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A Little More Me: The History Behind Chaos & Kiddos

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A Little More Me | The History Behind Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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On the off chance this blog is read by more than just my own Mom and myself, I thought it might be helpful to share a little more me. You know, the background and history that’s brought me to where I am today as a mother, business owner and general organizational nut. I already introduced the fam in my first post, but here’s the real deal.

I’ve been step-mommy full-time to my daughter, E, since she was 3 years old. What that has meant over the course of the past 10 years (10 years!!!!!!!!!), I’m not even sure where to start. There is a mountain of hurts, garbage and other obstacles our family has overcome and continues to overcome in our commitment to providing the best environment for E. I won’t begin to verbalize the hate, the anger, the total shock of what has transpired or the overwhelming challenge it is to sustain a marriage when you are waging war for the safety of your child on a daily basis. Needless to say, it was when things really got tough here that my OCD was amplified to a point where I needed to start paying attention and reigning myself in before I drove myself and everyone around me insane. Even now, 10 years into this, we still struggle with maintaining peace, but the joy that comes from knowing the hard work has saved E and continues to take steps closer and closer to the life she deserves. Well, it makes it all worthwhile. To be honest, I won’t talk too much about the blended family side of my life beyond this post, simply because those battles have been fought, the wounds are healing and there’s no benefit to dredging up all the mud. If I’ve learned one thing about being a step-mommy, it’s that being in the here and now is the only way to make progress. E is a fantastic woman (pre-teen!) and I am blessed to call her daughter.

Somewhere in there I was in a job that was lackluster on the creative side, and coming from a family entirely comprised of artists, musicians, dancers and all other sorts of expressionists, this was not going to last long. I need art to survive. So I picked up a camera and started shooting weddings. That short sentence is a big wallop-er of how not to start a small business by the way. It is only by the grace of God that my artistic talent covered my lack of technique. And with my drive and OCD, well, before you know it, the business was thriving. There’s a lot more to it than that, and I’ll get into that later, but the short version is that I’m pretty darn lucky to do what I love. And keeping my full time job has kept my photography business in check. I have the great luxury to shoot what I want, when I want. It doesn’t always feel like a luxury (that’s where that killer drive OCD comes in again), but my business model is to keep it simple and small and I’m stickin’ to it. Besides, there’s much bigger parts of my life that have been screaming for attention.

Just over 4 years ago now, maybe a little bit longer, I suffered a miscarriage. Specifically, I had a molar pregnancy. Except for one very weird and freakishly inexplicable detail. Unlike most molar pregnancies, I had a healthy baby up until 11 weeks. I’d heard the heartbeat, watched its little gummy bear form wriggle and everything. And then it wasn’t. And we were not only handed the news that we would mourn the loss of our child, but that I also needed to be monitored for cancer and they weren’t sure I would ever conceive again because they didn’t really understand what had happened.

So I spent the next year at the oncologist, back and forth, for blood test after blood test. Weekly, then monthly, then quarterly. Needless to say, I could probably take my own blood now. Finally, we got the ok to start trying again, but with the warning that it might not happen and I’d have to continue the blood tests. Oh and one last little tidbit? If I tested positive on a pregnancy test, I needed to come in immediately, because I was either pregnant (in which case they’d have to monitor me constantly). Or. I had cancer.

A year later, just when we were about to give up hope (well, hope of a baby, we were thrilled that cancer hadn’t developed), I tested positive. And low and behold, not only was I pregnant, but I was pregnant with twins! My doctor actually said to me “Do you do anything normal?” And that question pretty much marks the rest of my life, because the answer is a pretty resounding “Nope.”

Fast forward through countless ultrasounds, doctors visits (every doctor this side of the sun has seen my bits), bed rest, a hospital stay, a c-section and one two-week NICU stay later, we brought home J&B. And then the real chaos started.

