Top Ten Reasons To Love The Fall in New England

10. Fall brings football season - a time to be outside in the crisp air sipping coffee and socializing with friends.
9. Fall brings the most glorious scents: just cut open pumpkin, apple cider, the smell of hay on a hayride, just fired up wood stoves, the first fire in your fireplace, and the smell of Halloween candy!
8. The best flavors on the planet: pumpkin breads and muffins, apple crisp, apple cider with a cinnamon stick, nutmeg spices, seasonal squashes, turkey sandwiches and cranberries! I could go on and on... mmmm.
7. A full calendar of family events - pumpkin fairs and costume contests, trips to A.C. Moore and iParty, charitable walks and fundraisers, and did I mention Pop Warner football and cheer from August through November?
6. Getting ghosted... then finding out who left the goodies on your doorstep and sharing the fun with someone else.
5. The colors are exquisite! Travel up Rt. 495 and see colors you didn't remember existed in nature until Columbus Day appears to remind you. Vivid, energizing and amazing!
4. That very first snow, where you watch those big flakes come down like you've never seen them before... sure, some hate it, I love it! Bring out the mittens and warm scarves... and snowplows!
3. Pumpkin Ice Cream. I am obsessed with it, and it only appears for a few months each year. (Why is life so cruel?)
2. Trick or Treating through the crunch leaves, flashlights in hand, never knowing what big or small monsters and creative characters you'll see in your own neighborhood.
1. Fall is nature's way of getting you energized after a lazy summer and preparing you for a busy, full holiday season ahead, and there's no better place on earth to go through holiday boot camp than New England.


Middle School - Sherpa Wanted

My funny, fabulous son started middle school this year, and he finally seems to be hitting his stride. Looking back, my middle school experience felt more like a ride in the back of one of those truck/bus jobbies in a third world country. You are not really confident you are on the right bus or are going in the right direction, there's a stranger coughing up a lung next to you and someone screaming behind you, and a chicken just ran over your foot. Chaos, laughter, and madness. I remember a lot of practical jokes, a lot of mean-spirited girls and guys, and a lot of good times doing some crazy things with people that I'm still best friends with. And a lot of boredom and frustration, trying to figure out the social scene while juggling school, family and eventually, a first job.

Now I'm a mom and I worry about a lot of things, but I try not to bring my own feelings and biases into my kids' lives... I believe that they should find their own path and discover who they are without mom (or dad) telling them what to think, fear, hope, believe, and do. I want to emulate those really amazing mountain sherpas, who carry baggage and gently guide, allowing the climber to make their own mistakes if they so choose (or provide guidance when they ask).

Middle school sherpas... what a concept. And those middle school backpacks are a lot heavier than I remember.


Summertime, Summertime, Sum-Sum-Summertime

Julie's Top Ten Reasons to Love Summertime (when the rain stays away):

10. Pedicures are a necessity now that flip flop season is here. Oh, darn.
9. Vitamin D. Sunshine. Tan skin makes you look healthy (even with sunscreen).
8. Procrastination. Vacation. Revelation. Relaxation. Celebration!
7. Busiest quarter of the year = money for back-to-school, holiday shopping done by Nov. 1.
6. Burgers on the grill taste way better in the summer. Must be the sunshine. It adds vitamins (see #9).
5. Did I mention the sunshine? Lazy days at the beach, curling toes in the sand. Any sand.
4. Watching the kids play on a Slip-N-Slide and trying not to cringe.
3. Total and complete envy when I pick them up from camp, and they tell me how much fun they had boating, making wood crafts, singing, telling jokes, walking in the woods... totally jealous.
2. Making S'Mores. And s'more, and s'more, 'till there aren't any s'more marshmallows or chocolate.
and the top reason to love summertime:
1. Giving yourself the gift of time. Example: today we visited our local historic park in the early evening, fishing and watching a free concert where dozens of little ones were innocently singing "You Are My Sunshine" while twirling wands of streamers and marching in a parade... and being right there with them in spirit. Video from my Blackberry attached, so you can be right there with me.

