January 17, 2018

5 Ways To Increase Engagement With Hashtags

Being a business or brand (or blog) online is a constant struggle between trying to get more followers and trying not to embarrass yourself while getting more followers. Should you use hashtags? Should you follow everyone back who follows you? Should you pay for one of those services that guarantees followers?

The one thing I get asked about the most from every client, in every pitch, and from all of my friends is hashtags. I even started holding open Office Hours so you could ask me questions live and get answers in real time. So without further ado....

Here are 5 ways to increase engagement with hashtags!

1) Search for hashtags that describe your product/brand and the people you're trying to reach. Look for hashtags that are relevant, but less widely used, i.e. with 5k-100k uses instead of 1-2 million, that way your post will rise to the top in the section. Hashtags with over a million uses are getting updated every second and your post will get lost in the fray.

2) Use your own name and/or brand as a hashtag. A good hashtag does two things: covers your overall brand, and is specific to your post.

3) Create a community hashtag for your product/brand. Make sure and include the hashtag in your bio:  "Show us how you use our product with #____". Then you can repost pics showing people using your products. A good example of this is, #igotitatgoodwill.

4) Use between 11-30 hashtags on a post to do well in the Instagram algorithm (30 is the max allowed). It's personal preference whether you include them in the post or as a comment.

5) Find brands like yours with a strong hashtag game and copy theirs!

Tips and tricks!

Use predictive text on your phone for the hashtags you use the most so you don't have to copy and paste every time. Open Settings, go to General, Keyboard, then Text Replacement. Click on the + in the upper right corner to add your phrase. The phrase is the list of hashtags you want to fill in. The shortcut is what will automatically expand into the word or phrase as you type, i.e. blog, business, etc.

Look for trending hashtags, but again, beware of hashtags with 1 million + uses. Hilariously, a few months ago, #september was trending, but unbeknownst to everyone using it, they were all shadow banned because the tag got so overused. [insert scream face emoji]

Every 30, 60, or 90 days, do a search of the hashtags you're using and make sure they're still relevant to your posts/brand.

Please for the love of god tell me what a shadow ban is!

Shadow bans happen on hashtags with over a million uses. It's because spammers use the trending hashtags and clutter the feed with content that goes against Instagram's Terms Of Use. So everyone under the hashtag gets a temporary "shadowban" while Instagram investigates and decides which posts get to stay. To avoid this, use a mix of hashtags with different sizes (5k-100k) and beware of hashtags with sexual connotations. As all of my friends in the burlesque community can attest, Instagram is a prude!

P.S. How do I know all of this? Because it's my job!

P.P.S. Overwhelmed? Good news, you can hire me.

January 10, 2018

An Interview with Online Media Manager Charlotte Weatherington

A bond forms when two people start something new at the same time. And that's what happened with today's Bitch. Like many of my friends, Goodwill brought Charlotte and I together. Around the time I was beginning to blog for them and cohost their shopping events, Charlotte was coming onboard as their new online media manager. We met at an event and became fast friends. We took our friendship to the next level when we decided to try FB Live for the first time, and not because we were good at it, actually, the opposite. We shot the whole video sideways. Live. On Goodwill's Facebook page. *shrug emoji

How many people do you know who do a version of your job, ten, twenty, a million? I know two, and Charlotte is one of them. I don't know that we've ever talked about social media, we mostly talk about tripods (because we both keep buying the wrong ones) and how I keep seeing versions of her cat in feminist t-shirt ads (#feministcat), but I take great comfort in knowing that if I have a question about social media, there's a new person on my advisory council. Meet my friend, Gizmo's mom, Charlotte Weatherington!

What is your job title and where do you work?

I am the Online Media Manager for Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee.

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I was pegged pretty early on as a strong writer, and it was something I enjoyed. So, as I began exploring career fields, I knew I wanted to pursue an occupation that had a pretty heavy writing element to it. Eventually, I found public relations, and I fell in love. In my eyes, it’s the perfect blend of writing, communication and strategy.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

If you can write, you can do anything.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?

