5 Minutes, $10, and a Share?

Corte Magore , Hog Cay, Nicaragua

If you’ve been following my island project, Finding Corte Magore, then you’ll know it has been my lifeblood for the past fifteen months or so. What’s miraculous is that my lifeblood has flowed to numerous volunteers who have given of themselves freely to see this incredible project come to fruition. What’s miraculous is, my lifeblood has also become theirs, too.

In that time, my team and I went from having a dream of making a fictional place real – to actually being awarded an island in Nicaragua by the Nicaraguan Ambassador to the U.S – and now have the ability to put the island to social good use, reversing the cycle of poverty along the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCS) in Nicaragua – a bio-diverse region that serves some of the world’s most poor. And, that poverty is what is driving the nation’s children from school into the workplace. (Guardian).

Sam's Lookout on Corte Magore

29-acre, Hog Cay, Nicaragua is now ours to share with the world. And we can put it to very good use by creating revenue producing opportunities from it that work to keep kids in Nicaragua in school.

Here’s what I know to be true. My dream is not your dream. I know you have dreams of your own. I know the economy is tough and many don’t have a great deal of discretionary income. I know you probably already have your own, favorite cause. I know people inherently like to give, but sometimes can’t. I also know I have to ask. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but raising money is not one of them, so I hope I’m going about it the right way.

Today, what I really want you to know about this island is that it’s not some ruse to generate huge corporate gains. It’s not my island. It’s everyone’s island. It’s about turning dreams into reality – setting out to do something so big and grandiose – that proves to the world, particularly its children that anything is possible, and their obstacles can be overcome, just like mine were growing-up in the U.S.  My story as it connects to the island can be read about here.

So, I’ll make my plea short and to the point. Today, I’m asking you for 5 minutes of your time, to go to our website, to click the PayPal link at the top, and to make your $10 (or any amount you can give or afford) tax-deductible donation to our California Benefit Corp and that money will flow to our joint partnership with Ambassador Campbell on Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua. You can make a difference by contibuting now – and you can help me keep this island dream alive.

If you can’t donate, I understand, but I’m asking you, please, for your share on each of your social networks you participate.

Throughout this blog, there’s more detailed information about the Finding Corte Magore project, it’s sustainability measures and what not – should you wish to learn more about it. In the meantime, thanks to your donation today, an indigenous child in the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region of Nicaragua can have access to learning materials delivered by the human rights organization, CEDEHCA, through the Finding Corte Magore project.

Check out the Finding Corte Magore project, live in Nicaragua.  Here we interview, Denise with CEDEHCA, who talks about their support to the children in the Kukra Hill municipality.

Please donate now.


Tonia Allen Gould

The Finding Corte Magore Project

Author/Founder/Thought Leader

School Author Visit: SRTMS Career Day 2015 on Writing, Islanding, and Social Good

Food and Fun on Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast

By Guest Blogger, Whitney Gould, the Finding Corte Magore project

Traveling along the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua is like shopping in a thrift shop – the gems are there, but you have to search for them.  And when I say gems, I mean the most gleaming gems of all.  From its jungle river rides to its coconut-infused cuisine, the often overlooked Caribbean Coast is full of discoveries, activities, and cuisine that left the three of us – my mother and founder of Finding Corte Magore, and Eric Anderson, FCM’s Communications Director and me – feeling as if we’d found a new wonder of the world in Bluefields, Nicaragua.

Bluefields was named after the Dutch pirate Abraham Blauvelt who hid in the bay’s waters in the early 17th century.[1] It has a population of 87,000 (2005)[2] and its inhabitants are mostly Mestizo, Afro-descendant Creoles, and indigenous Miskitu, along with smaller communities of Garifuna, whites, Chinese, Mayangnas, Ulwas, and Ramas. Bluefields is Nicaragua’s chief Caribbean port, from which hardwood, seafood, shrimpand lobster are exported. Bluefields was a rendezvous for English and Dutch buccaneers in the 16th and 17th century and became capital of the English protectorate over the Mosquito Coast in 1678. During United States interventions (1912–15, 1926–33) in Nicaragua, American Marines were stationed there. In 1984, the United States mined the harbor (along with those of Corinto and Puerto Sandino). Bluefields was destroyed by Hurricane Joan in 1988 but was rebuilt. (Source:  Wikipedia)

When traveling to this coastal region in Latin America, you’ll want some handy tips on the food and fun. Here’s where to start:

Food – When it comes to food, try everything with the Nicaraguans’ trademark coconut flare.  Coconut accents enhance the flavors of rice, shrimp, and bread in ways you’ve never tasted. Hunt down a bakery selling signature pan de coco (coconut bread) – a dish with subtle but delectable hints of coconut that grow on you as you eat it. It’s nearly impossible to save any for later. If I’ve tempted your taste buds and no immediate trip to Nicaragua is in your future, trying making your own pan de coco bread at home with this recipe.