Aaahhhhhh (slurps lemonade, putting feet up). Summer. Now honey, go get mommy another one of her fancy lemonades, the one on the top shelf.


In Honor of Campbell

My first job was like most firsts: a series of exciting, nerve-wracking, sweaty-palmed moments that challenged my intellect, self-esteem, and sense of self.  When I started my first job, I had no money in the bank, no place of my own, and no car.

Until... [insert dreamy music]... Campbell.  Campbell made me feel independent. Sporty. Professional. "Arrived."

Campbell was my first car, a 1991 Plymouth Colt and a sweet ride.  He was sporty red, a fine zippy little compact car that threw me with abandon onto the Mass. Turnpike in the morning and showered me with tunes during the evening commute home down Route 9, when I was feeling adventurous. He took me into Boston on the weekend, and around the state, with amazing fuel economy and eager, childlike attempts at acceleration (V-4, baby!).

He carried me and my friends to concerts, bars and special events, and was home to my first kiss with my now-husband (and that's all I can say about that, eager readers).  If Campbell could talk, he'd have tales to tell... that would sell for no more than $49.99 to the tabloids. 

Now I drive a silver 2005 Toyota Sienna minivan. It's practical, adventurous, efficient, and has lots of junk in the trunk... just like her owner.  Anyone know a good dealership for crossovers?


Summer's here, and the time is right...

Okay, move down on my blog, Facebook for Rabbits post. (Favorite post of all time.)

The summer's officially here, our summer vaca is booked, and the kids are gearing up for the best summer camp/football and cheerleading season ever. Life is good. As the song goes, "Summer's here, and the time is right... for dancin' in the streets!" (Except don't really dance in the streets... dance in your house with the blinds down, or you'll be dancin' in a white room with a special white jacket.)

In New England, summer is a very special time. Heck, it's the only time guaranteed not to snow and we don't wear as many layers in the summer. Summer is a great time to strip off the layers of clutter and whatever brings you down. It's time to be lazy, to take time for yourself, for reflection. It's time for flip flops, and cheesy novels on the beach with a drippy ice cream sandwich interrupted by, "GET BACK HERE AND PUT YOUR SUNBLOCK ON!"

Summer is a great time to channel positive energy and sunlight into some really great things... fall vacation planning, your career, reconnecting with old friends, taking some chances, even riding roller coasters. Whee! Summer's here... let the sack race that is summer begin!


Je Ne Sais Quois about Rabbits on Facebook

If you poll ten Americans in a supermarket or shopping center, I'd bet eight of those people think that rabbits are cute, but devoid of emotion and lack a certain “je ne sais quois”.  (That’s French for “I know not what it is that makes rabbits likable in the first place.”)

Now I like rabbits as much as the next typical minivan-driving, zumba-dancing, hard-working mom with a penchant for marshmallows. I identify with their persistence, kind nature, rhythmic movement, white fluffiness, and their ability to hop from task to task without complaining.  Admit it: you never hear rabbits complaining about feeding a big family, living in a dark, dirty hole, or being chased daily by predators like wolves or dogs.  Or having to have babies year after year.  They keep it to themselves. Until Facebook for Rabbits.

Fact: rabbits have lots of family and friends and meadow acquaintances.  I saw on the Discovery Channel once that they communicate via thumping their big spatula-shaped feet, much like I do when my kids are in the basement watching Star Wars and dinner is ready, and I’m wearing bunny slippers. (Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.)  I bet rabbits never nag their little bunnies that dinner’s ready. Ever. Must be the feet.

Maybe rabbits don’t just thump their feet. They might... secretly, so as to not upset the universe and go all Orwellian on your behind… use Facebook For Rabbits.

