5 Children’s books I keep on my nightstand

I’ve always loved reading and stories and colorful drawings especially when it is a book written for children. I earned a B.A. in Literature and, of course, there are many classics I studied through the years but it’s the children’s stories that I hold close to my heart and my pillows and blanket.

#1 Bear’s Magic by Carla Stevens

There are three short stories in this book, the first is called “Wish I May, Wish I Might.” In it, a rabbit wishes nightly on the evening star for a brand new lunchbox.

Many decades later and I still have to stop myself from wishing for a new lunchbox. And believe me, I am often wishing on the evening star (or an airplane, doesn’t matter, still good!).

#2 Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum and her parents think she has the perfect name. But when she goes to school the other kids make fun of her for her name. She comes home distraught but her parents help her through it.

Chrysanthemum felt much better after her favorite dinner (macaroni and cheese with ketchup) and an
evening filled with hugs and kisses and Parcheesi.

Here is a video version of the story narrated by Meryl Streep which I HIGHLY recommend enjoying. Please!

#3 Maisy Goes Camping by Lucy Cousins

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for the word “camp” and anything to do with going to a summer camp, camping and — unrelated to this book — camp-y things like Wes Anderson movies.

In this story, Maisy and her friends pitch a tent and then all try to get inside to go to sleep. I don’t want to spoil the ending but it’s impossible for them all to fit so they all sleep underneath the stars instead.

Mosquito-free!

#4 Emily’s 100 Days of School by Rosemary Wells

Emily’s elementary school counts down to the 100th day of school. Each number is represented with a little blurb about what happened that day (as related to that day’s number).

Now, I’ve never been one for numbers (unless it’s birthdays or phones numbers) but I cannot get enough of each single and double digit entry. Here are some that I like (#92 is my favorite).

And mine is autographed to my daughter!!

#5 The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone

First of all, Grover is my spirit animal.

Secondly, as a child this book slightly scared the hell out of me. I mean, turning the page knowing something scary was at the end was really living on the edge of my comfort zone. But at the end we are reminded that Grover is considered a monster. And he’s adorable!

I think this book should be used in a college course or Omega Institute offering about reframing your thoughts so you see things differently.

Special Thanks

The most special thing about my selection is that each book is either mine from childhood or motherhood.

I remember the feelings I had reading my stories and I will also cherish the moments where I watched my little ones imagining as I read to them.

Special thanks to Carla Stevens, Kevin Henkes, Lucy Cousins, Rosemary Wells and Jon Stone.

WHAT COUNT CHOCULA TAUGHT ME ABOUT EMPATHY

A few years ago, I discovered that my life-long ability to deeply understand (and sometimes even feel) other people’s emotions had a name. It’s called being an Empath. Many of us describe it as a blessing (we can tap into it to help others who need support) and a curse (we often take on those feelings ourselves and it’s hard to shake off).

My earliest memories of being cursed with empathy was when I would watch Saturday Morning cartoons. In between each show there were a parade of commercials targeted to kids. Toys, games, fast food and cereal.

The cereal commercial that most-often triggers my anxiety around the feelings I’m feeling (on behalf of others) is Count Chocula and Frankenberry.  

Frankenberry was a little more passive, talking about how sweet and delicious his cereal was. He seemed proud.  Count Chocula had aggressive sales tactics and not only pushed his cereal as the more superior one, he often got in Frankberry’s face in a “come at me bro” kind of vibe.

Every single ad for this cereal stressed me out. I just wanted the kids eating cereal or ANYONE to tell them, “Guys, both cereals are great. People like both and we will take turns each morning choosing one or the other.”

Their office culture seemed toxic and they needed to work together not against each other.  These were mostly the thoughts my 8 year-old self would have throughout the :30 seconds (and sometimes continuing after).

Then there was the Trix Rabbit who just wanted to enjoy the cereal that his face was on. The kids were not inclusive and teased him saying, “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids” which is obnoxious. The cereal was obviously his idea and in addition to the kids not sharing, they insulted him and talked down to him.  My brain chatter would be like, “What is their problem? Give the rabbit a bowl of his own creation and fuck the rules!”

SIDEBAR: Interesting fact, there was a change.org petition to tell General Mills that Trix were also for rabbits. I see there are others who cannot sleep until harmony is restored.

Now I don’t want to be all Debbie Downer so I’d like to point out an ad where I felt someone was treated fair and that was McDonald’s. In most ads, the Hamburglar tried to steal the McDonald’s hamburgers any chance he got. He did not succeed. It was taken back from him. But these ads were more soothing for my empathetic soul because it was more about the act of stealing vs. an exclusive VIP club where his kind didn’t have access to these goods. Plus Ronald spoke to the Hamburglar the same way he spoke to close friends like Grimace, Mayor McCheese and those cute Fry Guys. And I appreciated his warmth and understanding.

