Episode 1 Transcript: Life and Work During COVID-19


Welcome to the Financial Finesse Podcast, where we’ll be discussing tips on how to handle your money and life with skill and style. Your host Cathy Curtis, CFP® has been helping make finance accessible and intriguing for women for almost 20 years. You’ll get savvy, actionable ideas, listening to her conversations with some of the coolest and smartest women on the planet. And now, here’s your host, Cathy Curtis.


Hi. I’m really excited to welcome Sally Kuhlman, the first guest on my new podcast. Sally and I’ve known each other since 2009. Or there abouts when we met on Facebook. And then we gravitated over to Twitter, and we’ve been friends ever since. Sally’s also a client of Curtis Financial Planning. Sally is one of the most joyful and soulful people I know. And I’m thrilled to be able to talk to her today. Currently, she’s working for Beyond Differences, which is a nonprofit based in Marin County that is all about social isolation and helping adolescents cope during their middle school years. It’s a really wonderful organization. And we’ll hear more about it. Sally is also a multi-talented person. She used to help small businesses, she’s great at project management, digital marketing, so many things. She also writes her own blog, Sally Around the Bay, and she started an autobiography, which we’re going to talk about a little bit later. So, before we get started, I want to welcome Sally and we’re going to, we’re at cocktail hour right now. So we both have a red wine that we’re drinking. So I want to say hi, Sally. And Cheers. And Sally, tell us about the wine you’re drinking right now. Okay, well


I’m happy to tell you about the wine. It’s a Pinot Noir. And it is actually made. Can you see this label? Eric Kent. It’s a boutique winery, UK friend of mine, and they feature artists on each label. So every type of wine has a different artist on the label. And then for instance, I’m reading the label right now it says retro whale calm that’s the name of this artist. So then you can go look up and learn about the artist and I


love it. I love that. It’s so cute. And they have so many cute bottles and


the wine is always good. It’s 100% I know when I’m getting wine from Air Canada, it’s


gonna be good. So even more it’s my favorite wine ever. So I’m gonna have to look at that. Definitely. Well, I’m drinking a wine called sin so which probably many of you don’t know. And the reason I’m not drinking Pinot is this particular winery Picchetti Winery down and actually Silicon Valley was out of their Pinot and they demanded this. I still prefer paid more. But that’s okay. I’m still going to enjoy my wine.


Well, then I’m going to introduce you to Eric Kent because seriously Pinot’s their specialty and they’re local. And you will love them. Oh, great. You know what,


I’m definitely going to buy some. I really like to support local people, food producers, especially right now in this crazy time we’re in where people can’t go visit wineries, they can’t shop at their favorite stores. It’s just crushing this small business and so anything I can do to support you send me that. Um, so speaking of that, this is a great, great segue. I want to know how you are dealing with this strange time we’re in and coping with work and home and just generally, how are you feeling during the pandemic and COVID-19 and how is it affecting you?


Hmm, that’s a very big question. I am I’m very lucky. I still have my job, which I love, and I’m able to do it remotely. We all are. So we’ve been spending a lot of time on zoom together. And but we’re moving forward. So that is great. I have to say I’m coping pretty well, but it’s been a bit of a roller coaster, sometimes I get sad. Other times, I’m just so grateful I can work from home and that I have my own home office. And, and then I also try to limit my intake of the news because when I spend too much time on social media or reading the news. It kind of brings me down really quick because there’s a lot of horrible stuff happening, but um,


yep, just taking it one day at a time. You know, I’ve been reading some of your posts. Um, well, I always read your posts, but I noticed one of them that really struck me recently was that you were a little surprised about how much the media does not honor the people that have died from COVID, like it it’s all about the politics of COVID you know, and I feel the same way and I feel so bad about that. And I surmise that, and you did too, that maybe it’s because of the mix leadership we have going on right now in the States. I don’t know if you want to add anything about that not to get too political. But yeah,