For better or for worse, in general, most people are fairly forgetful. So that means two things: 1). Don’t beat yourself up over something you said or did that, in hindsight, you felt was out of character, embarrassing or even mildly offensive. There’s a good chance that whoever was present will forget about it, or is too wrapped up in something weird they said or did to care about your little hiccup. Learn from your mistake and move on. And, 2). Don’t be afraid to speak up or remind a coworker if you feel like a deliverable you’ve asked for has fallen by the wayside. Particularly as women, I think we’re conditioned by society to be hypersensitive to coming across as “nagging” or “belligerent.” Don’t overthink it. Just ask.

What would you do with two more hours a day?

While it was challenging, I found my time spent pursuing a master’s degree to be very rewarding. If money wasn’t an issue, I think it would be fascinating to use that extra time to pursue a doctorate degree in public relations.

What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?

I’m proud of myself for pursuing the Online Media Manager position with Goodwill. I enjoyed the agency I worked with previously very much - I was comfortable in my work, writing, pitching to media, branding, etc. The people were some of the best in the business, and I had what I felt were some major wins while I was there. But, when the position with Goodwill became available, something just seemed right. It was out of my comfort zone, for sure — digital marketing requires a particular strain of ingenuity, and it’s a medium where less words is more — but taking into consideration the direction marketing and public relations is taking in favor of digital and online media and the chance to work with a brand like Goodwill, the opportunity was too good to pass by. Working for a nonprofit comes with its own unique set of challenges, but, thankfully, I work with a fantastic team of people who all believe in not only me, but also our mission of changing lives through education, training and employment. That can make all the difference some days!

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

I soak in the time I have to spend with my husband Casey and follow our kitty Gizmo (#feministcat) around. If I feel the need to go out after work, I enjoy treasure hunting at Goodwill or another one of my favorite stores around our neighborhood.

What’s a fear that keeps you up at night?

It doesn’t necessarily keep me up at night, but sometimes I worry that I’m not writing enough and/or that I’ll become stagnant in my work and skillset. But then I remind myself that if I want to write more, I just have to do it. And, working for a nonprofit like Goodwill is so dynamic with countless opportunities to grow and learn from the industry and the people I work with. The only surefire way for me to become stagnant would be for me to begin to believe my fears and become blind to the opportunities I already have access to.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

Sometimes, people refer to me as a social media manager. While that’s understandable, and social media is a very important aspect of my job, my responsibilities encapsulate so much more than that, including using strategic methods to boost Goodwill’s SEO rankings, responding to online reviews and providing my professional input for PR and marketing campaigns.

What does self care look like in your life?

Talking with Casey, playing with Gizmo, eating vegan food, reading, shopping. Social media gets a bad rap, but I think even it can be a form of self care in moderation if you see it as a way to enjoy the creativity and positivity of others rather than trying to use it for comparison.

What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?

I just remember that you win some and you lose some. Acknowledge your wins with moderation, but don’t beat yourself up over the missed opportunities. Everything balances out in the end, I think.

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

First and foremost, my mom! She homeschooled me and my sisters through middle and high school and has always helped me think outside the box and shoot for the moon when looking for career development and job opportunities. Otherwise, my bosses — who were women — at the agency were influential in my development. The standard they held me to and the time they invested in me to grow as a young professional is invaluable and will stay with me for a long time.

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I think Parks and Recreation was probably the most impactful TV show for me, with The Office as a close second. And, I could eat Chex cereal all day every day.

All photos courtesy of Charlotte Weatherington

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, Rachel Mathenia!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

December 21, 2017

These My Bitches: 2017 Year In Review

I can't believe this series is two years old! My first Bitch, Marne McLyman was published on November 16, 2015. Wow, times flies when you're making all your friends fill out online questionnaires. Thanks, Bitches!

Here are the top ten viewed Bitches of 2017!