For seafood, try Pelican Bay (or as the local taxi drivers call it, “El Pelicano”) – not necessarily for the cuisine (although it’s good), but for the view. Take a look at the dishes cooked with coconut – I recommend the shrimp and rice.  It was so good I ordered it two days in a row.  Be sure to find a seat outside.  Seated over Bluefields Bay, the balcony offers amazing views of the water and nearby islands.  It’s a great place to take pictures of the passing pangas, well-presented dishes, or better yet, both:

View over Bluefields Bay from Pelican Bay restaurant
Fred Ulrich, Casa Ulrich
Fred Ulrich, Casa Ulrich, Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua
Casa Ulrich CuisineFun – A foolproof way to have fun in Nicaragua is to spend time in the water.  Take a panga through the bay and the connecting rivers.  This is the easiest (and sometimes only) way to travel from place to place.  Pearl Lagoon*, home of Fred Ulrich’s restaurant, Casa Ulrich, is known for vibrant locals, a beach-like atmosphere, and big screen TVs for sports fanatics.  Order the seafood platter, have a beer, play a game of beach soccer, and you’re sure to have a fun-filled day.

If you’re up for the day trip, take some time to go to Pearl Lagoon by boat.  Fred Ulrich, Swiss trained chef and Nicaragua local, owns this top-notch seafood restaurant right off the dock. Since you’ll be staying for dinner as well as lunch, be sure to try the seafood pasta in both the red and white sauces.  Don’t forget to wash your food down with a Toña Cerveza – the most popular beer in Nicaragua (and we see why)!  Watch the video below as Eric gives his critique of this Nicaraguan beer.

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Soccer match on the new beachfront recently installed at Casa Ulrich
HugKey, Bluefields, Nicaragua
DSC_4190If you have time for another day trip, schedule a tour at CEDEHCA’s own farm, HugKey**.  HugKey is a sanctuary unlike any other for ducks, pigs, turkeys, and chickens.  Set on a lush, sprawling, open field, the island is also covered with gardens, fruit trees, and vegetable patches.  Plus, your visit contributes to a great cause.  CEDEHCA is using the farm to teach young people how to raise farm animals -like hogs, chickens and turkeys, grow fruits and vegetables, and sell to local businesses.  If you’re interested in visiting the farm, contact Earl Gregory Taylor, CEDEHCA’s Operations Coordinator, at (505) 8430 0884 or earl.taylor@cedehcanicaragua.com.  Munch on some sugar cane while you’re there!  

*Be sure to wear pants to protect from local mosquitos! – Yes, I learned the hard way. By the time, I left Pearl Lagoon, I had over 50 mosquito bites on my legs. Mom and Eric both paid heed to local advice to wear bug spray, but I thought I was impervious to what I thought I was only local lore. By the way, my mom was using her own lavender, orange and euculyptus natural oil concoction and she escaped the whole trip without a single bite.

SnakeOh yes, and do watch out for snakes, while touring any tall, grassy areas – after all, you are in the jungle.

I hope you fall in love with the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua like I did.  Open yourself up to experience the flavors, personality, and beauty of the coast and its people, and I promise that you, too, will enjoy not only these gems, but will find some of your own!

Some day soon, we hope to see you visit us on Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua!

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when thought turns to hate


What makes discussion great is when thought leaders advocate, debate, pontificate, commiserate, relate, educate and collaborate…until thought turns to spate, promotes hate, carries weight, problems accelerate, personal ideals dictate, ideas deflate, people turn irate. And, then it’s too late.

-TA Gould

So, Did You Know I Want to Buy an Island in Central America?

Children’s picture book author, Tonia Allen Gould, wants to crowd-fund an island to bring awareness to the children of Nicaragua who drop out of school, on average, by the sixth grade.

The Finding Corte Magore Project works virtually to connect a global community of students and crowd funders in real time with the plight of educationally and economically repressed Nicaragua. The project incorporates social entrepreneurialism, gamification, and augmented reality and involves showcasing, purchasing and managing, through collective voting processes, one of the country’s own small, yet beautiful islands to create awareness, coupled with sustainable, positive and long-term impact on the country’s people.

Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore Original Musical Score by Robby Armstrong, Copyright (C) Tonia Allen Gould, All Rights Reserved.

Death Bed Friends

imageOne of my “hair therapists” is also a talk show radio host. Naturally, when we get together at her place for my new look, our “gifts of gab” kick into overdrive and we chat incessantly over coffee and English toast slathered with a tomato sauté. Kim has an uncanny knack at getting people to open up, which is why she makes both a superb hairdresser and radio host.

One day, somewhere between the time that my long locks were smothered with color and those new gray strands were just starting to simmer; Kim and I began talking about friendship. I told Kim that I have just a handful of Death Bed Friends. “Death Bed Friends? What are those?” she laughed. “You know,” I said, “Those few people who came into your life and stayed, who idolized your strengths, forgave you your many weaknesses, and could always find a way to make you laugh when you wanted to cry. Those people,” I continued. “They’re also the friends you could whole-heartedly hand your kids over to in your will, they’d mourn your death sufficiently before squeezing in on your widowed husband (kidding), but really they are the ones that last your whole lifetime and they’ll surely be the ones standing vigil over your bed in those last, dying days.”

