A Small Honor to Some….a BIG one to me

A Small Honor to Some….a BIG one to me

Tomorrow I turn 36.

36 sounds old.

Like real old.

35 doesn’t…..35 sounds fresh as a daisy to me, BUT 36….I need to start using wrinkle cream and drinking Ensure.  I’m slightly exaggerating, but you get my drift.  I’m a little weirded out by the age.  One thing I can say….getting older does bring some pretty great things.

  1.  It’s a great excuse for me to leave a party early.  “Oh you know…I need my rest or I just drag all day”.
  2. I can run an errand with no make-up on and messy hair and not care…..ask my college roommates, in my younger years I had to practically put on a prom dress before we went to Kroger.
  3. In business, I do find I get a little more respect in the boardroom.  Fair?  No, but its the truth.  I’ve also come to realize that success is much more about hard work, experience and confidence than it is about your achievements in school.  Yes I said it….and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study hard and be the best.  I’m just saying, I may or may not have slept through tests in college, put parties before class, and somehow still managed to be slightly successful.

Yesterday, the Nashville Business Journal published the below article….and it makes me smile.  Many of my family members don’t have a subscription to the NBJ so I decided to share it below  To some, it’s a small deal…to me, it’s a nod to making a slight impact in my marketing world so forgive me for tooting my horn….it’s a quiet horn I promise:

The state of marketing to women and why it’s important

Aug 17, 2016, 11:52am CDT

Emily Tucker

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Marketing to women has had a less-than-innovative history.

For generations, companies have marketed products and services to women in basically the same way, primarily portraying females as mothers and caretakers — both of which are often just one aspect of the modern woman’s life. We have seen some shifts in tactics in recent years, but in the overall world of marketing and advertising, we still have a way to go.

That very notion helped to launch the Red Letter Day Conference — Nashville’s first ever marketing to women event, which took place August 5. The purpose of the conference was to educate marketing professionals and consumers alike on marketing to women and provide the opportunity for us to have a real, honest conversation about it. With women being responsible for 85 percent of purchases according to Interpublic Group, companies should consider the following to maximize the impact of their marketing efforts.

The landscape is changing.

Many brands assume what women want based on stereotypes and dated statistics rather than talking to female consumers about their needs and day-to-day lives. This misunderstanding of who women are often leads to a brand’s message falling on deaf ears.

After coming aboard at Gigi’s Cupcakes, I noticed a shift in the conversation about our marketing as a whole. We wanted to change our focus to discovering what consumers wanted instead of relying on what we thought was best for them.

When we sat down and spoke with our customers, we found that their buying decisions were less about what they wanted for themselves and more about purchasing something quickly and easily that they would be proud to present to their family.

That’s what marketing to women is really about — grasping and understanding where a woman is in her life and then providing her with solutions to make that life a little less hectic.

Time to get real.

Women’s roles have changed a lot in just the past decade and these days, and men and women experience similar work-life balance issues. Women’s lives can sometimes be even more hectic as they struggle to have enough time for their children, their significant other, their home and their work — all while making it look like a cakewalk to the outside world.

Yet, women are still typically depicted as relaxed stay-at-home moms with spotless houses and clean, quiet children — and for anyone who has been a full-time stay-at-home parent, you know that couldn’t be further from reality. It’s a silly portrayal that causes women to distance themselves from brands because they feel the brand doesn’t understand their lifestyle.

Failure to acknowledge a woman’s real-life needs means you’ll be losing more than her individual purchases. You will also likely lose business from her family and friends, too. Women listen to each other, and when it comes to purchases, they don’t want to hear from just celebrities and CEOs. They take recommendations from their local mom blogger and close friends on what brands to trust and buy because they are seen as unbiased sources who understand their daily struggles.

Where we’re headed.

Fortunately, the future of marketing to women looks bright. Car companies have notoriously focused on marketing to men, but brands like Chevrolet have started to show females as power players in more and more of their commercials, and celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres are making wide-reaching statements about the ridiculous tactics currently used to target women calling out BIC’s most recent “female-friendly” pink pen as a prime example.

