You, Me, and COVID-19

March 15. I was out bar hopping with two of my coworkers. We had just gotten done with our last day of work until April 1st. We were happy, we were cautious, we were a little bummed about two weeks off from work but we were thankful for the opportunity to take a break for a bit.

April 1. Well.. that sucks that we aren’t back to work yet but hey, at least we aren’t furloughed!

April 20. WELL WE’RE FURLOUGHED. Man, that really sucks. I really thought we would be back to work by now. Everything is closed, I have no motivation to stay positive or even look forward to anything because now it truly seems like this is going to be our normal for awhile.

May 1. Nothing new. Still doing nothing. I have grown into my couch potato life. I guess I will binge watch everything.

June 9. FINALLY A RAY OF HOPE! The Safari Park (where I work) is opening back up on June 20th! That must mean I am bound to go back to work soon.

June 10. I finally have motivation to work and make a difference in how I want my life to turn out going forward.

Since June 10th, it seems like more things are looking up (in terms of things opening or seeing some of my friends being able to go back to work!) and I wanted to do more with my time after having a few months of doing nothing and gaining weight. I really didn’t like feeling unproductive and I was hopeful that with the news of the Safari Park opening that I would be back to work in no time. However, it is now August 16th and I still have no start date for work, but I am still trying to be productive because I still want to feel purpose in my life!

Needless to say, these last few months have probably been the same roller coaster for you too. Nothing seems to be constant and as someone who used to live in a rather unknown future back in 2018, I’m not a fan of this new normal. It raises more unknowns for me and that makes me nervous.

Now, I’m not about to spend this whole blog complaining – that’s not really my cup of tea nor do I think you want to read someone whining! But I wanted to share a little bit of what I am doing to find more constants in my life while also fostering productivity versus wallowing in a pile of blankets, Doritos, and self pity on the couch. I’m hoping by sharing this with you that maybe you can start to find a sense of productivity and start living your best life – even if it is in quarantine.

The first and most important factor for me being productive has been this blog! It’s not exactly a secret that between March and June, I haven’t been writing a whole bunch. Maybe one or two here and there but definitely not enough to call myself a blogger and that bugged me. I have always talked about “ugh if only I had more time then I could really turn my blog into something special.” Well I was literally given all the time in the world with this quarantine and I did nothing with it! Early on, I tried working in my bedroom just on my bed, or at my dining room table next to my living room TV, but soon I found that both places seemed to encourage laziness as opposed to progress. I found myself spending more time napping or binge watching a show than actually working. And doing that for three months really took a toll on my physically and mentally because I truly felt like this would never end and I would be stuck inside for another three months doing NOTHING. However, after I got news of the Safari Park opening, I kicked myself in to high gear and told myself that it was time to make up for lost time. I mean with it opening back up that must mean I would be back at work soon, and that gave me a new spark of motivation and productivity! It helped me get out of my funk because it felt like things were looking up and it was something to look forward to each week to see if I would be scheduled for a shift.

So I told myself to dedicate at least three hours a day to work in my office and get work done. If you’re in a productive place then you are more likely to do something with your time there, right? That’s probably why a lot of people find that working from home is hard because there are so many opportunities to procrastinate. But one of my goals has been to find success in blogging and influencing and ever since I set my mind to it, I have been able to work with so many new companies and brands! In fact during this quarantine, I have been able to work with more companies on a sponsored level more than I have all of last year!! The results for which may be rather small but I am still really proud of myself because without making the initiative then this would have never happened. Every step forward, however small, is still a step forward. And if I can keep finding success, then soon the small steps will start getting bigger and bigger! For that reason, I am motivated more and more to keep working and working.

The second thing I have tried to incorporate more of is being physically active. Ya’ll I am not going to lie to you. From March 15th, I have gained TWELVE POUNDS!!! I’m not trying to get pity points here because again, that’s not my jam. But that SHOCKED me to look at myself in the mirror and not like what I see, and honestly I was NOT about to let the “Quarantine 15” take another victim. I have always looked at myself with kind eyes, but that was my first time looking at myself and understanding what it’s like to tear yourself down. I looked at my pudge, I looked at the cellulite that looked like it was getting worse, and clothes that used to fit no problem – well, now I was having a problem. So a change needed to happen.