As soon as I said it, I knew who they were; the people in my life that I was referring. Their images, one after the other, started popping into my head, but I could only count them on one hand. I began to really think about that and wondered if I’ve made enough of those kinds of friends. Then it occurred to me that, while those deeper, more meaningful relationships were fewer and farther between for me; the quantity of them has always been a manageable number to nurture and let flourish. There were even a couple of people who came into my life, disguised as Death Bed Friends, that weren’t, and they’re gone now. Still, the ones who remained, are the perfect number. I think we’re only allotted just so many ridiculously special people in our lives. Besides, how many people can you squeeze into a hospital room anyway?

Of course, none of this lessens the importance of my sea of “Funeral Friends,” those amazing people whom I know would show up and mourn my death and celebrate my life. I love them too, and I need more hands to count those. But, that’s a whole different story over a different haircut and more coffee and toast.

I don’t have any plans of dying anytime soon. And, hopefully I still have plenty of time to cultivate a garden of special people in my life. One thing I know for certain; friends can be flowers or weeds. Grow flowers. And, if one of those flowers packs herself up and leaves your garden, just know she was probably really a dandelion pretending to be a rose. All the ladies pictured in this post are some of my roses.


Snow Days!

The other evening, my husband sat me down for “a talk.”  I should’ve realized something was up when he paused the football game he was watching and then got up to pour me a glass of wine before he sat down across from me and started to speak.  “You know…I’ve been thinking,” he started, apprehensively.  “I’ve been thinking that we’re sending our kids the wrong message with all the excess every year for Christmas.  I think this year, we should keep things simple and not go too overboard,” he said. 

At this point, my brain went into instant recall to last Christmas.  “Uh-oh,” I thought.  Last year, I promised him a Christmas of moderation too, but it took nearly two hours for the family to open all of their presents.  It wasn’t the value of the gifts or how much really, I had spent that concerned my husband; it was the sheer number of presents that magically appeared under the Christmas tree, and it all looked and felt, excessive.  It wasn’t that I had intended to buy all of those gifts, either.  I had poorly planned Christmas and second-guessed myself up to the last-minute, and continued to buy more and more.  The kids opened each gift, one after the other.  They didn’t spend much time on each one and couldn’t wait to open the next.  My husband was right.  I had gone overboard on Christmas once again, and single-handedly, I lost track of what Christmas really meant to me. 

When I was a kid, Christmas gifts were sometimes sparse under our tree back home in Indiana, but still; we could always count on the fact that they would be there waiting for us, each marked with our names, and there by Christmas morning.  Back then, my father, who has since passed, was a supervisor for the Indiana State Department of Highways and he always made sure to take all the overtime he could, so that he could afford Christmas for his wife and three kids.  The phone would ring in the middle of the nights he would be on call, and he would selflessly, pull himself up out of bed to go out to plow the roads, together with his men.   

I remember those blustery nights, when the temperatures would drop well below zero, when Northern Indiana would get pummeled by all that icy, lake-effect snow sent down from Lake Michigan.  Mom would get up with my father, pour him his coffee in his thermos and watch as he’d walk out the door.  Those nights, she’d sit in the kitchen and listen to the police scanner, hoping that her own husband would be alright, out there in those sometimes, near-blizzard conditions. There were many days and nights in the wintertime when dad wouldn’t even get to come home because he was out there working, plowing roads so people could pass to do their holiday shopping and so that he could earn enough money to put presents under his own family’s tree.  For some, those days were called Snow Days and that meant that kids got to miss school.  But for us, a snow day meant that dad probably wouldn’t be coming home. 

Looking back on all of that now, I realize that working overtime was optional for my dad, like many public service providers.  It wasn’t something that he had to do; he didn’t have to get up night after night and brave the chilly night’s air.   After all, my dad was a supervisor and he could have sent any of his men out in his replace, but he didn’t.  Selflessly, my father climbed out of his own warm bed, put on his coveralls and boots and went out into those cold, blustery nights to plow the roads. 

I wrote this today to remind myself of what the Christmas season means to me.  In addition to celebrating Christ’s birth; it’s all about the time of year where we remember from where we came and learning to give selflessly, not excessively.

“43-04-10-7 Station-H-KFR640,” was the call my father made back to the highway department when his state-issued truck arrived safely, back in our driveway.   We’d always hear it loud and clear, coming through the scanner tucked on top of the refrigerator, and we would watch as our mother would shut it off, just before my father walked the front door. 

Merry Christmas!

To Be Uncouth

Random photo, gleaned from the web.

To Be Uncouth

I’m thinking about the word “uncouth”.   It’s one of my all time favorite words.  It means to lack in manners, refinement or grace. Refinement and grace are both learned behaviors throughout a long period of time. People are excused, in my book, from lacking in refinement or grace because maybe they weren’t ever exposed to what those things are.  Simply put, you can’t blame someone for becoming a product of their environment.   In some people’s lives, being graceful and refined isn’t a requirement to live and breathe, and that’s alright.  But, lacking in good manners is inexcusable in my opinion, because all you have to do is open your eyes and look around you to find good people with good manners to use as your examples throughout your lifetime.  I think the word “uncouth” has the propensity to open up all sorts of debates about nature vs. nurture.  Does anyone want to debate or spar with me on this one? 

Lost Pup and Cupcakes

A little over a week ago, a local realtor sent out a query to everyone in our neighborhood that read, “Recognize this dog? She was found this morning in Santa Rosa Valley near Pradera! Help in finding her owner please. No tag – but she has a pink collar.”