With women now controlling the majority of spending in any given household, companies who want to be successful in earning their dollars will adapt or die out. Now is the time for companies to get on board with the new female persona and really invest in who they are and what they want and need. It’s only going to help them grow as a brand, and aid them as they champion female support, and capitalize on the current and growing marketing trends.

Emily Tucker is the director of marketing for Gigi’s Cupcakes. Tucker has more than a decade of experience in marketing for the restaurant industry, including Captain D’s and Dominos.

One Year

One Year

It’s been a year.  In some instances, it feels like a lifetime ago.  In others, it feels like yesterday.  He’s healthy now.  He walks, he talks, he has a larger than life personality.  He never stops.  Even right now, he is “yumping” on the couch and laughing hysterically. To think that all of these things stopped just because of gluten continues to fascinate me.

One year ago today, I was very impatiently waiting to get to our 2pm appointment at Vandy.  Deep inside I knew the doctor would have the answer and my only prayer was to take the answer in and find a solution.  For months, I had researched illnesses myself, and listened to tons of people diagnose Pierce themselves.  From a brain tumor to cystic fibrosis to acid reflux, I had heard it all.  It all made sense, and it all seemed crazy.  No disease or sickness seemed  out of the question, but so many of them were out of my grasp.  A stomach bug I could fix, cystic fibrosis I couldn’t….and moms want to fix.

The experience at Vandy that afternoon is still so clear in my memory…in fact when I walk back in that hospital now I want to cry.  I remember sitting in the waiting room for what seemed like 400 hours before they called us back.  They weighed Pierce and he screamed the whole time.  He didn’t want anyone touching him, but me so he clung tight to my sweatshirt.  Dr. Moulton came in the room and after a very long minute of small talk, he turned the computer around to show that all four markers from Pierce’s blood test said celiac disease.  He went on to explain celiac crisis and insisted Pierce be put in the hospital for the next week for healing.  All I wanted was someone to fix him…and the hospital was going to fix him.

For the next five days, Pierce changed drastically.  Day one, he clung to me like a tree frog.  He cried every time the nurse walked in the room, and he struggled to stay awake.  Day two, he would at least look at the nurse when she walked in without crying, and by day 5, he laughed, played, and even allowed the nurses to hold him.  He was becoming the boy I remembered.   Gluten had taken over his brain and slowed development.  Gluten had caused swelling in his joints making walking or even standing completely painful. It had destroyed his intestines making it impossible for his body to break down food and get any nourishment. This one little piece of his diet had put a stranglehold on his life and it was slowly letting go.

Over the past year, this boy has doubled in weight and grown off the charts in height.  He has developed quite the daring personality which means we often find him climbing the outside of the stairs, jumping off forts he built himself, and attacking his much older and much bigger brother.  We went to Vandy for his year checkup and Dr. Moulton walked in, looked at Pierce and said “I am amazed”.  He was so impressed with the recovery and the child he saw in front of him.  Those few sentences made my day, my week, and probably my month.

Over the past year, I have had several people reach out to talk about celiac disease, get advice, and just talk through symptoms.  I’ve had several people tell me they don’t believe gluten issues are real….which by the way, just don’t do.  Even if you believe it, just be quiet. But more than anything, I’ve had so many people love on my son.  A man I work with leaves gluten free treats on my desk to take to Pierce.  Our R&D manager at Gigi’s took such amazing steps to ensure Pierce’s birthday treats were gluten free.  Pierce’s teachers made parents bring gluten free foods to classroom parties. All of this things make me cry just thinking about them.  It’s little things to make him feel normal…or maybe to make me feel normal.  Whatever the feeling, it means so much more than people will know.

I had stopped writing blogs because they were making me sad.  And while I type with tears in my eyes right now, I’m not sad.  I can’t be…he’s laying next to me on the couch, exhausted from all his “yumping”.

Here are a few images of Pierce right before and during his stay at Vanderbilt:

And here are a few after:

My favorite image is below….these images are about a year apart in front of the light up frog at Vandy Children’s Hospital.  Thank the Lord for wonderful doctors, nurses, family and friends who supported us through a very crazy time.  The Tucker family will be visiting Vandy today with tons of gluten free treats for the nurses on the 7th floor.  They won’t remember why we are there, but we will.