Physical activity is not just good for your physical health, but also your mental health. And with my job at the Safari Park being as active as it was, I was never concerned about gaining anything but muscle. But here we are! I’ve lost muscle and gained weight. And I needed a little boost in my self confidence since I was really taking it out on myself for having gained weight to begin with. So I have started taking my dog on longer walks and runs, and I have committed my mindset to focus on getting up and moving as opposed to focusing on the scale that seems to be taunting me from under the sink. Although I am still recovering from a hamstring injury, I have also been able to do leg strengthening workouts too. But I would much rather put on my music and run – my mind gets distracted and before I know it, I’ve ran 2 miles and I’m sweating my butt off. But maybe that’s because it’s been super freaking hot in San Diego lately too.. I’m taking workouts slowly because I don’t want to get injured again but so far I am happy with myself in getting up and active more than I had been!

Lastly, and this one might be the most important of all, is keeping myself to a schedule! A lot of people have been joking lately that they are bummed that they wasted money on buying a 2020 planner this year. And I get it, because I mean, what are you going to write in it? But keeping a planner has made me HELLA productive. I wrote in a previous post about the importance of writing even the smallest things down in your planner, even if you write it down after you have already done it! There’s just a sense of accomplishment from checking something off your list! But because I am trying to be a better “influencer” and I am trying to do more with this blog and be better at posting for my page and small shop, I actually break EVERYTHING up to make it something I can easily cross off. Post on my small shop Instagram? Check. Post a look on Pinterest? Check. Post a Disney Bound on LikeToKnow.It? Check. Etc etc etc. I have around 8-10 different things that I want to post per day on all my social media platforms. Keeping myself fully accountable for what does and does not get done really pushes me every day to wake up and get to work that way I can have a whole list of things that got done as opposed to looking at a blank piece of calendar paper. I don’t know about you but seeing a blank page would make me feel like such a lazy lump.

I also don’t normally schedule anything too far in advance because I don’t really need to, but obviously for things like appointments and collaboration deadlines, yea I make note of those dates. I have also found that I really love looking up “International/World ‘whatever’ Days” well in advance that way I can make fun content that relates to that day! But keeping my planner next to me all day, I can easily add and check things off of my list and stay on top of being productive. Even if you don’t have a lot of social media posting to do like me, I still write down more mundane tasks like “clean the kitchen” and “do laundry” because I feel like sometimes when I get caught up with work or sucked in to binge watching, I forget to do the small things that are still very important to life. Giving yourself that sense of purpose to finish things REALLY helps get out of a funk!

I wish I could tell you that I am going back to work soon, but honestly I’m not hopeful that it will be any time in the near future. Especially with California having an increase in cases and places beginning to close again as a result of that. But I’m really trying my best to not focus on the things that I can’t control and to keep my productivity train chugging right along. I have plenty of things in my life that I can control and to keep me busy. I can work on making this blog better, I can work on gaining a better presence on social media, and who knows, maybe I can turn this into a full time job. I mean, it’s doubtful but that’s not going to stop me from trying! More realistically though, I just want to create a productive space for myself to read more, to run more, to stay on top of cleaning my office and room, and more normal everyday things like that.

So I encourage you to try. If you’re like me and you are either furloughed or out of a job – keep trying to live a life you want to live! Whether that be trying to get another job, creating a job for yourself, or just working on yourself for the better by taking time for you and your mental or physical health – TRY! Never settle for being okay with just watching TV or playing video games all day. Maybe you’re okay with doing that, and honestly maybe you need that right now for your mental health, so I am specifically talking to those who are having a really tough time with being happy or positive right now because they feel like tey have lost a sense of purpose. I promise you that you can turn it around for yourself. You can still have an amazing life even if you can’t go do a whole lot of things elsewhere. If you need to get a planner to keep you in check like mine does for me, then I highly recommend that too because mine has been a blessing to keep me hoping for more! Because it helps me keep on track with blogging and being physically active, as well as getting so much other stuff done! It also has helped me feel like I am doing more with my day than just binge watching TV. It continually keeps me wanting to write more in it and work harder to fill it up even more. Whether that be blogging, posting, running, or figuring out cool new pictures to take to edit into something amazing, I am trying to make the most of my time.