no, I’m not gonna get political. I think a lot of it is because of our leadership. But a lot of the responses I got privately and publicly were people just can’t handle it right now. It’s too much. Yeah. And so I get that, like, I almost felt maybe I was a little insensitive because some people are going through some really intense times economically, or they’ve lost people. And the public mourning. I mean, last time I looked, it’s over 90,000 people in this country. We can’t even come when that public mourning right now. I guess. It’s, I don’t even know what to say. I feel like I need that like seeing those videos and learning about these people’s lives, but maybe not everybody’s ready yet to deal and I understand that,


yeah, it is pretty shocking and tragic. And it’s so new to us now that that’s a really good point that it doesn’t mean that they’re not feeling about it. It’s more the way of coping about it.


I think people have to categorize they’re like, right now, I just got to deal with my immediate situation. And I will deal with that later is kind of I think, what’s happening, but what gets to me is all the political rants and that the lack of the comprehension of what it’s not just about who’s running for president or who’s not, it’s too tense. So that gets to me. And that’s what triggers a


lot of my posts. Yeah, no, I, I can see that I agree with you. So speaking about work. I know you work for a nonprofit. And I want you to tell us about that, because it’s a really cool and interesting nonprofit. And I know because I’m involved in some nonprofits as well that nonprofits raise most of their money through live fundraising events. And it can be sometimes a third to a half of a nonprofit budget. I’m assuming that’s right. To Beyond Differences as well. And I know they just did a virtual fundraiser. So just give us a little how is like there and how is everyone coping with this new reality of raising funds for your good work?


Let’s see well, right. We had our annual gala scheduled on it was supposed to be on April 23. And so we went on lockdown before that, as you know, we were already big into the plans and everything. So we had to have that really quick and stop everything. And it is about a third of our operating budget. So that was a very big decision to make, but it was the right one and we made it right away early when we showed up. And then we came up with the idea to have a virtual gala actually, our founder, came up with the idea and I was thinking that sounds ridiculous. Who wants to go to a virtual gala? And she was right and people came, we had almost 300 people sign up and I actually did not look at the numbers. This just happened on Friday night. But at one point when I was logged on, I saw about 200 people at least. And then a lot of them were in couples. So people came and it was amazing event. So thank you to everybody who came


how many people usually come to the live event?


I believe it’s 250 to 300. Oh,


you got a good turnout. Virtually. I was there. I was. I witnessed it. I thought it was very cool. And it seemed like you hit your fundraising goal, and


we did hit our fundraising goal. And that is not what our goal was. That night is not a third of our operating budget. But we you know, we changed it for the current situation. But we exceeded our fundraising goal for the night and we are so grateful because we have so many loyal supporters and they all showed up.


Oh, that’s great. And so when I left the video, you were like 101,000 raised what it is.


And last I know I’m not actually on the events team. So I was observing like you, but when I left, it was at 116,000. And I was like, I know and I believe more have come in over the weekend. I’ve kind of been not looking at my emails, but sort of looking at them. So yeah, it’s been amazing. And it went flawless. So I’m really impressed with my colleagues pulled off.


Yeah, it went really well, because I’ve been on some zoom things, you know, people not using it before and it can be a bad scene.


And they pulled that together in about two weeks the learning curve. My colleagues were like going to webinars figuring out how to do it. And they, I’m blown away by how they did it and I were you on when Michael Franti presented and he said, No. Oh, you missed that part. Yeah. Oh, that was amazing. I posted it on Facebook. You can see the video but he did a performance for us. It was beautiful.


Oh, here it was without the duo, the man


Was there my son?


Yeah, sorry, I didn’t catch the name, but I was there. It was a beautiful day. But that was really lovely. You know, and also our SF mayor who I really admire, I think she’s handling this whole thing. her speech was very


moving. And it’s right now during this Coronavirus time hearing a leader to speak eloquently and with compassion is, is huge.


