Taylor Wolfe, BIRDIE & HARLOW: Life, Loss, and Loving My Dog So Much I Didn't Want Kids (...Until I Did)

Taylor Wolfe, BIRDIE & HARLOW: Life, Loss, and Loving My Dog So Much I Didn't Want Kids (...Until I Did)

Zibby speaks to blogger and comedian Taylor Wolfe about her charming and touching new memoir, BIRDIE & HARLOW: Life, Loss, and Loving My Dog So Much I Didn’t Want Kids (…Until I Did). Taylor talks about the evolution of her popular blog (it all started when her English professor advised her to write every day), the challenges of managing multiple business ventures (like her lifestyle brand and graphic T-shirt shop), and, of course, her love for her dog Harlow, and how losing her unexpectedly led to a book about motherhood and grief. She also delves into her experience with stand-up comedy, the books she has read recently, and her best advice for grievers.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Taylor. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Birdie & Harlow: Life, Loss, and Loving My Dog So Much I Didn’t Want Kids (…Until I Did).

Taylor Wolfe: Thank you for having me. It is a true honor to be here. This is a very big deal to me. I appreciate your inviting me on.

Zibby: You’re a very big deal too, so there you go. Tell me about everything, how you started writing, blogging, booking, everything. Give me the whole story. I’m totally fascinated.

Taylor: It basically started with one of my favorite English professors. A long time ago when I was in college he told our class, “If you want to be a writer, write every day.” The fact it was 2009, I was like, I will start a blog. Back in 2009, I thought, are blogs dead? I remember thinking that, but I was like, whatever, I’m just going to do it. I started a blog just to keep myself consistent. I didn’t tell anybody about it for literally two or three years. Then I started to tell people a little bit. It was my inner circle. They shared posts. It got just a little bit bigger and bigger. I never thought it could be a job. It was never my intention. I only thought Perez Hilton and Mormon mommy bloggers were bloggers. That’s all I knew of. I kept getting fired from jobs because I was not great at sales, and I just couldn’t accept that. Finally, I got laid off from something. I was like, I better figure out how to make this blog work because I’m not good at working for other people, apparently. I started taking on small advertising things, as one does when you’re just scraping by.

Another part of my blog was, I wanted to be home with my dog Harlow all the time because he was very needy and wonderful and energetic. I would lock him in a crate to go to work. I could just remember being like, this isn’t fair to him. I felt like I was in a crate at these jobs. He was a big part of me trying to figure out something on my own. While the blog wasn’t making enough to pay Chicago rent, I started making graphic T-shirts. I started with an order of twelve, put them on my credit card. Then those twelve shirts sold within ten minutes. Then I ordered fifty, then a hundred. Then over ten years later, I’m still selling graphic tees. That was much in thanks to Harlow trying to push me to do my own thing. That was the blogging part. Then Instagram came around. I was resistant to that because I was like, I don’t like taking photos. This is not fun, but I got on there. Then I was so thankful when Reels came about because I like creating videos and comedy stuff. In Chicago, I did stand-up in Second City. All these things are leading up to this book.

I think what was the final push was 2020 when we were on our phone even more than usual. I was making these Reels about mom life. One of my big ones that took off was mom troll. It was just my impression of the moms who trolled me, usually about breastfeeding. People seem to have a lot of opinions about other people’s breasts. I would feel really down about it until I could put on a wig and put lipstick all over my face and just basically troll them back. That got the attention of my literary agent. I found her through a friend of mine who we met at Second City. She’s like, “She doesn’t just make funny videos. She’s also a writer.” I pitched this book about funny mom essays. About three months into this, Harlow died. I was not feeling funny. I was devastated. I basically told Abby, my agent, I was like, “I’m not writing right now. I’m crushed. I have to get through this grief, so I’m just writing about Harlow.” I put those up as blog posts because that’s how I’ve always gotten through tough things. Then I told Abby a few months after Harlow died, I was like, “What if this book isn’t necessarily funny mom essays entirely, but it’s about mom life and grief and basically what led me to mom life?” I didn’t know that was the way I would get there. It was a completely roundabout way, Har leading me to realize I wanted to be a mom. There’s still funny mom essays, but then there’s also losing my best friend in there too. Life, Loss, and Loving My Dog So Much I Didn’t Want Kids (…Until I Did). I felt like I was being very fast there.

Zibby: I know. Slow down. This is so great.

Taylor: Oh, my god, I’ve had eighteen cups of coffee. You might have to tell me to chill.

Zibby: It looks like you’re having a thousand cups of water to offset the coffee. Look at that mug. Oh, my god, it’s so funny.

Taylor: Little big.