The photo pulled on my heartstrings and I immediately responded, “She looks so sweet. I love German Shepards. Let me know if she doesn’t find her home.” Within a few hours, the woman who found her called me and said that her dogs were going ballistic in her backyard and weren’t taking too kindly to “this very sweet pup.” I knew would happen next. This poor dog would be picked-up by animal control and would eventually be euthanized if no one claimed her. So, I did what any dog-loving, lint-brush carrying, American would do; I offered to take her in. My family and our own two dogs took to the animal quickly. “Sasha” as we soon called her, quickly fell into place as a beta female who became subservient to our own alpha female labrador. Our sweet, little, male Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, surprisingly, became “boss.” Suddenly, I had a pack of dogs and our home felt smaller, while our hearts grew bigger by the minute as we welcomed our new friend.

By the second day, I brought “Sasha” into the office with me where she laid by the foot of my chair. Wherever I went she followed me. Not once did she have an accident throughout the day. I walked her around outside and learned that she was perfectly trained on a leash. If I dropped the leash, she sidled up next to me and didn’t stray. She jumped easily into the car. She nuzzled me lovingly below my neck. Back at home, she developed a playful fascination with the cat. She fetched a ball. She loved the kids. What started as a nagging feeling, became a clear voice blasting from loudspeakers; THIS DOG ISN’T MINE AND SOMEONE IS LOOKING FOR HER. While the very notion pulled on my heartstrings, I knew “Sasha” was owned by a loving family that wanted her back, and I had to somehow help her find her way home. But, the realtor’s picture returned no response. We called the pound, and no one had inquired about her. I posted an ad on Craig’s List and got no replies. I posted an ad on http://www.petamberalert.com. I posted an ad on every single missing animal website I could find, and still, no clues. Nothing. I started to think that maybe “Sasha” was abandoned after all.

By the third day, I started to suspect that “Sasha” was part Husky/Shepard/Timber Wolf mix. She looked like a wolf, but had German Shepard markings and a husky tail and snow nose. She walked with her tail and head down when she wasn’t engaged by something, a common trait in a wolf. So, I contacted a hybrid/wolf dog breeder who asked me to send her some pictures. The breeder confirmed that likely, this exquisite creature was in fact, fifty to sixty percent timber wolf. Of course, that raised immediate concerns which were all dispelled by the breeder, who educated me for an hour on how wolf dogs make the perfect pets. I wanted to keep her.

By Friday night, I was in love. My heart was telling me to stop looking for a family that didn’t exist, but my head was telling me that I needed to keep trying to find this animal’s home. So, I went to the county animal control website and found a link to http://www.petharbor.com. This website connects missing animals and owners to people who find them. My post read something like, “Found possible Wolf-Hybrid, German Shepard/Husky mix in the Santa Rosa Valley. Beautiful Animal. Sweet as Pie.”

By the next morning, I had received an email connecting me with “Sasha’s” owner. It took every ounce of my being to call her and arrange a time for the pet to be returned. “What’s her name?” I asked in a shaky voice while fighting back my tears. “Nala,” the owner said. While I was crushed, Nala’s owner informed me that her five-year-old daughter had been praying every single night for Nala’s safety and that she’d find her way back home to her.

Around 2:00 that afternoon, a young couple with a toddler and five-year-old in tow, stood on my doorstep. I opened the door and Nala, all one-hundred and twenty pounds of her, stood on her hind paws and licked her owner’s faces, one-by-one. And, then a sweet, little five-year-old girl, hands me a bag. Inside was a box of cupcakes. “Thank you for taking care of our dog,” she said. And, that’s all it took, just a few seconds, for every ounce of my pain to be stripped away, and be replaced by the gladness that I felt that I found Nala’s little girl.

Of course, I had to capture the video of the dog’s reunion with her family. I wanted to remember the animal that we loved so quickly and that we wanted to call our own. I’m sorry the video is cut-off, but the five-year-old is giving me a gift of cupcakes and delivering me the sweetest smile on the face of the planet. I wanted to see that with my own eyes and not through the lens of a camera. So, I inadvertently cut the video short, right at the best part, but you get the point.

Caution: Children at Play

I’ve been writing about how necessary it has become for me to slow down to the speed of life.  Things had begun to get out of control, because I’ve been moving too fast and I’ve allowed things to pull me in too many different directions for too long a period of time.  My priorities started to shift and the most important people in my life started to feel less important.   I’ve been working on all of that, and in the last month; I’ve seen and done a few things that caught my attention in new and different ways, because I’ve opened my eyes and switched from “auto-pilot.”

I watched my son pitch his first strike-out in a Little League game, and win the coveted game ball.   Had I been fifteen minutes late to the game (which I generally am), I would have missed some of that.

I took pictures of my beautiful daughter and really “saw” her through the camera lens as I watched her board a party bus to Prom with her date, along with twenty or so other captivating, young women and their dates, and then I began to imagine life at home without her for nine months out the year when she goes to college, and I couldn’t.  Later, I took her shopping and sat on a bench and watched her come out in several different outfits.  I wasn’t on my phone or checking emails while I was waiting either;  I just sat there and marveled at both her inner and outer beauty and she caught my breath every time she exited the fitting room.

