They say never to bring a dog or a baby onto a stage because they will steal the show. In the case of a tiny mixed breed pup named Norbert, his human Julie Steines is totally fine with his getting all the attention.
“He's so quirky and charming and happy. He's such joy."
Steines, who is married to Home & Family star, Mark Steines, said despite having a high profile career that had nothing to do with animals, she soon found her life totally changed thanks to a little white dog she found in 2009.
“Norbert is my first dog," says Steines. "I knew I wanted to adopt but didn't know what kind. I looked for over a year. One day on Pet Finder I came across his photo and just had this feeling that he was going to be my dog. He was the only dog in the litter and was so tiny and needed unique home. I lived by myself in a small studio and it was the perfect fit. It felt like it was meant to be."
Because of his size and happy disposition Steines says she began taking Norbert with her everywhere she went. She eventually looked into him becoming a therapy dog so he could visit with people in nursing homes and in hospitals.
“He's so smart, he passed all his tests," says Steines with a laugh. “We started volunteering at a local nursing home and one thing lead to another. My brother said let's make a Facebook page, and we started with that."
With a long-time dream to publish a children's book and inspired by her pleasant pup, Steins decided to create a publishing company, Polly Parker Press. She wrote up Norbert's story, and her mother, Virgina, provided the illustrations for Norbert's debut book, Norbert: What Can Little Me Do?
"Norbert is a little nugget."
“We decided Norbert's story would be the perfect story to write," say Steines, who went on a book tour with Norbert. “It's uplifting and about finding your special purpose in the world. The book ended up winning eight awards, and we started traveling doing presentations and sharing Norbert's story. It was amazing to be able to work with my mother and Norbert. He went with us everywhere."
These days, Steines and Norbert are a tight knit team, focused on uplifting the spirits of those in need. They tour the country meeting with Norbert's fans, and they maintain a robust social media presence in order to continue spreading happiness, which is Julie's main goal.
“It's absolutely incredible for Norbert and for everyone," she says. “It's so rewarding because you go to these hospitals and nursing homes and it's such a welcome and happy moment. He's so cute and tiny. He can snuggle up on beds. He's known for giving high fives. It changes the entire mood of a room."
Norbert now has three books, including Norbert: What Can Little You Do?, and Norbert: What Can Little We Do?, which was written in conjunction with Lil Bub the Cat. There is also a Norbert plush toy (which is currently sold out) and other products like clothing, mugs and doggie gear. In addition, for every plush toy purchased, one is donated to Toys For Tots.
“Everything we do is to spread the mission to make people smile. You don't have to be big to make a difference in the world. Norbert is about 3.5 pounds but just by being his little self he brings so much joy to people."
Steines, who met her husband, Mark, because she and Norbert were guests on his Hallmark Channel show, says it's fun but not easy keeping in touch with Norbert's fans. Her husband, who is a photographer as well as an on-air personality, takes many of the photos, while Julie spends her time making sure images and captions are perfectly edited.
“This is something we feel that the world really needs. My life has changed in every way possible because of this little dog. I'm really grateful."
With who has more than one million social media followers, a community Julie calls The Norberthood, managing Norbert has become Steines' full-time job. In 2013 the brunette beauty quit her high-paying job in order to dedicate herself to her pup's career.
“I took a leap of faith to take this full time. in the end it was worth it," says Steines. “I know entrepreneurs are big on goal setting and vision but with what we are doing It's so unique and new, we don't even know what's around the corner."
When asked what a typical day is like Steines says it's always different, but one thing that is always consistent is her focus on authenticity when it comes to Norbert.
“I manage Norbert very carefully," says Steines. “We have the reputation for being very selective on whose work with, because we want to be sure anyone we collaborate with is in-line with our vision. We've said no to a lot of deals that could have been lucrative or big from a press standpoint but I value Norbert and what he stands for. It's one thing have a million followers but there's not a lot of value if people aren't being engaged. It's a bit of an art form combining images with videos. Every word is important."