Zibby: By the way, I read the FAQ on your site. You’re so funny. Someone was like, “Why are you a blogger?” or something. You said something like, “Last resort,” like you had no other choice, which is so funny because writing is not a last resort, necessarily, type of thing. Some people struggle so much to write anything that sounds good. Other people like you, it can just come out all the time. I feel like the challenge is what to write. It must be more like what to write about and when and how versus the art. I don’t know. Actually, let me just make that a question. Tell me more about that.

Taylor: This is what my breakdowns are about right now, when to find the time to write. I absolutely love getting up really early, and my toddler loves getting up really early too. Ideally, I would get up at four thirty or five. She hears me because oftentimes, she’s sleeping next to me. I’m not finding the time. I feel like I can’t find that right now. I keep reminding myself it will come back, all those cliché things we hear and read. This too shall pass. This is a tough season. I’m in a tough season of no sleep and not being able to write. I don’t have the time today, but hopefully, tomorrow. The way I finished this book and started it was we were in a good groove of sleep. The number-one rule of sleep with little kids is you don’t talk about it when it’s good. I still look back, I’m like, how did I finish this? Obviously, my husband was a huge help. I don’t even remember if that answered your question because I just started thinking about how I haven’t had time to write. I’m so anxious about it.

Zibby: I don’t want to heap on any more clichés, but I really think part of writing is collecting the information you’re going to write about. It’s a two-part process. You can’t just sit in a vacuum. When you’re out there living a lot, it just means you have more material to write about later. You can’t do one without the other.

Taylor: That’s true. That helps me breathe a little bit. I’m collecting a lot right now.

Zibby: You are. You’re collecting a lot. You are going to have a ton of stuff to write about later.

Taylor: Yes. Okay, good.

Zibby: Now is your season of — you’re like an investigator, and you haven’t written your report yet. Does that make you feel better?

Taylor: That does make me feel better. Now if I could just clear my brain out to write all these things down that I’m collecting.

Zibby: They’ll come back. They’ll come back in fiction. One day, you’ll be like, where did that come from? You’re going to be like, oh, maybe it was from when my kid was two and I was…

Taylor: That’s the magic of it.

Zibby: Plus, you have to do book publicity in the middle of all of it, right?

Taylor: Yes, I do.

Zibby: How is that? I know you’re on the tail end.

Taylor: I’m on the tail end. September was a little crazy. Before we started, I was like, I want to do everything. I want to go everywhere. I’m going to bring — Birdie is almost three. Goldie is almost six months. I was like, we’re going to bring the kids. I knew it would be hard. I was like, I’m going to do it. This is my chance. Then we got home from the first two stops, and I was like, I’m done. I’m tired. I wasn’t really done, but my mind had just shifted because I didn’t take into account the emotion toll of it. I’m doing these readings in front of people, not just my phone. There’s quite a vulnerability hangover after this. It’s such a thrill to meet people in real life. A lot of them have been like, I’ve followed you for ten years. I remember when Har was a puppy. I remember when you had your miscarriage and you talked about it. It’s wonderful in that aspect. Then to share all this for forty minutes and then meet all these people and hug them, I shell into myself. Oh, my gosh, did I share too much? Too late. You already did. I never regret it, but there is that vulnerability hangover. Coming home from doing these things, I needed to sleep for a while. I didn’t get to, but…

Zibby: I love that expression. I think that should be on another one of your T-shirts. Could you do that? I would buy that shirt.

Taylor: The vulnerability hangover?

Zibby: Yeah, or “Don’t bother me.”

Taylor: I could, but I would definitely have to quote Brené Brown.

Zibby: Oh. Well, still. Whatever. I didn’t realize that was one of hers. Now I feel silly.

Taylor: Oh, yeah. I’m a big Brené Brown fan. When she shared that, I was like, oh, my gosh, that’s what it’s called. It’s just nice to name things. I don’t know why it is, but it makes you feel a little better about it.

Zibby: You also have this whole lifestyle brand at the same time. You have the hiking stuff. How are you managing all the different businesses? Where did they all come from? How did everything expand? I’m like, is this still the same person? Yeah, I think it’s still the same person. Tell me about all of this.

Taylor: When you say, how do you manage it? my response is, not well, not very well. When you’re like, is it all the same person? I’ve never had a niche. I’ve leaned into not having a niche. It’s not been intentional. I got a lot of things going on up here. It all started literally ten years ago from me not wanting to have a corporate job. I know for some people, that is great. They love structure. They love that lifestyle. It just killed my soul. I felt like a caged animal. I was like, I’m going to do anything I have to do to work for myself. That’s continued. I just keep reaching everywhere to make sure I never have to be in a cubicle again. That has led to all these different brands. I should scale down. My brain’s a little bit all over the place.

Zibby: You should not scale down.