3109 views -- Brittney Forrister:  EBTH Sales Specialist

2068 views -- Niketa Hailey-Hill:  Goodwill Marketing Manager

1789 views -- Jessica Maloan:  Shop Owner

1493 views --  Katherine Tisha Wilson:  Fitness Instructor

1361 views -- Betsey Appleton:  Attorney and Fashion Blogger

1315 views -- Rachel Mathenia:  Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher

1296 views -- Alicia Hunker:  Charter School Teacher

1200 views -- Courtney C. Stevens:  Author

1189 views -- Shannon Miller:  Stay-At-Home Mom

1185 views --  Melanie Bull:  Public Policy Director

Tips and Tricks

So what makes a Bitch break the internet? It's simple, Facebook. That's okay, I groaned, too. But you guys, Facebook is where 80% (approx. I can't do the math) of my traffic comes from. If you're active on Facebook, your post will perform well. What does "active on Facebook" mean? It means allowing the post on your timeline, sharing the post, liking and commenting on the post, and if you have a Page that's tagged in the post, doing all of that again as your Page. I'm continually astounded at how many people with Pages don't check their notifications, or "like" the posts they're tagged in. An Instagram shout-out is nice, but I get legit zero traffic from Instagram (or Twitter, FWIW). Google is my top referring site. Facebook mobile is second and Facebook desktop is third. Instagram is 8th, and Twitter isn't even on the list, although, inexplicably, vampire stats dot com is (shrug emoji). Shout-out to the 494 vampires who read my blog! Get at me, Lestat.

New in 2018!

No major changes. I'm going to slow my roll a little bit and adjust the posting schedule. One post a week that publishes on Monday morning breaks my brain, so I'm not doing it anymore. I'm going to change from four Bitches a month to one or two, and publish mid-week, instead of Monday morning.

A lot of my Bitches are makers, business owners, non-profit directors, etc. - women you can buy things from, support, and give money to. I'm going to make more of an effort to spotlight these Bitches year round. Maybe we can work out a cross-promotion, discount, or giveaway. Stay tuned.


I'm still gleefully accepting nominations, so keep them coming! Remember, if you nominate someone, you're responsible for writing their intro.

See you in 2018!

P.S. Find out which four Bitches have been in the Top Ten two years running!

P.P.S. Meet all 82 (!!) of my Bitches here.

December 13, 2017

The Blonde Mule is 10!

A couple of big things happened recently. *Janie Crawford turned 29, and my blog - this blog - turned 10! I wrote my first blog post on December 4, 2007. A whopping 82 people read it and it received 1 comment from my very good friend bitch, Natalie, aka Shawtime. I've written 1310 blog posts, roughly 131 posts a year (11 posts a month) for TEN YEARS!

*The Paperless Post I sent for my blog party didn't autofill correctly, and instead invited everyone to Janie Crawford's 29th birthday at Herb's Jazz Club.

Let me paint a picture of 2007. MySpace had just died (RIP Top 8), Facebook and Twitter were a year old, not widely used, and Instagram didn't exist. What a time to be alive! All these really cool women had really cool blogs, and you could leave comments and they'd respond. Blogging enabled a lot of women to have a voice on the internet - and go on to write books, start companies, etc. What you now put on Facebook, in 2007, you put into a 4-paragraph blog post. Instagram? Please. No one knew how to take pictures in 2007. There weren't smart phones! There were no filters or ways to edit the brightness. What, was I going to buy editing software and learn how to edit my pictures? Hell no. Those dark ass pictures went straight to my blog.

In 2007, I was 31 years old, working as a staffer in the state senate, dating John, living in a garage, getting my cardio from a step aerobics class at the Green Hills Y (shout-out, Marcus!), and preaching the gospel of Weight Watchers. It was a simpler time. So what was I blogging about? Who knows! I'm too embarrassed to go back and read my old posts. J/K. I've read them and they are hilariously awful. On brand, but awful.

Here are my most viewed posts of all time!

