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

A Country Block

thgilmore1@gilmorebranding.comA Country Block

by Tonia Allen Gould

Gathering berries
From a roadside ditch
Along a country block
That takes hours to walk
Wading into the tall grasses
Sinking teeth into
Tiny seeds and berry juices
Through the barbed wire
A calf and lamb bleat and baah
And a Chevy races past
With music blaring
The grasses bend and sway
Tips of foxtails tickle as I bend
Tanned, bare legs itch
From sweat and scratchy weeds
Staining berries piled in the fold
Of a bleached, white shirt
Gathering my thoughts
Together with my berries

Copyright 2009

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.

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.

Shut Up and Listen

I had an epiphany.  It’s crazy, really, how an epiphany can come to you in many different ways.  Mine came to me this past Sunday in the form of a petite, jovial, middle-aged massage therapist with magic fingers and hands at a day spa.  Before I met her, I read about her first in the lobby while I was waiting.  Flipping through the laminated pages in a white, otherwise non-descript binder; I found the name of my massage therapist.  Right next to her picture and bio was an abbreviated title.  I had to do a double-take.  She was a chiropractic doctor!  I sat there scratching my head and thinking what on Earth would possess a doctor to work as a massage therapist in a day spa, when she could be out changing the world being a doctor. 

I was intrigued, so I did what I normally do when I’m curious about something; I “Googled” up some information.  In two seconds flat, I learned about the cost of becoming a D.C. or Doctor of Chiropractic.  Apparently, if you complete 25 hours each quarter, you should finish after 14 quarters. If you borrow the maximum amount for each of those quarters, your total borrowing will be $164,472!   Here I was, in a membership day spa, where the average cost of a massage is just $49, but the therapist starts out just making $15 an hour.   This doctor, I surmised, was in a professional battle, spiraling downward.

I had no other choice but to disrobe completely in my room, put on my sleuthing hat, and try and figure out this woman’s seemingly professional and ill-fated demise.  Lying face down on the table, The Doctor tapped lightly on my door and casually entered.  She quietly asked me about areas that I would like her to focus on and then quickly assessed my needs. 

Five minutes into our introduction, there it was.   I had already heard The Doctor’s entire life story as her voice continued to rise an octave beyond my comfort zone.  Her incessant chatter and laughter filled up the little room with a constant assault against my senses and total well-being.  She barely stopped to breathe or pause for even a second as I heard all about her failed private chiropractic practice, her seven siblings, how she bounced from job to job, and her desire to be paid tips under the table.  I was lying there, conflicted by both her verbal onslaught and her expert touch and knowledge of the body.  Yet, I was receiving the most incredible massage I had ever received, one that could only be delivered by a doctor who was educated four plus years about human anatomy. 

So, here’s the epiphany.  As an employer; I need to remember that it is my job to make sure that the people who work for me know and understand their weaknesses, just as much as they know and understand their strengths.  It’s my job to ensure that my employees are more marketable, when and if, they ever leave my company for another job.  Otherwise, if they don’t cut it here; I’m just throwing them back out to the wolves to repeat their past mistakes.

So many people get frustrated when they get passed up for a position that they felt they deserved, but rarely does the employer take the time to tell them why. I think it’s important for people to have a chance to correct their own behavior.  Maybe they just needed someone to be honest with them in the first place.  (If not their employer, maybe just a good friend.)  There are too many people out there, like The Doctor, who take their bad habits with them wherever they go and would probably change if someone took the time to point out the obvious.  In this case, it was The Doctor’s horrendous bedside manner that was more than likely inhibiting her personal success.

