Ode to a fabulous marketing team — and a note to my replacement.



I am leaving a wonderful marketing team this coming Friday.  It was a tough decision to change jobs, solely based on this wonderful marketing team.  I have been the Executive Director of Marketing at Joint Commission Resources for 3.7 years, but it seems much longer some days and like I just arrived on others.

This marketing team works hard, is dedicated to the work and to each other.  It is a family of sorts, and one tough to leave. So, if you are poised to take this job, beware:  you will get attached.

You will learn to appreciate and rely on Krista McGorrian’s insight and lean six sigma green belt skills.  And a killer instinct for e-marketing!  You will have fun with Gia Riney, who joined us just a year ago to take on international marketing and bring a whole new set of insights and marketing expertise to this group.  You will depend on Kathy Atkinson to take on all your tradeshow needs — top to bottom and I’m telling you I’ve seen no one on this planet who runs a tradeshow more smoothly with her new sidekick and former intern, Chris Grelyak.  Kathy also does all the production management in a newly-minted role and the whole account team relies on her to get the tactical work completed every day.  Her production team includes the talented fine artist (true story) Katlin Mulligan and in the future, Margaret Conley, who has spearheaded a very dynamic website development project this year.  The new jcrinc.com and jointcommissioninternational.org will debut late this year or early 2014!

Amy Sobczak is the friendliest and best Salesforce.com administrator anyone could wish for.  Beware, she is passionate beyond belief about this business system and will turn you into a believer too, if you aren’t already. 

Our account managers, Holly Jordan (publications and education) , Thad Sochacki (software)and Linda Bosy (consulting) are hard to beat.  They are creative, dedicated to their internal clients’ success, and work diligently on their behalf every day.  The detail and the scope of what they do are not to be believed.  But believe it.  They are truly great.

And last but not least, Sharon Sheehan, our administrative assistant, who can wield the Accounts Payable wand like know one else.  She keeps us on track with our various marketing expense ledgers and also moonlights for the Operations team!

So, whomever you are that takes over this wildly talented and connected team, good luck to you and you will be blessed.  And fair warning, it will be very difficult should you ever make the decision to choose another opportunity.  This team is hard to beat.

Love and blessings to all the great marketers out there… some whom I have yet to meet and many, many friends and colleagues who are out there slogging through the marcomms jungle.  Keep slogging, my friends!

Merry Christmas from the ICU

imunoterapie1-1So here I am in the ICU on December 23.  Worst. Place. Ever.  I mean, people here are very nice and competent but it’s the holidays and I need to be home, baking cookies, wrapping gifts and enjoying my family.  I took vacation this week and now it will be wasted listening to the drone of TVs, beeping IV units and rolling beds and carts in the hallway.  But there’s a deeper epiphany here I’d like to share.  It’s not a new insight, but I just wanted to share the story the way I came to it.

I’ve been here since the 20th.  Long boring story about why.  Just chalk it up to a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime epic screwup with an insulin pump and the sudden onset of DKA.  Never had it before, and trust me you don’t want it and I never do again.

But as I sit here, now waiting 7 hours for discharge papers — they swear to me I’m getting out today, really they do — I think about the fragility of life.  We all take this life for granted and just one wrong turn, one malfunction of our medical routine or one fluke accident could bring it all to an end.  Because DKA is serious, my friend, nothing to play around with.  I may not be typing this post to you all if not for the diligent efforts of several severely competent and uncommonly caring medical personnel. (Dr. Hoffman, Dr. Fackler-Chapman, Dr. Wucka who all tolerated me losing my mind yesterday when it was clear I wasn’t going home; the array of nurses who put up with me arguing with them about carb ratios, timing of insulin doses and bad lab results — special shout out to Brian on those last ones.) 

One of the nurses who saw me last told me everyone is so happy I’ll be going home today because it is so rare to send someone from this unit back to their home for recovery.  Many times it is to a rehab facility, hospital, hospice, and yes, even the morgue.  Even though I’m stressed about the holiday wrapping, baking, cooking, stuffing stockings, etc. that still needs completion, I am so very grateful to be going home.

I’ve lived with Type 1 diabetes for 32 years and I have done a decent job taking care of it — never been hospitalized before for anything related to a diabetes condition.  I have taken the treatments available to me for granted. I’ve taken my privileged lifestyle for granted.   There are many who cannot afford the wonderful doctors and the wonderful therapies to which I can avail myself.