8018 views - Warby Parker Glasses
4337 views - The Day I Met Dan Auerbach
3909 views - Knee Pain - Ouch!
3144 views - An Interview with EBTH Sales Specialist Brittney Forrister
2096 views - Smitten Kitchen Love
2068 views - An Interview with Goodwill Marketing Manager Niketa Hailey-Hill
1981 views - Training For A Triathlon - OMG, SO MUCH GEAR!!! $$$
1363 views - An Interview with Attorney and Fashion Blogger Betsey Appleton
1328 views - Easy Lasagna
1312 views - An Interview with b.fab.fitness Instructor Katherine Tisha Wilson

So what are my plans for the future? Glad you asked! A couple of things. One, I'm switching platforms, because lol Blogger. I actually tried to move to Wordpress about 4 years ago, but ultimately didn't because I would have lost all my pageviews and stats. Now you can move and keep your shizz, so I'm moving. TBD Wordpress or Squarespace.

My other plan for the future is to post more. Over the last couple of years I've quit writing personal posts. It's just not where I'm at anymore, but I'd like more variety on my blog. Right now, it's almost exclusively These My Bitches. In 2018, I may aim for 4 posts a month: 2 These My Bitches, 1 biz/social media post, and 1 personal-ish post. We'll see. I've got to figure out how to redistribute my creativity. Right now, all of it is going into my job and what little is left is going into Instagram Stories of my dog talking to me through thought bubbles.

Thank you to everyone who reads these posts, likes and comments on Facebook. I didn't set out to became "a brand", but somewhere along the way, I did. And that brand enabled me to start a social media business in 2014 that is doing quite well, thank you very much.

At Porter Flea over the weekend, I was overwhelmed by how many vendors (and shoppers) are Bitches. It's the first time I've really come face to face with how many Nashville women have been featured on my blog - all because I had this bizarre idea a few years ago to start writing about my friends' jobs.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'd say here's to 10 more years, but I'm not convinced we'll still have free internet in 2027. To quote sheroes, Aminatou and Ann, "See you on the internet, boo!"

December 11, 2017

An Interview with Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher Rachel Mathenia

Things that don't come naturally to me: trust, vulnerability, being upside down. Guess what I have to do once a week in Rachel's yoga class? Uh huh. It's got to be hard enough to teach yoga to a recovering competitive perfectionist, but imagine one with PTSD. Rachel knows I don't feel safe in certain poses, like backbends, so she stands behind me and puts her hand on my back, which has the immediate effect of making me feel safe. She not only holds space for me, she calms me down and makes me laugh. There's a reason she's everyone's favorite yoga teacher.

Rachel is more than a teacher, she is a healer, a spiritual guide, and a wondrously ridiculous weirdo. She wears Wonderoos, listens to the same music your high school boyfriend did, and travels around town with a jug-sized mason jar of goddess knows what, assuredly some kind of beet-sauerkraut smoothie. It took her two years to fill out this questionnaire, so please read it thoroughly. Meet my yoga teacher, my friend, the healer of my knee injuries, Rachel Mathenia!

What is your job title and where do you teach?

I am a CIYT (certified Iyengar Yoga teacher) and IAYT (International Association of Yoga Therapists). Since 2005, I have taught mainly at the Iyengar Yoga Center of Nashville and have also been the assistant director to Aretha Blevins for most of that time. I also teach one class a week at Steadfast and True Yoga, as well as private yoga classes.

When did you first learn about this field of work?

I took a yoga class at Middle Tennessee State University for a P.E. credit.

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I was in my third class, lying in savasana, and I had this premonition that I would do yoga for the rest of my life and that I would teach it. It really is a calling for me. It's a challenging path that is very rewarding, but I have had many times when I have thought that I needed to figure out another career to have security, but I really don't want to do anything else.

What was your path that lead you to the job you have now?

When I became curious about teaching yoga in 2001, there was only one yoga teacher training program in Nashville. The Southern Institute for Yoga Instruction, led by John Charping and Betty Larson. They were the owners of the now closed Yoga Room in Berry Hill. I attended that 1,000 hour program over 13 months. I consider it grace that they taught the Iyengar method and that it is really the only style of yoga that I have studied. I loved the therapeutic aspect of the method and the scientific approach that encourages creativity. No two Iyengar classes will ever be the same!

