“The Duke” Died in June

The Duke Died in June
My parents raised me the best they could
I grew up strong and I did some good
When I was a baby, there was a man on the moon
When I was little, “The Duke” died in June
I learned that people live, and some others die
…and summers meant Rhubarb pie
          in all my fifty years…
The war in Nam ended and it was none too soon
“The Last Camel (he) Died at Noon”
The President, he told a lie
He resigned, gave Ford a try
Nixon was pardoned, don’t know why
…and summers meant rhubarb pie,
in all my fifty years…
Elvis was dead, and Mother cried
A space shuttle launched, and SHE fell from the sky
NASA gave it another try
Reagan was shot, but he didn’t die
….and summers meant rhubarb pie
in all my fifty years…
A volcano erupted and blanketed the Earth
Female workers, finally paid their worth
The Berlin Wall came tumblin’ down
Houston, Jackson and Prince now gone
The stock market rose, and the twin towers fell
The world got sick while the Earth got well
Dad and brother, they both died
And, I watched again as Mother cried
Just like she did for Lady Di
….and summers meant rhubarb pie
In all my Fifty Years…
When I was a baby, there was a man on the moon
When I was little, “The Duke” died in June
I learned that people live, and some others die
…and summers meant Rhubarb pie
…and summers meant Rhubarb pie
Ya…summers meant Rhubarb pie! 
         In all my Fifty Years…

Copyright Tonia Allen Gould 2020 - All Rights Reserved

Baby’s Got Her Humor Back

I lost my sense of humor almost four weeks ago. It disappeared suddenly when I learned that someone who works for me, someone I cared a lot about, was hanging onto his life in a near-fatal car crash. What became immensely clear was that someone in our little family at TAG! The Creative Source was in trouble, and for the first time in seventeen years, “doing business” suddenly felt trivial and lacked significance. I felt guilty picking up the phone. Smiling or laughing was out of the question. And, like any mother; I worried that this young; twenty-three-year-old man wouldn’t pull through, after learning that he had something like a five per cent chance of surviving.

Catastrophic events in small businesses create snowball effects that you can’t even begin to imagine unless you work for one or own one that has been through one. People don’t deal with crisis well in general and they cease to function when they are traumatized. Traumatized people think and behave differently, and character becomes unbalanced.  Add work to the mix and projects get shifted, pushed off and even delayed. Traumatized people at work look out the window and the sky seems darker than it would on an ordinary day when life was normal and everyone was sitting in their respective chairs.

Small businesses are like families that lack only a dinner table. You get to know each other intimately. When one family member is missing; it’s different, altered and maybe never the same again. After the token, single day a small business owner “gets” to feel the pain that everyone else is feeling, the owner has to rise to the challenge, react and keep things moving along. Any good leader will tell you; even in crisis mode, the small business owner has to pick themselves up, stand tall and no matter what, they have to remember that the business is a living, breathing entity of its own. It has to go on.  Pushing the business back into forward momentum can be perceived as selfish, and the business owner walks a tightrope for awhile.  But, if the business owner doesn’t react, people could be out of jobs if clients reassemble and land elsewhere.

So, as a small business owner, I had no other choice but to keep things progressing along, shuffling duties, taking on extra responsibilities, listening and trying to keep people focused on the tasks at hand. We had some fallout. But, four weeks later; we’re better and stronger because of it. We’ll know better how to handle chaos and confusion next time.  Next time; I’ll know what to do.