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Halloween

Halloween

To be clear, I haven’t been fond of this holiday for years. Ever since I became an adult and had to endure costume parties where girls dressing up as cops or fire fighters equalled a bra and tutu, it’s been a life struggle.  Sure this is partially due to the fact I could never get away with this look in public, but whatever😀. I still can’t stand it.

Some love for the holiday appeared when the boys arrived. Decorating for the holiday, carving pumpkins just like my dad, serving a themed meal just like my mom, and the hope of watching my kids bring home tons of candy (and me stealing the good ones).  Last year, Ford strongly disliked trick or treating….it took longer to get him in the “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” costume than he spent outside.  It was cold, wet, and the spooky house a few doors down didn’t help at all!  Of course I knew this year would be different because his little brother could tag along. But the more time I spend thinking about that now, the more I worry and ponder how one allergy has really flipped his life upside down.  

I have asked myself 100 times….do I even let him try to trick or treat?  And how will he act at his school party surrounded by treats he can’t have? In all honesty, I know he will not realize a difference now….but I do.  And I don’t like imagining him left out.  The hardest part for me this week has been understanding why I can’t bring peanut butter in to the school party, but bringing wheat is A-OK. I know a peanut reaction can be different, but could we not even recommend that all treats be gluten free too?  Just in his class??  I don’t ask for much.  I don’t think I was overbearing when the diagnosis came out. I don’t ask for daily reports on how he was handled.  We couldn’t just add “gluten free treats are recommended” to the sign up sheet?  Maybe I am asking for too much here.  But it just sucks.  

Our house will be handing out gluten free goodies this year…starburst and skittles.  And for your reference, my two fav candies on earth (tootsie rolls and Peeps) also score on the gluten free list!  And Reese’s cups–Nathan’s favorite.  

One thing I didn’t do….We don’t have a teal pumpkin on the porch. I was an awful mom and didn’t take the kids to a pumpkin patch this year where I could have picked one up.  Unless you count the area of the Home Depot parking lot blocked off bales of hay and stacks of pumpkins a patch.  Yep, don’t judge And if I didn’t have time to go to the pumpkin patch, I also didn’t have time to handpaint a pumpkin😅. Plus I haven’t moved past how it feels like a scarlet letter. I am just overly sensitive this year because it is all new. Next year we will probably have 20 teal pumpkins and I wil give tips to other parents in Pierce’s class on where to get cheap GF treats that he can eat too. This year, I am obsessive, bitter party of 1.  

One day I will stop being obsessive, right?  I am sure it all calms down with time. For now, I will secretly get mad about school parties and scope his candy bag for rogue gluten.  But I do look forward to seeing them dressed up enjoying jack-o-burgers, brains (Mac n cheese) and flaming ghost eye cake on Halloween night. 

   
   

Having it all

Having it all

When I got pregnant with my first child, I remember being so excited about showing the world it was possible for a woman to “have it all”.  Women get told every day that it’s impossible to be successful and a mother so I did everything in my power to have an amazing career, cook out of this world meals, have a beautifully decorated house and look “together” every day.  

This “having it all” syndrome continued through the birth of my second. I realized about one year into life with two kids that this ridiculous run around was just that..ridiculous!  It took watching my child battle an illness for months to stop myself directly in my crazy tracks.

I am not saying women can’t have it all.  You can have it all because you ultimately decide what “having it all” means. The problem is, as women, we pit ourselves against each other in a “who does it better” competition. I just can’t do it anymore. There are some women who will always do something better than me.  I am surrounded by women in my life who nail “having it all” and wonder if  they even know. One girlfriend has the most perfect “west elm” home, great children and husband, and blossoming career. I have friends that are stay at home moms….who can handle running a home and raising children each day. Friends who have no kids, travel all the time, eat at amazing restaurants and look so well rested:). Here’s the deal….we all rock!  All of us

My definition of “having it all” is a semi clean house, a work ensemble that almost always includes a smear of snot, and a small gut that I’ll never lose because I work in cupcakes and love it.  It also includes two kids who are healthy, happy and always having fun.  And I am doing an excellent job!