If you also identify as an EMPATH and if these advertising situations just triggered you as well, here is a 5-step guide I discovered on how to protect your energy. You are very welcome, Gennifer with a G.

THE POWER OF WORDS

I realized years ago that the crush I had on the lead singer of a band had less to do with his looks and more to do with the words coming out of his mouth. The passion, the intensity, the purpose, the meaning of each word he sang set me on fire every time. I would totally put up posters of my favorite words or sentences the way others pay tribute to a favorite team, movie or work of art.

When my kids were little, I told them that the only bad words were ones you used to purposely hurt someone. That meant that if they dropped their ice cream and said “shit” in parroting my own sailor mouth, I had zero problem with that. They were expressing an emotion. I did caveat it by saying, the rest of society was not on board with this so for their own safety, they had to limit any curse words to my car or our house. Using them in school or at a friend’s house could cause trouble. They understood that and it never was an issue. Not once.

Words evoke emotion and really have the power to make or break a relationship, a project or a person’s sense of worth. I’m mindful of the words I choose with others but realized I was misusing words in a stream of sentences that was stripping away my own confidence and power. And that pissed me off quite frankly.

It wasn’t until I received a ring for my birthday from three caring friends that I noticed the strength I got from wearing words, sayings, sentences that I knew to be true or that I believed in. I started shopping around and a founds a handful of apparel, accessories and cosmetics that all were telling a story that I wanted to be a part of. Here are my favorite finds.

COMME des FUCKDOWN was born in Brooklyn, USA, at the beginning of the new millennium. A mix of creativity and innovation characterize the brand, active and predominant in contemporary streetwear. His strength and know-how are clear signs of influence that COMME des FUCKDOWN will continue to have on the stage of global fashion.

MOTHER was founded in 2010 by Lela Becker and Tim Kaeding. With extensive denim backgrounds, they were determined to do it all differently.

SNASH JEWELRY is 100% USA MADE! Our items are hand-carved, crafted and produced by our small NYC-based team. Our materials are ethically sourced and recycled metals are used whenever possible.

EVERYONE SUCKS⚡️BUT US was born on the streets of NYC. Using design as our voice, we want to show a new attitude. ES⚡️BU represents a growing group of like-minded people that are sick of people sucking. United in defiance and bonded by the resistance to fall into the mundane.

BLUE Q are proud designers and manufacturers of life-improving, joy-bringing products since 1988

I leave you with this Huffington Post blog that is interesting as shit about curse words. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/where-the-hell-did-cussing-come-from_n_57d84dfbe4b09d7a68802cbb

BRAND STORYTELLING

Marketing is a form of storytelling. It is not a one-size-fits-all-formula.

Every brand has a story worth sharing complete with bullet points unique to that individual company, org or person.

The narrative should be engaging, it should form an emotional connection to the desired audience and ideally it should be entertaining.

Think about some of your favorite marketing campaigns of all time.

Why did you resonate with those ads?

If it’s an older ad, does it still evoke certain emotions?

Did it make you try the brand or at least talk about it?

Here are a few campaigns from the past several years that I really enjoyed (and why):

Old Spice “Smellcome to Manhood”

First of all that copy line makes me green with envy and entertained at the same time.

Next, I developed a newly-formed connection to women who were moms to boys (specifically teenaged boys but I’m sure this will continue along my consumer journey as he becomes an adult).

I am still the one who purchases products for him and this became top of mind forever and ever.

Link includes three variations, I love the last one the best!

Levi’s “Circles”

I am a dancer. I will dance anywhere.

I love celebrating life with all different kinds of people.

Levi’s fit me well but I haven’t owned a pair in decades.

This marketing campaign shows how their different styles is a part of different cultural celebrations and it really struck a chord with me. 

I want to be in all of those scenes and now I want Levi’s because the brand seems to be aligned with my heart and soul. It ends with the tagline, “Let’s Live How We Dance.” 

Yes! Agreed! Let’s!

#FinishIT / Truth

This anti-smoking org has put out many amazing campaigns. But the one that I really saw sink in with my kids was the one that spoke about the impact on pets.  And it’s not done in a preachy way (a total turn off for kids and teens). I love how it also empowers the audience to be the generation to end tobacco use. Very cool!

Essie Nail Polish Collection

My manicure process is simple.

I pick up a color I like. If I also like it’s name, It stays. If I do not like it’s name it goes back.

