A Tale of Worms and Wisdom Re: Your Real Estate Brand

May 15, 2024

If I could go back to that sunny afternoon in late April – just a few weeks ago – and do it all over again with my 3-year-old, I would. 

It was a Wednesday after school. My toddler, Olivia, and I were sitting in the backyard sharing strawberry popsicles and having a tense exchange about guinea pigs. 

A classmate had brought her guinea pig to school, Olivia said. Now she must have one, too, and could I please go buy one before her heart totally breaks, and could I also please call Daddy at work to tell him her heart needs a guinea pig for a pet, and so on and so forth.

“No,” I said, “I cannot. Guinea pigs are a lot of work, sweetie.”

“I DO work,” she said. Big tears were forming.

“Baby, I’m sorry.”

“My heart…”

“Baby, please…”

“Is. BROKEN!!!!!”

She threw her popsicle upon the ground and wept. 

This moment, precisely, is where it all went wrong. 

As Olivia’s wailing intensified and my anxiety spiked, I scanned our environment for a tool of redirection. There, a few yards ahead of us, was a naked mound of dirt and the brand new bug catching kit we’d recently gifted Olivia (which she’d expressed no interest in thus far). A mesh net container with a matching blue magnifying glass and tweezers.

“Ohhh Olivia,” I said – and I stretched my hands toward the dirt with the kind of overly earnest theatrics that only a desperate, overstimulated mother can manage, but Olivia’s eyes widened with interest  –  “do I have the BEST pet for you. Come with me!”

We grabbed two mini shovels from the garage. A few minutes of digging later, the dirt mound was flat and we’d unearthed the reward I was hoping for.

A wiggly brown earthworm.

I expected Olivia to get excited, but her response was too good to be true. She cradled the worm in her palm like it was a long-lost treasure, cooing with delight. She demanded I take pictures of her and the worm to send to all her friends. Said pic is below:



Ever so gently, she dropped the worm into the bug catcher, swearing oaths of love and commitment to him:

“I will always be your Mommy. I will always protect you. I will feed you every day. You are MY little buddy.”

And so he was named. “Little Buddy,” her instant friend and pet. 

Because they don’t teach you much about Earthworm Husbandry in college, I felt unprepared for what came next. That morning I took to the internet to educate us both, hoping to give Little Buddy a fighting chance at life in his new prison home.

It’s possible I was more invested than Olivia. What do earthworms eat? I asked Google. What to know about earthworms? 

By Olivia’s bedtime, we were all set; Little Buddy was wiggling away in the bug catcher next to her bed, seemingly content. Inside the catcher we had placed two spoonfuls of dirt, two spoonfuls of fresh coffee grinds, and a smattering of dry garden leaves. Food of choice for the earthworm in captivity, said Google. We also slid in a bottle cap filled with water, because hydration, duh.

I kissed Olivia’s forehead and wished her sweet dreams.

“Do the same to Little Buddy,” she commanded.

I stroked the mesh container with a nervous pinkie. Told the worm I loved him, too.

“Now pray for him,” she said.

“Dear Jesus,” I whispered, “let this Little Buddy live.”

The next morning, Little Buddy was unequivocally dead.

More than dead, really. His emaciated body shriveled like a sunscorched raisin, half-burrowed beneath the wet black coffee grounds. (I want to believe he died caffeinated = happy.)

My toddler was clueless. Before leaving for school, Olivia knelt beside the container and smiled the kindest of motherly smiles, then reached inside to “give him a hug.”

“Stop!” I cried. 

She stared at me and I stared back, weighing my options. Braced for impact. 

“He’s…sleeping,” I said.

She frowned in disbelief. “Still?” 

“Oh yes. Worms sleep most of the day. They shrivel up – they CURL up – in the dirt and just snooze away. We must not wake him.”

It worked. Olivia recited her morning devotion to Little Buddy then tiptoed away, eager to let him finish his nap “so he’ll be awake to wiggle and play when I’m home.”

“Sure thing,” I said. “He’ll be ready for you.”

So began a vicious cycle of parental deception that, had my friends not intervened, might still entrap me today.

As soon as I dropped Olivia off from school, I drove back home and took a few client calls. The Realtor on the last call asked what my plans were for afterwards. 