My first regular teaching gig was at the University School of Nashville, teaching yoga in the middle school. Aretha was teaching Latin there and she had just taken over ownership of 12South Yoga (aka Iyengar Yoga Center of Nashville) and she asked me to teach a teens class. I gradually took on more classes and she asked me to be her assistant after a few years of teaching there. Eleven years ago, I took my first workshop with my teacher Manouso Manos. He has the reputation of being one of the best yoga therapeutics teachers in the world. He has helped me tremendously with my own health issues and I continue to study therapeutics with him.

Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise? 

“Rest in reason, move in passion” -Khalil Gibran

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you teach?

Well, I have little failures in class everyday that I try to learn from. My “teacher training” has never ended. I continue to refine my teaching skills, study, and practice every day.

What would you do with two more hours a day?

Practice, spend more time with family and friends, read more, make art. Oh! And I also am studying Vedic astrology now.

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life?

It makes me so happy when I find out my students have developed a personal practice. One of my goals of teaching is to teach people how to use yoga as a medicine to lessen suffering.

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

Probably Instagram. But I check my email first and often end up reading something from a website I am subscribed to like, Joyful Belly Ayurveda.

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

My schedule is kind of weird. I teach private classes sometimes as early as 7am, but I also teach evening classes every week night. So I decompress in the middle of the day. During this time I practice, cook my biggest meal of the day and hang out with my two dogs and husband, who works from home. I love to cook. It's meditative to me, but also is a way for me to be creative. I love food as medicine and I love to cook for people.

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious?

Oh wow! There's a lot. People have no idea how challenging it is to teach yoga well. As we are learning in the West, there is no separation of the body and mind, so when you are teaching 1- 40 people how to do these poses, you are dealing with their muscles and bones, but more importantly their trauma and their egos and their insecurities and their stories about themselves. The practice of yoga is transformational by nature so it makes people more sensitive. If you're practicing by yourself at home it can be a balm and you can experience your emotions in private. But when one is in a class it can create feelings of vulnerability when these emotions come up. And as the teacher, I not only have to pay attention to everyone's alignment to protect them from injury, but also be sensitive to their emotions.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

Hmmmmmm, right now, goats. I kid! < See what I did there. Maybe that my job is relaxing and easy? I think people also assume that you get a practice in when you teach yoga but in the Iyengar tradition we don't practice while we teach. We watch and instruct the students from what we see in front of us. We will show them how to do the pose but that is a demonstration, not an inward experience.

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

Right now I love Stranger Things, Outlander, and Transparent. Of all time... anything Jim Henson was involved in. My favorite snack right now is melted cheese on a corn tortilla with sauerkraut or kimchi, and avocado because I usually have one in my kitchen.

All photos courtesy of Rachel Mathenia

P.S. Read more about Rachel in My Story of Yoga.

P.P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  JDRF Development Manager, Victoria Cumbow!

December 4, 2017

An Interview with JDRF Development Manager Victoria Cumbow

Would you believe me if I told you I own a fancy bike that I used to ride around town and race with? Well, hold on to your butts because it's true. And it's how I know today's bitch. I joined a cycling team in 2014 to get ready for a big race. I was on group rides with women who rode at 100mph (rough approximation) and Victoria befriended me and made sure I didn't get left behind. The cycling team didn't last, but the friendship did.

I don't ride my bike that often anymore, but when I do, I ride with Victoria. She reminds me of what I love about exercise - talking! Victoria is fun, kind, and loyal. Do you know all of your neighbors? Victoria does. Do you plan events to raise a million dollars to help cure a disease you've had since you were 11? Victoria does. Do you take it in stride when your 41-year old friend tells you she will not respond to group texts? Victoria does. Meet one of my favorite friends, Victoria Cumbow!

What is your job title and where do you work?

I’m a Development Manager with the Middle Tennessee Chapter of JDRF, (formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). While I manage a few events in our chapter, my main responsibilities include the Blue Jean Ball (a songwriter’s round and fundraising event held in Murfreesboro each fall) and the Promise Gala (a $1.5 million Gala held in Nashville each spring).