Playing with Promos

So, I’m sitting in my office and my assistant brings me a small package addressed specifically to me.  (A package with my name on it always intrigues me more than a letter or an envelope, and I allow it to disrupt my day.)  Just as curiosity killed the cat, I open the box, and discover a complimentary product sample from a supplier.  “Woohoo!   A gift!  I like gifts!”  I say to myself.   I pull out the plastic cylinder delicately wrapped in Kraft paper, and twirl it around a few times with my fingers.  Inside the packaging I can see a pen that looks somewhat nondescript.  The packaging is branded with the word “SMENS” with a tagline that read:  Gourmet Scented Pens.  Gourmet, huh?  Let me be the judge of that.

As a promotional product, brand marketing professional; I’m required by unspoken promo law to give a product a chance before making any real judgments.   I begin to play with the packaging to see if it “works” for me, which is difficult for me since patience is not a virtue of mine.  (Intrinsically, I want to rip off the top of the tube and smell the yummy goodness inside, but I wait for it.)  I twirl the tube around with my fingers a few times and note that the supplier thoughtfully labeled and marked the imprint area for my client’s logo; it features a whopping 2.638″ x 1.42″ imprint area!  Then, I notice the tube is made of 100% Biodegradable plastic, and it is not only marked with a point of origin, but also a safety notice indicating the product is a choking hazard and it’s not suitable for children under the age of three.   Wow!  I conclude that this supplier “gets it” right out of the starting gate; and I haven’t even opened the tube yet to unveil whatever delightful “gourmet scent” wafts from it. 

Slowly and with much anticipation, I twist off the cap and…HOLY MOTHER of recycled products…YUCK!  It’s LICORICE!  Black licorice!   I detest black licorice!  I dislike the smell, the taste, and the mere thought of it.  The area around my desk is now consumed with the authentic, albeit gourmet, scent of pure, ground, black licorice.  The pen is plain and made from recycled newspapers and I’m no longer quite as “engaged” as a targeted recipient.  One quite savvy marketer missed the mark, by just that much.
In defense of SMENS (who also sells SMENCILS); we’ve all done it.  How would SMENS have known that I strongly dislike black licorice?  Even the savviest of marketing professionals miss their marks when it comes to reaching their targeted audiences.  So, in all fairness, I went to www.smens.com and noticed the company sells a host of gourmet scents, some of which would appeal to a mass audience.  If I were SMENS; I might steer clear of introducing their product initially by way of black licorice and vanilla, two scents that might offend certain people.  All in all, for a scented, completely environmentally-friendly pen; I think they are right on the money with their mission.   The robust quality of the scent also makes me want to give them another chance with one of my client’s orders.  I think I’ll check out the Ninja Berry, Carmel Corn or Mocha and get back to you on that.

Ramblings from the Car Wash

I’m sitting in a massage chair at a car wash, cleaning out my purse, where I have once again discovered over ten dollars worth of change. Lugging coin of this amount, along with two bottles of perfume, four tubes of lipstick, an iPad, a wallet, a make-up bag (with more lipstick), and legions of my sons Lego parts, may very well be the reason my lower back hurts. How do I let things get so messy in there?

I have the option of putting a hard-earned dollar bill into the chair for a five-minute massage, but I think I’ll save all of them to tip the guys outside. (The chair doesn’t take coins, or I would, for sure, indulge.) Besides, those guys outside deserve my money, because my car has been on two road trips in fourteen days and my kids seem to think that my floor boards are the nearest recycling center.

I’d have more money in my wallet, if I had a free moment before now, to run by the ATM, which I haven’t. So, here I sit, my purse is now rid of receipts and random, unnecessary stuff, and I’m reveling in a few moments to myself, listening to piped-in music from a car wash on a massage chair that isn’t on, taking a few moments to blog. Oh, the guilty pleasures of a mother and business owner who runs on a battery that needs a constant recharge. Was I really just on vacation?

Like most working mothers, we’ll take our guilty pleasures wherever we can find them. For me today, its at the car wash finding a moment to blog. Tomorrow, it may be in a twenty-minute bath with dimmed lights and a glass of wine. Sometimes, it’s standing in my kitchen creating a new recipe, while the rest of my family watches TV. Like a bounty hunter finds it’s felon; I’ll continue to seek out these moments to myself and revel in them when I can find them, twenty minutes at a time.