“Oh, just some emails to send once we’re done here,” I lied. “Nothing special.”

When the call ended, with just 8 minutes to spare before school pick-up time, I slammed my laptop shut and rushed outside. Grabbed the shovel. 

My husband called a few minutes in. Could we talk about dinner, he asked? Should he go to the store after work?

“Not now, Joe,” I said, “I’m digging for worms.”

I may have been the last Mom in the school pick-up line that day – with dirt caked beneath each fingernail, no less – but when Olivia came home and raced upstairs to check on Little Buddy, there was a fresh, fat worm waiting for her. Lots of wiggles. She was enchanted. 

“Oh, he’s AWAKE! Hi, Little Buddy! Your Mommy is home for you!”

I stood in the doorway and watched, brimming with relief.

I would like to say that this is where the ruse ended, that honesty and good sense took hold. That I sat my child down the next morning – when Little Buddy II was equally dead, in the same musty coffee grounds corner as his predecessor – and explained the reality of worms and death, of worms and the hope of heaven to mend her broken heart.

This is not what happened.

Call it what you will. The self-sabotage of deception? A mother’s love? But for over a week, the cycle continued. 

Every day. 

New live worm, then dead worm.

Olivia at school, and Mommy in the backyard with shovel in hand, increasingly resentful of her life choices, digging for Little Buddy’s replacement. 

Olivia home from school, running upstairs with glee to hold the worm and sing to him. Her ritual.

I was trapped.

The fog suddenly cleared for me one morning when I found myself taking yet another 8 precious minutes to dig a hole in the backyard, still in my bathrobe and bare feet, and the next-door neighbor appeared at the fence. Coffee mug in hand, quietly observing. 

We locked eyes and she waited for me to speak.

“This is hard to explain,” I said, “but I’m not gardening. It’s for Olivia.”

This was the wrong answer. 

She gave me the same look she gave a few months back, when she’d pointed to a dent in the side of Joe’s Toyota and asked me what had happened.

“Oh he hit a deer late at night,” I’d said, the gospel truth. Or rather, the deer had hit him.

“Hmmm,” she’d said. “It just doesn’t look like a deer dent.”

Now, looking at me digging, the mesh container at my feet, she said “hmmm” again with a knowing smile that actually did make me feel like a serial killer in the backyard, preparing a hole for the body.

My neighbor walked inside and I decided enough was enough. 

That night I met a friend for dinner and over lemon cocktails, I shared the story and my shame. The daily digs, 9 AM lies to Olivia before preschool drop-off. First she laughed so hard she couldn’t breathe, then she shook her head repeatedly, solemnly.

“Your heart is in the right place,” she said, “but your shovel is not. I am intervening. Stop digging. Tell her the truth.”

The next morning, I did.

Olivia – predictably – was crushed.

“But he was my best friend,” she said. “My own pet. And now he’s dead. Who will I sleep with at night?”

This was about three weeks ago.

If you were to visit my house today, and see Olivia’s room, you would still see the bug catching kit beside her bed, and inside of it, fresh little mounds of dirt and coffee grounds. Somewhere in the kit would be a worm. Dead or alive, I cannot say, as this depends on the day. 

More picture proof:



The good news? Mommy no longer digs for Little Buddy. If you ever catch me in the yard, bedraggled and frantic with a shovel, anytime from here on, you have real reason to be suspicious (I absolutely do NOT garden).

Feels great to walk in the truth, I must say. I have a whole extra 8 minutes to drink my coffee in the morning. No more scrounging about in the yard. 

We have a new ritual that works for Olivia as a pet owner. Every morning she assesses the wellness of the latest worm in her kit (spoiler: he’s always expired by sunrise), then after school and naptime, she goes outside, grabs the shovel herself and digs for his replacement. 

“Time to find a fresh Little Buddy,” she’ll say. “Wiggle wiggle!” When I say she rejoices over each new one she finds, I am not kidding, and I suppose those worms could do far worse than to be kidnapped by such a grateful child. 

If you’ve read this far – congrats, you now know JUST how far I’m willing to spiral into irrational behavior for the sake of the children – and also, there’s a possible moral to the whole fiasco.