Yeah, for sure. So, let’s step back a minute. Tell me in your words, what Beyond Differences is about because I mentioned it when I introduced you, but I’d love to hear you talk about it.


Okay, Beyond Differences, and our mission is to end social isolation in middle school and create a culture of belonging. You know, most adults can look back at middle school and remember, it wasn’t, wasn’t probably wasn’t the best experience. And we want to change that because middle school doesn’t have to be a bad experience. And so that’s, that’s what our focus is and we provide free curriculum and resources to teachers all over the United States and they just need to sign up. And we actually ship them materials. And we have a bunch of online materials too. And we have teachers and schools in all 50 states participating.


That’s incredible. And how old is the nonprofit?


This is our 10-year anniversary. So that was, it was sad to have to give up our gala was going to be a very big fan. Oh, yeah.


So you’re director of national programs, so you’re responsible for all those schools, right. And as I’m the


point of communication, and I talk to over 6,000 teachers on a regular basis, and I also do online community, like all the social media and a lot of the communications too.


And I know you’ve been doing that kind of work for years, because when I met you, you were like social media queen. And so I’m sure you’re even better at all of that now, and do you think that’s one of the reasons that you’re so effective at what you do because you have that skill set. Or is it something else?


I think we complement each other at my organization like I have the social media skills that so I bring relationships online and carry them and it’s amazing there’s a lot happening on Beyond Differences online at all our social media sites and then our founders. You know, they’re amazing with the networking in person and we just we have wonderful supporters and relationships that I feel like they’re family actually all our supporters I’ve gotten to know everybody and it’s just wonderful.


Yeah, I know because you do have a lot of personal connection like local Bay Area people right but then you with what you do you reach a much bigger and national audience.


Right so I mean, I talk to all the teachers in all 50 states and then also on social media. Yeah, we reach everyone. It’s complicated, I have to say to do Beyond Differences’ social media, because usually when you’re a social media person like I was in the past, it was very focused like for you. For instance, for your business I would be if I were working for you, I would be focusing on women targeting women of a certain age and certain, you know, income trying to get that kind of client. But Beyond Differences, we have such a span we work with middle school students, we work with teenagers, we work with the dome runners we work with teachers will work with volunteers. So the social media has been, I’ve had to use my creative brain a lot to figure out how to not overwhelm everybody and talk to my whole audience.


Yeah, I know, nonprofit that’s tough because you there’s so many audiences and people involved, you’ve got your board, you’ve got the staff, you’ve got keyboard, right. You’ve got the donors, you’ve got the people you’re trying to reach. I think it’s it would be really, really challenging. The campaign’s that I love sorry. One of the campaigns I love that Beyond Differences does is No One Eats Alone. Your campaign and I know it’s not an annual thing now or


it’s annual. It’s every February It’s usually the Friday closest to Valentine’s Day. Okay, that was the founding program for this organization. And it’s because our organization is based on the life of Lily Rachel Smith, she’s the daughter of our founders. And she passed away when she was 15. And but before that when she was in middle school, she had a cranial facial situation called apert syndrome. And so she was isolated a lot. She wasn’t bullied, but she was kind of forgotten about like, nobody invited her to sit with her at lunch, and nobody invited her to parties, and she was just very lonely. And so after she passed away, her mother was reading her journals and talking with other classmates. And she discovered just


she talked to the classmates


are like, what could we do? Like they weren’t even aware, you know, you’re a seventh-grade girl. You’re not even aware that you’re ignoring someone you’re just worried about yourself. And so that’s how this organization started. A couple of those teams were her classmates wanting to volunteer and make sure it didn’t happen to anyone else. And so it grew from that. And that’s where No One Eats Alone came from because Lily always ate alone, and she’d like go into the bathroom and call her mom and begged her to come pick her up because she didn’t want to deal with the lunchroom.


That’s so sad. That’s the hardest time that what 12 to 13. And if you’re not a popular kid, or something goes wrong, like you break out and bad acne or your whole life just changes. Yeah.