It’s a new year and there’s much I want to accomplish both personally and professionally. I know my head will be in the right place, if I continue to find moments away from the fray, to concentrate on me.

If you’re a stay at home mom, or a working mom like me, make sure your head is screwed on tight. What’s more important than finding them, those moments, is to revel in them when you do. More than likely you’ll be a better wife, mother and contribution at work, as a result.

Budget vs. Per Unit Costs in Determining Promotional Marketing Spend

Finding the right promotional product that enforces a brand, while delivering the right message under budgetary restrictions are some of the biggest challenges that a promotional products sales rep faces with their client.  Too often in this economy, salespeople inadvertently  compromise brand integrity due to a client’s budgetary constraints, by delivering sub-standard product that meets those budgetary constraints.  Too often, the buyer is convinced since they’re working on a shoestring budget, they are limited in the products in which they can choose.  Sometimes, this might be the case, but in most circumstances it is not.  Even with a sizable budget, it’s imperative that salespeople don’t get too focused on per unit costs of the products that they are selling, but rather a client’s overall marketing spend.  

Instead of thinking about per unit costs which limits the customer’s choices, learn how to get an overall understanding of the client’s total marketing spend for the event, trade show, promotion, product launch or campaign.  Then, begin to  understand where the products you present fit into that bigger picture.  I like to think about all of this in terms of a pie.  I’ll fraction my client’s trade show budget pie off into five pieces, after we’ve discussed and learned some of her projected trade show expenditures.  Her first “spend”, or piece of the pie, goes to her exhibitor company who makes her booth and graphics; the next piece to her transportation company; the next piece to her fulfillment house; the next piece for exhibition costs; and then finally, the last piece of the pie went to her marketing budget for uniforms and trade show giveaways.  

In discussing my client’s exhibition costs, or the first piece of the pie; we learned that her exhibitor company outsourced table cloths, banners, graphics and the like, but specialized in the  booth hardware.  By asking questions, we learned that we could save our client money through our own promotional resources, trimming her booth design costs.  Through this process, we also learned that our client’s transportation costs included a handling fee from her fulfillment house for holding  the goods as we shipped them, and that she was also charged by the day.  In addition, we knew she would be charged both shipping and handling fees for transporting the goods to the show.  From that discussion, we worked to save our client money by shipping our products as close to the event date as possible and in some cases we shipped product directly to the trade show, cutting out fulfillment costs altogether.  Due to this big picture planning, we were able to trim from the client’s overall trade show budget and shift that spend to promotions that our buyer could use to generate booth traffic, develop leads and promote sales.  In my client’s eyes, I shifted from being a product salesperson to my client’s on-call consultant.

Now that the budget was finally determined; I started to break down my client’s needs for their uniforms and promotional giveaways for all attendees.   We determined that the uniforms had to be  top-notch and SCREAM quality.  Next, we realized that we had different levels of needs for the attendees of the trade show.  Those attendees were placed into into A, B, and C categories.  All attendees who stopped by my client’s booth received an “C” level gift.  (We needed lots of under $5.00 items that our client could hand out at will to anyone that stopped by.)  Mid-level managers in attendance received a “B” gift with a higher spend and lower distribution, and executives were given a “A” level gift with an even higher budget and much lower distribution.  We had four pieces of the pie this time, and determined our giveaways by focusing on the client’s total budget and not the client’s initial per unit cost directives. Inevitably, the client spent more on promotional product used or distributed at the trade show to promote company awareness and goodwill.

Tonia Allen Gould
Tagsource (Founder)
BrandHuddle (Founder)

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.

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.