I’ve had a date night with my husband, and I had forgotten how good those are.   I thanked my husband each time he took care of something around the house that saved me some time.  He changed the air filters in the attic and I thanked him.   He took my camera into a camera shop and told them I said it wasn’t working and then laughed at me after he learned the lens wasn’t screwed on right, and I thanked him.  He hired the guy to chop down my beloved tree that I fought a whole year to try and save,  and still, I thanked him, because it was something that needed to be done and he knew I wouldn’t do it.

Instead of concentrating on my own philanthropic efforts, I’ve been helping my son get his first cause off the ground.  I’ve been encouraging his young entrepreneurial spirit and have opened my eyes even more to his big heart, filled with compassion for others.   I watched his entire classroom fold paper airplanes from art that could only be drawn from the eyes of child about the ugly tragedies in Japan.  I stood and watched as my son coached an entire classroom on how to make the paper  origami planes that he loves to make so much, and watched as  little their third-grade faces lit-up as they launched them into the air outside.  I noticed that when you look up on a sunny workday for no other reason than to see paper airplanes soar, you take in things you forget to see like the sun and the sky and the clouds and the very tips of tree-tops too.  You can check out my son’s efforts at  http://www.facebook.com/APaperProjectToAidJapan

I received TWO massages this month, and didn’t allow myself to fall asleep during either one of them, and even spent time relaxing in an infra-red sauna to rejuvenate my body and spirit.

I’ve said thank you and complimented more, and argued and criticized less.  (We humans don’t even realize that we are sometimes controversial just to be controversial.)

I stopped to pet and play with our animals more.  In time I had forgotten to stoop to pet my best friend who greets me at the door, every single time I’ve been away.

I’ve even eaten breakfast a few times…ok, so it was just a banana, but at least I had something to nourish my body besides coffee before noon.

And after all that, business obligations were met, deadlines at TAG! were kept, the laundry and housework still got done, and I am not one bit worse-for-the wear.  So, that’s all I really have to say about that.


Push to Start

No time like the presentI’ve recently begun the process of learning how to live life  in the moment.  Even though I used to be Queen Spontaneity, somewhere along the way, life had started to become predictable and mundane, even for an A-type personality like me.  But sometimes, all life has to do is smack you upside the head to get you to stop and take notice that it’s out there; you just have to reach out and grab it.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t always this way, but lately life really had become a series of processes.  I’d wake-up, connect with the family, check emails, shower, go to the office, drive home, cook dinner, help with homework, work out if I had the energy, and go to bed.  Over and over again, I would repeat my day in similar order doing routine things.

I probably would have continued at that momentum for the next 10 years had something ridiculously silly not happened.  But, sometimes, that’s all it takes.   My “Ah-hah” moment happened after I drove to a gas station where I simultaneously took a phone call and pumped unleaded fuel into my relatively new diesel SUV.  Now, that’s not just dumb, it’s the very definition of the word stupid.  The mistake, while it didn’t ultimately break me, inconvenienced me for two days straight and cost me over $700 stupidity fees and, of course, I beat myself up over it for a while.

It was stupid, yes.  But, somehow, the very stupidity of it all, CHANGED ME.  It was stupid because I have been living life on auto-pilot, and sometimes, important things get forgotten on auto-pilot.

In the past year or so, I forgot to send my son to school with Valentine’s Day cards for a party in class.  I forgot my seventeen-year wedding anniversary completely. I forgot to call my recently widowed mother on her birthday, and I forgot to pump diesel gas into my car.  I’ve been reminded more than once to stop gliding through life at the speed of light, to slow down, and to stop and smell the proverbial flowers that are abundant in my garden.  I couldn’t help but think; any of one of those things could have been much worse.  In my frenzied, harried, stop-for-nothing life, I could’ve backed my car into a pedestrian from a parking lot.  I could have forgotten to turn off the iron and burned my house down.  I could have forgotten all about what matters most to me.  So, now, I’m committed to the process of learning to slow down to the speed of life before forty-one turns to fifty and I realize, life just passed me right on by.

A Paper Project to Aid Japan

Drawn by Miles Gould

I was watching CNN this morning as the kids were scurrying to get ready for school. I was still lying in bed with my eyes glued to the TV, unable to pull myself away from all the horrors that unfolded as a result of the earthquake in Japan. My nine-year-old son, Miles, wanders in and I noticed he has tears in his eyes. He begins to explain how tsunamis are triggered by the movement of plates under the ocean.  Even though he seemed fully educated on the subject, I could tell it was hard for him to talk about what he had learned in class. I asked him if he was sad about what’s going on over there and he nodded his head. I kept thinking that when something’s gotten me down; I find ways to do something about it. I wanted to give my son license to do the same.   So, I said, “Miles, would you like to do something for the people of Japan?” He said, “What can I do, mom?” And, then I said, “You love making things like paper airplanes and origami. I bet we can find a way to raise money from that”. Miles, fully confident that “his work” could sell,  looked at me and said, “I want all the money I make go to Japan”. So that’s how big a kid’s heart is and also how a kid’s cause is formed. Within hours he designed a logo, we set-up a Facebook page, and lined-up his teacher, classmates, and a local reporter to help us raise some money.  While initially, we didn’t  have any real, concrete plans, we did have an idea: Have a kid do something for others by doing things he’s passionate about. Miles loves to build things from rockets to Zomes and Lego’s. He loves to make things too. He’s constantly researching things to build or make.   With the help and support of the people who love him, we will certainly raise some money to send to Miles’ charity of choice, Save the Children