Like, everyone feels different. Even the popular kids they’re putting on the front, but there’s still my who knows what’s happening in their home. So it’s, we found it. It’s like it’s everybody, not even the people, not just the people that look different. It’s everybody. I know, personal feeling.


Yeah, even kids that seem like they’re from stable homes as suicide rate is high, right. I mean, if there’s so much angst at that age, I don’t know if it’s, I’m sure it has something to do with hormone levels, but all the growing pains that you’re going through at that time? It’s so hard.


It’s a hard time in life. Yeah.


Did you, um, in your own personal experience? Were you drawn to this organization for any particular reason? Or was it as an opportunity that you just felt you wanted to be involved in?


And yeah, I was drawn to it for a personal reason. That’s kind of intense, but I’ll give you just a brief overview. When I was in high school. When I was in high school, my boyfriend took his own life to suicide. So um, that’s always kind of driven my career path. It’s, I made this decision when I was 17 years old that I want to work to help. Back then I was saying to prevent suicide, but you know, it’s way beyond that is like just to be there for humans that are feeling alone and let them know they’re not.


So you get a lot of personal satisfaction out of the work that you do.


I do and when I get really stressed out because there’s too much going on. And then I get a moment to spend time with the teenagers. It’s so nice. I like remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. And then I’m like, oh, yeah, this is what it is because I don’t work directly with the kids, my colleagues do. But when they come into the office, I get to interact with them. It really reminds me of what I’m doing. And then I get re


energized. Yeah, kids are so cool. I know. You kind of have a history of working with kids like you started out as a preschool teacher, right? Is it?


Your beginnings?


I did. When I moved to Marin County right after college. I end up the early 90s. I taught in Mill Valley at a preschool


and then I know you’ve raised three kids yourself. Right? Not by yourself. But yeah.


So yeah, I have a lot of kid experience.


And I’ve seen you with the kids even though you say you don’t work with them and I think you’re you do a really great job with them. I think it would be so much fun. And I’ve been to some of the events and the kids are so inspiring. And, and surprisingly, articulate and well-spoken at that age. And I think that just really draws people in to support what you’re doing. It’s really admirable. I love it.


Thank you. And that’s part of what we try to do is give students a voice because we need to start listening to the young ones, because they’re there. They’re the ones inheriting the world. And I feel like they’re smarter than us right now.


Yeah. Well, isn’t your whole board teenaged kids?


Yeah, we, we have an adult board of directors, but we also have a teen board of directors. And they’re very involved. And it’s a very big commitment, and they volunteer and we don’t just take anybody, you have to go through an application process and you have to really want to do it. You don’t do it because you want something for your job. You do it because you care. And so that’s why we get these amazing


kids. That’s great. Well, moving on. I’m going to go back to a little more personal topic, and it’s Something that you and I work on because I mentioned you’re a client at my firm and it’s about money. And just how would you describe like, what your relationship with money is at this point in your life?


My relationship with money, um,


I feel comfortable.


I’ve really worked on not stressing about money. I’m in a position where I’m employed and there’s money coming in. And I’m just trusting and trusting you and trusting the world that it’s all going to work out. I’ve really been trying to focus on just living in the present moment and I’m in anxiety about what’s going to happen when I retire. I’m aware I cannot afford to retire right now. But that’s okay, too. So yeah, that’s where I’m at. I see so many people around me in the same about equal love are more money having way more anxiety? And I just, I wish people didn’t feel that much anxiety around money.


Yeah, I know you’re you haven’t been one over the years to stress about the stock market too much. I think you’ve got a pretty good grasp on that. It’s volatile. You have to hang in there for the long haul. And I don’t get the panicky. And I remember I worked in finance for about three or four years too. So


yeah, they got me the world and understand it from the other side, too.


