Dear Niece JLB – Storytime Pride

Dear Niece JLB - Storytime Pride1Several months ago, I wrote a letter to my future children in a blog post. I’ve decided that I’m going to do the same for other members of my family, too (and 90% promise not to write any embarrassing letters)!
I always take pride in my niece but last weekend, she totally blew me away! She’s not even 2.5 years old and we had a very sweet and special story time right before I put her to bed. I was lucky enough to get a sleepover with her so I was the last one to give her “huggie, huggies, more huggies, Aunt Launie” before she fell asleep. I wrote this immediately after I put her to sleep but am deciding to post it now.
Dear JLB:
Aunt Launie is SO proud of you and impressed by you! Tonight, I was reading you a bedtime story (or 4) and we were in the middle of a Sesame Street book. I read each page and then we had to identify the objects on the page.
On one page, I pointed to a cluster of clouds. On top of the illustration, the word “clouds” was typed. I asked, “What’s this?” You said, “A big storm coming.” Smarty pants! Way to go, sweetie!Dear Niece JLB - Storytime Pride2
On another page, there was an illustration of a flag with the word “flag” typed on it. I pointed to the flag and asked, “What’s this?” You said, “The American flag.” I was expecting you to say “flag” so I kind of flinched and said, “What? What’s that?” You repeated yourself, “The American flag.” Hearing you identify the American flag, OUR flag, was wonderful!
I don’t know why this moment had such a profound impact on me but I think it has to do with how amazing I think your learning and development are. You grow and flourish each and every day. You are a smart, creative, funny little girl and I can’t wait to hear more new words and phrases from you!
XO- Aunt Launie


Raegan Sydney’s Photo Challenge

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Instagram has changed my enthusiasm for photography. I still love photography but it’s different from what it was a few years ago. A few years ago, I enrolled in photography classes and met the greatest photographer, photography instructor, and friend that I could have imagined! —> Check out all things Michael Downey!

I upgraded to a new DSLR and I was ready to learn about my camera. Then Instagram filters entered my life. Oh, how wonderful filters can be! Some filters brighten the area underneath my eyes. How lovely! Black and white filters fix photos in which my makeup is too heavy or too light. How helpful! It’s easy. It’s fast. It’s Insta.

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I got lost in Instagram. I didn’t mean to hang up my Canon 7D but it happened. You might ask why I didn’t use my DSLR to take photos to put on Instagram. Well, I believed (and still do, to an extent) that the purpose of Instagram is to enhance MOBILE photography. I’ve softened on that a bit, though. As long as a user specifies in his profile or in photo captions that he isn’t using a smartphone camera, I’m OK with it.

I don’t know why I started thinking about my DSLR the other day but I decided to go outside and take some photos of my miniature Labradoodle, Raegan Sydney, with it. The pics were cute. I think I shared 1 or 2 on Instagram. After that, I looked at Raegan and felt inspired. I wanted to form a new habit of using my DSLR more often. Raegan directly motivated me to have some fun with a 30 day photo challenge.

For 30 days, I’ll be posting a photo of Raegan (or more than 1 photo) on Instagram that I’ll take with my DSLR. The first day of my challenge was August 7. The second day is today, August 8. Raegan was falling asleep at about 1AM so I decided to take photos of her adorable sleepy eyes as they were slowly closing. All images taken during the challenge will be shared on Raegan’s Instagram for all of her followers to see.

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I’d like to invite you all to join my challenge. If you’ve been wanting to work on your photography, please join me as I capture images of my dog, without the use of a cell phone, over the next 30 days. I will also be posting iPhone photos to Instagram, as usual, but each day will definitely include at least 1 DSLR photo!

Who’s up for the challenge?



Checking Out of Foursquare

I did it. I deleted my Foursquare account. As I’m typing this, I just coincidentally heard a sentence in a commercial for the TV show, Stalker:

“Social media is the reason stalking cases have tripled in the last decade.”

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I’m not quite sure whether that statistic is true but the reason I deleted my account did have to do with privacy concerns. My individual check-ins were fairly harmless as I checked OUT of venues much more often than I checked IN. However, if someone examined the totality of my check-ins, it would be fairly easy to identify the places I visit often. When I realized that, I started using Foursquare differently. Instead of checking out of venue after venue, I began to only use Foursquare at places that are out of the ordinary for me…venues that are exciting…exotic…NOT the local supermarket! :)

I knew how to delete single check-ins but deleting about 4,700 checkins overwhelmed me. I wanted to delete almost my entire Foursquare history and start again. That’s what led me to delete my account and “lose” my data.

I’m completely aware that my data is probably still “out there” but I know that by deleting my account, I’ve done myself a service. So, what do I do now?