(After I wrote this post, Miles has garnered the support of his classmates and his teacher to help him raise money for Japan.   Miles now has a goal to sell product with his logo on it, sell artwork crafted by American children expressing their feelings about Japan, and to increase awareness about A Paper Project to Aid Japan through his various paper-making online tutorials.  The Ventura County Star is running a piece on Miles’ story and Hello Neighbor TV visited his classroom.  Please check out his progress and his cause, A Paper Project to Aid Japan).

3/31/11 Article in the Ventura County Star.  http://www.vcstar.com/news/2011/mar/30/images-from-japan-inspire-camarillo-boy-to-help/

Buy logoed merchandise here:  http://www.cafepress.com/TheBigPaperPlaneTsunamiSave

Trash or Treasure? Four Promos That Solve Real-World Problems


THE DOUBLE-WALL INSULATED TUMBLER: You have the capacity to reduce your carbon footprint significantly with a double-wall insulated plastic tumbler that replaces the plastic water bottle.  Bottled and sold water is one of the scariest conveniences known to humanity.   Each year, more than 26 BILLION plastic water bottles are thrown away, and only just 15% of them ever get recycled.   The double-wall, insulated plastic tumbler is designed to replace bottled water altogether.  Standard tumblers are BPA Free, are available in both 16 & 22 ounce sizes, are easy to fill with filtered or tap water (or other cold beverages), and they promise to keep your drinks cold.  The tumblers come standard with a washable lid and straw.  New models feature the ability to house a four-color process printed insert to maximize your logo or brand positioning.

THE STAINLESS STEEL TRAVEL TUMBLER: For the same reason that a double-wall insulated tumbler has the propensity to help save our beautiful Mother Earth, so does the Stainless Steel Travel Mug.  While we don’t have more recent figures, we read at Answers.com that, “In 2002 Starbucks served about 20 million customers a week, earning $3.288 billion. In 2007 Starbucks had earned a net income of $9.411 billion. This is a growth rate of 286.2%. Assuming the 20 million customers are correlated with the net income and its growth rate, and assuming that Starbucks served 57.24 million customers a week, that is about 2.98 billion customers served per year!”  Now, these staggering figures may be a bit outdated and affected by the economy, but we’re guessing all that equates to legions upon legions of  throw-away cups from that one well-known coffee-house alone! Imagine the impact if everyone used a travel tumbler instead of the convenient “to go” paper cup that Starbucks distributes.  Not only would there be less waste by using travel mugs instead of  paper cups, but less trees would have to be chopped down to make those cups in the first place.   Don’t forget the $0.10 you save per cup by toting your own beverage container.  Pop your logo on this puppy and treat yourself to walking, talking, animated, human advertisers carrying their favorite cups of Joe and your brand.

THE USB DRIVE: Did you know that each year, 19 billion catalogs are mailed to American consumers?  https://www.catalogchoice.org indicates the impact of that equates to 53 million trees,  3.6 million tons of paper, 38 trillion BTUs (enough to power 1.2 million homes per year),  5.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions (equal to the annual emissions of two million cars),  and 53 billion gallons of water (enough to fill 81,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools).  These Environmental impact estimates were made using the Environmental Defense paper calculator.  Now, enters the USB Drive.  USB Drives have the capacity to ANNIHILATE the need for a print budget altogether.    USB drives are fast becoming a formidable competitor to conventionally printed marketing pieces like unwanted catalogs that get thrown or tossed away.   If a savvy marketer does some long-term, strategic, and out-of-the-box planning; it can be proven that USB Drives offer an affordable alternative to short and long- run printing projects.  Imagine if USB drives were collected and redistributed over and over to the targeted recipient, major corporations could reduce their internal communications printing budgets, save trees and make a significant environmental impact.   Your catalog or data can be uploaded on each drive before you distribute them by your promotional product marketing agency with worry-free hassle.  USB drives have fast become a popular solution in delivering effective corporate communications.



THE RECYCLED GROCERY TOTE: In January of this year, the Los Angeles Times reported that  Santa Monica, CA, BANNED plastic single-use bag distribution in stores citywide.  “The action was urged by Heal the Bay and other environmental groups that say widespread use of the cheap bags has created a global “plastic pollution plague.”  The LA Times reports further that, “Under the ordinance, plastic bags will no longer be available at grocery stores, clothing shops or other retailers, although restaurants may use them for takeout food. Smaller plastic “product bags” with no handles, like those used for produce, will be allowed for public health reasons.  Heal the Bay praised the action, saying the vote added momentum to similar proposals throughout California. Already, bans have been approved in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, Marin County and the city of San Jose. The city of Calabasas will consider its own ban next week.”  Here is an incredible opportunity for corporate marketers to co-op branded grocery totes with national grocery chains who surely will follow suit.  Promotional quality, eco-friendly totes solve the dilemma to the age-old question, Paper or Plastic?