Life is a golden thread, folks.  Appreciate what you have.  Everyone has struggles — maybe not something like what I have but don’t waste this precious life on regret, revenge, hate or privilege.   I watch the TV here —because there was nothing else to do but stare at the calves and feet and roller carts that passed before my glassed-in, half-curtained cage — and I feel sorry for the materialism, the wastefulness, the pettiness I see reflected in our culture.  I see myself in the grousing I do over the smallest things.  I see our friends in neighbors in the greediness of the Christmas season.

And outside my room is an anxious family who may lose a loved one today.  The person is living what may be his last days in the room next to mine.  There are flurries of relatives coming to whisper loving words and stand in the hall to share tears of grief.  I feel almost guilty that I am so healthy and going home (sometime?) today.

I have already made the point, I think.  Much love to all my friends and family.  I am grateful to be able to spend another day with you.

Merry Christmas.

I will watch you walk away…

IMG_1954I watched you today as you walked away…. out of the halls of your high school after graduation, and all to soon, I’ll watch as you walk out of this protected home and into your own new life.  I have watched for a very long time, my baby girl, as I tried to teach you and hold you and guide you through the first part of this journey.  You are part me, and very much your own person.  You have grown into a beautiful young woman, with a verdant jungle of imagination and talent that I could never dream of owning.  You have grown a heart of pure kindness and love that I adore and wish the whole world could see.

I will watch as you conduct the busiest summer of your life, preparing for life-long trips and memories you are packing away in your heart just before you pack your belongings for college to venture into this brave new world.  You are a joy and my heart fills with pride at who you have become.

My second born, my baby, my daughter, I wished only the best for you and wondered how you would be in life — how differently or similarly you would take in the world than I or your brother did.  I have watched you as a stubborn toddler, a histrionic pre-teen, a wise-beyond -our-years mid-teen and finally, and beautifully-made young woman.

Your independence and your thoughtfulness take my breath away one minute, while your need for my attention the next are adorable.  Your wit and unique perspective on life are endlessly entertaining and you are a wonder; bringing life into this house like no other.

I will miss that — all of it.  I dread the day when I pass by your room and you are no longer in it.  But I will watch with the same sense of pride and joy  — and bittersweet pang that time has passed all too quickly — when you pass through the halls of your new adventure.

I love you, Madison Tolley.  Please carry this with you always, as you tackle the world with every considerable talent God has given you.


Time to let go of Perfect


I have always been a planner.  I write to-do lists, plan out my vacations one year to 8 months in advance, look to a calendar of meetings and events with a sense of joy and accomplishment.  But being married to a pilot with ADD (undiagnosed by any professional but I swear it’s undeniable) and having 5 kids and two full time jobs between us — you learn a couple things.  One of them is time is not your own.  Second is, it’s not really controllable unless you want to become a certified freak. 

My kids will say I’m the latter.  Yes, it can be said I keep tabs on them via cyberstalking, try to control their intake of all things bad for their health and God forbid any one of them crosses the threshold with a “C” grade or less.  But in the last almost four years, I have been able to let go of a few things:

  • My house is not always 100% picked up — although this does cause me some angst.
  • My car is not always clean and the tank filled past 1/2 a tank — always in the past, that had to be the rule
  • Sometimes my nails are not really presentable — chipped polish, etc.
  • I may occasionally go more than 5 weeks in-between haircuts — we won’t talk about the consequences here

I know that to some people, these are just small things — part of the human existence, but for someone like me, these small pieces of control were difficult to release.  I had to understand that no one really cared about these things even a tiny bit, except for me.  And if I could let them go, all would be well and there would be no catastrophic events occurring in the universe.

Now, when there’s a band concert or play that I didn’t know about and my husband texts me at work to tell me he just found out about it, I roll with the punches.  We get take out and shove ourselves into the car(s).  Because inevitably another kid also has another gig he/she needs to be attending at the same time.  And because it’s about living the moments we’re given more than it’s about planning everything out perfectly.

It’s hard for me to admit and sometimes hard for me to believe, but Perfect can be kinda boring sometimes. (Don’t tell Perfect because sometimes I still like to visit there….) 😉

Happy Holidays everyone, and let go of the Perfect!