Now sure, it might be hard to snap and upload a picture, given they don’t have thumb (drives) or wifi enabled laptops in the grassy meadows.  It might be hard to come up with an original username and password, given everyone’s last name is Bunny and wants their password to be HOP2IT.  But obstacles be gosh-darned, the rabbit community… all six bazillion of them and counting… could grow a little closer if they only used Facebook to find lost kin, bunny playmates, and even parental figures. They could connect in an authentic bunny way, finding each other and friending each other in ways that Darwin could never have anticipated.

Think of the fan page opportunities alone.  Starting with the most famous, Bugs Bunny, and moving into the rap posse from the UK, Benjamin Bunny, Peter “Rapper” Rabbit and his American friends DJ Energiza’ bunny wit' Thumper on the drums.  Roger Rabbit fan page for sidesplitting comic relief, and Harvey the imaginary rabbit for the classic film buffs. Velveteen and the cast of Watership Down for the literary types.  Representing Asian martial arts experts, Little Bunny Foo Foo; the foodie page featuring the Nesquik and Trix bunnies; existentialism with the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland; lessons learned by the agony of defeat of the hare from the fable “Tortoise and the Hare”, and even sarcastic quotes thanks to that preschool pleaser, Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh.  Who could resist the fan page from the rabbit with a whole holiday dedicated to his image molded in chocolate: the Easter Bunny.  That'd be a great fan page, with Facebook applications and “share this” gifting opportunities abound all year long.  (Instead of friends, you'd have "Peeps".)

Facebook for Rabbits. Think about the hare-raising implications.


The Bad News Bears, and Life Lessons from the Bleachers

My son is ten. He plays baseball. He's a great kid: smart, funny, empathetic, and even, dare I say, a bit of a ladies' man already. I am a natural "team mom" type: big on coming up with cheers, bribing my kid with cheeseburgers, making sure the little siblings aren't rolling in poison ivy. I've spent the last six spring seasons on the baseball field, and loving it.

Until my son ends up on the Bad News Bears-type team. All the stereotypes are covered. The yeller. The one who dances in the outfield. The frustrated natural athlete. The coaches who drew the short straws this season. The not-quite-comfortable-in-their growing-body kids. The nerd. The bookish ones.

But mostly there are tears, parents cajoling, yelling at the teen ump, and a dozen parents with arms slung over their growing kids' shoulders, baseball bag in hand, explaining at the end of each game that there's clear progress... better luck next time. The bleachers are filled with parents praying for just one hit... a walk... heck, even rain.

Life deals us a bad hand sometimes, doesn't it?

What I'm learning is that baseball imitates life. Life sucks sometimes. You end up working with the tattletale. The back-stabber. The playboy. The slacker. Your raise depends on the person who can't order lunch, forget about negotiate a deal.

Sometimes the pitches we are facing are wild... but sometimes they are not.

I'm learning to take each pitch as it comes... with grace and humor. Hey, the batter will knock it out of the park one of these games, and it will be the sweetest moment ever.


Kentucky Fried Madness!

I am proud to be a director and Boston affiliate of the PRConsultants Group, a network of senior-level PR pros who collaborate on clients like Blockbuster, 7-Eleven, and other global brands... all fun stuff, promoting DVD releases, Slurpees, prepaid phones, ice cream, that sort of thing. This winter, we launched a blog called PRCG Powerlines (check it out here) and try to update it regularly with news about our clients, industry news, and best practices.

Or worst practices, in the case of Yum Brands' Kentucky Fried Chicken's grilled chicken promo. Getting product placement and their "free 2-piece meal" promo on Oprah got feathers flying at KFC when demand bested supply, but also started a debate in marketing circles about how to execute promotions and handle the subsequent online/offline buzz... positive and negative.

Read my post about it on the blog and take a poll there... let us know whether you think the promo sizzled, simmered, or soured, whether or not you are a marketing guru yourself.