I can remain Foursquare-less. I can start a new account and check-in sparingly and with discretion. I can think about this hysterical video about Foursquare’s recent changes and take my time to decide. Time will tell.



The Dogs of Instagram

The Dogs of Instagram 1When I was in college, I had to go to a presentation with my sorority. To be honest, I don’t remember what the lecture was about. Attending the speech was a requirement so most of us were there because we had to be there. The speaker was introduced and she walked onto the stage. She received a slightly unenthusiastic applause from the audience of college kids. She spoke for about 30 seconds when everyone started cheering and oohing and aahing. Everyone tried to get a closer look at the stage to see a very small dog walking across it. The dog was ADORABLE.

The speaker scooped up her dog and said, “Look at that! Wouldn’t it be great if humans greeted each other and reacted to each other the way we react when we see a cute dog? Wouldn’t doing that make other people feel good?” That concept has stayed with me ever since that night. It’s very true. We react to dogs differently from how we react to other humans.

A few weeks ago, I was using my dog’s Instagram account when I started thinking about what the speaker said. I have a “human” Instagram account and Raegan has a separate one. Raegan’s account only followsThe Dogs of Instagram 2 other dog accounts and her followers mostly consist of dogs. It’s not too often that a “human” account follows her and, when one does, I get suspicious. :) Anyway, I was posting a photo to her account when I started thinking about the differences between her account and mine.

  • Consistent photography: The photography in Raegan’s account is mostly of her, other dogs in our family, or of her canine friends. When people follow her, they know what to expect. My account features many different kinds of photos. I have pet photos, flower photos, city photos, hockey photos, etc. What I post in “my” account can vary from day to day. 
  • Consistent hashtags: Since Raegan’s photos are all of the same subject, I can always use the same hashtags, drawing a consistent audience. The same isn’t true for my account so my hashtags vary, attracting a random audience.
  • New friendships: Raegan has actually made friends. Most of her buddies post for themselves and speak in the first person (Yes, I know that dogs don’t The Dogs of Instagram 3actually take photos and type but let’s just pretend that they do for the purpose of this blog post.) so it is truly doggy-centric. Raegan gets a lot of “likes” and comments. The dogs share stories and know each other’s personalities. They ask each other questions to follow-up on past photos. They make fun of their parents, talk about their day, share about adventures, and ask for advice. Most important of all, they all have hearts of gold. The interaction on my account is very different. I haven’t met new people. I haven’t become FB friends, connected further, and planned to meet up with people from my Instagram account.
  • Emojis: It’s somewhat rare for a comment not to end with hearts or winks or some kind of other adorable emoji in Raegan’s account. People do not speak to me in hearts and flowers on my account. Raegan’s account is overflowing with them, though. They might sound silly but, c’mon, can you really look at an emoji of a monkey covering his eyes and not smile??
  • Positive reinforcement: The Dogs of Instagram 4If Raegan posts a photo after a trip to the groomer, her followers ooh and aah and…make her feel good. If I posted a photo after a trip to the salon, I might get accused of being narcissistic for posting a selfie of my new haircut.
  • Sense of community: The dogs on Instagram form communities. Yes, I know it’s actually the humans that are forming the communities but something makes it easier or different by using a pet account. The sense of community is SO strong that we know of each other’s illnesses and check up on each other regularly. We know about vet appointments and ask how they went. When a pet’s Mom or Dad is ill, the pet account “managers” reach out to offer help. Again, I haven’t seen this on my own Instagram account.
  • All-inclusive: Raegan’s friends are always expanding their network to MORE friends. It’s very inclusive and introductions to new dogs are being made all the time. The pups promote each other’s accounts and are really sweet about helping each other make new pals. That has never, not even once, happened on my account. 
  • The Dogs of Instagram 5Consistent engagement: I actually feel bad if I miss news on Raegan’s account. If one of her friends puts up something important, I feel terrible if we miss it. I don’t think “human” accounts are using Instagram in the same way as dog accounts are yet. I’m pretty sure that I could leave my own Instagram account for a few weeks and not miss much. I don’t leave my account, though, because I’d miss photos from the New York Rangers too much. :) When a dog “goes missing” from Instagram for a few days or longer, when he returns, he is welcomed back by accounts that are happy to see more photos. Why don’t human accounts act like this towards each other?

The canine Instagram community sticks together like glue. We celebrate dogs’ birthdays together. We help each other through tough times. We support each other when illness or injury strikes. I want to write about a very recent example of this.