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

That’s a loaded question. I learned about JDRF after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 11 years old. Back then, it was known as JDF, and my family became involved after my diagnosis. When I was diagnosed, we didn’t know any other families with children who had type 1, but after connecting with JDRF, we met so many others whose lives were like ours. I fell away from JDRF as a college student and young adult. I studied journalism at Auburn and was a newspaper reporter for many years (my actual calling). I was assigned to cover the local JDRF Walk one year, and I reconnected to the organization then. Through my local chapter, I made some friends that participated in the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes. It’s a destination bike ride that serves as a tremendous fundraiser. I hadn’t been on a bicycle since I was probably 13 years old, but the year I turned 30, I set out for Death Valley, California, to pedal 100 miles in the desert on my 25-year-old Fuji road bike I’d bought for $50. I literally thought I was going to die in the desert that day, but I managed to find 72 miles in my legs and finished the ride. I’ve been riding ever since, and that’s how I ended up in this role.

After moving back to Nashville, I became the Ride coach for the local JDRF Ride team, which segued into my joining the staff. I’m now in the middle of planning my third million-plus dollar Promise Gala, and I love JDRF with all my heart. It’s a wonderful organization with great leadership, and I’m incredibly proud to be part of this chapter. There are only five of us here, but we produce record-breaking events, and we have a higher efficiency rate than the national average, meaning we contribute 90% of what we raise to JDRF’s mission. I’m incredibly proud of that because I live with this disease day-in and day-out. The more we can contribute to research, the more everyone benefits. It’s personal, and I think that’s where my passion comes from. Some days, I miss journalism terribly. Actually, that’s not true. I miss what journalism used to be; I don’t miss what it has become now. (But that’s a whole other story.)

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Pray. My father taught me this lesson in high school when I landed my first job, and it’s been true in every role I’ve ever held. My current career has a tendency to be incredibly hectic and stressful and in those seasons, it is very easy to find yourself emotionally drained. I feel things deeply, and when my stress level is high, I often find myself collapsing alone under a pile of tears. Praying centers me and gives me clarity on making decisions and finding peace. I am calm and rational when my spiritual life is a priority.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?

Margin. When I was younger, I was incredibly focused on my career. I worked long hours and put everything I had into my journalism career. It was my calling, and I felt like I was making a difference in my community. When the print publishing industry shifted and I had to transition to a new career, I was lost. Fortunately, I found the sport of cycling around that same time. I fell in love with riding my bike, and it gave me a way to center myself and clear my head. The beauty of cycling is the freedom. You see the world differently and with a fresh perspective. You can’t talk on the phone or answer emails when you’re riding a bike through the country. You’re forced to be alone with your thoughts, and while that can be scary at first, it becomes a freeing experience and an exercise in self-care. If I don’t plan margin in my personal life, my work life suffers. My current role makes it easy to fall back into that habit of working 13-hour days. I’m very lucky that I found a need for margin before I found this job. I have to have boundaries and take care of my mental well-being before I can be successful in anything else.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Find stillness. My favorite time of the day is the early morning. I will often get up an hour or two before my day needs to begin just to have the opportunity to be still. It’s the only time in the day when the rest of the world is quiet. No one’s on email yet or clamoring for your attention. No one needs me, and I’m not running from appointment to appointment. The world is still dark and quiet, and it’s my favorite space in the entire day. Sometimes I pray and read my Bible. Sometimes I just sit on the couch with my dog because I really like being in my house. When I’m in my busy season at work, those quiet mornings become sparse, and if I had two more hours a day, I’d add them to the mornings.

What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?

Our efficiency rate. My chapter of JDRF is able to contribute 90% of what we raise to JDRF’s mission of curing, treating and preventing type 1 diabetes. That’s huge, and it’s well above the national average for non-profits. I work hard to ensure that percentage stays high because contributing to research is why I do what I do.

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

I often go straight from work to another commitment. When I’m finally home for the evening, my favorite space is on my porch or in my hammock with my dog, a glass of wine and Emmylou on the record player. Tennessee weather allows me to soak in nights like this most of the year.