I read lots of blogs where women are all saying the same thing.  I really hope one day we all do stop putting this unnecessary pressure on ourselves to have it all.  Until then, cheers to hitting the 5 month mark since Pierce went into the hospital.  We have it all….minus the gluten❤️ 

Could there be a better picture heading?
  
helping daddy build the swingset
  
an elmo obsession
 

Lost in the Message

Lost in the Message

One week after Pierce’s GI appointment, the nurse called while I was at the office.  Very quickly she said that Pierce’s liver levels were still high and he needed to return in a few weeks for another round of blood tests.  The moment the phone hung up, I started crying at my desk…..that cry where you make no sound, but you make the most awful face.  I ran into the bathroom and tried to stop the tears by staring at the light, which only increased the tears as the lights were drying out my contacts.  Finally I got myself together and went back to work.  The entire day I sat trying to find all the ways I was going wrong as his mom.  I already was mad at myself for not researching body wash, shampoo, lotions and house cleaners.  I also decided I should have taken the time to write an entire manual for his school and maybe should do the same for any daycare he stays, like church.  

I got home that evening still super upset with myself.  I could barely talk to my mom about it because I was convinced everyone would think I was failing.  Nathan asked a ton of questions I wasn’t prepared for….mainly because I asked the nurse no questions.  I just hung up and cried.  I figured I would get more clarity when we went back in for tests.

The next day I arrived early at the office, as I always do.  I was fixing coffee and reading through emails when the nurse called again.  She said she just felt that she needed to call and provide more details.  She continued that Pierce went in to the hospital with liver levels of 170, and a normal person would be 30 or below.  At his blood work, he was at 57!  So while the level is still high, it is a drastic move from where he was and they just want to assure that number decreases consistently.  She ended by saying “don’t forget, you are doing a great job mom”.  Talk about a moment….I cried for a second day in a row in my office, but these tears were purely out of gratitude. It was a moment God used to remind me that we are on the right path, and not to get lost in the blame game….just to continue to focus on making small improvements. 

I try not to tell Pierce’s story a lot anymore.  Mainly I feel like people are sick of hearing about it or don’t care, but this weekend at a family wedding I have talked about it a lot. It is therapeutic for me to discuss his situation.  It made me realize….the people that love our family won’t ever tire of talking about him because they are just as thankful about the little improvements that we are each day.  And maybe someday someone will hear his story and it will help them or their family. 

On a side note, we have all gluten free cleaners, lotions and bathing products in our home.  While I ordered tons of stuff online, I discovered a line of child and adult skin care with no gluten at Target.  It is called Shea Moisture and they label all of their GF products clearly on the front.  I have debated about making my own with essential oils, but am waiting it out until I find someone with more “oil intelligence” than myself to volunteer to make it so I can buy it. I am sure that person already exists….I have just been too lazy to find them. 

I am off to spend the morning relaxing in the mountains, awaiting a wedding and my new sister-in-law.  Cheers to the newest Tucker:)
  

Rushing Back

Rushing Back

It is amazing thinking back that Pierce’s diagnosis was just under 4 months ago. It seems like a lifetime since all the stress, angst and worry started around his “mysterious illness”.  I rarely feel the pain in my heart anymore….the nagging one I felt each day, all day, when no one could give me an answer.  This week it all came rushing back.

On April 15th, there was a photo shoot in our home. Pierce had seemed even worse that particular week….increasingly lethargic and vomiting almost every meal. Nathan was traveling to Charlotte and I was juggling a stressful work schedule. Thankfully my wonderful mother in law stepped in and took Pierce to the pediatrician. I tried not to let most people at work know what was going on (I am not one for sympathetic stares or the awkward questions) so I desperately needed to pretend all was fine. After his appointment, I got a text from my MIL saying the doctor was very concerned about Pierce’s weight loss and he was sending them to Vandy for blood work and other tests.  I rushed upstairs to my bedroom, pretending to take a call….and honestly I went to hide and cry. “What kind of mother isn’t there for those tests?” I asked myself. After 5 minutes of sulking, I sucked it up and went back to my pretend world and the photo shoot.  Luckily, that trip to Vandy led us to Dr. Moulton’s office, in the GI clinic at Vandy, the following day.  Sitting in that waiting room, praying that once behind the door we would get answers.  Pierce moving from my arms to Nathan’s arms and back, completely uncomfortable and exhausted from fighting. It felt like hours before we saw the doctor. And then, just like that…he provided an answer.  I remember his soft, sweet voice saying “your son is in celiac crisis and I would like to admit him to the hospital”. It was scary.  Scary and calming.