Song of a Mom

The day I first felt the fluttering of you inside my womb

I knew I was not alone

It was scary and lovely and full of promise

… did I mention scary?

And then all too soon, you were here, a part of me, a part of my heart

… Living, breathing outside my body

I got to know you and what you liked and didn’t … you loved water, you loved the dog, and you loved music; you were playful and happy

 ….but you didn’t like cacophony or discord

You grew into your own person and uniqueness

You had your own opinions

I helped shape you;  you and I were a team, where you let me be a part

I loved you more than I could even imagine a person could love another

… and I was proud

I saw you almost every day, listened to you practicing your music, learned your habits and your ways, watched you grow, and I was proud.

Then, all too soon, it came time for you to leave.

I never thought it would get here, and then when it was, I was not ready

… it happened in an instant.

And now, you live apart from me.  A part of me is living there with you, where ever you are.  Proud and happy for you.  Processing what has happened to me. 

I was whole before you came, and when you arrived.  Now that you are gone, I am whole still, but in pieces …

Fly my little bird, my grown man.  Be strong and happy and loving to others.  But remember, you will always be mine.  You will always have a home where ever I am.



sunshine through trees

The other day I was going through the drive through (yes, I crave a giant diet coke now and then and it has to be a fountain drink).  It was a sunny Chicago day, but only about 34 degrees and windy.  As I gave my money to the cashier, who was dressed in a coat, cut-off gloves and had a red nose from the cold, I felt bad for him in my toasty sun-warmed car.  He asked me how I was doing today.  I gave the standard answer, “I’m good, how are you?”  “Blessed,” he said.  It made me pause.  Then, as he gave me my change, he said, “have a blessed day,” and I drove to the next window.

It made me think.  Just before I drove up to that window, I was thinking about all my troubles: I think I’m getting a virus; did we pay the mortgage yet?; this car is filthy — it needs a wash; how am I going to get all my work done this week? etc.

We live in one of the wealthiest, “busiest,” robust countries in all the world. Blessed? You bet we are. Most of us. And how many of us, despite all we have, complain that we want more? How many of us look around to help those who don’t have enough? And yet, I suspect there may be many of the “less fortunate” who feel more blessed than the average American does.

How do we feel blessed? It’s about practicing gratitude, not feeling so entitled, relaxing and letting things be less than perfect, loving our fellow humans. I was “blessed” just by going through that drive-thru and having the short interaction with the cashier. I learned something that day. And I’m hoping that others who went through this guy’s line during his shift stopped and paused as I did, just to say, “yeah. I’m blessed.” I can only hope.

What is your personal mission statement?

Personal mission statements should take the place of a personal brand, in my humble opinion.

I’ve had a personal mission statement for many years … it dates back to when my company (Fleishman Hillard) sent me to a Stephen Covey seminar on the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People — must have been 1997 or 1998.  In that session, I learned about big rocks and small pebbles (send me a message and I’ll tell you that one if you haven’t ever heard it) and one of the most valuable tools I’ve ever learned…. Create a Personal Mission Statement and live by it.

Here’s mine:  Make Every Interaction Count

To me, that means not only with my family and work colleagues, but with the grocer who is helping me a the produce aisle as well as the UPS delivery driver who delivers my packages.  It means I am cordial, but beyond that, I try to offer a bit of kindness that is so lacking in the world.  Most days, I do well with this mission statement.  There are days I fail.  And for anyone who knows me and knows the days I have failed at this, I offer my apologies  here and now.

But when I do fall down on this, I do pick myself up, remind myself of what that mission statement means to me and try to start again with a fresh perspective.

The reason I think having a personal mission statement is important is that a good mission statement will provide not only the essence of what you stand for, it is actionable.  It goes beyond “personal branding,” — even as a marketer, I have a love/hate fest with this concept — it should reflect who you are and even more, who you want to be as a person, not as a commodity, product, sales or service.

If you have a personal mission statement, tweet it out, put it in the comments here, put it on my Facebook account or just tell the world!  Being accountable for the change you want to see in this world is a great way to live out the mission you were brought to this planet to achieve!

What is your personal mission statement?