Being a mother of multiples AND a step-parent, well, it’s like having all of the big tests thrown at you at the same time. Exhaustion, frustration, an overwhelming sense of inadequacy, it’s all there. Every day. I thank God for a husband who is involved and is an exceptional father. And thank God for E! She adores her brothers, but let’s be honest. Her whole world was rocked with their arrival and she’s taking it like a champ. And she’s an extra pair of hands. Praise Jesus. Oh and don’t forget, if you’re keeping track, here are the hats I am now wearing – simultaneously most days – wife, step-mommy, mommy of multiples, full time sales, part time photographer, studio owner and a whole mess of other creative endeavors, because heck, I’ve got time, don’t I? I am. Certifiably. INSANE.

So, that’s me in a nutshell. Or a tank, because clearly all this chaos doesn’t fit in a tiny nutshell. At the end of the day, I’m striving for this.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future.” 
Proverbs 31:25 
 
or at the very least, this:

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Brittany

    July 23, 2014 at 12:13 am

    Katy,

    I’m so glad to have read this. I knew we were meant to be besties because guess what– I had a molar pregnancy too! Except I didn’t know about mine because the ultrasound didn’t catch it– I just thought it was a regular miscarriage so I waited 7 weeks for it to pass naturally before we realized what it really was. I could never have prepared for how exhausting and heartbreaking it was.

    Clark is my first husband so I don’t share the stepparenting experience, although I am a stepdaughter myself so I am somewhat familiar with the kinds of issues you might be having. You are fantastic and I know that all those kiddos are lucky to have you. =)

    • Katy Blevins

      July 23, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      Brittany! I’ve never met another person who ever had one. I’m so sorry to hear of what was surely a very painful process, both physically and emotionally. But also find peace in sharing our pain together. It amazes me how much we have in common and you are right, we were surely brought together for a reason. XOXO

  2. Tina

    November 10, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Sorry for you loss! I think the further along you are the worse it is 🙁 I suffered a miscarriage in 2012 and it was heartbreaking… our baby stopped growing at 5 weeks. I hope you are at a happy place now with E and your boys 🙂

    • Katy Blevins

      November 12, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      You are so right, Tina. Thanks so much for the love and support. I too am sorry for your loss. XOXO.

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Blogging Resources

Social Media Scheduling 101: The Basics

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Social Media Scheduling | The Very Basics
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Why is social media scheduling important? 

Today’s culture, both personally and professionally, is driven by real time transparency. There are any of a million ways that we can interact with the world and share our life journeys, which has been the doorway to maintaining friendships, keeping family from afar close and celebrating life with like-minded individuals. But on the other hand, every time that phone blips that a new message has popped up, we’re driven by madness to look. It’s exhausting!!!! And ultimately incredibly time consuming. As a small business owner, the drive to build a following can be intoxicating and the pressure to be available to your clients 24/7 is crippling. How do you actually “do” your business if you’re always distracted by social media? Social media scheduling is the very best way to continue to curate and share content with your audience, while allowing yourself to focus on higher priorities in your personal and professional life.

If I schedule social media am I lying to my followers by “pretending” to be online when I’m not?

Any way that you can automate your workflow to save time and develop a routine, you are being true to yourself, your clients and most importantly, your family. The key is to appear to be accessible during high traffic times, but not actually be sitting there glued to your phone or computer hanging on every word uttered to the social media gods. Social media scheduling allows us to cater to multiple audiences at their individual peek times, gives us the opportunity to stay active and engaged while on the go and makes sure we have time to focus on what really counts.

Social Media Scheduling | The Very Basics

Where do I start?

I have two go-to programs that can work for even the most basic new learners (and have lots of advanced features for those in the know). And bonus…they’re FREE! What we’re moving towards is organized strategy. Social media scheduling allows you to develop a marketing strategy for your business and then execute it. You simple couldn’t do that properly on the fly and would get lost in the weeds. These next two tools can help put you on the path to a social media presence that translates to growth and long-term sustainability.