So, as I mentioned; I completely displaced my sense of humor. It was gone, forever, I thought.  (You lose perspective when you are overwhelmed and fatigued). But, I finally found it again, although it took a couple of important events for me to locate it.  Last Saturday night, I ended-up at a small industry party in Dana Point, CA. Somewhere around 1:00 AM; I phoned for a cab to get me back to my hotel while a friend was listening to the conversation nearby. The operator at Yellow Cab asked me for my street name. I said, “Camino Capistrano.” The operator said, “Can you spell Camino?” I spelled it, “C-A-M-I-N-O”.  He said, “I’m sorry; I didn’t catch that.”  I spelled it once more and again he said, “I’m sorry, I still didn’t catch that.”  Frustrated and ready to give up, I said,  “Let me try it this way.  Candy. Apple. Mary. Isotope.” As soon as I said isotope, my friend and I started laughing so hard that I couldn’t finish the call.  Even the operator was laughing. Tears were streaming down our faces. We couldn’t stop; we were literally possessed by laughter.  For me, this otherwise, non-momentous occasion signified the first time in four weeks that I had really smiled or laughed at all.

Yesterday, I finally heard from my employee and friend who almost died. His voice was as clear and confident as if he were sitting in the office next to me. “Hi Tonia,” he said, and inwardly, I started to cry.  After ten minutes of talking to him and learning from him, in his own words, that he was going to be just fine; I hung up the phone and laughed and laughed and laughed. Laughter really is the best medicine, and now, finally, Baby’s got her humor back.

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”
Maya Angelou

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.)

Life is a Balancing Act

Photo gleaned from E-how Article By Ma Wen Jie, eHow Contributor

The idea for this post, started with a Tweet. “Balancing work & life is like being on a teeter-totter. I’m the fulcrum w/ kids on 1 end & a biz, the other. I’ve got 2 hold ’em both up.” The idea for the Tweet started with my first day back in the office after being out-of-town in Dallas for several days. When I returned, both my family and my job needed me, and like every other time I’ve been away, I immediately started the balancing act I like to call, “My Life.”

A fulcrum, quite simply, balances two similar weights. If you are a working mother too, I know you can appreciate the analogy. At home, I have a sixteen-year-old daughter who is a junior in high school and has begun SAT prepping. She’s starting to think about where she wants to go to college. My daughter, is a smart kid, but is struggling in pre-calculus. Leading up to this point, absolutely everything in her life has gone her way. She’s good at everything she touches and could, quite frankly, skate through life on that notion alone. While she sometimes pushes me away, as teenagers who are getting ready to fly the coop often do; I know she needs me now, more than ever, to help her to figure out how to begin to orchestrate the rest of her life.

My son is equally gifted, or I think he is, from a completely biased mother’s perspective. He’s almost nine and spends hours on end making origami, drawing finite pictures, building rockets, making his own science experiments and looking-up answers that his parents aren’t smart enough to answer. He wants to be a rocket scientist and one day, go to work at NASA. Athletics only interests him slightly (which is a good thing, because he’s only slightly athletic) and my husband and I have to prepare to raise a true scholar.

Both of my children need me in very different ways, and every day, those needs change as sure as the shifting tides. But, I have a third child and one that I’m a single parent to, my company, TAG! The Creative Source. TAG! is my sixteen-year-old, thriving, teenaged marketing company that wants to grow, and I have to review strategies that will take my company through to its adulthood. At TAG! I’m truly on my own with no partner in place.

If you were to ask me, why I do it, why do I carry the weight of two separate worlds on my shoulders; I’m sure my answer would relate to some and probably differ from most. I work, not because I have to, but because I want to. I also require personal security; I don’t want to have to worry about what to do if something ever happened to my husband. In addition, I want to raise my children to believe that they can grow up to be absolutely anything they want to be. My son may well want to walk on the moon someday, and I know we are raising him to do exactly that, if he wants to. My husband and I are blessed with two incredibly independent children who can now think on their own two feet and who are able to contribute to the world with or without us.  Because my husband and I both work, our two children have learned to function on their own when necessary. 

So, this is how teeter totters are made. Mothers like me, sometimes root themselves firmly into the ground, and allow massive weights to be placed on their shoulders while two separate forces rise and fall despite the needs of the other. Sometimes, we falter, but we try to never crumble, for if we do, we know the weight of two worlds will come colliding down upon us.