Don’t let this quarantine get the best of you, because YOU are better than THAT! And like Walt Disney used to say “Keep Moving Forward.”


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Failure is in the Eye of the Beholder

The news is in! After struggling to keep my page new, fresh, and creative, I, Donna Gail, have officially fallen back down to 19.9k followers.

Now before you think this is going to be a sob story, I have a completely different direction that I want to go in. Like my past blog, “How Losing 11,000+ Followers Made Me More Successful“, there will be the real side of this (which is what I have lost) and the optimistic side (which is what I have gained!).

Ten months ago, I had around 33,000 followers. But I also had my Instagram handle still under my small shop’s name. I had started to convert my small shop’s page to a more blogger/lifestyle page for some time so it didn’t feel right keeping it my small shop’s name which is why I changed it to @donnagail.bby. In an attempt to help my page and my business out, I had done A LOT of loop giveaways which left my page with a lot of fake, spam, ghost, and giveaway accounts. I had many followers who just weren’t there for the content – only for the free stuff. Because all these followers weren’t engaging with my account, it made my page look relatively fake so I made the hard decision to delete all of those accounts. I knew the repercussions would be that maybe I would lose even more followers because they didn’t view me as legitimate or I would never gain more followers because, again, my engagement made me look like a fake or uninteresting account.

And that’s exactly what happened. I willingly deleted about 11,000 followers from my page because they weren’t people that actually supported me. From there, my page’s back-end numbers seemed to be staying steady for someone who had a third less followers! But what I feared was going to happen kept happening. Week in and week out, hundreds of followers would continue to leave. Maybe they didn’t recognize my page’s name after I changed the name, maybe because they didn’t like the content I was posting because it wasn’t JUST Disney, who knows! But I liked the content so I kept posting.

Now almost a year later, I am finally under 20,000. Trust me I understand how superficial this all sounds! “Waaahhh, you ONLY have 19,900 followers… Woah is you..” Haha I get it! Which is exactly the point I’ll be making here. That overall this whole losing followers thing doesn’t really matter. But at the same time, people can gabble on and on about how numbers don’t matter, and they are right they don’t, BUT it still hurts to lose the number or have poor numbers. The reason it doesn’t feel great is because content creators like myself usually spend A LOT of time curating their content, editing pictures, finding things to discuss that will spark interest. So when people don’t really end up liking it, it’s like “Ok well what am I supposed to do then?”

And right there is where the comparing starts. I can tell myself repeatedly to not be like others, to stay in my lane and do what makes me happy to post and success will be sure to follow. But then I see so many other people posting grainy pictures, selfies with the caption “I woke up like this” and nothing more, and overall just thoughtless content and yet they are the ones that get the most likes, comments, and followers. It baffles me! Then I wonder that if that’s what is driving success, maybe I just need to learn to not try to post good things, but how does that make sense? It doesn’t.

However, even with all the strife that my page has caused me, I have actually been able to work with MORE companies and brands. Strange right? Almost like they like the authenticity that my page holds and the fact that I’m not afraid to post what I like, be a goof on my stories, and actually engage back with the people who take time out of their day to comment or DM me. It’s in those moments of being offered a new collaboration with someone that I feel really good about the content I provide people!

If you are out there right now beating yourself up about the same thing I am going through right now, then here is me telling you straight up that this is the PROOF that numbers don’t matter! And no, it will probably never not hurt to have people continue to leave my page just as you will probably never feel great about that happening to you either. But we have to keep reminding ourselves and each other that this whole number game thing does not determine your overall success. It truly, truly doesn’t.

So although it doesn’t feel great to have people continually tell me “I don’t like you or your page” by the simple act of unfollowing me, I still like to think that I provide fun content. And even though it might suck to think about eventually being under 10,000 followers, I would like to be more optimistic than that. I haven’t had a whole ton of success these last two years, and it seems like more often than not my hard work kind of just goes unnoticed or falls by the wayside, never to see any tangible benefits. But I still choose to continue to work hard.

Because just like beauty, success, and all other positive things are in the eye of the beholder, so is failure. So even though I look at myself and my page sometimes as being a failure, I know deep down that that isn’t true. And maybe someone is out there right there looking at my page as the best thing ever!

So here’s to the failure of continually losing followers, but also to all the successes I’ve had without those people around to see it!


