Posting a URL on Facebook: take advantage of the preview

So you want to post a link on your company or organization’s Facebook page. Did you know that you don’t have to include the long URL in the body of your post? Thanks to Facebook’s preview functions, there is no need to keep that ugly looking URL (even if it is a shortened link) in the text of your post. Plus, you can customize that preview to make it much more attractive to your audience.

A few months ago, I made a quick two minute YouTube video showing how I always make sure to delete the link, and then use Facebook’s options to customize the post’s preview. Take a look. If you aren’t in a spot to watch a video at the moment, some tips follow below:

Kat’s Facebook Page Post Tips

First off, just delete the link in the body of your text. It’s a pet peeve of mine, and it just looks repetitive. Some reason that the need to keep the link or at least a shortened version to ensure they are getting the tracking information from that link. Even if it is a shortened URL, keeping that link is not worth the awkwardness of how that link looks in the post. If you are using that shortened URL to create the Facebook post, you should still get the insights. Or, you can make the most of your Page Insights to see how much engagement (aka, people going to the link from your post) your post is getting.

Here is an example of the Facebook link insights on a page I manage. It gives me my Facebook specific clicks.
Here is an example of the Facebook link insights on a page I manage. It gives me my Facebook specific clicks.

Customize the image that appears in the link. (I reference this as “a topic for another day” in my video. I will eventually make a separate video about this, but until then, I’ll explain it in text.) Unless you are showing a gallery of items, you don’t need to use the gallery option for images, which Facebook seemingly defaults to if you have multiple images on the page. Just click on each image to delete each one from your preview.

You don't need to use Facebook's gallery option if you aren't showcasing a variety of items.
You don’t need to use Facebook’s gallery option if you aren’t showcasing a variety of items.

You can also choose an image separate from the ones Facebook automatically pulls from the link. I like to use a service like Canva or (if I am feeling especially creative) Adobe Illustrator to create an image that fits Facebook’s ideal image dimensions (940×788 pixels.) You then upload it via the dashed box with the plus sign you see at the bottom of your link preview. That keeps your image from being cutoff awkwardly.

Take time to customize the preview of your link. I think this is especially important if you are a news source or blog sharing your links on Facebook. The Facebook link preview will just post the first few lines of your post cut off at a random point. It will also include information like the date. You don’t really need any of that in your preview. Plus, instead of giving your reader the first lines of the post that you want them to visit, why not tailor that preview to a summary that will pique their interest?

Edit your post's preview to eliminate unneeded words and entice your readers.
Edit your post’s preview to eliminate unneeded words and entice your readers.

Facebook is so mainstream that users now have high expectations of how a professional organization or business will use the service. I think making sure your posts are neat and not repetitive will lend your Facebook page further credibility, and eliminating the URL and customizing preview options will give your page that leg up.

The PUPPS plan

I promise not to make this into a mommy blog. However, it is difficult to resist because there are some things I have experienced thus far that I found little to nothing about online. It is also hard to resist because I come from the “write about what you know” school of thought. I’ll always lean toward writing about subjects that motivate me. So while I promise I will still write about sports, social media and coffee, some parenting stuff will undoubtedly sneak in now and then.

With five weeks to go before my son’s due date, I started running into problems. One is a condition called PUPPS, and it impacts a very small amount of pregnant women. (I hit the jackpot!) Without going into detail, it feels like having a very severe case of the chicken pox and looks like you have some skin disease from an apocalyptic movie. (Google it if you want an actual description – I don’t want anyone to recoil away by reading the details here.)

The only cure for PUPPS? Having your child. Given that it is not harmful to the baby, you are left to suffer through it. You can’t sleep, you feel constantly itchy and you have to cover up when you go out, fearing that people will think you have some horribly contagious disease.

Not only did I suffer for a few weeks with my doctors not recognizing what was happening, but they had little to no solutions for me when I was ultimately diagnosed. Most doctors and midwives just shrug and tell you to take some Benedryl. I resorted to searching online for anything that would help. I was nervous about taking Benedryl while pregnant, so I tried to find any means to avoid that.