Right. You’re very fortunate because I think the scariest part for a lot of people is they don’t really understand it. And, and the media has this habit of freaking everybody out. And part of it is the 24 seven news cycle. They’ve got to talk about something all those hours and I think they make it seem sometimes worse than it really is. Mm hmm. And But so are you do you think you’re going to be happy working for one another? You like working? I like working I do. What do you envision your years when you’re not working to be like, or have you even thought about that yet?


I have thought about it. I mean, I ideally, I would like to work less. Because I do work for a tiny nonprofit that does really big things. I work a lot. But what I envisioned I was thinking about that, and I was thinking, I actually enjoy my life a lot. I would just like to have more time to do what I’m already doing. Like I I’m loving being home. I’m loving my garden. Yeah, I would if I didn’t work so much. I would write more. I like to write and, but I need time to write and, like, my blog would be way more thriving. I might actually, you know, write a book and put it out there because I realized I really love writing and I’m a really good


writer. You’re really that’s so interesting. I didn’t realize that about you that you would like to have more time to write. Um, I love your blog and I also read the start of your book, Other Mothers, right?


Yeah, I think I was calling Other Mothers. It kind of evolved, I actually wrote the whole book but then I stuck it on the shelf.


Okay, cuz I’m reading excerpts it seems like on your blog, you have the excerpts, I forget what platform I went to,


you know, and I’m all over the internet but for so I used to put on Sally Around the Bay and then I think I actually got the URL called Other Mothers and I started putting pieces of the book on there. And then I stopped because I just that’s the thing I stopped my writing because I work so I’m so like, I’m dedicated. I’m not complaining. It’s just there’s so much differences and so much need and people I care about that. I’ve kind of put myself on the side, and I and I missed that, but I


noticed you’re starting to write again. And so I’ve noticed this about myself during this time, too. I like you and really enjoying. I mean, believe me, I, this is a horrible time. And I feel so bad for so many people that are affected in a bad way. But for me, I’ve had to work at home. And I’m finding, I’m making room to do more of the things that I want to do, which is really exciting. And I noticed that you have written a couple of blog posts in the last couple of weeks and you worked for a long time. So maybe that’s one of the positive outcomes that’s gonna come out of this.


I definitely feel that. I feel like this is the time


I’m, I mean,


despite all the tragedy that we’re talking about, and the lack of mourning and awareness of but personally, I think this is a call for all of us to take a little time and reflect. Like, I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I know the Bay Area is like a rat race. And it was exhausting. And I was about to collapse. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one that was about to collapse. And just maybe that time that we were driving to work is where we’re finding time to write and be creative. Now it’s right. I don’t want to go back to the normal, I want a new normal and figure out what that new normal is for me. And I want everybody to figure that out. I mean, and this is not discounting all the unemployment and I know all that is horrible. So we do need to go back to people somehow being able to sustain themselves but for, for my personal situation. I’m not just sitting here waiting


for the doors to open, I can go back to my


life I want I want them grounded. I want to garden more. I want to write more. I want to do more, you know, and I just need to figure out the balance and also, I don’t know I’m really struggling personally right now with too much screen time.


Yeah, I don’t know


why they’re on zoom again. I know I’m on zoom all the time now to I don’t know how much more of that how many more hours we’ll be able to put on zoom.


I mean, and I’m actually this week I had so many zoom calls and events that I started having eye pain. I got really serious. I pained my eyes were on Friday, we had our gala, we had two other big events on zoom. I was icing my eyes in between events. It’s so stressful the screen is getting so this isn’t a sustainable way to live in.


Oh, it’s got into you have good I’ve noticed and I’m sitting on an exercise ball right now. Because when I’m sitting on a chair, my postures I don’t have a proper chair at home because that’s one of my problems, but I like sitting on


you’re silly. I checked my office I snuck in I have my mask on. I look like a burglar and I took my chair in my own personal chair and I was really missing, and I like was carrying on. Like, I look like I’m like stealing this China


mask on I’m carrying it.