(Tonia Allen Gould is the President/CEO of TAG! The Creative Source, a Camarillo, CA brand messaging marketing agency that specializes in the effective use of promotional products in the marketing mix.)

WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get)

Wikipedia indicates that “WYSIWYG (pronounced /ˈwɪziwɪɡ/[1] WIZ-ee-wig) is an acronym for what you see is what you get.” In other words, what is directly in front of you should form the whole and complete picture. As shoppers, we can see and touch and feel a gallon of milk and never once question whether that gallon of milk sitting on a shelf in the refrigerated section of a grocery store is, in fact, a gallon of milk. We can choose to take it off the shelf, place it in our carts and take it home with us, because we never have to question the validity of a gallon of milk. We can do this because we know what a gallon of milk should look like, simply, because it’s WYSIWYG.

WYSIWIG has been one of my favorite acronyms to use in business too. I can walk a trade show for hours, touching and feeling products, trying to get a sense of how they work, how they’re made and how they will withstand certain conditions, and rely on that information coupled with my knowledge, to effectively communicate a product’s benefits to my customer. Generally, in my business, if you can see it and touch and feel it, like that gallon of milk; it too is WYSIWIG.

The concept of WYSIWIG is so simple, that people inadvertently apply the notion to other people. Applying WYSIWIG too soon is why people find themselves walking around ungratified in their relationships. Until only recently, I used to mechanically trust people. I thought most people were a fairly open book, once you opened the cover and studied them a bit. I stupidly believed that everyone could be figured out, if only I spent a little time getting to know them. I would apply my analytic, intuitive, and highly trusting natures, and within a short period, be able to size someone up and decide whether I’d invite them into my circle. Just like that, and sometimes almost overnight, POOF! With me, a person could go from complete stranger, to trusted friend that easily, because I was ready to make that transition and leap of faith, purely based upon what I saw in them. This mentality has caused me some pain in life.

I realize now that has all been an unhealthy way to view people and probably even a dangerous way to live. People can’t be sized-up over a relatively short period. You have to know them for who they are, and to do that, you have to look beyond those first and second and third layers, and sometimes this takes a while. Like an onion, you have to peel back the layers until you really come to know a person for who they are, and I suggest you do this before you call a person “friend”, or date someone exclusively, or get married, or take that job, or give a person the keys to your office and the passwords to all your records. I can tell you that in my lifetime, I’ve met many people who I have inadvertently trusted through both an active professional and personal life. I can also tell you another thing I know, unequivocally, for sure now; if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it isn’t necessarily, a duck. It could be an actor duck that does voice-overs in sheep’s clothing.

My Identity Crisis

I lost my wallet somewhere between King and Market Streets in San Francisco after Game #1 of The World Series.  (The SFO Giants won!) Amidst my husband’s and my mad dash to catch the Bart in front of the legions of people swarming from behind us out of the ballpark; I somehow managed to drop a wallet. That’s a big piece of dirt to re-trace, and an impossible feat, even if I wanted to do it.

The point is moot anyway, because I didn’t even know I lost my wallet until I tried to tip the hotel shuttle guy at the airport the next morning. The realization that I had lost my wallet and that I could be stranded in Oakland without any money or access to money left me dazed and confused. I felt helpless, particularly since my husband had left on an earlier flight, and I wouldn’t be able to board my flight back to LAX from Oakland without my ID.

Without money in my pocket, my lips were parched and I needed something to drink. Without money in my pocket; I was suddenly starving, even though I grabbed some food from the complimentary buffet at the hotel. Without money in my pocket; I felt destitute and alone.

Standing in line, waiting to plea my case to a TSA agent, almost in tears about a lost wallet and the possibility of not being able to board a plane without my ID; I happened to notice the burn victim standing in the line next to me. The features on his face were barely decipherable and his arms were marred with scars. When he caught me looking, he smiled at me. I forced my frustration and self-pity back down into the cracks and crevices of my being and smiled right back. I was in awe of him, and only imagined what he’d been through to get to his spot in line on this day. My troubles paled by comparison.

I somehow managed to get through the day. Whoever told you that you couldn’t fly without identification was wrong. TSA pulls you aside and asks you a sea of questions that only you could answer. Once they are assured that you’re not some terrorist disguised as a loser who dropped her wallet after a sporting event; they let you pass on through.

It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself. It’s much harder to be the guy who survived a fire of some kind that left him disfigured. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself; I ask myself whether or not my problem is as bad as any of that. The answer; I hope and pray, will always be no.

It’s T-O-N-I-A

I was born at precisely midnight. All the hands on the clock were pointed at 12:00 midnight, even the second-hand.   There I was, all pink and new and ready to take on the world, but not before my mother had to pick my birthdate. “Call it,” the doctor said, “Pick her birthday.  You can choose either the 19th or the 20th. She was born on the 19th, but we looked at the clock on the 20th. So it’s up to you.” It was a life changing moment for me. I could either be born on October 19th, or October 20th,  and I didn’t get a single say in the matter. It was up to my mom. So, she picked the 20th and still calls me on the 19th to wish me a happy birthday.  She obviously wasn’t too committed to the process. If they had left it up to me, I would have gotten two birthdays. Somehow, I still feel entitled to the one that got away.