Maybe I was The Crazy (well-intentioned?!) Mother digging holes in the yard to keep her toddler happy. But that isn’t *too* different from being the well-intentioned small business owner who has big branding goals to capture the heart of his/her audience and, well…thinks that digging constant holes in their marketing dirt, trying to unearth short-term solutions that keep an audience “engaged” is going to fix long-term problems.

Because it ain’t.

We think we’re fooling other people, when really we’re just fooling ourselves.

Let me be more specific.

Maybe you know your real estate brand isn’t up to par with the level of your reputation and service. You’re afraid other people know it, too.

The insecurity – that deep, uneasy knowing – keeps you throwing the metaphorical spaghetti at the wall, hoping that it sticks, every time you go into Canva to put together a new marketing piece. Or every time you go to update your website, order business cards, post a template to social media.

Maybe you know the feeling –

Of sitting at the computer, unsure how to begin the listing flyer. 

Of being stumped in your team meeting, with no clear pathway for crafting your next campaign.

Of feeling lost in how to direct the web developer who’s on the other end of the Zoom call, asking for guidelines.

It’s a big messy ball of embarrassment, a million question marks, comparison paralysis.

And it sounds like an ongoing battle + headache in your head.

This color looks good today. Should THIS be my palette? Maybe I’ll try this new font. Should I stick with this logo for now or try something different? Am I current? Am I timeless? Does this look like me? Is it SUPPOSED to look like me? Is all of this stuff ENOUGH?!

It’s stressful. It’s a time-suck. It’s inconsistent, directionless, and lacking quality control across print + digital channels.

If that’s you with your real estate brand? 

Then I spy you in the marketing yard digging for solutions – little wiggly worms – that look promising and may last a bit. But, like Mommy with her shovel every blessed morning, you’re trapped in a vicious cycle. You can only keep your audience fooled for so long. 

(Most likely, they’re far more savvy than you think. The misalignment / inconsistency / lack of strategic, high-quality brand story is already showing up in everything you put out…and has been for a while.) 

You already know how this ends.

Little Buddy, he’s gonna keep on dying.

You’ll have to keep digging – keep on producing visuals and messaging that look alive but have no longevity, conversion pull or meaning that sets you apart – in order to maintain the illusion of brand got-it-togetherness.

In the long run, all the holes you dig and brand stories you unearth and let die, on rinse and repeat, won’t just cost you the look of “having it all together.”

It’ll cost you conversion. 



It’ll cost you the kind of brand reputation you want to look back on with pride and sigh-of-relief satisfaction and say, “I told my best story in business.”

That doesn’t happen by accident. 

Telling the kind of brand stories that help you communicate your worth is both an art and a science. And, yes, an investment of both time and money. At the end of the day, if your brand isn’t working to win you more business and audience loyalty, then it’s costing you, period.

This might be a good time to put down the shovel.

Tell the truth to yourself first, and then your audience.

Stop spinning brand stories built on short-term solutions – that demolish your confidence and bring damaging marketing mishaps along with them. Start creating honest, dedicated narratives about who you are and who you serve instead, so you can delight your audience for years to come.

You don’t get there with band-aid logo templates that are marketplace copy/pastes of someone else’s “brand.”

You don’t get there with last-minute design decisions in Canva that leave you more confused than before.

You certainly don’t get there by putting “rebrand” on your to-do list for next year, yet again, and hoping you magically have more time and space to get your brand identity right “sometime down the road.”

If you’re ready to throw down the shovel and finally look and feel your best in business (did this just become intervention time?? the lemon cocktail would have helped, I guess?), then I have to say…

I’m way better at being Creative Director of this studio that serves Realtors exclusively, than I am at digging for worms in the wet grass.

Way better.

Just saying.

You could do worse than explore what we’re all about and  how we transform real estate brands the right way, on either the visual branding or copywriting side.

If you need worm-raising tips, too, I have a very poor success rate with that, but still up for the chat –

P.S – What’s BLUEPRINT, again? 

We’re a gaggle of designers, writers, and creatives on a mission to change the branding narrative in real estate.

We offer a signature branding service and the industry’s most elegant and high-converting digital products to help modern, stylish Realtors do three things:

➝ Communicate their worth;

➝ Become the obvious choice;

➝ Tell the right stories to stand out + SELL more.

We love new friends, so hop on our email list for more value content, take our wildly popular real estate personality quiz, or follow us on The ‘Gram to join the family.

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