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Real Life Princess Tiana’s

I have wanted to make a post for a while now about why Tiana is the best princess and my personal favorite. For months I have written this post in my head and wanted to find a way to not just make it sound like me talking about my favorite princess. Tiana is strong, independent, very hard working and has truly inspired me to keep working hard for my own dreams. She has taught me that even when I think I might be doing enough to accomplish my dreams, there is always something more I could be doing.

However, in light of everything that has been going on with the Black Lives Matter movement, I have found a new direction for this post. One that praises Tiana, but also supports some of the incredible and beautiful black women who truly embody all that Tiana is.


When you watch Princess and the Frog, you can’t help but notice the massive difference in possible opportunity that Lottie has versus Tiana. Lottie lives in a mansion while Tiana lives in a rather small and cramped house. Lottie is given things while Tiana has to earn things. You see where Tiana grew up, you see how she grew up, but you also see her trying her best to rise above that. In the first scenes alone, you see just how hard Tiana works to make her and her dad’s dream come true of opening a restaurant. And although she may be loved and accepted by Lottie, Lottie still seems rather oblivious to her best friend’s struggles because she is too focused on climbing the social ladder.

Not to mention that not everyone believes that Tiana can overcome her adversity. When Mr. Fenner and Mr. Fenner show up to Lottie’s ball with the original intention of giving Tiana paperwork to sign to finally get her restuarant, they tell her that she has been outbid. Further their response is to tell her that it was probably best that she was outbid because “a little woman with [her] background would have had her hands full running a big business like that.” I think it’s pretty clear as day that they don’t mean to say that she isn’t business savvy enough but rather that her being black somehow hinders her ability to succeed. Every time I watch that scene I can’t help but scowl.

But as we know, by the end of the movie she makes her dream happen. And it wasn’t because she married some prince that solved her problems. No – it’s because she put in the work. (And it might have helped that Louis helped with a more “persuasive” approach..)

Like all Disney princesses, Tiana is a role model to many but especially to the community she represents. That being said there are so many beautiful and hard working black women in the Disney community who are being real life Tiana’s and I wanted to share a few of their stories.


Cree Michelle Rogers

About her:

I am 28 years old and I live in Georgia! Follow me on Instagram (@Brown.Suga.Outlaw) and Facebook (@Brown.Suga.Outlaw). TikTok: @brown.suga.outlaw

Her story:

As a little girl, I didn’t have very much representation. While there were black characters, a majority of the time they had only one gender represent both parties. So I ended up identifying with the tan girl or the one that wasn’t blonde. I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but I thought white was the default. I believed that white people could be anything and the only way I could live out my crazy daydreams was to be someone completely different than who I was. It inadvertently messed with my self-esteem. I’ve matured passed that to a certain point, but it hurts to look back and think about all the time I wasted wanting to be something that not only I would never be, but something that was so systemically ingrained into everyday life. Once I finally began to love my blackness, I decided to cosplay predominately black characters to bring awareness to what characters are out there for little girls that might be suffering like I did.  I believe it is hard enough being a person. Everyone has insecurities. But to add on to that with racists notions of what the ideal beauty should look like, is something that I personally want to end for girls and boys of color growing up now. 

What is your favorite part in Princess and the Frog that features Tiana and why?

My favorite part in the Princess in the Frog is when Tiana and Naveen are hungry in the swamp and she’s fighting her urge to eat a bug. Her line “There is no way I am kissing a frog and eating a bug, on the same day” ALWAYS cracks me up!


Elantrice

About her:

In the Disney community I am known as Diz Thru Brown Eyes.  I am a soon to be 48 year old from Georgia. I started my blog (www.dizthrubrowneyes.com) in 2011 upon realizing there were a limited number of Black voices in the Disney online community.  I wanted others to view Disney through my eyes.  I share my travels to Disney Parks and merchandise finds on Instagram (@dizthrubrowneyes) and Twitter (@DizThruBrwnEyes).