What’s a fear that keeps you up at night?

Making people feel small. I’m a relational person, and I love meeting new people and spending time in social settings. At the end of the day, my head is always spinning as I think back on everything that happened that day. The moments that bother me the most are when I think I’ve let someone down or when I think someone felt marginalized by me. Everyone has value, and because I work in the donor-centric field of development, I want everyone I encounter to feel valued and worthy regardless of where they come from, what they do or their ability to give. I’m sure I fail constantly at this, but it’s something I think about frequently. We live in a world with loud voices and they are coming from every side. It’s easy to become a wallflower. My hope is when I’m around people, they know they matter, are important and that they feel loved and appreciated.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

I’m more than an event planner. My role allows me to wear many hats. I’m a fundraiser and a relationship builder. I manage logistics, d├ęcor and all the pieces that go into events, sure, but the most fun part of my job is the relationship piece. We have an incredible board of directors for our chapter, and they are such a huge piece of our success. Those relationships, along with those of our donors, families and constituents, are the best part of what I get to do every day! You can’t plan a $1.6 million gala alone, and I love the people I get to do this job with throughout the year!

What does self care look like in your life?

My self care is prayer and being outdoors. My spiritual life is what centers me, and my reset button is being outside. In fact, when this piece is published, I’ll be hundreds of miles away backpacking and camping in the desert! Outside is my favorite place to be, especially with friends, and it’s where I find energy, peace and stillness.

What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?

Prayer. That seems simple, but it makes a difference. There’s a piece of scripture in Philippians about having a peace that surpasses all understanding, and it’s on the heels of another verse about not being anxious, but rather praying in those moments. For me, it’s that. I can go from zero-to-sixty real quick, but a few minutes spent in prayer will re-align me and give me a peace and clarity that nothing else can.

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

My mother and my grandmothers. I come from a long line of women who seemingly did it all. They worked full-time jobs, along with balancing marriages and children. Knowing what I know now as a 35-year-old woman, I see the sacrifices they made and the lessons they taught me. I didn’t plan on growing up to be single in my mid-30s, but that’s where my life has ventured, and I am so grateful for women who showed me how to do that. Feminist wasn’t a common term when my grandmothers were growing up, but they absolutely were. I think the greatest of these is my mother. As a child with a chronic illness, we had to manage life differently. My mother showed me how to live life to the fullest regardless of what roadblocks I faced. Her example and the way she and my dad raised me, allowed me to be independent and a dreamer. My outlook on life is because of them and their refusal to let me wallow or feel sorry for myself. There has never been a time in my life when I mentioned an idea or a dream that my mother didn’t encourage me to do.

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I don’t really watch TV shows, and I have cable mostly for sports (and formerly for news before our current administration took over. I can’t much stomach the news any longer.) But my guilty pleasure is a cheesy rom-coms. It’s terrible, really. I know it, but I keep doing it. I’m a hopeless romantic, and I think that’s why I watch. I can’t believe I’m sharing this publicly, but it’s true. My name is Victoria, and I have terrible taste in movies.

My favorite snack (assuming you’re not including wine as a snack) are hot buffalo flavored pretzels. They are addictive, and you’ve been warned. Don’t look at the nutritional facts though; no one needs that kind of negativity in their life. I only buy them on road trips because if they’re in my house, I have no self-discipline. They’re my self-indulgent travel treat.

All photos courtesy of Victoria Cumbow

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Retail Manager and Blogger, Audrey Rhodes!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

November 27, 2017

An Interview with Retail Manager and Blogger Audrey Rhodes

There's a Maya Angelou quote about creativity that I love, "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." If you want to see this principle in action, scroll through the Instagram feed of today's bitch. Every time Audrey posts an outfit pic I wonder when she will run out of clothes and/or ideas. Spoiler alert: she won't.