There’s a Writer in All of Us

I’ve been thinking a lot about the allure of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. What attracts people to post tidbits about their lives, professions, thoughts, actions or beliefs? What is the compelling reason behind all this excess sharing of information that crosses generations and keeps us coming back for more?

Is it that humans have a compelling need to conform? Everyone’s on Facebook, so I need to be on it too? Perhaps those sites are fulfilling our social need to be recognized, liked or accepted? Maybe, we are all just voyeurs and like to look through a small window into other people’s lives?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but my addiction to Facebook, in particular, is terminal. I’ve abandoned the extra thirty minutes of sitcom every night and I even Facebook through lunch upon occasion. I open Facebook with the first sip of my morning coffee. But why?

Recently, on a flight to Miami, I had a neurosurgeon tell me that he tunes into Jerry Springer every day. When i asked him why; he said because watching the program was mindless and made his problems seem trivial and small, but mostly because he wanted to. I thought that was a great answer for a man that had to concentrate almost daily on finite details while performing brain surgery. Jerry Springer is like his glass of wine during his hard day’s work. It’s his method of escapism.

The same is true for me and Facebook. I own and run a business. I have two active kids. I have a home to manage. Pets. A spouse. Employees. A mortgage. A daughter going off to college soon. You get the picture. Maybe I’m escaping from all of it for brief interludes. Your news feed and my two or three posts per day, complete me. Maybe it’s my means of escape, but for me that’s not exactly it, because I love my life and I don’t need to hide from it. I generally face it head-on.

So then what is it, if not a means of escape? Simply, Facebook and Twitter both feed my need to write. I’m a writer. A writer gets their fix any old way they can, and when they can’t be consumed in some big writing project, they dive, head first into Facebook. Social Media to the writer is like a heroin addiction to a junkie. We can’t help ourselves. We love to chronicle the stories of our lives.

I believe there is a writer in all us. Social media allows us to feed that basic human need to write. I challenge anyone with a Facebook addiction to tell me it ain’t so.

Life’s good material. So write about it.

The Constant Fight for Female Supremacy

For those of you that are female, and have had the joy and pleasure of giving birth to a daughter; you should be able to figure out what’s behind the topic of my post.

My daughter turns sixteen on Thanksgiving Day. She’s everything I am and everything I wished I’d be. From a completely biased mother’s perspective; she’s practically perfect in every way. Except she drives me crazy.

Raising a daughter that is so like me has been one of the greatest challenges of my life. The things that drive me nuts about myself are of course, genetically ingrained in her. She’s a veritable derivative of me, and because she is; she has the propensity to drive me crazy! I mean, come on, the kid never shuts up, can talk her way out of anything, and she doesn’t have an off button. Just like me.

Those same qualities about myself are the qualities that my husband finds endearing in both of us. Those qualities, when used in the right way, had a little something to do with some degree of success that I’ve managed to achieve in my forty-one years.

My husband says the battles in our home sometimes feels like he’s witnessing a constant fight for female supremacy. Before now, I happily carried the matriarchal torch all by myself. After all, who’s in charge here anyway? Someone’s gotta be, and of course, that’s gotta be me. My mother said it. Her mother said it. All good mother’s say it, “It’s my home and my way or the highway. When you move out and pay the bills, you’ll be in charge.” For sixteen years; I’ve exhaled the mantra.

But, recently, something’s changed. My child has grown into a young lady. She has real thoughts and concerns about the way things ought to be and she wants to share them, in her own voice and in her own way. And, someone has to listen, and that’s gotta be me. How else can my daughter learn to pass her own matriarchal torch someday?

So, despite myself and every female particle in my body screaming, “Don’t do it! Don’t let her control her own life! She’s just a kid”! I know it’s time to let her make some of her own decisions. Next week my little girl will be driving herself around in a two ton vehicle. I won’t be there to help her to navigate around the bicyclist on a winding road, nor be there to coax her into a gentle stop at a red light. I’ll have to trust her to do it on her own and in her own way.

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

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.