Archive for the ‘From the chick’s nest’ Category

The Forced March to Happiness

December 9, 2022

So, if you love the holidays, don’t read this,

I have a friend who calls this time of year The Forced March to Happiness. This couldn’t be a more accurate description. With every passing year, I find myself dreading December.  It’s expensive, guilt-ridden, stressful, and full of expectations.  My best intentions always seem to be too much…. or not enough. My awkwardness comes into full bloom this time of year.

It wasn’t always like this.  This photo of my grandmother at the farm instantly takes me back to everything wonderful about Christmas time.  Where I was the beneficiary of all the good things this time of year is supposed to offer.

Christmas at the farm was warm and safe. Usually, my abusive father was on his best behavior.  My grandad would cut a scraggly, sticky, little cedar tree that filled the house with a marvelous aroma which made up for the pain of trying to decorate the forbidding branches. There was always a homemade feast straight from the garden, and a lot of fuss in a crowded kitchen to get it all on the table.  Everyone took their tasks seriously, from filling the water glasses to getting that jello mold on the table. There was always a prayer that my grandfather would say and when it came from him, I believed it.

The food. Never again will I taste a thick, homemade egg noodle smothered in beefy goodness like Nellie Lee would make.  Or the freshly baked bread. Real mashed potatoes with a lump here and there. Ham and beef. Relish trays with sad little carrots. Green beans with bacon. A lettuce salad.  And… so much PIE.

Gifts were wrapped in crinkly paper with bows saved from past years giving. Many were handmade creations made of yarn or fabric. A big deal was made over every item, assuring the giver it was absolutely the finest thing they ever received.  And it was.  

My survival techniques this time of year include good books, binge watching PBS or Netflix, a bottle of good Pinot, longer time in the gym, and sleep. If you’re lucky enough to find some joy in this time of year, then revel in it.  Just be patient with those of us who are hanging on till January, hoping to not get trampled in the Forced March to Happiness. 


Stirring the Word Soup

May 29, 2022

Oh, how I love good writing.

I’ve earned my living writing advertising copy… words to motivate, educate, inspire. To bring warm bodies and their wallets through a door and make a client some money.  

I was-and still am- good at that.

You don’t have to work on Madison Avenue to produce warm bodies and wallets. I did it in a regional Midwestern market for over 32 years. But it was never easy. I stirred and stirred my word soup until it was as perfect as I could make it. I realized my mentor was right when she used to tell me “Don’t take for granted what you know and do well.” When I read what someone else eventually wrote for those clients, I realized I was a lot better than I gave myself credit for.  

They say to be a better writer, you need to read a lot. And I do.  

The major daily newspapers (until I can’t stomach the sadness.) 

John Grisham. 

And I read some blogs, like this one  Rich never fails to make me laugh, or cry, or think.

Write Out Loud!

I’m also a student of my industry. Great advertising is inspiring. A Sharpie has always been my preferred writing instrument, so this resonated with me:  

Why the hell they ever ditched that campaign is still a mystery to me.

And then sentences like these…     

From Jason Gay in the Wall Street Journal on Tom Brady’s retirement (I despise Tom Brady):

“Did you expect him to retreat from public life, to grow a long, flowing beard and become a recluse who writes unpublished books about trains, and is occasionally photographed midday outside a decaying mansion in a silk TB12 bathrobe, eating almonds and talking to squirrels?” 

Or from Tim Hayward in The Financial Times, reviewing chef Theo Randall’s restaurant:

Noting that a serving of a sort of Fontina cheese soufflé was 590 calories, he wrote, “If it had been 10 times that I’d have eaten half, paused to call for a defibrillator and gone back in with a song on my lips.”

Defibrillator.  That must have been some damned fine cheese. 

Anyway, thinking about writing is easy. Doing it with any degree of worth is not.  

So I keep stirring the word soup and hope I get something write.

My Year in Review

January 4, 2022

It’s the time of year when the media share their obligatory “Year in Review” crap. You’ve seen it… the Top 10 Best Movies, the 20 Best Books, blah, blah, blah.

Should we review our lives over the last twelve months?

When I take a serious look at my life in 2021, I feel the urge to mix another Manhattan.

 It was the year I learned things I never wanted to know.

The year that tested my resolve.

The year when I discovered what I’m really made of.

It began with a forced reckoning of my partners death sentence of Stage 4 colon cancer. The ensuing whirl of doctors, nurses, paperwork, surgeries, insurance, home care, appointments, medications, COVID, weeks in the hospital, keeping my cool, managing hospice, the legal crap, the funeral home, the ex-wife, his sons… and my denial of the inevitable.

The trip back home to the Midwest allowed me to soak in the nurturing and understanding of my closest friends and my daughter… to get some perspective, to answer the question of “now what”?