Important note: Even though doctors seemingly have little to offer when it comes to treating PUPPS, make sure you are checked out by your doctor ASAP anyway. There is a serious pregnancy complication that shares some of the symptoms called Cholestasis of Pregnancy, and it can be deadly. They can test for that with a blood test (I had it done, and it’s just your normal blood draw.) Make sure they test to make sure your chicken pox style itch isn’t that.

Some of the items that got me through PUPPS.Through trial and error, I found a course of mildly-effective treatment that allowed me to sleep for a few hours and let me leave the house without looking awful. I am not saying this will work for everyone and am not a medical professional. This is what worked for me, and hopefully, the below will prove somewhat effective for you following a PUPPS diagnosis.

    • Stop using anything with cocoa butter. When I started coming down with PUPPS, a nurse told me that it was just “stretch marks” all over my body and that cocoa butter was the only way to go. I stocked up on a thick cocoa butter lotion for stretch marks and a cocoa butter spray. Guess what? Cocoa butter makes this condition worse. So stop smelling like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and halt use of that stuff immediately. (But don’t throw out the spray if you have it. I’ll get to that later.)
    • Oatmeal is your best friend. Oatmeal baths worked wonders for me. While you can buy Aveeno Oatmeal Bath packets at Amazon and some drugstores, the most useful baths utilized ½ cup of oats powdered in a blender and placed into a sachet made of two layers of paper towels and twine. I dropped the full sachet in cool bath water and it proved much more effective, and cleaner, than the store-bought packets. I also only used oatmeal bar soap whenever I took a shower or washed my hands. The oatmeal soothed the irritation and reduced the itch.
    • Pine tar soap is not the end all, be all. When you search PUPPS remedies online, many people swear by using pine tar soap as a treatment. I tried it and it made my skin burn. Plus my husband said it made me smell like David Ortiz’s baseball bat. (But he’s on a retirement season hot streak, so maybe that is a good thing?) Pine tar soap didn’t work for me, and while it seems to have helped enough people to make it worth a shot, it isn’t always effective.
    • Ice, ice baby. Ice packs were also one of the only means of relief I could get on my legs and hands. Luckily, my lifelong streak of knee injuries meant that I have a rotation of eight (no lie) ice packs in my freezer at all times.
    • Sparingly use the strong stuff. When things got awful, I used 1/2% hydrocortisone anti-itch cream. However, I only used it on selected spots and made sure I didn’t use it on more than one limb at a time. For example, if my right hand was the worst at that moment and I needed to be able to type for work, I would apply the cream there and wait a few hours before using it anywhere else.
    • Venture outside. At first, I wanted to remain inside because I looked awful, but my husband recommended getting outside for just a bit (for my psyche more than anything else). Wouldn’t you know – the fresh air and sun (not direct sunlight, but just the warmth) made me feel 100% better.
    • Treat the dryness. After four or five days of this regime, my PUPPS calmed down and I stopped looking like patient zero. However, my skin was dry from the condition and all of the treatments. At that point, I moved on to a Soothing Oatmeal Cream (I used Walmart’s oatmeal cream, which is a generic brand of Eucerin’s.) I also reincorporated the Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Soothing Oil Spray, but not anything else cocoa butter.

PUPPS tries your patience, which is the last thing one needs when they are massively pregnant. (Trust me, not much brings me to tears – this did multiple times). You have to figure out a treatment plan that works for you, and trial and error is the only way to do so.

(Disclosure: The links above are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase from them, I do get credit.)

On feeling sorry for yourself

It is completely unnerving to be told you can’t go about your everyday.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant, my doctor told me she didn’t want me to commute into the city for work for the rest of my pregnancy. It wasn’t the biggest shocker, as it was something she had alluded to twice prior, but I never expected her to actually enforce it. My husband and I now share a car (the Kat Mobile has gone to the great parking lot in the sky), and thus I relied on the commuter rail and Green Line to get to and from work everyday. On a good day, the commute was 65 minutes one way. On most days, the commute was 95 minutes one way. (Thus what happens when you work on Boston’s B Line.)