Same color, different names. “Lucky Penny” or “Rusted Nails.” Which would you choose?

Essie is one of my favorite companies that puts out a collection based on a theme (and an underlying story that sets up how you’ll feel wearing those colors).

Recently they launched a Tea Time collection for spring with colors like “Pinkies Out,” “Tiers of Joy,”  “Reign Check” and “Teacup Half Full.” 

Not pictured but another brand that never ceases to amaze me with how they spin their story is Pizza Hut (how many ways can you make pizza new again? they seem to have the secret recipe).

SIDE BAR: When I was a young girl watching Saturday morning cartoons, I was watching the commercial breaks. That is where I saw the sugary cereals, McDonald’s, toys and more. Those storylines were far more entertaining and — quite frankly — better written than some of the shows. There! I said it!

WHY READING SAFETY GUIDE IS FUNDAMENTAL TO KEEPING STORES ACCIDENT FREE

September 9, 2019 (ghostwriter: Gennifer with a G for Loss Prevention Magazine)

There are a lot of challenges that American retailers face these days. E-commerce continues to rise in popularity. Many stores struggle keeping up with rising rents and real estate costs. There’s another challenge impacting their bottom line—safety-related lawsuits. This is incredibly frustrating because it is completely preventable if only store-level employees would stick to the rules.

Retailers produce important documentation such as employee handbooks, merchandising guides, and safety manuals to ensure all known, preventable accidents and issues are communicated to every employee hired to represent the brand. They are developed with care to clearly state procedures and protocols should something arise as well as the types of safety issues to be on the lookout for.

Depending on the retail store, some guidelines may be broad strokes in best practices and common sense. Other stores, where heavy machinery or other potential hazards are nearby, will go into greater detail with hopes that managers will train staff well. At the end of the day, it’s all to put in place to establish rules around what the law expects from retailers and the ramifications of what could happen if they are ignored.

Form follows function is a golden rule for designing a store. The function today is established by ADA regulations that clearly addresses aisle widths, alignment of gondola runs, elimination of obstructions, and customer access to product without straining themselves. Once the store layout meets these defined functions, the form of displays and aisles are established to address the needs of the product offering, branding strategy, and other considerations.

The “Cliff Notes” Version Is not Cutting It
You remember the old “Cliff Notes” shortcut in high school where you didn’t feel like reading Catcher in the Rye so you read this instead only to be caught when the teacher asked you to recollect a detail that was in the full novel and not the synopsis? The result was a not-so-serious C or D. But in the case of missing details with retail store safety, the ending is much more severe.

In over two-hundred liability retail cases I’ve investigated as an expert witness, there are two common denominators. Every single one of these cases was preventable had staff stuck to the rules and if merchandisers did not use aisle space for sales after the store had already received a certificate of occupancy based on a fixture plan approved by the local building department.

A majority of the plaintiff’s deposition reviews reveal that the store’s display protruded over an approved layout by the building department that then created hazards throughout the store. That’s such a basic thing to be mindful of. Corporate guidelines are very clear with the following directives:

  • Do not to exceed a product presentation over the display base line into the aisle
  • Do not to locate vendor displays or promotional displays into aisles at minimum ADA width
  • Do not to place pallets in the aisle without correctly loading the product to a 36-inch height and product loaded out to within an inch of the perimeter of the pallet
  • Do not use makeshift tables, boxes, carts, as displays that could cause a trip in already minimal aisle width and high traffic areas

While those basic regulations seem common sense to avoid violating, it continues to show up in case after case and always because someone thought boosting the volume and profit for the store with temporary displays was more important. Or maybe the rationale is that the dollars per square foot advantage for the store outweighs the risk that the hazardous display condition can impact a customer’s safety. In cases where store staff discovers hazards, the employees are encouraged by the guidelines to report it to upper management and resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, most depositions reveal that the store staff did not realize that a condition was hazardous until someone was injured. Of course, nobody wants their customers to leave in an ambulance. In many of the cases where I represented the retailer, it was discovered that proper inspection and staff training was logged and executed, demonstrating they did put in the effort to provide a hazard-free venue. But at the end of the day, some of the most horrible impact on customers resulted in broken bones, scared face, quadriplegic, and loss of sight for kids through senior citizens.

So, who should be more vigilant in order to ensure a safe shopping experience?