When you came across this post, you were probably looking for some great article to build your own teeter totter at home. If that’s the case, I don’t want to disappoint. Check out this great article on e-How, “DIY Teeter-Totter.” However, back in Indiana, where I was raised, all you needed to make a teeter-totter was a log and a piece of plywood.

A Spiritual Encounter for the Non-Believer in the Room

My father passed away on a Wednesday in September. On the Sunday before he died; my brother, sister-in-law (to-be) and I, sat in silence next to my father while he slept in his hospice bed. A steady influx of friends and family had been in and out all day to pay their last respects. Everyone had eventually left the room, except for the three of us.

Before I go on; you should know that for some time, I’ve been grappling with the concept of God. While in some ways, I’ve become more spiritual, in other ways I stopped believing that God is an altruistic and omnipotent “being”, but rather a “thing” that lives in each of us, and that “thing” is all around us, in people, and nature, and we live and eat and breathe “it” every single day. Yet, while my father was sleeping and dying; it occurred to me that someone needed to pray for him, but to whom does one pray, if not to the “omnipotent?” I sat there waiting for someone to do it. It couldn’t be me, because I had questioned my very own faith in the altruistic “being” that I was supposed to believe in. Someone else had to pray, but still, praying for my father became increasingly more and more important to me.

I was in turmoil. So, I prayed about it. I prayed to the God that I learned to trust in my youth. I prayed that He would take my father swiftly and without pain when it was his time to go. I prayed for the healing that I hoped would take place in the rest of us, after he was gone. I prayed that God would give me courage to pray out loud and that I wouldn’t mess up The Lord’s Prayer and single-handedly botch my own disbelieving, never been to church dad’s–chance at going to the Heaven. So, out loud I began to recite, “Our father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.” My father’s eyes opened and he looked at me in a way that he never had before. When I finished reciting the prayer from memory, he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

It was a sunny day and the moment that I finished the prayer; the house grew dark as if the lights were turned off. And, then it grew light again, and then dark and then light again in quick succession. My siblings and I sat there with our mouths agape. Then, rationale struck me. The clouds had blocked the sun, that’s all. But, after the house grew dark and light again three times, a ray of light came in through the window, and found my father’s right foot. There it glowed and flickered for over five minutes, and illuminated him like nothing I’d ever seen . My siblings and I were flabbergasted and I tried to find the source of light, probably filtering through the trees and coming in through the window where it rested on my father’s foot. But, I couldn’t find the source of light. No matter how hard I tried; I couldn’t find it. I got out my video camera and video-taped the light dancing over my father’s foot. I wanted to prove to myself later that I wasn’t crazy. My father heard our hushed, confused voices and said, “What? What’s happening?’ I told him what had happened and I told him about the light on his foot, that he was too weak to see for himself. He wanted me to bring the camera to him. I showed him what we had witnessed and watched as his face suddenly became peaceful and at ease. I think he had felt something happen too.

Faith has a funny way of rearing its head. Something did happen that day, and I’m not exactly sure what to call it, if nothing short of a miracle for both my father, my siblings and me. But, a minister informed my sister-in-law (to be), that when the house grew dark and light three times; that was the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He said that was for the non-believer in the room. (She didn’t know that I was questioning my faith, rather she assumed since I prayed for him that I was very spiritual.) She hadn’t told him about the ray of light, only that the house went light and dark three times. Then he asked her if a ray of light had found him. When she told him yes, he said that the ray of light was the spiritual cleansing of the person who was dying.