I spent the summer finding a new apartment and moving from the space I shared with the only man who ever really loved me. (I called it “the next chapter”. That makes me want to vomit.)

I jumped into the soul crushing, disappointing, exhausting, redundant experience of online dating.  Oh my God. What was I thinking?   

Let’s look at my past year?

How ‘bout let’s don’t. 

I choose to learn from the literal hell 2021 was for me… if you don’t learn from your experiences, you’ll rot. I plan on getting up and showing up. I’m going to learn to play that damned guitar. I will audition for voice work regularly. I’m going to take those road trips we had planned before cancer got behind the wheel. I will not wallow. None of us have the luxury of doing that. 

Get up. Show up. 

Emotional Chaos

December 8, 2021

One woman’s experience with online dating

The rush of a “like”.

The thrill of the “chase”.

The anticipation of a text.

The excitement of a meeting.

The disappointment when it goes nowhere.

I’m convinced people become addicted to the search for online love. Swipe left and your serotonin level jumps.  It becomes a rush you start to look forward to. You don’t want it to end. Dating companies want know this. If they can keep us hooked on the rush of the search, imagining the grass will be greener with the next swipe, the more money they make. They’re selling a dream.  And we’re buying it. 

One man asked me: What do you want from these dating sites? Helluva question… and one I hadn’t thought much about.  Perhaps if we single souls could find our answer and kindly ask the same, we could cut down on the time, energy, and eventual heartbreak we feel when it never went further than we hoped.  

“One day you’re in heaven darlin’, the next you feel like hell”. 

Mary Chapin Carpenter’s lyric perfectly describes the emotional chaos of online dating. It’s exhausting and frustrating, an experience that can leave you empty and feeling more alone than when you started.


Me?  I just want to matter to someone. 

Don’t we all?

The CyberDating Game

October 3, 2021

I’ve been away for years! LITERALLY. Life happened. My ex decided he didnt like living in the country – or me – very much, so I changed my life. In a BIG way. I packed up and moved to Philadelphia where, in spite of great personal loss, I am thriving. The following is a recent article I’ve written about on-line dating. If you’ve subjected yourself to this process, perhaps you can relate! 🤦‍♀️

After a lifetime of losing at love, I finally ended up with Tim… the man who changed everything.  The only way to find out if it was real was to move halfway across the country to the East Coast, where he was facing the end of his own marriage.

We settled into an unconditional love that I never thought possible.  I was finally blissfully happy.

Two years later, he died. 

I slogged through the motions of grief. I moved out of the apartment we shared, determined to give myself a new start in my new city. I cursed his photos. I kept his cell phone charged as if he might call. I wore his T Shirts. I couldn’t see any way out of the empty life where I now found myself.

Enter Jaclyn and a bottle of wine.  

After several months of steady tears and lethargic loneliness, my sweet, smart friend decided I should put myself on a dating site.  “You can’t live like this forever, she said. You need to meet new people.  Tim would want you to be happy.” As she poured another glass of liquid courage, we created my profile, chose some pictures, and I waited for the boys to come calling.

And did they ever.  

My real age is 65.  But I think I’m forty and look like I’m maybe 50.  

This is a problem.

Men my age, more often than not, are typically overweight, stodgy, and angry. Some were widowed, like me. Some divorced. Some never married at all. I found myself in a sea of personalities and had to sift through them, most being 70+ geriatrics who likely think fine dining is Cracker Barrel.  

First up was Mr. Delaware. He was a boyish 58 and I fell hard. I’m a sucker for a man who can make me laugh.  After a witty banter back and forth via text and telephone, I impulsively packed a bag and drove two hours to meet a man who, for all I know, could have been an ax murderer.  Something told me this would be safe, and it was… but it WAS disappointing. Mr. Delaware had more issues than a magazine rack. He had told me early on I was the female version of him. Uh… not even close. 

Next came Mr. Baltimore. He had boyish dimples, said he graduated from culinary school, was a bit shy, and asked me if I liked crab cakes. Duh. I drove two hours to see him, expecting to see him in his kitchen, whipping up a romantic dinner. Instead, he took me to a chain restaurant for rubbery scallops and barely spoke. It was like sitting across the table from a blank sheet of paper. Turns out Mr. Baltimore HAD been a chef but ended up selling Toyotas. He had that pudgy stance and rummy-eyed glaze so many car salespeople have.  Obviously lonely, he was also angry.  He told me he hated people. What? I chalked him up to research.

I regrouped. I realized I was too gullible and needed to vet these people. Like the way too pretty guy who said he was working on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.  He put on a full court press.  My best friend said, “Dr. Phil did a whole episode on these oil rig guys! He’s a con artist! GET RID OF HIM.“  I did. Then I discovered he had popped up again under a new name with different pictures. I turned his ass in. Jeff or Benjamin or whoever you are, I hope you rot.  (And no, I didn’t send him any money.)  

