Yellow monster A Boo-tiful Halloween

Now Available on Amazon: A Boo-tiful Halloween

Writing a children’s book has always been a dream of mine, and last week that dream came to fruition. What started as a fun little exercise with my girls is now a full-fledged picture book available in print and ebook formats. It’s been a hit here in my house (although I’d admit my kids are probably biased), but the reviews on Amazon have been great too, and it peaked at #10 in its category last week making it an Amazon Best Seller. Not bad for the first time out. The audio book is coming soon (I hope!). This is the first of many titles with my next one already in the hopper.

If you’d like to stay up-to-date on new releases, events, or free book promotions, please join my email list.

Tilikum

My last visit to Seaworld

This weekend, after much internal debate, my husband and I took our two girls to Seaworld. It wasn’t my first visit to Seaworld. I remember the awe and wonder I felt watching the orcas and dolphins interact with their trainers when I was a child. I even wanted to be a Marine Biologist for a while.

Looking at the park through the eyes of an adult, I felt a profound sadness for the animals housed there. It’s clear that their trainers love them. It’s clear that they get a steady diet. It’s clear that they live their lives in a tiny little fishbowl of a tank when most of them would wander the oceans deep.

There’s great debate over the cause of the collapsed dorsal fin of the male adult orcas in captivity. No one can say for certain what causes this. But it’s also clear that this does not happen to healthy male orcas in the wild. So…

I saw the 2013 documentary Blackfish. I cried for Dawn Brancheau and for Tilikum. I vowed not to set foot in the park. Then a Groupon came along. Half price. I thought now or never. The park lured us in with Sesame Street characters and the fact that we live in close proximity to it and not to it’s superior Disney counterparts.

We rode the scant rides. We saw the impressive shows. We had fun. And yet, my husband and I both left feeling sad. Sad for the animals who are now being bred into captivity and have never known the open ocean. Sad for the animals who were “collected” – a sanitized word for what must have been a brutal and traumatizing event for a young animal torn away from its pod. Sad for the animals who have been trained to clown, to collect the cheap laugh and their allotment of frozen fish. Sad for the trainers who are surely just as much actors in this tragedy – playing the role of marine biologists and psychologists when Seaworld’s website states a college degree is not required to handle these apex predators.

There is much we have to learn from these beautiful and intelligent creatures, but, I don’t think we’ll learn them in Shamu stadium anytime soon.

I’m not sure what the solution is. Animals bred into captivity certainly wouldn’t fare well in the wild. Free Willy’s Keiko is a prime example of that.

As much fun as my kids had watching the Sesame Street show and riding the small carnival rides in the Sesame Street Bay of Play, my four year old astutely asked the trainer after the One Ocean show:

These are big whales (orcas). Why do you keep them in such a small tank when they need to be in a big ocean?

The trainer, I’m sure having answered many such questions, didn’t skip a beat. She happily spoke of orcas in the wild having to swim many miles to find food and these orcas having the equivalent of breakfast in bed each day. I don’t know about you, but after about two days of that situation, I’m stir crazy. It’s probably an accurate assessment.

Visiting Seaworld with my children 30 years after I first watched a trainer dive from Shamu’s nose was indeed an eye-opening experience. It has strengthened my resolve to raise children who are aware of our impact on the world around us. In that, I suppose Seaworld was successful, but it will be our last trip.

Perhaps some day we will have the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

ballerina Misty Copeland

Why Misty Copeland’s rise to Principal Dancer is a win for us all

You can see the emotion in the interview. All of her hard work is paying off, and yet the years of being told she wasn’t right have taken their toll. Any parent would strive to protect their child from such pain and disappointment, and yet any child who hopes to break through ultimately must experience it. It makes them stronger at the same time that it wears on them.

One day, skin color won’t be the headline on a story like this, and I look forward to that day. One day, the story will be about the incredible oddity of a passionate dancer who took her first ballet class at 13 and then went on to become a principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre.

My girls will look at Misty and see a beautiful dancer and aspire to be like her some day. A beautiful ballerina who has danced their precious Odette and Odile in Swan Lake. They will likely inherit their height from me (5’4″) and I will use Misty’s inspiration at 5’2″ to show them that there is a place for hard work and talent no matter what package it comes in.