Raegan has a dear Instagram friend named Koa. A few weeks ago, Koa was injured. He broke his left femur by itsThe Dogs of Instagram 6 growth plate and the chances of it healing were slim to none. As such, Koa had his left hind leg amputated. Accounts all around the world rallied around Koa. A hashtag was started called #runforkoa because Koa wants all of his dog friends to enjoy their runs for him until he’s up and running again. Since Koa asked for the exercise from others, Raegan has been doing a #runforkoa every day.

A fundraiser was also started for Koa as his veterinary bills are extremely costly. As of right now, $1,968.00 of a goal of $3,000 have been raised. There are still 12 days left on the campaign and I expect that all funds will be raised to help with Koa’s care. I encourage you all to visit the Care for Koa page ( and make any donation that you can. Every little bit helps!

As far as Instagram activity goes, most of us check in at least daily to see how Koa is doing and I am VERY happy to say that a video was posted on Instagram today The Dogs of Instagram 7that showed Koa running on the sofa to get a treat from his Dad. It’s unbelievable that he had his leg removed just a few days ago and this little guy is so resilient and perky! Gosh, we have so much to learn from dogs!

As I finish this post, I’d like to thank all of Raegan’s friends who gave consent for their image and username to be used in this article. You guys are wonderful and we’re so lucky to have connected with you all! I’d also like to suggest, one more time, that you look at this cute little face and check out Koa’s campaign.

This post wouldn’t be possible without my darling Raegan, my Rae of Sunshine, so I’m signing this one…

-LH & RH


Going To Work With Dad

Going To Work With Dad 1Thursday was Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. When I found out mid-afternoon, I was briefly bummed. My Dad is still a workaholic and doesn’t leave his office until really late so I knew if I went to visit him, I’d be able to “work” with him for several hours. I considered showing up at my Dad’s office until I realized that my small presence would completely throw off the rest of his month. You know it would have, Dad! ;)

I started to reflect on going to work with him a few times when I was younger. One time really stood out to me. I got very dressed up, took the bus (train?) to the city with him, was given plenty of note paper, drew and colored while my Dad attempted to make some phone calls, and hung out with his secretary as I set up a work space on the floor around her desk when my Dad went into a meeting.

It was a very long day but I have a suspicion that maybe Dad took a half day on those days. Maybe? I can’t imagine that I went to the office with him for his usual 12 or 13 hours. There have to be child labor laws that apply to this take your kid to work thing even if your kid is given hot chocolate, right?

I remember that as soon as we got into my father’s office, I was brought a cup of hot chocolate. Work was AWESOME! I never got to have chocolate in the mornings! I don’t think anyone has brought me a cup of hot chocolate since that day when I was five or six. I’m guessing that my Dad drank coffee and they just brought me something to drink so I didn’t feel left out.

I sat in a big chair on the other side of my father’s desk and colored from there. We were facing each other but I don’t remember what his phone calls were about because I was VERY busy with my own work. I can’t say that I learned a lot (or anything?) about what my Dad did day in and day out but I knew that he was very important and that he worked very hard. I also knew that he had an awful lot of paper clips all somehow magnetically stuck together into a long chain that I, of course, got all tangled. Why did he have so many paper clips stuck together with magnets?! Well, whatever…the crazy paper clip situation isn’t what I remember the most.

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NOTE: The following bit is a sweet, respectful, and loving gesture taught to me by my father. It isn’t a question of feminism or women’s rights. It’s a matter of a man teaching his little girl exactly what he wanted her to learn.

What I remember most about that day is walking to lunch with my Dad. I kept walking towards the curbside of the sidewalk. My Dad kept telling me to walk closer to the stores and that he would walk closer to the curb. I asked him why he got to be on that side and he said that men stand closer to the curb because if any vehicle veered off the road, the man was supposed to protect the woman.

A moment after that, a REALLY loud ambulance drove by us. It didn’t come THAT close to us but, for those of you who’ve been right next to an ambulance in NYC, you know how loud they are. They’re pretty darn loud! I was young and the siren startled me. It kind of scared me a little and, in that instant, I understood why my Dad wanted me to grow up thinking that men should walk closer to the street.

THAT’S what my Dad taught me that day. He taught me that a man who believes in good old-fashioned chivalry will walk closer to the curb, a lesson that will last my lifetime. If I ever have a little boy, it’s certainly a practice that I want passed down to him. Thank you, Dad! I love you!


Note: Although I went to work with my father on that particular day, I watched my mother work as a full-time Mom, a classroom mother, a softball coach, a Brownie leader, a member of an investment club, a participant in her college’s alumni organization, and many other roles. This post is not to overshadow anything that I learned from my Mom as she taught me life lessons constantly. BOTH of my parents have work ethics that are unparalleled and what they can teach me, to this day, is endless.


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