Our Woman of the Week is Tatiana Lapchuk Hoff, a stay-at-home mother of two, who recently stepped back from her career as an HR and communications professional. She was nominated, among other reasons, for her sterling non-profit board work. We asked her to tell you about herself:
"As I write this feature, my third Mother's Day is upon us. The coincidence is not lost on me.
"My younger sister and I were raised and influenced by many women, and almost exclusively women. We lost our father suddenly when we were ages four and two, and our mother, grandmothers, and aunts worked together seamlessly -- and with great resilience -- to provide a loving, supportive environment for the long remainder of our childhood, filling the void of his absence in remarkable ways as they each worked through their own grief. They were selfless and sacrificial in their caregiving and love, each with her own strengths and styles in nurturing others. I look back in amazement at how available they were to my sister and me, especially since each of them also maintained rather elaborate careers with considerable responsibility.
"Our family has a clerical history. My maternal grandfather was in the second graduating class at St Vladimir's Seminary and my father also completed his studies there. Each of them became ordained, the former serving as a parish priest for over fifty years. Thanks to them and to my mother, liturgical life, religious education, and service to others were at the center of my childhood. We attended services regularly from our infancy, including feast days and all of holy week and Pascha. My mother also embedded in us the priority of putting our neighbors before ourselves, both in our day to day encounters, but also in more deliberate, planned ways. Most importantly, she helped enable and cultivate our talents, which for me most certainly included what is often called 'servant leadership.'
"I transitioned to adulthood as a stellar student from a top institution with my choice of any career, graduate study, or other occupation at my fingertips. For over ten years, I leaned into and continued to develop my leadership skills as a consultant for Fortune 500 organizations with a specialization in HR and corporate communications, while also lending these same skills to numerous church and other non-profit organizations. Together with my husband, I decided after the birth of my first child to leave the workforce and to step down from many of my church leadership roles. Embracing motherhood in a fuller way and spending precious time with our children became my new career. A mother whom I deeply admire and respect once told my husband and me, 'You will die one day and, when you meet God, He will ask you two things. 1. Do your children know me? 2. Do they love me?' Being able to answer 'yes' to both of these questions is my primary focus, just as I know my mom (and my village of women role models) are able to answer 'yes' to this themselves." Axia!
We asked our Woman of the Week, Tatiana Lapchuk Hoff, a former communications professional, if she had any advice for parishes (and the rest of us) who are struggling with finding the best way to communicate with others during the pandemic. Here's what she has to say:
"I am frequently asked by friends, family, and representatives from different organizations about how to engage with their audiences or how to message something they are writing. Many people also request help for etiquette and protocol, whether related to the church or life in general.
"My overwhelming advice almost always consists of these main points, and these most definitely apply in a post-COVID-19, quarantine world.
"1. Less is more; don't overdo it. Use fewer words. Use smaller, simpler words. If someone else has created the words already and their words are written elegantly enough, use theirs and attribute the words to them. If a picture is better than words, use that instead.
"2. Engage regularly but not too frequently. You want your audience to be able to predict when they will hear from you with new content (say, three times weekly for an e-mail, two posts a day on a social media platform), but you don't want them to get so much content that they tune you out.
"3. Know your audience. While staying true to your brand and whatever you offer as an organization, it's important to customize content and provide your constituents with content they are interested in. I've seen so many people and organizations really succeed at this during the pandemic and quarantine.
"Continued successful engagement during the quarantine will come for those who lean into technology, but also recognize that technology can be tremendously exhausting. Churches began offering streaming services almost immediately. Employers host weekly virtual happy hours. School and extracurriculars moved online.
"The result is households with internet bandwidth issues, family schedules fuller than they were when they were driving all over the place, and some serious technology fatigue.
"My advice here is this: don't be afraid to step back from the device and meet your constituent in another, perhaps "old-school," way. Invest in a postal mailing instead of an e-mail. Let a phone call or phone meeting be sufficient. Ask your parishioners stream services from another Orthodox parish and instead send them just a homily or your other remarks by postal mail, or as a sound file. Figure out how to have a social distancing event in the rare cases where they are possible (a drive by, as an example).
"Now is the time, more than ever, to embrace the more personal, high-touch opportunities for connecting (as difficult as it may be). This is what everyone is yearning for as technology fatigue increases and the isolation extends."
We asked our Woman of the Week, Tatiana Lapchuk Hoff, about her morning routine:
"I start every day nursing my newborn son, then quietly admiring his beauty while the rest of the house sleeps. My daughter's first name means 'gift from God' but she most definitely is not the only gift He's given us. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
"In a post COVID-19 world, the rest of my morning routine is quite unlike what it was before and what it probably would have been. We are in a high-risk household and are playing a bit of whack-a-mole to handle matters we previously outsourced (like cleaning, haircuts). We really cannot risk letting others into our home. Simple matters like ordering groceries and receiving packages take up a large part of our days and weeks. Removing our toddler daughter, who thrives on socialization, from her school program and swim classes was a big shift in her and our routine, and we are still adjusting.
"This is, of course, complicated by having a newborn, who arrived just before the crisis outbreak. It has been challenging to completely pivot from what we expected to be doing as a family during this post-partum stage to what we are actually doing, but it has been a blessing at the same time -- even despite the total lack of church attendance during Lent and Pascha, which we view as another loss for our daughter and son (and for our whole family).
"When I imagined our life after leaving the workforce, I thought of many scenarios, but this was not one of them! It's a very real reminder to me that we are not in control and that we must trust in God instead of being anxious."
Thank you, Tatiana!