Her story:

I was asked to share my story, which is hard to know where to begin or what to include.  I grew up in a small town in Georgia that had its prejudiced people and ways.  My parents, who have been married for over fifty years, shielded my sister and I from some it.  My town’s downtown area would close on Wednesdays at 12pm because hundreds of years before that is when slaves were sold. Proms were segregated until my senior year which made CNN headlines. Getting older, you notice racism more. I was asked to leave a temp position because I came to work one day with braids, followed around in a store, and hearing comments like “you talk like a white person”. Black Lives Matter is more than a fad. We are talking about life and death. I desire to feel safe, valued, and seen as an equal.  

What makes Tiana the perfect role model for girls, young adults, and grown women of the black community?

Every little girl deserves to see someone that looks like them in books, on television, and in movies.  Princess Tiana helped to fulfill that.  She was determined to be self-sufficient and achieve her goals.  Even when she was turned into a frog, Tiana kept going.  Tiana demonstrated strength, intelligence, resourcefulness, patience, and so much more.  As a huge fan of Princess Tiana, I want to see more of her on merchandise and at events.  In 2017, I attended Tiana’s Riverboat Party held in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  It was like an intimate party with her and Prince Naveen.  Princess Tiana deserves so much more and so do I.


Tala

About her:

My first name is Crystal, but I prefer to go by my middle name, Tala! I am 21 years of age and I currently live in Florida. My main social is @talalovesyou on Instagram. I also have an art account (@talalovesyouart).

Her story:

I was born in a mixed family. My mother is middle eastern and my father is African American. When it comes to my appearance, people see me as a black woman. But since my parents are divorced, most of my upbringing has been with my mother.

Because of this, I don’t act entirely the same way as a person of color.

This has created an ongoing challenge for me. Since childhood, I had a hard time fitting in with my peers. White people would not accept me because of my skin color. And black people would not accept me because of my “white” mannerisms. So, I have always felt like an outsider and have had to work hard to find my place. This has encouraged me to depend and rely on myself to achieve my goals.

What do you think is the best one-liner that Tiana has in the movie and why?

As Tiana learned from her father, “Fairytales can come true. You gotta make em’ happen, it all depends on you.” That is why I feel connected to Tiana. She believed that she could create her own happily ever after through her hard work. I hope that my story helps others to learn that is great to have help from others, but you cannot rely on anyone to hand you your dreams. You have to put in the work and forge their own path.

I am hoping for a future where everybody has equal opportunities, regardless of where they came from or the color of their skin. I am hoping to live in a society where we are not judged by our appearances, but accepted for who we are.


Lorraine (Princess Indigo)

About her:

My name is Princess Indigo and I am a fairy living in the human world. As a human, I am called Lorraine and I am 40 years young. I live in Los Angeles, CA and have lived here my entire human life. Follow me on Instagram (@PrincessIndigosPalace) and Facebook (Princess Indigo’s Palace).

Her story:

I have always loved fairy tales with “happily ever after” endings. They provided an escape for me when I needed it. I was a pretty happy child…at first. I went to a mostly white school until the 3rd grade. I was one of a handful of Black, Mexican, and Asian kids. I had friends, I had fun, and I don’t remember experiencing any racism at that time. But then my mother was laid off from her well paying job. We had to move. I had to go to a different school. This school was full of black children. I was thrilled to see an entire playground with children that looked like me. But I soon found out, we spoke completely different languages. The children teased me for not sounding or acting like them. I cried. Nearly every day I begged my mom to change my school. While she wanted to, she could not. 4th grade turned me into a shy reclusive kid. I assumed something was wrong with me because I was so different and none of the other kids would talk to me. 

After that awful year, we moved again and my school changed. This school was about half black and half Mexican. While the teasing stopped, I still didn’t have many friends. I stayed to myself, afraid that if I spoke too much, I would be “found out”. However, I do remember an incident in which I was invited to play with children and we were picking characters we would pretend to be. I announced I would be “the princess”. Another child told me I couldn’t be a princess because “princesses aren’t black”. At the time, I was unfazed and I simply stated that my mom said I could be whatever I want to be and I wanted to be a princess! They didn’t argue but I wasn’t invited to play again after that. I remembered the incident years later and was saddened – not because they left me out after that, but because the child that believed princesses weren’t black…..was another black child….. A beautiful black girl, truly believed, that as a black person you couldn’t even PRETEND to be a princess. That still breaks my heart. 

