October 15, 2020 | 7 min read
In Khi Has Fun at Home, Emmy-nominated NBC 5 Chicago reporter, Michelle Relerford, encourages families to make the most out of a new reality. Empowered by other self-published authors and with newly found free time, Michelle was able to write and publish her debut book during the whirlwind of the pandemic. Michelle, a long-time Facing Forward partner, has pledged a portion of book sales to support our mission to eradicate generational cycles of homelessness for good.
Read along as we chat with Michelle to learn what her writing process was like, explore her brand, Babymogul, and get a few tips for parents and kids spending more time at home during the pandemic!
Khi Has Fun at Home is currently featured on your brand page, Babymogul.net. Can you tell us what the Babymogul brand represents to you?
Babymogul revolves around teaching children to aspire to be more than an employee. When I was growing up, you were really pushed to get an education, get a career, it was very focused on getting a job and working for someone else.
I think we're in a different time now, especially with social media. I’m seeing young people take command of their own lives and of their own futures. I think being able to teach young people that, yes, you can absolutely have a job, you can absolutely have a career and work for somebody else, but you can– at the same time –find something that you are passionate about and there’s no age limit to that.
You can find something that you love to do, and you can market it! You can create your own product and have your own business. You don’t always just have to do one thing in life. And so, I think being a Babymogul is not necessarily about being a baby but that mindset of starting young and learning how to become an entrepreneur, build your own business, and find freedom for yourself within that.
Can you describe what it was like to work with an illustrator to bring your story to life? It seems like a fun process.
It is! You have in your mind what you want to convey and how you want the story to be told. I think my background in journalism and being a reporter really, really helped me with that because you have to be able to visualize your story.
You write the words but at the same time, you have to be able to tell the videographer how it should look, how it should feel and know when a shot doesn’t work. And so, I’m accustomed to thinking very creatively and being able to give that type of direction. So, in a way, this was just a different extension of what I’ve been doing for so long.
Can you tell us what your personal writing process was like for this project?
Sporadic! (laughs) It really just happened! I was with a photographer at the time, we were done with our story for the day, driving back to the station and the story just came to me! I was writing it on my phone as we were in the car and then I said to him, “Do you want to hear my new book?” And he says, “Wait, you just wrote a book? What are you talking about!?” and I said, “Absolutely! Do you want to hear it?” So, I read it to him, and he says, “That’s great! How did you just do that!?”
[Journalists] are accustomed to writing very quickly and when I say it just came to me, it happened exactly that way. I think that speaks to it being meant to be. It literally just popped into my head and I wrote it down immediately!
Are there any lessons in the book that you think adults can draw from?
Absolutely. I think that for adults, it would be learning to find joy in this moment. There’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of uncertainty right now and I think it’s finding creativity, finding happiness and fun with who you have. We can’t go out and do all the things that we want to do but finding joy at home, being with the people that you love and making it as great of a time as you can. Being able to laugh, being able to smile and, at the end of the day, being able to feel good about it. I think, for me, that’s what I’ve had to learn, and that’s what I try to convey through the book.
Sometimes it can be just as simple as banging on a pot and pan [or playing with] a cardboard box and they’re like “Yeahh!!” So, finding the fun in the simple things. Which includes being at home with family and having fun together.
To expand on that, can you share a few tips for parents and kids spending more time at home during the pandemic?
Sure! If you have a teen like I do [have] them come and spend time with you. We have this little tunnel for my two-year-old, and one day we used the tunnel–I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the game show Whose Line Is It Anyway?– Well in the show, they have a game where they all have to come up with some kind of funny way to use a prop. My husband made it into straw and my son made it into a snake, I think I turned it into a hula hoop. We all had so much fun trying to outdo each other and it was a competition. We, actually, learn more about each other. My son – he’s 14 now – is absolutely hilarious but you don’t really get to see that side of him that much. So, just rediscover each other and become each other’s best friends for a while!
What speaks to you about Facing Forward’s mission and our work?
Homelessness has always been something that has struck me to the core. I have been involved with Facing Forward for many years now. I was first introduced to Facing Forward by the previous Executive Director who brought me to [Sanctuary Place]. I got to walk around and meet and a lot of the clients and families and talk to them.
What really touched me, is that Facing Forward gives people the tools to be independent, self-sufficient and to be able to have a second chance at life. They say you only live once but sometimes people need a second or third chance. You don’t always get that opportunity. And so, just seeing the lives that have been turned around and seeing the children that are proud of their moms really moved me.
As a mom, I know that there’s no greater feeling than being able to take care of your babies. When you can’t take care of your babies, it just… I can never imagine, and I hope that I never have to imagine it. If there’s anything that you can do to give another mom the help that she needs, well, that's just your instinct. So even if it’s just the slightest thing that I can do to help in this beautiful mission that Facing Forward has and the success that I have seen – it’s something that I can never forget–I want to help in any way that I can.
Visit www.babymogul.net to learn more about Michelle, and add Khi Has Fun at Home to your story time collection.
P.S. Stay tuned for more content featuring Michelle Relerford, Facing Forward and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, this November, during a special insider panel for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week!