Norbert's audience, according to his mom, is mostly women over thirty. Located all over the world, Steines says she spends much of her time interacting with Norbert's community via email, social media messages and regular mail
“I do my best to respond to all the emails and messages," says Steines. “When someone sends us something personal it means so much to us. Once a girl sent us a message that her mom was in the ICU and they both loved Norbert. She asked to send a message to her mother. We sent a message 'feel nor better soon,' it's a Norbertism. The girl reached out to us afterwards and said we made her entire life. Even something small like that is so powerful."
Sometimes the person you have to stand up to is you! There I was, rewatching the Miss Universe 2019 competition. Which I do for inspiration from time to time. (No, seriously!) There is something about seeing women on stage, in full-on glam mode, and speaking with confident assuredness that really lights my fire!
I have seen this Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa win this crown so many times before, but something about this particular viewing, her delivery or her words, touched something inside me a little differently. At that moment, I truly believed, with complete conviction, that she lives what she speaks.
The announcement was made, the audience cheered, and the crown was awarded. The light was dazzling,, she looked stunning, almost blessed. The judges made the right call with 2019's queen.
Reflecting On Myself
Suddenly, the YouTube video ended. And I was left looking at a black screen. In the darkness of that screen, I saw my reflection and I began assessing what I saw, asking myself, "What have I been doing with my life?" It may seem like an overly dramatic question, but at that moment, I had to ask myself seriously… What have you done? The fact that I couldn't come up with a solid, confident answer gave my inner-cynic license to quickly spiral into self-criticism.
This went on for quite some time, until I got up. I stood up and walked to my mirror to have some serious one-on-one "Queen Talk." I needed to get out of that self-critical mindset, and I know that physical movement is something that help disrupt a way of thinking. I needed to remind myself of who I really was. The negative feelings I was experiencing at that moment were not reality.
Here are a few reminders for whenever you need some Queen Talk!
1.) Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
This saying feels like a cliché. That is, until it's applicable to you. At that moment, this "cliché, becomes self-evident. Comparing myself to someone on a stage with years of experience in an area I know nothing about is not only unfair but straight-up mean. A part of my comparison comes from me wondering, "Would I have the ability, if put in that position, to perform at such a level?" The answer is totally and without question, yes. I excel in the field I work in now, and I know that if I put that same energy towards something else, with practice, I could do just as well. No joy can come from comparing yourself to someone in a completely different field!
2.) Never forget the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.
Every single day, I am blessed to have the opportunity to wake up with all ten fingers and toes and choose to create the kind of life I want to live. There is so much power in that alone, but sometimes it's easy to take it for granted. Let us not forget those who are unable to make that same decision every day of their lives.
3.) Appreciate how far you have come!
I've been very intentional for some time to be kinder and gentler to myself. I need to realize that I am human. Being human means that I will not know everything, and I will continue to make mistakes.But I must let go of the need to always be right. I feel empowered when I can see the growth that I've made, regardless of the mistakes that may come in the future. I don't react to every little thing that bothers me, because I have learned boundaries when it comes to dealing with others and myself. I truly value my time and my energy, and, for that, I am proud.
4.) You Can Be Who You Want To Be
If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in reality. I saw myself when I looked at the women on stage, when she smiled, the way she talked, her elegant walk. For a moment, in my self-criticism spiral, I forgot that we are all connected. Debasish Mridha has said "I may not know you, but I don't see any difference between you and me. I see myself in you; we are one." I will not sit in the mentality of lack, there is more than enough opportunity and good fortune to go around for everyone. Her win was not a loss for me, but it can be a nudge from the universe for me to go ahead and dream big!
This Queen Talk was not easy. There may have been some tissues and tears involved but giving myself an honest yet compassionate talk is sometimes what I need to bring myself out of some bad head space. In these moments of doubt, you truly need to be your own best friend.When times get rough, criticism won't always come from outside sources. How you speak about yourself internally is crucial to how you see and feel about yourself. As Beyoncé once sang, "I've got Me, Myself, and I." We must put forth every effort to be there for ourselves. I look forward to more Queen Talks when some negative emotions arise. I am grateful for the person I am today, but I am excited to see the women I become.