Somewhere along the way, my parents had also forgotten the correct spelling of my name. I mean, come on! The date of my birth is understandable, because technically; I was born on the 19th. But, my name? On my birth certificate, it read T-O-N-I-A.  I had no idea.  Really, I didn’t have a single clue that my name was mispelled until somewhere around my twenty-third year when  the social security administration wrote to tell me that I didn’t exist.  “We have no record of you,” the note said, “You don’t exist in our database.”   Really?  There might have been a kinder way to put that. 

Apparently, my kindergarten teacher, Miss Swihart, disagreed with the spelling of my name and started spelling it T-O-N-Y-A.  She never really informed anyone that she disagreed; she just changed the spelling.  Phonetically speaking, she was right about the way it should be spelled, but that’s not the point.   It’s really the principal of the matter.  Kindergarten teachers don’t have the express license to go around changing their student’s names.  I, of course, had no idea how to write my name when I entered her classroom.  My five-year-old self pretty much left that all up to her to teach me.  Somewhere between learning the alphabet and how to ride a bus; I’m betting that’s when she changed my name. 

This is how my parents tell the story anyway.  They blamed the whole name change thing on some, poor Kindergarten teacher who had twenty other names to remember how to spell.   For all I know, my own parents may have forgotten how they spelled it in the first place, and wrote it down wrong on my school registration papers.  So, let’s blame it on teacher, for the sake of argument.   Even if it was poor, Miss Swihart’s fault, don’t you think it’s even a tad bit strange that my parents never corrected her spelling along the way? In any case, before I got married, I had to alter the spelling of my first name back to how it reads on my birth certificate to T-O-N-I-A.  I couldn’t get a marriage license until I proved who I really was, T-O-N-I-A, the little baby, all pink and new,  born October 19th or 20th, 1969.

People always comment that my name has an interesting spelling. My response is always the same. “Yeah, well…my parents can’t spell, and neither could my kindergarten teacher, for that matter.” The first part is funny, the second part just loses whoever asks, I think. 

If you grew up in the era of Bright Lights, Big City; click here for one of the most beautiful songs ever written with my name in it,  Ice Cream Days by Jennifer Hallhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUFhMBIUFAA

Life is about falling down

The Urban Dictionary refers to a clutz as someone who is extremely careless, stupid and a hazard to be around. Trips over shoes constantly, breaks anything he/she touches, should not be alowed around heavy machinery or anything that might put other’s lives in danger.
Mr Clutz walks into old, rich woman’s house with lots of v. elaborate, precariously placed ornaments and brakeables scattered around.

Clutz: Oooh look a penny!
(As he picks up penny, knocks down v. expensive china vase)
Old woman: Good heavens! That vase was my Great Grandmama’s!
Clutz: Huh? What vase?

Like a Kid in a School Yard

When I was in elementary school, I loved the playground. The playground was the one place that you could run around, uninhibited without a care in the world. On the playground, you could forget about all of your worries and just be a kid, but it also was a pretty dangerous place for a scrawny, little clutz like me.

Back then, I was a bit of a tomboy and when I wasn’t playing baseball or dodgeball with the boys, you could find me on the swing. The swings were always my favorite place to go when I just wanted to be by myself. I didn’t need someone standing behind me, pushing me from behind. It’s probably no suprise to people who know me today that back then, I’d push myself. All I had to do was pump my legs and I would soar higher and higher. From up there, it felt like I could touch the sky or punch a hole in it with my feet if I wanted to.

The boys would always pick me to play on their teams, because I was good at sports, despite how clumsy I was in real life. In real life, when I wasn’t throwing or catching a ball, I would fall down A LOT! One day, after the bell had rung, I jumped off the swing and landed forehead first onto a rock protruding from the ground. It wasn’t a big rock either, but I liked to tell people that it was a huge boulder. In truth, the rock was only about six inches in diameter, but it packed a big punch to that tiny little noggin of mine. Like every other time when I fell, I just picked myself up, brushed myself off and went about the rest of my day.

The following morning, I awoke with two black eyes. I looked ridiculous and, of course, my little eight-year-old, immature friends all laughed at me and called me a raccoon. That didn’t matter though; I loved having them, those two big black eyes. They hung around for a while and became a part of me for a short period of my life. I earned those black eyes, that time I fell down. Those two black eyes told a story; a seemingly nothing kind of story; a story about a kid who once fell down and bumped her head. Still, that story was mine to tell. I owned it and learned to form and shape the story, any old way that I liked. That’s why I love to write, because nothings sometimes have the propensity to turn into somethings, if the tale is told just right.

So, here’s my mantra. I think life is all about falling down. If we could just learn to get back up with as much grace and poise as we can possibly muster; we’ll be alright. And, hey, if you are someone like me, who fell down a lot in both the literal and figurative senses, then you’ll ease into old age with a lot of practice and hopefully you’ll spare yourself a broken hip.

P.S. I learned a lot from that swing, and I still push myself. Sometimes I have to push myself to get back up. You might have to push yourself to get back up, too. Trust me, it gets easier every time.