If you’re just digging into the social media behemoth, let’s put a simple tool to work for you while you get your bearings. Similar to how Instagram can cross post to Twitter and Facebook, Friends + Me can take your Google Plus posts and push them to several other platforms. I personally post to Google + and it carries over to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. One action = 4 social media networks.

I’ll admit, this tool can be visually tricky and take a little getting used to if you’re heavy handed with links and tags. Once you get comfortable with how your posts will appear in the different feeds, you’ll tailor your original content to work across the board. It’s a fantastic way to save time by not having to manually cross-pollinate your content to each and every platform individually. It’s a great way for new learners to “phone it in” while you up your social media knowledge and a stellar way for a seasoned social media vet to knock out a task list for simple content shares.

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Hootsuite is the other tool I rely heavily on. In short, it’s a one-stop shop for me to manage all of my profiles on the various platforms that I use. In its most basic form, I schedule all Twitter activity (content sharing) in here or via their Hootlet (content curating).  I can tell you it’s really the Hootlet that is life changing. This little plugin is ridiculously awesome. It allows me to wrap up items of interest in a nice little box with a beautiful little bow instantly and schedule directly from my point of interest. I can open it up from any source and schedule a tweet/share from any of my accounts instantaneously without having to copy/paste links or images into Hootsuite itself. That save of a few clicks is amazing!!!

hootlet

Here’s a snap shot of my actual Hootsuite dashboard (Don’t freak out! I have a million accounts!):
hootsuite
I am able to jump in between accounts and platforms with the click of a tab, and I can schedule posts from the top bar to any of my accounts with just a few clicks. Admittedly, I pay for the Pro version because I work the account with my business partner and I am in love with the bulk tweet upload feature (I can schedule 350 tweets at once just by uploading a simple Excel file!). Instead of having 15 different internet tabs open for each of my feeds and profiles, I can have one program open that allows me to move among them without having to constantly sign in and out depending on which profile I want to use. Again, the goal is to save time by reducing clicks and hops all over the internet and to streamline your visibility to the information that matters most to you. Here are the profiles my business partner and I manage either completely or to some degree on Hootsuite:

 

– Twitter (8 different profiles)
– Google Plus (2 business profiles)
– Facebook (4 business pages and 1 personal profile)
– Facebook groups (2 community groups)
– Instagram (3 profiles)
– Stumble Upon (1 profile)
– LinkedIn (1 profile)

 

Can you imagine if I had to sign in and out of each of these accounts at various parts of my day in order to engage on all platforms?

 

So. How does this ultimately save time? Have I just traded time spent manually posting for time spent scheduling automation? The key here is to carve out time and stick to it. Don’t be scheduling all day! It defeats the purpose. Here are some quick rules to keep in mind:

  • Set a specific day each week (or even an hour each morning/night if that’s better for you) that is devoted to scheduling the next weeks’/days’ tweets/posts/etc. Make that a calendar time in your routine. Stick to it! I do all of my scheduling first thing in the morning. That way my social media profiles are working in the background while I am completing my normal business day and any activity can just be responsive.
  • Commit to a time each evening that the phone/computer gets put away. For example, clients at The Studio now know that our business booking hours are Monday – Friday from 8AM – 5PM. If they email us during that time, they expect a response. But if they email outside of that time, they know they’ll hear from us during the next business day. We’ve educated them and we’re training ourselves. Now, when that email dings with a new inquiry, I don’t look at it if it’s after hours. They know, and I know it will be there tomorrow.
  • Give yourself a break! Cut yourself some slack! It’s ok to take a break from time to time on social media. It’s ok to not post every meal, every night out, every stylish outfit. Let go of the pressure to perform. Focus on enjoying the interactions with people and sharing your heart. You’ll find it not only comes more naturally, but more purposefully. Be IN your life. 

Pin this to your Small Business Tips & Tricks Board or your Blogging Resources Board! Don’t have one? Follow me!