My favorite thing about Audrey is that a lot of my friends know her, but don't know I'm friends with her, so they'll tell me about her and say we should be friends and I'm like, lol, we are. Okay, I lied, that isn't my favorite thing. My favorite thing about Audrey is that on any given day she has paired a designer $1,100 top with $6 Goodwill pants. She is a master of mixing high and low fashion and that is MY JAM. Meet today's bitch, Audrey Rhodes!

What do you do and what is the name of your blog?

I work at a really amazing store here in Nashville called UAL (United Apparel Liquidators), as a Manager and Strategic Sales Director by day and I style funky fashion on my blog, Affectionately, Audrey, by night.

When did you first learn about fashion bloggers? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I was first exposed to bloggers through social media, no surprise there. I decided to start a blog while I still lived in my small hometown in Georgia, but felt stuck in a box and unable to truly explore what I wanted my style to be. You know, Southern tradition and all. It wasn’t until I moved to Nashville that my blog and style really flourished. To be honest, I’m still not sure blogging is what I want to do, but I do know I love helping people have the confidence to wear what they love and blogging helps me do that!

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

One of my officer friends who had been married a long time once told me that relationships are not 50-50 but 51-49 and if you are constantly the one trying to give the 51% then how can your relationship ever fail. Ever since then I have tried to implement that piece of advice in all my relationships and it has worked. It has also made me a much more selfless person, which was much needed, ha ha!

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?

To absolutely not care what people think about you. To not care when they stare at you because you are different or the hurtful things they might say. People will always put down what they do not understand or people they perceive as different. Inspired people often make uninspired people feel insecure, resulting in defense mechanisms like harsh words or mean looks. I chose a long time ago to not let those people dictate how I feel about myself or how I dressed.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Thrift/explore new places or read and spend time with my pup, Parker.

What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?

One of my great successes is becoming a Police Officer in my home state of Georgia. Most people don’t know this about me, but I was the only girl to graduate from my 11-week mandate class (Officer training) with the highest academic grade. I am very proud of that accomplishment. The thing I am most proud of now is how far I pushed myself while here in Nashville and how far my style and life has progressed through choosing to unabashedly be myself despite what anyone thinks or says.

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

I love music, so that always helps me relax along with about 30 minutes to be by myself with that music. That being said, I am a venter. Talking about the stressful points of my day always helps me relax and remove that stress from my mind. My boyfriend and best friend help with that often, bless their souls.

What’s a fear that keeps you up at night?

I truly don’t have a lot of fears. I am a pretty upfront, logical person so I generally work through any fears that come up and decide whether they are worth my time or not. But the fear I find myself fighting the most is being unsuccessful or uninspiring.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

That I have been stylish my whole life and came out of the womb mixing prints. I know it is easy to look at my funky style and instantly have that perception of me, but it is very wrong. It took me a decent amount of time to be “good” at what I do and I learn something new everyday. I don’t always feel confident or great about what I’m wearing, but I just choose to push past those doubts and hit the ground running anyway. Side note for those who doubt me, I used to look like a boy and got mistaken for one many times. So yeah... the whole style thing took some time!

What does self care look like in your life?

Taking the time to do the things I love and be with the people I love, which honestly doesn’t always happen. I always feel like I have a million things to do, so sometimes I just have to make myself ignore all those things and do what I know will rejuvenate and re-inspire me.

What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?

I try and seek inspiration from the things and people around me. I look through magazines or social media fashion or just run through my closet and get inspired by a piece in the back I had forgotten about. I also just try to remember that being uninspired is a natural part of the creative process, not an incurable disease. Once I accept that, I feel free to work through it until I feel inspiration flowing freely again.

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

My mom and my “second mom” (the mother of my best friend growing up) along with all three of my sisters and two of my best friends, Lyndsay and Lily! I also had amazing grandmothers who never ceased to show me love and support. I am truly blessed by the women in my life!

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

Yikes, that’s tough. All time favorite TV shows would have to be Seinfeld, X-Files, or Twilight Zone (I realize that’s three, oops). Snack would be coffee and a brownie or chocolate chip cookie.

All photos courtesy of Audrey Rhodes

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Blogger, Sheena Steward!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.


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