By 7th grade I made friends, or rather a group of Mexican girls befriended me. I was SO happy to have friends I could totally be myself with and they didn’t seem to think I was “different” or “weird”. In High School I made more black friends but I always had more Mexican friends because I wasn’t really into a lot of things that were considered “black” – the more I look back though, it wasn’t that I didn’t like “black” culture, I simply didn’t bother to follow POPULAR culture. Even today I don’t know who a lot of famous people are. I don’t really listen to the latest music, or watch the latest TV shows. I don’t even watch movies unless they are Disney movies! I stay close to my fairy tale things because that’s what make me happy.

As an adult, I have found my happiness in dressing up as a princess and other fairy tale characters for kid events and parties. Aside from the fact I love doing it, I feel it is my duty as a princess to be there for little brown girls and show them that there ARE magical beings that look just like them. I also remind all children that they possess the magic within them along with the power to make any and ALL of their dreams come true! I have been doing princess parties off and on for little girls on weekends for almost 14 years now. 

When Disney announced “The Princess and the Frog” would feature their first black princess I was ecstatic! I have always loved Disney Princesses and now they had one that looked like me! I went on opening night to the midnight showing with friends. I loved the movie and I still do… despite Tiana being a frog for most of the for most of the film… After the movie came out I was booked nearly every weekend for a over a year. It is always so wonderful to see a little girl’s eyes light up at the sight of a princes that looks just like her. Representation is SO important for black children. Black children often see the worst aspects of their community in the media. Things have changed a lot since I was young but the issue still remains.

Why is Tiana an inspiration to you?

I love Tiana as a character. She’s sweet, hard-working, goal-oriented, driven, intelligent, beautiful and more. She’s the kind of woman that even if she had not married a prince, she would still  have reached her goal. I have big dreams, too. I didn’t find a prince. But I know if I continue to work toward my goals, I will reach them. Tiana has her resturant, and some day I will have a brick and mortar palace. I have come so far. And as Tiana, would sing: “There ain’t nothing gonna stop me now! I’m almost there!”


Original design : Hannah Alexander Artwork
Photographer: @aoisenko

Maria (CocoaSugarCosplay)

About her:

I’m 31, and a resident of central Pennsylvania. The best place to find me is on Instagram (@CocoaSugarCosplay)!

Her story:

When I was 11, my family moved from our diverse Philadelphia suburb to a small town in rural Pennsylvania. It was (and is) a predominantly white town. I was one of six black students in my graduating high school class, pretty much guaranteed to be the only black person in a classroom at any given time. That includes staff (my mother was the second black person hired by the school district, and my aunt was the first). It was an adjustment for sure. The people in the town were so unused to diversity that I doubt they realized how they sounded – it was fairly commonplace to hear things like “you speak so well” or “but you’re one of the good ones” or “oh, well I don’t mean you – you’re not ghetto”.

I’ve had kids ask me if I got warmer in the summertime because “black absorbs heat”, and a teacher declare to the class that “black people run faster because they have an extra bone in their feet” (mind you, I am terrible at sports and run a 12 min mile). There’s so much more I could say (and don’t get me started on hair). This is just a little of what I experienced, but don’t get me wrong – I had a happy upbringing. What a lot of white people don’t realize is that this is just everyday for us. You learn to accept it and live your life accordingly. I am blessed to have people I can vent to and laugh with that understand. But not everyone has this. That’s why I think it’s important to talk about this type of experience – a million microaggressions across a lifetime.

These past weeks, I’ve attended local Black Lives Matter protests. I didn’t expect much turnout in our small white town. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. The community showed up in a way I hadn’t anticipated, and the amount of white allies in the crowd was really heartening to see. This movement feels different – I feel like our country is prime for change. We’ve already seen real tangible gains from this movement and we can’t stop. I urge people to continue this momentum. At my core, I am a hopeful person, and I truly believe that if we keep this up, keep this passion for justice, we can continue to make lasting change for the better for black lives in this country. 

What do you think Tiana would be doing to support the BLM movement if she was living in 2020?

With her work ethic and leadership ability, I see Tiana as a protest organizer. She’d be there coordinating with volunteers, ensuring the safety of the protesters, making sure that people stay hydrated, and wear their masks.


I hope you all have found value in these ladies stories and keep encouraging them and others to make their dreams come true! The fight for equality isn’t over yet!



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