My father didn’t always make the right choices, and I’m still forgiving him for some, but I loved him. On the day of the funeral, a lone Bible sat on a pedestal in a far corner of the room at the funeral home. I hadn’t touched a Bible in years. I walked over and randomly flipped it open, and the pages fell to Leviticus Chapter 5. My eyes went straight to verses 15-19. I read something about he (my dad) must bring forth a ram that was pure in his own estimation (Me? Hardly.) for a trespass offering (The Lord’s Prayer) to forgive him (my dad’s ignorant sins.) Or least that’s my interpretation of all of that. When you are losing someone important to you; believe me, your faith is all you’ve got. I like the idea that my dad is somewhere up above and looking down on me every single day. Without faith; my father has been reduced to a pot full of dust in an urn, buried underground.

Right Before You Die. (A prologue to my novel)

Right before you die, your feet turn white and your legs get all mottled-up in color somewhere between the vibrant hues of purple and blue. You can’t see your legs and feet anymore, because you’re immobile and on your back, where you have been placed, in your final resting pose by your nurse. Even though you are old, your mind and hearing are still strong, and the audible whispers of the people around you confirm what is happening to the body that you can no longer see or feel. It frightens people to watch the metamorphism as your organs begin to shut down, one-by-one.

Life, or what was left of it, leaves your eyes long before this, before your body becomes a chameleon and starts to change its colors. The bright blue eyes that you once had are now dark and glassy and all fogged up. The people around you become nothing more than clouded, living and breathing visions through your own drug-induced, fog daze. Thankfully, the morphine you have been administered takes the edge off of anything that resembles pain. It takes you awhile to focus in on your surroundings and find who you are looking for as you scan through the sea of faces hovering over you. You give an obligatory nod to each new one you see to let them know, that you know, that they are there. These are the people who have come to watch you die, but your pride won’t allow you to do it in front of them.

While your family is gripping your hands and holding you tight; you stare off, for a time, into a place that only the dying can see. You’ve just started to entertain the prospect of going there and start to play with your own breath to see if you can stop the beating of your own heart, but you’re not quite powerful enough for that. Also, you’re not ready yet, because people have come to pay their respects, and waiting is the right thing to do.

Your loved ones seem more prepared for you to go than you are because they don’t want you to suffer anymore. In those brief moments you have to escape within yourself, you admit, if only for a fleeting second, that you are scared. But, by now; you’ve ultimately come to grips with your destiny. You know you will soon die, and suddenly you have an altruistic sense of what that really means. You muster up just enough energy and final breath to say goodbye to all the people that float in, and drift around you; a steady influx of people that rattle the door every time they enter your personal space and pull you away from where you almost went. You’re just lucid enough to stay awake, because you owe it to them, and know it’s important that they get to say their final goodbyes. They are the people that care about you the most, the ones who have come to bid their final farewells, and you chalk off the people who didn’t; they are now permanently erased from your mind.

You tell everyone that you love them, and you say it with your eyes too, because speaking takes too much out of you. This time, you mean it with all of your heart and soul, and in a way that only the dying can feel, and you wish you had the words and the voice and a loudspeaker so that you are sure that they know. Those people who stand over you, lurking, are hoping and praying that you’ll die soon, while they are watching, because secretly they are in awe of your teeter-totter between life and death, but mostly because they don’t want to watch you feel any more pain. They have no qualms about telling you that it’s alright to go, and that they’ll see you on the other side. But, you’re not quite sure that is where you’ll end up.

Miraculously, your closest loved-ones, your children and your spouse, are each willing you to live and praying for you to die at the same time. They are silently begging you with their own eyes to stay, as if you have some degree of say in the matter. They also are praying that you’ll be taken comfortably and without any further degree of suffering. They are conflicted by this push/pull of both willing you to live and willing you to die. These people are the ones with words still left unspoken. They have unresolved issues with you about how you lived your life, and how that impacted them. You know they are in turmoil, and even though you took so much from them, and caused them so much pain, they are still there—forgiving you for the life you lived, and letting go of whatever was left of what they were still holding onto. The guilt of this and of dying consumes you. You’ve caused everyone so much pain already, and you know that they will be there when you take your last breath. If only you had more time, then maybe you’d undo some of the things that you did.

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

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