I was getting to work at 9am and hopefully getting home by 8:15pm. This was far better than my normal, which was work my job at the university from 9am – 5:30pm, then run to my other job at the newspaper and work until 11pm. My voluntary concession to the third trimester would be that I’d give my newspaper shifts up. That alone was enough to drive me up a tree. (Who knew I would miss taking coaches’ phone calls so much?)

Sure, even my amended schedule was tiring me out, but I imagined I just would keep doing this until I had my son. What choice did I have? Isn’t this what everyone does? I would work until five days prior to my due date just like I thought everyone else did.

Instead, I was given a few days notice and told that the day I turned 37 weeks, I was to trade in my commute for working remotely. I obliged, thinking it would last just a few days. I planned to walk into my next doctor’s appointment and say, “See? Nothing happened. This kid isn’t coming for another week or two. Let me go back to my work.”

I went back, and she said the opposite. Well, then.

In the mere six days since I had stopped my commute, I felt aimless and sorry for myself nearly every second of that time. Even though I’ve had my ups and downs with my full-time career path over the last three years (my spirit for the field of student affairs has its ebbs and flows, but I think a lot of those in the field are going through the same lately,) it guts me to not physically be in the student union I’ve called my work home for most of my entire working life. I even miss my little, tiny closet office – something one of my Deans said I can’t complain about until I’ve been in it 10 years, because that’s how long he was stuck in it. (Guess what – June 16 marks ten years of it being my office. I’ll register an honorary complaint on that day, even though I’ve learned to enjoy it.)

This whole situation found me sitting at home on Commencement Sunday feeling immensely left out and horribly depressed. I moped around my apartment, lacking the desire to do anything. I had missed Saturday’s pre-Commencement reception at my boss’ house. I had missed hearing the organ play and shake my entire office floor in the process. I had missed the one day a year I get to dress up in faux doctoral gear to work Commencement field crowd control. I couldn’t live tweet from the office’s Twitter account. You don’t really realize how much those things mean until you are sitting on the sidelines under orders not to be there.

I was miserable. I didn’t even want to write, and I had mounds of it to finish.

But then, at one point, it all clicked. My almost-one year old kitten Marv has a don’t-quit personality that mimics that of his namesake, legendary Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy. But instead of his typical spunk, he had followed me around that day with a long face that perfectly represented my mood.

I don’t know what it was, but I looked down at him and realized I couldn’t do this for the next 14 days or however long I have until my son makes his appearance. I only have so many days to be fully present in what I want and need to do until what I want and need to do completely changes. Wasting all of that time in wallow is a horrible, no good use of that time. I was letting down so many by doing so, most importantly myself.

Feeling sorry for yourself is a simple trap to get caught in, pregnant or not. It’s something I’ve let myself do too much over the years. You have to find a way out of it that works for you. Sometimes it just takes looking at your spunky kitten. Sometimes it takes a whole lot more. Whatever you need to do, do it.

A Non-Fashionable Girl Buys Maternity Clothes: A Store Guide

Don’t worry – I’ll never go all fashion blogger on you all. (I once tweeted, “In the tune of AC/DC: For those who can wear jeans to work, we salute you.” I think that settles how much I lack true fashion sense.) But I’m eight months pregnant and am still shocked at how few real takes there are on maternity clothes.

So I thought I would use my little corner of the net to take a break from what I usually blog about and give guidance to others in my shoes in the future. (And to the guys who read my blog: keep it in mind for your significant others down the line.)

I will warn you: buying maternity clothes is pricey. Very few retailers still sell them in stores, and those who do often exempt them from sales (I’m looking judgmentally at you, Macy’s.) So you may be stuck buying them online, where shipping is either very slow but cheap, or speedy but expensive.