But yeah, that’s important because we both of us have ergonomic chairs at work, but we don’t at home. So we’re sitting there on zoom all slumped over, you know, ruining our eyes and our posture. To your point about a new normal, um, and back to your books, I think this book, can you just talk about the book a little bit? It’s so well done the things I was reading. I love to see you finish that book. So


thank you. Um, I have to say the book worked like therapy for me. I started writing it right when the youngest child left for college. So it was an empty nest book. Um, and it’s called Other Mothers and I started interviewing women from all walks of life that weren’t your traditional mother. And because I’m not your traditional mother, so I was working on my own story because I’m married to a woman and she’s the biological mother. But I raised the kids with her, but always got discounted that I’m not the real mother. The bad now, but these kids are almost 30. So if you think about how it was 25-30 years ago, it was, it was a little rough. Um, and then I just started, I opened it up, and I met so many amazing women because I put it on social media call for women and I talked to so many women for various things. Maybe they adopted their child or they were an aunt raising their sister’s child because their sister died. I had all sorts of stories. And it was a beautiful experience. Yeah, it should be a book or if it should just be more blog posts. Because I’ve changed so much since I wrote that book. That was probably 10 years ago now. Oh my gosh, there’s you know,


it’s been that long.


One. Thank you because the youngest one is like married now. And so it was when she left for college so bad eight years ago, I think because she’s trying to Now so yeah,


see? Yeah, and it’d be interesting, maybe could turn it into a fiction novel or I don’t know. It’s just so I think so many women can relate to it on so much like me personally, I don’t have kids. And I still feel uncomfortable when someone asked me if I have kids and I say no. Um, and I feel almost shame still about it. Even though I’ve accepted a long time ago that that wasn’t meant to be for me. Um, it’s really hard. You think people think well, why don’t you have kids? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you like kids? So I can I can relate to that. Even though I’m not really, I’m not a mother.


Now, I remember talking to you about that.




I’m thinking the whole book and you and me and everybody else. It’s kind of relates to my work now. It’s like, I felt very isolated. Like I was doing a mommy role and driving the kids to school and the other moms like didn’t talk to me. They’re like, what is she a babysitter and lesbian I don’t know, it was like, there’s chitter chatter and, and it was very unaccepting. And back then the school databases didn’t even have room for me there was room for mom and dad. And so like, when they’re looking up at those little school phone books to schedule a playdate, and my


name wasn’t even there. And, yeah, it’s so hard because I know from the women I know, that are mothers, the community of other mothers is so important, because it’s so hard to raise from young kids. And you want to talk to other people and have a community around. It was


I remember me, it was very lonely because I didn’t have that support, like, and you’re going through stress of raising kids. I mean, I created that support. I have to say when I made friends like you and all our other friends that we met through Twitter and stuff, I found a community, but I didn’t have that community of moms when they were little. It was very low. Only and I also have my own shame because it was like, you know, the whole gay thing. So that was I could do it again now I would do it differently and I wouldn’t carry my own shame I just be like this is it you know if you can deal your problem not mine, I was so apologetic when I was younger, and I was very,


what I love about yourself and that’s what makes you, you. You’ve been through all that so much more than a lot of us have had to be because of the who you are and the life choices and the things that happen to you. And I think it makes you a better person. You have so much joy so much to give other people and so it didn’t I mean, I’m sure it was extremely painful at that time. But look at you now. What can I say?


You’re so nice.


Well, I think that is a great note to end this conversation on unless you want to tell us anything else or have anything else to share. I just enjoyed this so much. And thank you for being my first guest and I know people will really enjoy hearing about you, and I hope I didn’t leave anything out.


I don’t know if you have anything else, but I think we covered a lot and this was super fun.


It was fun. Thank you. So let’s have a toast. Thank you. Here’s to your Sunday evening. Hopefully I can gracefully exit this a zoom call without too much trouble.


Bye Sally. Bye.

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