Thursday, Pierce had his first follow-up at the GI clinic since the hospital. He has moved from the 3rd percentile in weight to the 57th. He walks, talks, and actually prefers for me not to hold him. The kid I took to the doctor four months ago and the one who returned this week are so far apart…and I am so thankful. At the end of the appointment, the nurse practitioner said “he looks great.  You are doing a fantastic job, mom”.  Weird how one comment that probably seemed so small in her world, made my heart almost explode with joy.  We are on the right track:)

But don’t   worry….I didn’t leave the appointment too high on my fancy horse. She brought up gluten free make-up, shampoo and a whole slew of other things I had honestly not researched. So Thrive Market has that appointment to thank for my rash order of baby shampoos, vitamins and cleaners. And due to my google searches on GF make-up, my Facebook feed has never looked so pretty:). One day, I will know all the ends and outs of where gluten hides….right???  Until then, I will keep making random purchases, trying crazy recipes, and watching my buddy grow!

got to hang at mommy’s office before the doc
playing peek-a-boo on my knee
he wouldnt even touch this toy before
Vacationing Gluten Free style

Vacationing Gluten Free style

Just when I felt like I was getting the hang of this whole gluten free thing, we went on vacation.  7 days in a house with gluten plus two days spent traveling…..what could go wrong? 😀

I must say, I was most stressed out about the car ride.  We didn’t pack food and planned on stopping for breakfast and lunch.  Anyone with two young kids knows a 10 hour car ride that includes no stops could be torture. I downloaded the Find Me GF app on my phone  and started searching for GF breakfast restaurants near where we would stop. Weirdly enough, Cracker Barrel popped up.  I laughed hysterically thinking it must have been a misprint, but after further research I read their gluten free menu on their website. Now, you won’t find pancakes or biscuits, but there are several options and after talking to their trainer at the restaurant I felt more comfortable with their prep practices. Pierce ate yogurt and fruit.  He does love it and it was the least likely thing to get cross contamination!  For lunch we had Chic Fil A grilled nuggets and applesauce.  Side note, don’t ever try to treat your older son to French fries while feeding your youngest applesauce.  One will have a terrible breakdown in the restaurant ( and its probably not the kid you are thinking😀).

I won’t even begin to tell you how many traffic jams we sat in going to the beach.  After 4 million hours in the car, we arrived and my mother had already gone to the grocery.  As you know, my mom is a gluten free shopping ninja.  She had tons of options for us and had even purchased Pierce’s own containers of jelly, butter and peanut butter.  We enjoyed some fried shrimp on the trip, but used GF breading for Pierce’s and fried it in separate oil. He had his own GF bread and I purchased new plastic plates and cups for him (remember I am crazy and this is not necessary). We took a ton of precautions. But he still got an upset stomach one night. 

My mom is probably reading this and freaking out!  It is not anyone’s fault that he got sick and ultimately I blame myself for not being overly annoying about things. So apologies for anyone that watches Pierce from now on….I will probably be overly annoying.  Want to know how he got sick?  The chip bag.  We had only gluten free chips in the house and although each of us would pour some on our plates at lunch, many times we would go back in the bag for more.  Harmless right?  Not if you are eating a sandwich made with gluten. I have told this story several times and people say “oh gosh he is that sensitive?”.  Who knows. He is so young he can’t tell us when his stomach begins to hurt. He can only kick and scream and act super tired when it gets bad. It could have built up for a few days and then we noticed the reaction. I am mad at myself for not thinking about it.  And it was such an easy fix….individual snack bags of chips!  Once we did that, all was right with the world. 

That one little hiccup didn’t ruin our fun.  The boys had an amazing time. Pierce is obsessed with the ocean and the pool. 

He has no fear. At all.  

It is scary at times and he must get that gene from his father…..this girl is full of fear! My favorite memory was watching them play together.  They are getting to the place where they laugh together, run together and act sneaky together. It warms my heart!