A sample of the basic t-shirts Zulily sells. (Photo: Zulily)
A sample of the basics Zulily sells. (Photo: Zulily)

You may try out Target’s offerings to save money. However, if you are under five-foot-three (like five-foot-one me,) you will find very little. Their dresses are made for basketball centers and their pants go at least a foot beyond my actual foot. Their t-shirts are okay, but a little too v-necked and thin to wear in an office environment. I was not impressed. Old Navy’s offerings are also tailored towards those of the population who don’t need stepstools, so I haven’t been able to try too much from them.

Zulily was a big help for me early on, but their shipping times vary greatly, making it impractical once you reach your third trimester. They have so many things I would like to buy offered at a reasonable price, but at this point, waiting 14 days for delivery means I might wear the item just once before I have my child in May. But for basics at the beginning, I recommend them. (It is a site that you have to sign up for, and if you are interested, feel free to use my invite link. I get credit if you make a purchase.)

Pink Blush's mint crochet arm shirt. I love this thing (Photo: Pink Blush.)
Pink Blush’s mint crochet arm shirt. I love this thing (Photo: Pink Blush.)

The place I wish I had shopped more is Pink Blush. Though some of their items are a tad too casual for my use, plenty of them are beautifully made and able to be dressed up or down. Their crochet arm shirt is something I want one of in every color. I bought it in mint green, and currently it is my favorite place of clothing. I have one dress from them, and it is so soft and looks amazing. On the whole, maternity clothes can make you feel sub-par, but Pink Blush’s make you feel like you might just know what you’re doing. They are worth the somewhat more expensive price. (And if you are early on, you can order some of their clearance items on Zulily, but you will just have double or triple the shipping time.)

That elbow sleeved ruched dress from Motherhood Maternity.
That elbow sleeved ruched dress from Motherhood Maternity on me.

The mall maternity stores, Motherhood Maternity, Destination Maternity and A Pea in the Pod, have the same parent company and have similar pieces at different price points. It can be a frustrating realization. They are another good spot for basics, including their online-only elbow sleeve ruched dresses in a variety of colors and prints that are simple and wearable forever. I own this one – I should have bought three. (I might still. Their shipping is quick.) But overall as a brand, they seem not to have escaped the frump factor yet, and too much of their stuff has ill-fitting empire waists.

It’s important to note that what works for one person may not work for others. I have one friend who swore by a Motherhood Maternity outlet store she found, while another (also short like me) friend had a lot of success at Old Navy thanks to hemming and working in a more casual workplace. Sadly, a lot of maternity clothes offerings ignore those of us who have to work in a business environment, and focus on much more casual offerings. With workplaces becoming more and more casual, I don’t know if this will change.

Another note: screw the suggestions that “your maternity size is your normal size” that these stores will give you. For some of us, it’s not true. In some brands, my maternity size is smaller than my normal size because of my height and proportions. Look at each store’s size charts, try on what you can, and make the judgement call for yourself.

And when you get frustrated around seven months that you look dowdy and awful, just remember that a pre-pregnancy blazer and jewelry can go a long way towards making you feel better.

I promise I’ll read my email for coupons from now on.

Saturday was a first: I was coupon-shamed at Christmas Tree Shops.

The cashier looked at what I was buying and asked, “Are you on our email list?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Well, do you not look at your email? Because these were on sale on Thursday with an email coupon.”

I sheepishly admitted I didn’t look at Thursday’s email.

“Well, maybe you should read your email more often then,” the cashier said in a sing-song tone, gesturing at me with the jar of paprika I was buying. “Do you want to sign up for our free plush Peep giveaway?”

“Oh no, it’s okay,” I answered, looking over at the lines of anxious people waiting to check out behind me and at every other register.

The cashier then shot me daggers with her eyes. “I would sign up for the giveaway. It’s a stuffed animal, for goodness sakes.”

She shoved a slip my way and I didn’t say a word. It seemed like there was no discussing this further. I scribbled down my name and phone number as she finally scanned my items. I slid the slip back to her.

“Are you going to check your email more often now?” she asked as she handed me my receipt.

“Yes, yes I am,” I answered, red in the face.

Needless to say, I spent the first 10 minutes of my Sunday morning reading all of my email, looking for coupons.