My son has senioritis. He’s entitled. He’s 18 and does not want to go to school. Of course it’s 2 degrees outside and he’d rather stay in but so do the other 6 people who live in this house. But somehow, he’s entitled. It’s not that he’s a bad kid. He has stellar grades. I just got his report card and it’s all A’s (again). That’s great. But he’s driving the rest of us up a wall!

So I realized as I was driving him to school again today (I’ve driven him all week to make sure he’s actually going… yes, it’s that bad) that I also have senioritis. Now, I’m more of the age that it should probably be capitalized, as in Senioritis, pertaining to the condition of “seniors” who have inflammation of the knees, ankles and phalanges when they have too much sodium. Or, it could be that I’m on the edge of burn-out. I don’t know. But I’m putting off things I know I should do.

I call it “being creative.” You can’t push creativity, you know, just as you cannot tell someone to “be funny.” Don’t get me wrong, I want to be more creative, more alive. As I’m sure my 18-year-old does. He’s just ready to move into the next phase of his life and he’s impatient for this part to be over. I wonder if that’s what’s going on with me?

Problem is, I don’t know which part I want to be over. Maybe if I knew, this “senioritis” could be pointed in the right direction and provide a catalyst for me to go into my next spurt of amazing creativity! Who knows?

Until I figure this out, I’m going to take it easy for a while…. rest and drink a bit of tea, perhaps. Listen to jazz. Read a book that has no intellectual value. Play with the dog. But I hope I still get A’s like the other senior in the house!

Time changes your viewpoint

time It’s not just a saying; time really does change your viewpoint. Not just in the way that people say “time heals all wounds,” which I believe is mostly true — well, I think it definitely takes the edge off, let’s say that. And if you are an open person, the wound heals and you may have a scar, but you’ve built a stronger, tougher skin at that spot. Doesn’t mean you don’t go ahead and try again … on the contrary, you go back out and hopefully avoid pitfalls, and do a better job the next time around.

But I’m also talking about the mellowing of us as people and our approach with time. I think I understand why older people drive more slowly. Taking it all in, they’ve learned to enjoy the journey.

I watch younger people in my profession get anxious about their lives and about perceptions others hold of them –almost attacking life — and I smile. Now that I’ve seen a lot of life, I spot the potential in those “youngsters” and know what they don’t know — that a humble spirit at the awesomeness of life takes you very far indeed. I have tweens and teens now — five of them — and I see their raw, anxious approach to life, and I know time will sand off the rough edges, just like it does to me. I smile and watch, try to help guide, knowing things will turn out okay.

I just need to remember this for myself when confronted with my own variety of agnst … I’m sure my grandma in heaven and my parents are all smiling inside, trying to guide me and help me find my way, knowing that in the end, all will turn out okay.

Perspective is a precious thing hard earned! My advide for today: take a deep breath and think — will this thing you are dealing with today matter in five days, five months, five years? Maybe it will and maybe it won’t. But I guarantee it will look different with time.

Life is a rollercoaster…

roller coaster… or a box of chocolates. Or whatever cliche or trite phrase you want to [insert] here.
It’s definitely interesting and entertaining. I love roller coasters because they make me feel alive. I also like them because I know in my heart it’s a controlled, (mostly) safe journey.

I’m harnessed in, taking deep plunges and hairpin curves. But I know that it’s very likely I’ll return back to the smiley, pimply-faced teenaged attendant who strapped me in, all in one piece.

So life is like my type of roller coaster experience only if you have that same sense of security — who you are and who you trust in your life. If you feel like you have that sense of security, you know you will actually enjoy the ride.

I’m working on this — giving up control to God above who loves me and knows me as his own. I’m working on trusting the people in my life who love me and want the best for me. And, I’m working on trusting that my instincts are right, that God has given me the sense to know and understand myself and make the best choices for me.

This comes up whether I decide to fight the good fight, make things right, compromise, or trust someone else with my feelings and thoughts. I’m working on trust. The roller coaster is a piece of cake. LIfe is much more difficult.

So, once again, I find myself sitting up tall, taking a deep breath, maybe a sip of wine, letting it all out — and most of all, trusting that I will eventually conquer this thing —
learning to trust in the goodness of life, even when it brings hairpin turns and plunging declines. Ever notice that the ride to the top takes a long time and the plunge down only a few seconds? Hmmmmmm.