Congratulations to Misty and all of the recently promoted dancers at American Ballet Theatre

Finding Balance Now

There is a partially read copy of Ekhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” on my night stand. I am just far enough into it to know that to be enlightened, I should be ok with its partially read status and not worry about whether or not I will actually ever get to finish it.

I am not a new mother. I am four years in, and I have a lot of scars to prove it. But I also have so many more blessings than I ever knew were possible. In the early days, I was in a state of waiting…

…waiting until they slept through the night. (Still don’t.)

…waiting until they went to bed. (Ditto.)

…waiting until I could take a shower without interruption. (Do you see a pattern here?)

I was in a similar holding pattern with my job, my health, and pretty much every other aspect of my life. I was just waiting out my life. Bleak, right?

Only very recently have I figured out that it’s ok if everything is not completely siloed, and I can’t tell you how much happier everyone in my family has been, most of all me.

The myth of having it all: the perfect job, the perfectly clean and organized house, the perfectly behaved, well-rested, children – pursuing that is exhausting. Once I was ok with things getting a little messy (metaphorically and sometimes literally), a whole new world opened up.

So what if the kids run circles around the kitchen island while I put the dishes away? Beats waiting until they finally fall asleep at some dreadful hour to do them and being resentful of having to spend my time that way.

Can’t find time to get to a yoga class this week? We’ll all do it together. The baby may decide it’s fun to use my downward dog as a bridge she can crawl under, but it’s great for all of us. Or maybe, we’ll fire up the Xbox for a fun Zumba class. Or crank up the Frozen soundtrack (or the BlackEyedPeas) and dance it out.

Don’t get me wrong, I need “me” time. We all do. But I’m getting better about figuring out a few life hacks that help me get through those times when it’s not possible. I’m not always so great at this. There are days when I want nothing more than 5 minutes of time that is not allocated to someone else’s needs, but those days are fewer and further between because I am doing what I need to do to enjoy the moment I’m in right now – whatever that moment might be.

To me, this is balance. How do you find balance in your life?

What are we teaching our girls?

Abi Bechtel, an Ohio mother, gained the attention of CNN and over 2,000 like-minded individuals on Twitter last week when she called out Target for a sign differentiating between Building Sets and Girls’ Building Sets.  It got me thinking.  What are we really teaching our children, and especially our girls about gender roles?

This is certainly not a new topic, but when I was growing up in the seventies, there were clear gender associations with toys. Dolls were for girls. Trucks were for boys. I remember being told at a very young age that I could be a teacher.  This was viewed as an appropriate career for a female who wanted to work outside the home.

One has only to scroll through the responses Ms. Bechtel received to her one line tweet to see that we have a long way to go. The message if you are to believe the mostly male trolls on Twitter is that we should keep our mouths shut.  Go about our business, and not worry about the message to our daughters.

No dice. No sale. No can do.

Tweet: As a working mom with two young girls to guide, mentor, and parent, I say to the world, We’ve gotta do better. http://ctt.ec/S7jb9+

With the advent of girl focused engineering toys like Goldiblox, I have to admit, I initially thought it was about time. But the more I think about it, and watch how my girls play, the more I wonder at the necessity. The movement to interest girls in STEM is growing, and it should. We have much to contribute, but is it necessary to create an entire subset of toys to bolster that natural curiosity?

I’m the mother of two bright, brilliant little girls, and whether they are playing with their (admittedly) pink princess legos or brightly colored building blocks, they love to see how everything pieces together and what happens when they fall apart. They have as much fun playing princess dress up as they do pretending to be doctors. There’s a natural tendency to use play to learn about the world, and I for one don’t believe that a child’s gender should place a boundary on what they are allowed or encouraged to learn.

So if I could leave you with one challenge, it’s to think about what we’re teaching our girls when we create special categories for them.

Abi Bechtel set off an unexpected firestorm over this topic with one simple plea to a retail giant. “Don’t do this.”

If more of us raise our voices together, how far will they reach?

4 Disney parenting fails to make you feel like a better parent

Even the most mindful among us has a bad day every once in a while. Take heart. Even these fairytale parents struggled with intentional parenting on occasion. From power struggles to tantrums to outright defiance, these animated confrontations come pretty close to the real thing. Luckily, parents and children learn a few lessons along the way making these stories educational not only for our children but also for us parents – if we know where to look.