Taylor: Well, I think I do need to work on focusing a little bit more. Ideally, I just want to write books. This book release was a big part of step one of really leaning into my dream life. Writing is the part that makes me feel the most complete. I love doing the Instagram videos, the silly stuff like that, but it is very short-lived. It is a little toxic, I think, at least for me. The first day I post something, oh, that’s so fun. Look at all the likes and engagement. Then the next day, it’s like, oh, I better do something new now, another video. Writing is the stuff that just feels more real to me. It feels better for my mental health too. I’m hoping to scale back, let other people run the other things. Then I can just keep writing books.

Zibby: Do you like reading books also?

Taylor: Yes, I do.

Zibby: Who do you like to read? Sorry, I cut you off. Go ahead.

Taylor: No, that’s okay. It probably won’t surprise you after you’ve seen my brand. I read ten books at once. I’m just one of those people. I’m in a memoir phase. I just finished Molly Shannon’s. I really loved that book. I love Molly Shannon. I read people I enjoy. I just finished Britney Spears’. I read that one in forty-eight hours. I was a huge Britney fan as a kid. Have you read it?

Zibby: I have it here. I’m like, I really want to read that, but it’s not on the schedule. I really should be reading the books where I’m about to talk to the author. Anytime that I have one like that where it’s like, well, I’m not going to talk to Britney Spears, so do I read it or not? I haven’t read it yet.

Taylor: It was a very self-indulgent read for me. Like many of her fans, I was like, what happened? What happened here? It made me angry. I know I’m not on here to talk about Britney Spears, but I wish I was. I could talk about it for hours because I am mad at her family. Anyway, other books, I’m a big Sedaris fan. I am reading Gary Janetti’s memoir.

Zibby: Have you read a book by Liz Astrof called Don’t Wait Up: Confessions of a Stay-at-Work Mom?

Taylor: No.

Zibby: You’re the target for this book. I laughed so hard. It’s about her as a mom. She used to write for all these funny TV shows. You should get that next. It’s really funny.

Taylor: Yes, I will. Can you tell me the title of it again?

Zibby: Her name is Liz Astrof. Actually, she renamed it for the paperback. It was called Don’t Wait Up: Confessions of a Stay-at-Work Mom. Now I think it’s just called Stay-at-Work Mom because she wants to stay at work only and not go home to her kids, which is funny. Obviously, she doesn’t mean it. Actually, I shouldn’t even say that. She kind of means it.

Taylor: It’s all hard. It’s hard.

Zibby: Yeah, Stay-at-Work Mom. You were talking Britney Spears. I’m talking about this other book. Stay-at-Work Mom: Marriage, Kids, and Other Disasters. There you go.

Taylor: When did it come out?

Zibby: Sometime in the last five years.

Taylor: I’ll read it.

Zibby: Paperback came out, I don’t know. Hardcover came out in 2019. Any other books we want to swap?

Taylor: tonight. I’m reading, I think it’s called The Humans. I just downloaded it after I shared on Instagram that when I’m feeling really anxious I like to go outside and look at everything as if I’m an alien and I’ve never seen it before. People were like, that’s the premise of this book called Humans. Have you read that one?

Zibby: I have not.

Taylor: , so we’ll see.

Zibby: I don’t know that that would make me feel better. That would just make me worry more about, what if? What if the aliens come? What am I going to do? Where am I going to go with my kids? Then my mind will just spin. I’ll check it out.

Taylor: Maybe not for you, then.

Zibby: When you were building up this multifaceted brand where you have retail and you have suggestions and everything in your closet and all of this stuff, do you think of yourself as a lifestyle brand? Is that what you’re aspiring to, sort of a funny — or has it just happened so organically you haven’t even thought about it?

Taylor: It’s just been organically, honestly. I think if you want to put me under a label, you can call me a lifestyle brand. I would prefer it if you called me comedian, writer. I know my huge shtick is being an influencer, but I’m resistant to that. I don’t know why. It’s my own thing.

Zibby: No, it’s not. Okay, corrected. Amazing. Do you want to do more in-person stand-up stuff, like Second City-ish improv and all of that?

Taylor: I do. Yes. I did a lot more of that in my twenties in Chicago. I stopped because I got tired of the nightlife. I’m not a nightlife person. I would host an open mic that started at ten PM on a Monday. I think of that all the time now. I gasp. I clutch my pearls I don’t wear because I’m like, how did you do that? I have to plan a doctor’s appointment six months out to mentally prepare. The nightlife, even in my twenties without kids, I was like, this is too much. Luckily, this was when Instagram Reels came out. I could still get that comedy fix from Reels. I was like, this is great. I’m reaching hundreds of thousands more people than in person. Then when I went on tour, I was like, oh, there’s something to live audience, obviously. I made myself forget that, but there’s definitely something to it. I got a taste of doing stand-up again. It was really great. Like I said, I also came home very tired. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that, but I definitely would like to more.