Display Manufacturer. Surprised? All too often the display manufacturer winds up between a rock and a hard place. Vendors supplying displays for free to the retailer try to keep costs to a minimum. In the design phase the vendor suggests eliminating the 4-inch high base to save 40 dollars a display. If the display is going to 1,000 stores, that is a $40,000 savings. What is not considered is the display without a base could catch a foot, will not keep a shopping cart away from the product, and other major considerations that will impact the display’s safety factor. It is at this time that a line needs to be drawn in the sand by having the display manufacturer explain the safety ramifications and refuse to make that modification. Several liability cases reviewed had the display manufacturer included in the lawsuit claim due to lack of safety compliance.

Corporate Retailer. Corporate executives need to be clear in enforcing that any variations to the planogram is not safe or an acceptable practice. Define lines of demarcation in all stores via the floor plan that restricts any display (permanent or temporary) allowed in that area. Planograms must be clear in defining the display type, product levels, display components and their location, as well as signs for pricing and safety, such as “ask for assistance” for heavy, large, or high-shelf location of product.

Store Staff. All store employees must participate in proper training methods, refresh training yearly, learn to discover hazards, question any concerns with upper management, and cure the hazard immediately. There is a vast amount of safety procedures expected of the staff. It is essential for upper management to supervise staff to be sure they are providing this review, throughout the day, as regulated by the store safety manual regulation. Retail staff need to know that reminding an upper management staff member that a display is misplaced will not lead to termination.

If we all recognize that this epidemic is a result of not being part of the solution and by taking a more active role in making the store safe, a great service for retailers and customers will have been served.

GRANDPARENTS: MANAGING UP TIPS

Believe it or not, having a new baby and running your own business have many commonalities when it comes to managing various workstyles and personalities to keep things moving smoothly. Everyone involved has their own set of super skills and their own opinions about the right way to do things. 

In business, there are also investors who weigh in on how the business is run and you have a certain obligation to take in their suggestions. At home, the investors are the grandparents.  

It’s tricky to manage incoming feedback (solicited and unsolicited) from the older, wiser advisors. On one hand, they raised you and you have to assume they did some things right. On the other hand, there may be some things you know you’ll do differently. Everyone must acknowledge times have changed since the days when you were little and could cartwheel across the back of a station wagon at 60 MPH without causing concern from highway patrol. 

No matter what concerns you may begin to have about everyone’s involvement, I have some tried and true business tips that you can apply to managing your working relationship with “The Grandparents.”

WELCOME PACKET FOR GRANDPARENTS

This is a great way to onboard a new employee and, if you think about it, getting promoted to grandparent falls into that category.  However you want to share this (conversation followed by an emailed recap, a handbook of rules with a signed agreement), this is something you can even refer back to if everything goes off the rails.

You can even set up an “orientation” and invite them to attend courses with you like Infant CPR or How to Install a Car Seat. Some hospitals even do a Grandparent Boot Camp that teaches them current laws and rules around subjects like sleep safety. 

STATUS REPORT

Most grandparents will appreciate a regular check in with status items like “her first check up went great” or “he is sleeping cozy in the new pajamas you bought him.” Photos and even videos are great support material for the grandparent status reports. “I ventured out of the house and neither of us cried, please see photo reference [insert image of you and your baby enjoying being out of the house].”  Grandparents are more savvy than ever and can easily learn how to FaceTime or Skype which you can schedule in advance or do on-the-go. This is a great way for them to see for themselves how things are going.

When you feed the updates to them, you will be less likely to receive a call when you’re in the middle of a chaotic diaper change or finally getting a 3 minute nap. It puts the control in your hands and is a great tool in “managing up” to your (original) leaders. 

CHANGE MANAGEMENT

A new baby creates new roles, responsibilities and promotions. You were your parents’ child and still are but now you’ve accepted the new role as a mother or father. Your parents are promoted to grandparents. During this time, it’s helpful to have thoughtful conversations and an ongoing grace period for growth, trial and error. You as a newly minted parent will have ideas of how you’d like to run things. The old regime will have their lists of what works and what doesn’t. 

Be patient, be open, be flexible, be able to pivot.

PERKS & BONUSES

Once you’ve established your dream team of people who love and care for your little one and have plans in place so everyone can be happy and thrive, it’s time to acknowledge everyone’s hard work with perks and bonuses. Everyone loves to hear they are doing a great job and grandparents are no exception. Recognition and appreciation goes a long way. A bonus can be doing something their way (if it differs from yours) when you are visiting them at their home. Maybe a handwritten note of appreciation or a “World’s Greatest Grandmother” gift is the way to go. Celebrating what’s right and acknowledging what they bring to the table really goes a long way and serves as positive reinforcement for all of the big and little things they do for your family.

Just remember, grandparents want to be recognized for doing a great job.

More importantly, grandparents are coming from a place of love.  You just need you to make some executive decisions and then lead the charge in how you want things done.