1. The ultimate power struggle: Ariel and King Triton

Sure, we’ve all been there. You tell your daughter for the umpteenth time not to go to the surface, and what does she do? Not only go to said surface, but save a HUMAN?!?!? What’s a reasonable merman supposed to do? Well, King Triton certainly showed Ariel. He destroyed her statue and sent her straight into the waiting tentacles of everyone’s favorite sea villain, Ursula. Sure, it all worked out in the end, but not before Ariel lost her voice, her tail, and her freedom. Next time, count to 10 your majesty. She might not like your directive, but she’s more likely to listen if it isn’t shouted.

 2. A frozen tantrum: Elsa and the King and Queen of Arendelle

We love our children, but that doesn’t mean we have to love their annoying and sometimes dangerous habits – like freezing their sister’s heads. That being said, teaching a toddler to shove down her innermost feelings was probably not the most enlightened approach to take. Is it any wonder, Elsa exploded and froze the entire kingdom? The King and Queen might have done better to provide a safe place for Elsa to create and a little encouragement to use her words.

 3. Mutual respect: Merida and Queen Eleanor

It’s tough being a princess. So many lessons and requirements, and you don’t even get to choose who you want to marry. None of this seems strange to Queen Eleanor who has her daughter’s best intentions at heart, but for Princess Merida it all seems like a life sentence in boredom. Driven to use dark magic to change her fate, Merida turns her mother into a monster – ok, a bear. The lack of communication and respect comes close to permanently damaging the fabric of the family. Luckily, in the end, Queen Eleanor and Merida learn a lesson in mutual respect.

4. Freedom and choices: Nemo and Marlin

As parents, we want to protect our children from everything, but holding on too tightly as the   traumatized Marlin did to Nemo can often lead to unwanted consequences. While your child isn’t likely to be scooped into a fishing net and housed in an aquarium in Sydney, healthy, confident kids thrive when given the freedom to make choices (within reason) and have healthy boundaries.

What Netflix’s Grace and Frankie gets right…

When you tune into a show based on the premise of two women in their golden years who are left by their husbands, that’s not exactly groundbreaking.  When said husbands have been having a 20 year long affair, it’s easy to hate and vilify them.  When that affair is with each other, we enter a whole new world of character development and levels.

In the words of the befuddled but oh-so-trying-to-be-accepting adult children:

We can’t even be mad at you. Because you’re gay!

Backed by the acting chops of screen and stage stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston and created by TV legends Marta Kauffman, and Howard J. Morris; the show packs a powerful and emotional punch.  The characters are well developed.  The dialogue is real, and the emotions run the gambit. We see the true human spectrum through the eyes of Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin), but also through the men who have hurt them and are dealing with that layer of guilt while trying to plan the next chapter of their lives together. Waterston especially does an amazing job of marrying his joy at the new chance with the hurt he’s caused, but both men do a superb job of showing that they are suffering a loss too. They are all utterly human and beautiful to watch.

The show tackles topics of homosexuality, death, divorce, and addiction with humor and heart.  If season 2 continues in this vein, Grace and Frankie will be just fine.

The Power of Personalization

Personalization is more than just a buzz word. It’s a standard of the expected customer experience, and today’s customer expects more than just their first name sprinkled through your generic text and offers. They expect you to know them, and they want and will seek out experiences with organizations that are able to provide that. Sound like something out of the Minority Report or Matrix? It’s all too real.

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My Klout score went up…but I didn’t go to MIT

As you know, this blog has been waiting quietly for me to deal with the ever-increasing demands of time.  Motherhood – work -and at some point along the way, I forgot I went to MIT.  So this is neither a very recent post or an accurate one, but it is a good reminder of the gems of information that are out there and even directed at us as individuals that we don’t always see.  And it’s a good reminder as a marketer that our audiences are not out there actively seeking our content — except when they are.

Did I forget I went to MIT?

Did I forget I went to MIT?

I’ve been thinking a lot about content management and strategies and how to create good, relevant, evergreen content that is not high on noise but is high on value as well as our requirements when we create our marketing stories.  The Android Friends Furever ad has been getting a lot of attention as a compelling and creative way to get the be together not the same message across.  It’s very entertaining.  But will you remember who the advertiser was in six months?  With the laundry list of things I have to think about, I’m almost certain that I won’t.

By contrast, the Metlife, My Dad’s Story is so poignantly on point in speaking to parents about the lengths parents will go to  keep their kids safe, healthy, and happy.  When I think of security for my children, how can I think of anyone other than Metlife.  Well done.