Zibby: Do you have any advice on how you managed to get through Harlow’s loss? Other people who are grieving the loss of pets or anything, how did you end up getting past all of that? Not that you ever get past. That’s the wrong word. How did you get through it?

Taylor: I was going to say, yeah, you don’t get past it. You carry it. You learn how to carry it. Writing was so helpful for me, as cathartic as it could get. Right immediately when he died, within days, I was like, I have to start writing about it. It’s interesting when you write about this hard stuff and then you decide to share it. I had these weird things I did that I was like, this is just me. One example is I would go through old coats, and I’d check if there was a receipt in there. I would be, don’t check the receipt. Don’t check the receipt. I would check it because I wanted to see the date. Oh, my god, I am not sleeping. I have stopped crying about this, but when you don’t sleep, you cry about anything. I would check receipts and see if he was still with me. We’d go to Ace Hardware. I can remember — why Ace Hardware? — specific times. This is when he was still with me. Then I shared that. To hear other people did that exact same weird ritual, it’s comforting to know we’re all so weird. That whole part, that was just the initial blog post. Then when I actually dug in deeper to writing, one thing — again, I cry when I talk about this. Mornings with my dog were so special, just getting up in the morning really early pre-kids. He would sit on my legs. Then I would write and then have coffee. It was just so calm and nice. I loved mornings with him. Then when he died, I didn’t love mornings because they were just brutal. I knew what I lost.

When I got to write about this, it felt like I got those good mornings back with him. I could sit on the couch. I would even fluff the blanket for him to come with me, which I understand is bananas.

Zibby: Please don’t apologize. I’m so sorry. You articulate it really well. It’s so raw. It’s beautiful. We all can relate in one way, shape, or form. Now you’re going to have a vulnerability hangover again. I don’t know what to say.

Taylor: Oh, I know.

Zibby: Just from our talk, oh, my gosh. I believe in the power of writing also and how somehow, it does whatever we need our brains to do to help us get through. It’s a really good reminder to see how even the thought of writing can bring it back. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? Then I’ll let you go because you’re so tired. You should go and take a nap.

Taylor: I hope I have not said that too much. When I said sleep the fifteenth time, I was like, stop saying that word. On here with you, I feel like .

Zibby: It’s hard not to focus on it when you’re so tired. I spent years sleep deprived. I get it. I have four kids. I totally understand what it’s like to try to focus in a regular world when you’re operating on another plane for a long time.

Taylor: We’re just in the thick of it. It’s the teething and all the things. Anyway, my advice for aspiring writers is to go back to what my professor, Mr. Shapiro, said. Write every day. It really is all the things you learn in school. They’re true. Who knew? Teachers know what they’re talking about. The rhythm of writing, when I’m in a good pace of it, it comes so much easier. That’s what blogging did for me. It taught me the rhythm of it to keep doing it daily. Then also, I don’t know what people feel about manifesting, but I would write down very specific goals. That’s writing too. I have all these dream journals. I’ve always said my biggest fear in life is someone finding my dream journals because they are so embarrassing. Long before I ever knew how to get a literary agent, I would write in the present tense, I have a literary agent. I wrote that every day for five or six years. At some point, I was like, I’m never going to get one. I got so many rejections. I’m like, this isn’t going to happen. It did. It’s not just magic woo-woo stuff. I think it just gets you in a good mindset of treating — if you want it to be your job, your career, the business side of things . I have a writing agent. I have a great publisher. I would just write down these things that I really wanted. I had no idea how to get them. Then it just keeps you working toward it. Write every day. Also, manifest every day because there’s something to that positive mindset.

Zibby: I love that. I love it. I’m like, what would I even want to manifest? I don’t know. Let me think about that. It’s good. Everybody should think about it.

Taylor: So many things. It just puts you in a good mood. It’s fun. It’s fun to just sit there and write all these things you want as if they’ve already happened. Then you’re suddenly in a good mood. I’m going to do it right after this and be like, I have so much energy.

Zibby: There you go.

Taylor: I will manifest.

Zibby: Taylor, thank you for chatting and being so open and for your book and everything else. Good luck. I would say all the expressions.

Taylor: Thank you so much for having me.

Zibby: It will get better. Cling onto the good days. Usually, the good days are right after a really bad day.

Taylor: It’s not even full days. It’s just moments. It’s hours. a bad hour, and then they’ll all do something super cute. I’m like, it’s worth it. That’s just the craziness of motherhood. It makes no sense.

Zibby: Totally get it. Enjoy the ride.

Taylor: Thank you. Have a good day. Buh-bye.

Zibby: Bye.

BIRDIE & HARLOW: Life, Loss, and Loving My Dog So Much I Didn’t Want Kids (…Until I Did) by Taylor Wolfe

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