Appreciating others helps Annie Taylor and her family juggle the stresses of the pandemic
By Emma Vallelunga
Photos by Alice G. Patterson
When it feels like you have a million problems to solve and a thousand responsibilities to fulfill, it’s hard to prioritize what comes first. For local mother Annie Taylor, the answer is simple. With her family by her side, the growth of her small business, continual volunteerism and the desire to spread kindness whenever she can, Taylor strives to put everyone first, and that’s what makes her a true hero.
Taylor and her husband Kevin live in Syracuse with their three sons, Nolan, Lincoln and Sullivan, all between the ages of eight and 13. Combined with three rescue dogs and one pet hamster, there’s always a constant energy in the Taylor household, especially during the pandemic.
“We’re always together, and it’s awesome, but sometimes it’s hard to navigate just never getting a break from each other,” Taylor said. “The Taylor Family has ridden the roller coaster like most other families. Some days we are cruising along, getting what we need to [do] done and enjoying the time together. Other days it’s a real struggle.”
But no matter how many meals are prepared, dishes washed, laundry folded, surfaces cleaned and sibling fights reignited and dissolved, Taylor said her family is continuing to grow and navigate the outside pressures of the pandemic with the quality time they spend together.
“There’s no social calendar anymore, so it’s a lot of together-time and figuring out what we enjoy doing as a family,” she said.
Parenting in general during the pandemic hasn’t been easy, so Taylor said one thing she’s learned is the value in taking time for yourself whenever there’s an opportunity, whether it’s taking a walk for some fresh air or getting some extra sleep at night.
“[The pandemic] is so hard for everybody,” she said. “As parents, we have this motto of just taking it one day at a time. It’s too overwhelming, and if I beat myself up over feeling like I’m not doing enough, it’s something that spreads down to the kids. So we’re trying to be kinder to ourselves, and I feel like our self-care routine is something we’ve prioritized and learned is crucial for our sanity, even if it’s going into your own bedroom and closing the door. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Taylor’s family has also been her support system since she first launched her small business in 2005. Annie Taylor Design is a custom stationery online store that sells notepads, notecards, calendars, prints, invitations, tote bags, T-shirts and more. Her products are designed for not only those who love to stay organized but also those who value the importance of spreading positivity, kindness and joy. Taylor started the business after being inspired to create her own personalized wedding invitations, which later evolved into creating many of her friends’ wedding stationery, and her business only grew from there. ATD shifted away from weddings in 2015 and began creating the custom to-do lists, calendars and checklists on her website today.
But a lot of things changed in the business world this past year. ATD was one of many small businesses in Central New York that had to make some adjustments in the pandemic. Not being out in the community to sell her products felt difficult at first.
“I always participated in local gift shows and in-person school fundraisers and holiday pop-up shops, and none of that could happen, so I really did worry that my business was going to sink,” she said.
However, the increase in online shopping worldwide caused ATD sales to climb overall, and Taylor became more present on social media. She has posted videos on Instagram of her business behind the scenes, her life at home and even enlisted her son Sullivan to help her record videos of him reading children’s books and post them with links to free downloadable craft projects for her followers. Taylor also blog-posts about her personal life and other inspiring messages on her website. The community around her, both locally and online, lifted her up to start doing even more.
“When something like this happens in your community, people really do care,” she said. “I felt really supported by the community here in Syracuse, and it really helped grow my business because more people knew I was out there.”
In January of last year, Taylor was ready to launch GratiKids, a new line of ATD that focuses on teaching children gratitude through action. The Gratitude Activity Kits include kid-friendly thank-you notes, kindness notes, inspirational prints and a daily checklist, all designed to help guide children to give back to their communities through small acts of kindness. But while she was worried the kits wouldn’t sell due to the timing of its release, Taylor said it ended up being one of the best-selling products on her website.
“The Gratitude Activity Kits ended up being more successful than I imagined because of the pandemic,” she said. “I think parents were looking for ways to get kids off screens, while keeping them involved and connected to others and motivated by something positive.”
Outside of her business, and before the pandemic, Taylor and her family were no strangers to volunteerism and community service. Over the years, she and her family have packed lunches and care packages to hand-deliver to the homeless, decorated framed inspirational quotes for patients at Golisano Children’s Hospital, cleaned up litter in public parks, written thank-you notes to essential workers and pen-pal letters to seniors in nursing homes and visited cats and dogs in local animal shelters. Taylor believes teaching volunteerism to children from a young age has the biggest impact on them as adults who continue giving back throughout their lives.
“I think just the simple task of appreciating others for all they do has been something I’ve really been trying to teach my kids,” she said. “It’s about making sure we are thankful and showing it. It has to be taught. You have to teach kids to give back and lead by example.”
Taylor knows giving back, spreading positivity and showing gratitude are important lessons in order to teach her family how to be heroes, but for those who want to be a hero to their own family these days, Taylor said it’s all about finding what inspires you to make the most of every day and running with it.
“There are opportunities and information everywhere, so you just have to seek it out,” she said. “It really starts with what interests you. You don’t have to go far to figure out how to get involved.”