The one who had that bad boy look… resembling Eddie Van Halen.  He wanted to converse off the site and use Whats App.  I gave him several options to meet up and he dodged them. Red flag, said my friend.  So, I blocked “Roger” or whatever his name was.  In reality, he was probably “Roberta”, sipping tea under a shade tree in Mexico, playing with peoples lives. 

The sexy, slightly geeky guy with the same name as my deceased sweetheart. He was 51 and lived only 10 miles away. He texted me on the regular. I suggested we meet up… have a coffee, or a beer and a burger.  He never took the hint and instead sent me selfies and pictures of the new shoes he bought. What???   

One nice looking man called me, told me he was from Sweden, then started singing to me and sent me kissing emojis. He said had to go and would call me right back. He never did.  

Thank God. 

The sheer entertainment value in looking for online love has been worth the price of the subscriptions.  On some sites, they don’t use their real name. I’ve met: TallCool1, Tater, HereWeGo, SwingGuy (really?), NormalNotBoring, ARichTycoon, and JustAnotherGuy.  The best one?  OMGIPAIDFORTHIS. I with ya, man. I paid for this? 

I have seen potential suitors dressed in tuxedos and pajamas. Other pose shirtless in their beds, looking dreamily up at their camera. Some thought it appropriate to dress in costume. I’ve seen Indian chiefs, aging rockers with their guitars, knights in armor, men with dogs, men proudly holding fish, men trying to look bad ass on their Harleys. It’s as if they are trying to attract other men. 

The expressions are priceless. Some men smile nervously, some offer that startled, ‘deer-in-the- headlights’ look. Some men try to look like a badass when in reality they probably beat their wives.  Other clueless guys take selfies in front of their mirror with their unmade bed or open toilets as photo bombers. Clearly, these are men who have no idea what women want.  Or at least THIS woman.  

I might start a side hustle offering to improve men’s profiles.  I’d write their stories using original content, correct spelling, and the oxford comma. I’d take new photos that are lit properly and in focus. I’d offer suggestions for attire and hair and beard care.  But at the end of the day, they’d still be… them.

I will continue to search for the male version of me, but in the world of online love, you have to be patient, find the humor in humanity, and manage your expectations. Or else you’ll end up eating meat loaf in a Cracker Barrel with some guy named Earl. 

In Defense of the Non-Degreed

December 25, 2018

I don’t have a college degree.

(And before I go any further, please know I am not disparaging anyone who does.)

My mother worked two jobs to get me through the one year I managed to accomplish.  There simply wasn’t the money.  And I really couldn’t understand why she needed to sacrifice so much for me to learn about the history of China 300, AD.

So I started gathering experience.  To pay the rent, I was waiting tables and tending bar when a customer told me I’d be good at selling. She offered me a job at her radio station selling advertising.  I never looked back.

After selling airtime, I started a little ad agency in the spare room of my house.  In those 32 + years, we grew to a staff of 12. Armed with no degree, I signed up clients, developed their marketing plans, wrote the copy, planned media, art directed, produced video, did some on-air and on-camera work, managed staff, and learned how to read a P&L.  I made more mistakes than I can count, and learned valuable lessons from every one of them.

The great Bob Hoffman said in his book, Marketers are from Mars, Consumers are From New Jersey, “ If you’re in advertising, you’re a salesman.  It doesn’t matter what you think you are or what you want to be. You’re a salesman.”

I’m a good salesperson. No college degree is a substitute for experience, work ethic, passion, and common sense.

So when you have an advertising position to fill, stop looking for a piece of paper. Start looking for a salesperson.


How to Kill Creative and Murder Motivation

September 16, 2018


These are contrary times we’re living in.

The way we talk to each other has changed.  Social media allows us to spout  personal opinion and insults behind a screen without the face-to-face consequences of an often bombastic, haughty, and condescending tone.

This communication style has crept into some of our workplaces. Mutual respect, a collaborative atmosphere, and basic human decency have been pushed aside by towering egos who have fed themselves a steady diet of business books and data driven drivel (apologies to my IT friends) that in the end do nothing to produce innovative work and improve a customer experience that results in sales.

It’s unproductive, unhealthy, unhappy, and unprofitable.

Nothing kills creativity and motivation like being schooled by someone who has never done what you do. In my experience with creative people, (and in any industry), creatives need a positive atmosphere where ideas are encouraged and there is a clearly stated objective. When the goal is constantly changing, it becomes a game of whack-a-mole.  Time and resources are expended. Nobody wins.  Frustration ensues. Enthusiasm evaporates.