Did you like this post? Check out How to Create Hyper-Linked Email Signatures in Gmail!

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Blogging Resources

IBA Blog Conference – October 12-17, 2015

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IBA Blog Conference
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Mark your calendars!!! I have some very exciting news to share!!! The International Bloggers Association is hosting their very first IBA blog conference! The IBA Network-a-thon will be hosted online October 12th – 15th. Yup, that’s right! A virtual conference! You don’t have to worry about travel expenses, child care, vacation time or anything! Just you, me, the IBA, our computers and some amazingly awesome Google Plus Hangouts.

International Bloggers Association | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide

Want to hear the very best news? The IBA blog conference is SUPER affordable. Only $10 for your ticket! Even more exciting? Use the code KATY to receive a special Chaos & Kiddos discount! You’ll get $5 off. 50% off! At that price, there’s no reason to miss out on what will be a fun week of networking, learning and blog sharing. The IBA blog conference will be a great opportunity to discover your tribe of blog supporters, learn new tips and tricks, and dig into blogging professionally. Don’t miss out! $5 is less than a cup of Starbucks coffee! Woot! Click on the big IBA right below or click on “Buy this on Selz” to grab your 50% off discount ticket now! Don’t forget to use the code KATY! See you in October!

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IBA Blogging Conference | Discount Code

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Blogging Resources

Twitter Tools to Increase Your Sanity

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When it comes to Twitter, automation equals sanity. Simple as that!

We all know that every business must have a solid social media presence. However, scheduling, monitoring and reporting on your feeds eats up crucial time that can be can better used running your business. Have no fear, there are an endless number of Twitter tools available to help you manage your profiles; saving you precious time and money by working behind the scenes while you stay front and center in your marketplace.

TWITTERTOOLS to

Here are the strategic areas you want to concentrate on when engaging the Twittersphere:

Schedule it!

Keep those tweets coming without having to sit at your computer day and night. Tools such as HootSuite and Buffer are extremely popular. With multi-feed capacity, flexible layouts and a host of powerful features, these two behemoths will revolutionize how you approach social media across every platform, not just Twitter.

Keep it organized!

If you have multiple accounts, Twitter tools can help organize and implement your strategy.TweetDeck handles this perfectly. Get more involved with Sprout Social that includes CRM features, or SocialOomph to automate and keep corporate accounts clean and tidy. Nobody wants to click back and forth between a million tabs, or spend way too much time signing in and out of several profiles. Organize yourself with a “one-stop shop” approach!

Show off with pictures!

Grab them with graphics to go with your hot content. No time to source images or develop images of your own offline? Check out MavSocial to link to stock images and manage your digital assets as you compose your tweets.

What did they say?

In order to build engagement, you have to know what others are saying about you. Mentioncan monitor your Twitter mentions and even links through to other tools like Buffer. Twitter tools that are integration-friendly are always a win-win. Trends24 tracks the ever important hashtag and hot topics. Never miss an opportunity to keep an open dialogue with your customer base moving forward.

Flashback!

Remember that campaign from 2013? You need to be able to go back and search on what worked and what didn’t. Topsy lets you search all the way back to 2006 while TweetChat helps you keep up with your favorite hashtags and chat with others. Avoid making the same mistakes twice and repurpose successful campaigns for future growth.

Ready, Set, Grow!

Each time someone shares your content, your reach grows. Make it as easy for them as possible with links using Click to Tweet. Everybody loves the easy button!

Report it!

Being able to determine what works and what isn’t provides critical insight that translates to real growth and sustainability. SumAll and Twitonomy help break it down into specific actionable data that you can use to improve your reach in future campaigns.

There are plenty of options out there to help you manage Twitter and other social media platforms. It’s just a matter of finding the right one that works for you and letting them work for you. Which Twitter tools have been pivotal to maintaining your sanity and growing your business?

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