Newspapers Get A Kick In the Masthead

I love newspapers. Wall Street Journal's snootiness and conciseness.  The New York Times Sunday paper and its long-time love affair with the arts.  My local weekly's folksy charm.  I love them as much as they love me, the subscriber.

The problem with today's major dailies, IMHO, is they got greedy.  My mom would say, "What goes around, comes around." They charged high ad rates and didn't budge when smaller clients couldn't afford them.  They offered incentives to new subscribers but never proactively communicated with us regular, long-timers again except an annual bill.  A few on the editorial staff could be... challenging... to deal with.  Egos... personalities... revenue...  less cooperation, and more focus on the almighty dollar.

Where did those tactics get them today?  Just sayin'.  

Lesson learned? Be kind, fair and just in business, and in life.  Bad karma always come back around to give you a big kick in the masthead.  I love newspapers, and hope they survive in a better and more collaborative business model (e.g. online), and the personalities behind the newspapers learn a valuable lesson about grace and humility.


He Knows... There's No Santa. Or Easter Bunny. Or Tooth Fairy.

It is April 8th, and the Easter holiday is just a few days away. We are surrounded by such religious symbols as giant chocolate bunnies, colored hard-boiled eggs, and marshmallow chicks. (I know, you've heard all the jokes. Moving on.)

Is it a very bad sign when you pull into your driveway, thoughts of Easter dinner menus swirling in your head, and there's a dead bunny rabbit steps from your humble abode's entrance? I jokingly said, after "EEEWWWW! A dead rabbit!" and swerving the minivan, "Guess no jellybeans for you this year, kids!" It was a joke...

My ten year old son, the careful pragmatic dude, pipes up, "It's okay, mom. We know it is you and dad anyway. Like Santa."

WHAT??? The jig, as they say, is up.

It's 9 p.m., seven year old daughter in bed snoring, and I go to have a little bedside chat with the young lad, who happens to inhale Peeps like they are the last food on earth.

Me: "Uh, what did you mean when you mentioned the Easter Bunny and Santa, honey?"
Lad: "Oh, I knew you were Santa 'cause I know your writing on the tags, mom. Duh."
Me: "Darn. Don't ruin it for your sister."
Lad: "I won't. But she probably knows." (Translation: I told her already.)
Me: "Well, play along. You know that Santa is real in our hearts, as a symbol of generosity and love and kindness, right?"
Lad: "Sure. Whatever. We still get presents, right? G'night."

I close the door, heading for the tissue box. Sniff. I'm resolved to still sneak around December 24th, and I'm gonna hide those eggs I slaved over Saturday night, and those kids will have a blast no matter what, gosh darnit. A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do. It's in the handbook. Look it up. Page 52, after "New Year's Eve: Try Drugging the Kids For Faster Bedtimes."

Happy Easter, Passover, and Marathon Monday/Patriots Day to my Bostonian friends... may the spirit of all the holidays live in your heart... no matter what the kids tell you.


Bitter about Twitter? Nah, not me.

Sure, sure... Twitter is all the rage. NBA players are getting in trouble for using Twitter to send short messages (tweets) from the locker room at half time. Jurors are causing mistrials by tweeting during long boring hours in the courtroom. There's Twouble in the Twittersphere: people tweeting about things that don't matter.

Check out this hilarious video from Current.com, and your view of Twitter will change forever.

Now I've been on Twitter for about a year, and I get it. It was fun to tweet during the election, during a conference, and heck, even during a commute to/from a meeting. But generally, I have a life and stuff to do and I prefer face-to-face (or phone to phone) communication.

The video talks about people who talk about themselves in a vacuum without caring who/what/when they are talking with or about. That's going to be Twitter's downfall, I predict... too many tweets into the twittersphere without even caring if there is a response. Plus the "fail whale" (symbol that appears when the system goes down) is becoming an icon for system fail... not exactly the notoriety a website strives for.

