less, because I didn’t realize until midway through that there was no way my largest pan could accommodate 24 eggs. I did, however, use 100% of the cheese the original recipe called for. 🙂

It’s an easy recipe that yields a ton of returns: you do a bunch of chopping, cook the egg mixture with all the delicious fillings you desire, including sausage, peppers, onions, cheese, and salsa, and then wrap and freeze burritos / tacos to your heart’s content.

I used this kitchen adventure as an excuse to test out some of my new food photography skills (here’s the free course I took).

My biggest challenge with food photography is lighting. My kitchen lighting is, well, just plain awful. Look at what should be a bright, fresh pan full of bell peppers and onions, made sickly and fuzzy in the fluorescent light:

egglands best

Don’t let the lighting fool you: these nutrient-rich Eggland’s Best yolks are vibrant and beautiful!

I’ll spare you other pictures of the prep work; the food and recipe are beautiful, and my kitchen lights do not do them justice!

Once my burritos were prepped, I staged a few on our patio where I could at least get some natural light and a non-shiny background:

I’m still no professional but at least the lighting is much improved.

Sara recommends letting the whole mixture cool before you wrap and freeze, so during that downtime, I served my family breakfast. They were a hit! Everyone from my parents (especially my dad) to my 2-year-old loved them.

breakfast taco recipe

And since we were eating them fresh, we added some avocado we had on hand. Big bonus: the avocado added some extra color for photos.

Once the mixture cooled, I started wrapping them… and promptly got fired from the job. My dad said, you know, I could do that better. And I was all too happy to let him finish wrapping up and freezing tacos. 🙂

Even after halving the recipe and feeding 5 people breakfast, I still ended up with about 15 tacos in my freezer—a pretty amazing return for just an hour or so of work. I’ll definitely be making these again, and experimenting with fillings; it seems so easy to customize the recipe based on what you have on hand.  I think I’ll definitely make a batch or four of these before the baby comes—what a perfect breakfast to have on hand.

Thanks, Sara, for this delicious kitchen adventure, and Eggland’s Best, for encouraging the community to connect this way! 🙂


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