When your marketing department is chasing after an ever-changing target, how can any of them feel success? When the workplace is filled with passive-aggressive “joking”, back stabbing commentary about other staff members, and rumblings about the petulant nature of the boss, these are all clear signs not enough books have been read.

Will the beatings will continue until morale improves?  Or will the agency down the street be able to offer the kind of management required to get the very best from their talent, realize success for their client, and everyone has fun in the process?

Any business owner/manager who says they want to improve their customer experience needs to start by improving the employee experience.

But like I said, these are contrary times.

September 14, 2017


“Yes, I’ll have a TV spot, some VCM, 2 schedules of radio, a direct mail piece … oh, and refresh my web site with some new SEO.”

“Very good, sir. I’ll be right back.”

If an ad agency were a restaurant, it might go something like that.

But it’s not.

Forgive the restaurant metaphor, but it seems so appropriate. Clients shouldn’t be selecting from a menu, yet there are still agencies that attempt to sell “today’s special”. Isn’t every advertising problem unique?  Shouldn’t it be cooked to order?

While I have been in small market advertising all my life, surely the philosophy is the same no matter if you’re in a diner or a white tablecloth establishment. Clients need to trust that you are preparing exactly what they need. They should feel your passion, concern, interest, and enthusiasm. They deserve lavish communication and want direction!

Clients – and customers – are gold. They come first. Always. It should be the underlying philosophy that drives every agency action.   

And everyone in the agency needs to understand that. Before any programming, coding, writing, shooting, editing, or media placement begins, every creative person who touches the project needs to know the goal of the client. And, just because we have a special on lamb chops doesn’t mean we should serve them to everyone. If you’re trying to sell the thing that will be the most profitable for your agency, then you’re doing it wrong.

Finally, everyone likes to dabble in the kitchen, but there can be only one chef. That’s the Creative Director, who is responsible for serving up a final course that translates into client success.  Even if it’s something that is not on the menu.



September 3, 2017

Blog Image 12 years

“I’ve got 12 years on you … and I always will!!”

These words were emphatically spoken to a loud, mouthy, young radio salesgirl by her much wiser manager.

The mouthy sales girl was me. The manager was reminding me that she had more experience and I needed to listen. That woman has been my mentor ever since.

She found me tending bar and offered me a job in radio sales. I initially turned her down, but thankfully, she persisted. Six months later I was selling airtime and my career began. Her blunt observations, guidance, and belief in the abilities that I couldn’t see in myself made all the difference in my professional life.

No matter if you’re fresh out of school or you’ve been working for years, find someone with more experience, with a different perspective and a different approach, to be your mentor. This person doesn’t even have to be in your chosen field. They need to be someone you admire and can cultivate a relationship with.

Take them to coffee or lunch. Ask them for their insight. What did they do in their career that worked for them? What were their failures? Believe me, everyone wants to share what they know. They’ll be flattered as hell you asked and you’ll learn far more than you would have ever learned in a classroom or a book.

After selling radio, I went out on my own, started a little ad agency and spent 32 plus years doing what I loved. Through it all, my mentor has never been out of reach and I owe her more than I can ever repay. I’m still loud and mouthy, but at least I know I’m not the smartest person in the room … and my life is richer for it.

Thanks, Pam.

She’s bossy. And has an answer for everything.

June 17, 2017

Yup. Guilty as charged.

During my time as a media sales rep for a small town radio station, (my first real job) my manager got a call from the owner of a Mexican fast food chain. He demanded I be replaced with someone else.


“Because she’s bossy and has an answer for everything”, he said. My manager replied. “I understand. I’ll get you a new rep. But I need to ask you, if she doesn’t have an answer to all your questions, who will?”

She had my back for several reasons. A) I had the client spending a ton of money on our radio station B) I was one of the top sales people at the station C) I genuinely wanted clients get to results D) The client was right. I was bossy.  I still am.

In over 35 years of advertising and sales experience, this guy was the only one (at least that I know of) that ever complained about my approach. Others have described me as “nice-bossy”. I have always pushed for my ideas but in the end, the client gets to do what they want.

You get to be “bossy” when A) You demonstrate that you genuinely give a damn B) You have formed a real relationship with the client that has established trust C) You know EXACTLY what you’re talking about and can back up your claims with facts that give you the ability to have the answer “for everything”.

And what if you get asked something you don’t have an answer for?  You say:  I don’t have that answer right now, but I will find out and get back to you.

No matter how big the client is, they need and want direction and leadership. They don’t want another order taker. You’re getting paid to deliver results and ideas. If you can’t demonstrate real enthusiasm for a client’s success, even if it comes down to being a bit bossy (in a nice way), then you need to find another way to earn a living.   Like working the cash register at the Mexican restaurant.

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