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Teller of tales—mine and others'. Eater of foods—cooked and ordered. Yoga instructor. Phillies fan. Former Texan.

More than a year after the line between work and home blurred, instead of expecting our colleagues to be “professional,” maybe we can allow them to be “human”

A black and white photo of a tuxedo cat sitting at a desktop computer. The cat appears to be on Zoom with six other cats.
A black and white photo of a tuxedo cat sitting at a desktop computer. The cat appears to be on Zoom with six other cats.

A few weeks ago in one of the many professionally-oriented Facebook groups I’ve joined or been added to over the years, a senior manager at a nonprofit organization posted a question that I’ll paraphrase here to avoid running afoul of the group’s privacy policy:

How do I tell my team to be professional on our calls and keep their pets off Zoom?

Within half an hour, the post had received more than two hundred comments, most of which can be summed up as: “You don’t.”

As anyone who has ever had a pet knows, the moment you vanquish them from…

How do we celebrate America when our country has failed us?

Originally published in the Puppies & Politics newsletter—thus the seemingly non-sequitur inclusion of my dog. To subscribe, click here.

Gracie, a reddish-brown pit bull wearing a pink collar and black harness, stares at her reflection in a shop window.
Gracie, a reddish-brown pit bull wearing a pink collar and black harness, stares at her reflection in a shop window.

Tomorrow marks the Fourth of July. It’s going to be a strange one.

Even though many Americans have tried to wish it away, the coronavirus pandemic is still very much present in the United States — in fact, cases are on the rise. The administration’s magical thinking has proven not just misguided but dangerously incompetent. This response to the pandemic, combined with years of state-supported anti-intellectualism masquerading as rugged individualism (“you can’t tell me what to do, and what do those…

It’s midnight. I’m going through some emails, closing some tabs, looking at what went into my “saved” links on Facebook over the past few days. And almost everything I’m returning to to read is another examination of the Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault allegation story. (My own take is here.)

The TV is on in the background but I’m not paying much attention. When I’m up late at night writing or catching up on work, I often put on either HGTV or MTV Live to keep me company. As I’m pondering the million different things that this story has made me…

Note: This was originally included in my weekly newsletter, Puppies & Politics, on July 27, 2018. To see the newsletter archives, or to subscribe, visit

I’ve been in the photo pit at a lot of rock shows.

From roughly 2005 to 2012, I took photos of everyone from Hayley Williams to Marcus Mumford to accompany concert reviews I was writing. I would never have called myself a professional photographer, but I have a decent eye and I always knew how to make the best of the equipment I was working with. Which is in itself an important skill, because…

A few months ago, an old friend reached out. A former colleague of hers was looking for some help getting his organization’s name out in the wider world. Was I interested in speaking with him?

I was, and she connected us, and after a lengthy phone call with this person and his colleagues, I sent a comprehensive proposal that explained my approach to strategic organizational storytelling. One of the steps in the proposal—a step that I had accounted for in the project budget—was the creation of an annual communications plan.

Not long thereafter, I received an email from my contact…

Not everyone is good at social media.

Not everyone has to be. If you’re an individual who just uses social media to keep in touch with your friends, there will be almost no consequences for anything you post, other than possibly offending a relative with your politics.

But brands simply cannot afford to be bad at social media. Especially when they’re paying someone to manage their online presence.

Exhibit A: the official Instagram account of the Philadelphia Injury Lawyers.

Philadelphia Injury Lawyers’ Instagram account has over eleven thousand followers, which sounds impressive until you consider how many of them were…

Slow goodbyes and why they’re not

Simon is, most certainly, dying.

I want to believe he’s dying in the same way we all are. Slowly, with no clear end in sight beyond the eventual certainty of dust and ashes.

But I’m steeling myself for the likelihood that we are looking at something more accelerated. Of all of the things the emergency vet told us might have caused his abdomen to fill with fluid — something referred to alternatively on his paperwork as abdominal effusion and ascites — the ones we haven’t ruled out yet are largely terminal. The most likely answer is cancer. …

Recently, a friend re-shared this lovely little video from 2016 illustrating a Brené Brown talk on the distinction between sympathy and empathy. To over-simplify Dr. Brown’s point, it’s not exactly the distinction we were taught in grade school—that empathy is something you feel if you’ve been there—but instead, empathy is a willingness to go there. Sympathy is something we can feel from afar; empathy is something we can offer up close.

I’ve been thinking about this video a lot over the last week and a half, in light of another video that I’ve seen several…

This morning, a friend shared an article that ran a few days ago on Vox, “What no one tells new moms about what childbirth can do to their bodies.” I don’t have kids, so a lot of the article talked about things I haven’t yet experienced (and may never). Normally I read this sort of thing with morbid fascination. What sorts of things have my mom-friends been through? What might I someday have to be prepared for? This time, I found the article resonated personally.

While I don’t have kids, I do have a pelvic pain condition that was misdiagnosed…

Imagine for a second that your beloved partner previously had a beloved partner whom he lost to a vicious disease. Imagine that you have spent your entire relationship hearing about your beloved partner’s beloved late partner. Imagine your beloved partner dies, after more than two decades of complete commitment to you, and LITERALLY ALL ANYONE CAN TALK ABOUT is how nice it is for him to be reunited in the afterlife with his late beloved partner.

How would that make you feel? You’re already mourning your partner, and as the world mourns him, they erase you. …

Jillian Ashley Blair Ivey

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