It all comes down to this: communication is a two-way street. No exceptions. Twitter has a tough time making that stick.

Which is also why blogging is so strange to me... please comment on this post if you agree. :)

Signing off...


March is Disability Awareness Month

This weekend, I participated in a spin-a-thon at my awesome gym, Team Fitness in Franklin, for Best Buddies, an organization that supports kids with developmental disabilities like MR and autism. One of the spin instructors rotating in one of the three hours watched kids with huge smiles passing out fruit and granola bars, giving us Best Buddies rubber bracelets, and handing out water. Glancing at the jam packed room, he said, "I've been spinning a long time. THIS is my dream. A full room with smiling faces, and plates of food being passed around... are those cookies??"

My kids, 10 and 6, know a handful of children with various types of physical and emotional disabilities, and from the moment they met them, we explain factually and briefly how that child is different so there are no surprises or questions, and remind them that every kid is different in their own way. Keep it simple... its surprising how kids will say, "Whatever, let's play!" and try hard to communicate questions afterward to clarify how they can play best with them next time. My friend's son has Asperger's and has a hard time communicating how he feels and reading emotions, and also doesn't understand puns... makes it tough for my ten year old to tell punny jokes. As long as he knows how that child communicates, he's amazingly cool about adapting his play style to the child's abilities. He'd think something like, "Cool, no Amelia Bedelia type jokes today, but he likes to play video games and he kicks butt at the Wii!" I hope that I've taught my children very kid - whether diagnosed with a disability or not - is unique. Adapt, smile and keep laughing and having fun!

March is Disability Awareness Month, and CVS Caremark is another company that is stepping up to the plate to help. Click this link and check out their amazing "All Kids Can" program and find out how you can help kids with disabilities too... but I'm warning you, there may not be plates of cookies or fruit for ya.

A big shout out to my friend Karen S., who was was the first kid (back in the early 1960s) to receive a heart transplant here in Massachusetts and has some disabilities as a result, but she is a "yes I can" kinda woman and a great early childhood ed. teacher. She's my own best buddy... over (gulp) 22 years now! {HUGS}


Barking About Our Generation: Diva Dogs

I have a friend, let's call her Diana Dogcrazy, who is mad about dogs... her two beloved cocker spaniels, especially. She's mad about all fine things canine: premium dog food, holistic treats, playdates and daycares, pet-friendly restaurants and hotels, doggie massages and acupuncture, and anything posh for her doggie diva babies. Her house? Not so posh. Her own clothes? Mediocre. Her own beauty regimen? A fraction of the time she preens over pooches. She admitted to me that she spends more money on pet-related items than on herself, and she laughs heartily when I asked her to recall the last time she got her nails done or splurged on a massage.

I know what you are thinking. She doesn't have kids (true) so she is directing those maternal instincts toward her poochies. Healthy? Sure. Well, maybe.

Without sounding like the bleeding liberal I can be, isn't all this pampering over pooches a bit much? Ever read Three Cups of Tea or seen Slumdog Millionaire? Ever wonder if her time/money/effort could be redirected toward a greater good, like volunteering at an animal shelter or being a mom-figure and mentor to young girls? And you'd never know America is really in a recession if you visit your local Petco on a Saturday afternoon.

I represent the Bay Colony Dog Show, an American Kennel Club event running the first weekend of December 2009 at the R.I. Convention Center, and see the whole gamut of doggie paradise... from the charitable 4-H and rescue club folks who volunteer to spend four days educating the public, to the lavish grooming and preening (and competitive chatter) going on "backstage" before the show dogs enter the ring to be judged for "Best In Show" honors. It's quite a scene... one you have to experience for yourself to see doggie divas and doggie accoutrements at their finest.

Oops, look at the time. Time to take my English bulldog out for a drag wearing his custom doggie harnass we bought at the show last year. Chow chow for now!


Sending your kids to camp? Think about the kids of the Fresh Air Fund...

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