Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Great Man and The Chill Effect

Chapter Twenty Two

Some recurring themes

I doubt if it’s just coincidence that I find these recurring themes in advertising agencies. I guess some version of these situations might exist in other businesses, too.

The Great Man Syndrome

I’ve spent most of my working life, so far, in advertising agencies. I’ve encountered several recurring themes. One is the great man syndrome. I’m sure similar phenomenon exist in other kinds of companies and businesses but The great man syndrome is particularly pervasive in advertising. The basic premise is this: in every agency there is at least one person, whose word becomes a kind of gospel. The great man’s point-of-view is weighed heavily on every action. The great man can ruin you if you cross him. At least that’s what people think. He might be the creative chief. He might be agency chairman or president. The great man doesn’t get his power by virtue of title, though. In fact, it’s likely he had the power before his current title was bestowed on him.

Here’s an example of how it works:

Account Executive (on the phone with client): We all agree that the best way to reach your target is Television. And we also know that people are bombarded with advertising every day. Some estimates are as high as 2,000 ads a day. That’s why we wanted to use humor in our TV spot for your product.

Client: The TV spots you guys are working on better have strong product demonstration in them or I won’t be able to get buy-in from my sales and marketing team, not to mention my management. I don’t want to fund some funny ad so your creative guys can win awards. I need to sell product.

AE: Well sure, I guess that’s important but our CD (the great man) says that people only pay attention to things that interest them. Your product, frankly, is a parity product. There is no real difference between your brand and the competition.

Client: We have new packaging and a lemon fresh scent, though.

AE: That’s great but it still isn’t enough of a positioning. We’ll be sitting down internally this afternoon and working out a creative platform that positions your product against the competition. No creative work begins at our agency until you’ve signed off on this creative platform. (The AE is lying. The great man in on vacation in Florida.)

Client: Fine. Shoot it over to me via fax this afternoon and I’ll look at it.

AE: Errr, it might take some time because we like to prepare it in our creative strategy format. Now this AE has put herself in a pickle. She fibbed about the great man’s involvement. The great man exists for two reasons: 1) the agency wants to protect itself from the client and 2) the client wants high-level involvement on its account. The client in this case doesn’t care about the great man but the AE is petrified of him.

Now the great man comes back from a vacation in Florida and needs to make a command performance to get this AE out of a major jam. The great man has to be brilliant and philosophical and smart. If the great man is well briefed by the AE and the clients are “buying his act” the agency gets an opportunity to solve this creative challenge. If the great man is off his game, the client launches a review and begins shopping for a new agency. The great man is typically spread so thin that people inside the agency are covering for him all the time. The good ones learn to be expert handlers of the great man and his limited schedule.

The Chill Effect
The Chill Effect is a separate but sometimes related condition of the great man syndrome. Sometimes people are burned by the great man. Maybe the great man humiliated the AE and made her look stupid in an important meeting. All it takes is is making zero mistakes (total quality management), right? Wrong. If the best thing you can say at the end of the year is that “As your agency we flawlessly executed your advertising communications plan.” you could be in some serious trouble. Where is the razzle-dazzle? How are you going to keep competitive agencies from tempting your client with a sexy new approach?

As a predictable incumbent agency, you could actually be at a disadvantage if your client thinks they need a change. I don’t have to tell you that this is just the beginning of a thought process that might lead to a new round of musical chairs for the agency and its staffers. My advice to any agency is to take some risks. Challenge your client. My advice to clients is to challenge your agency. Expect innovation. Budget for some tests. Try new things. There’s always more than one right answer. And last year’s right answer might not be right this year.

The notion of the “great man” is something that continues to evolve for me. The Next Section of Plan. Design. Execute. provides some observations and commentary on just what it might actually take to be a great man in a corporate environment. In the section of this book entitled Celebrate Everything! The great man is redefined again – as one who faces life circumstances and (more often than not) wins!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sculpture Park Pow Wow

Docent Meeting
September 14, 2012

Docents at Laumeier meet periodically to caucus about news at the sculpture park. It’s a small voluntary army of just about twenty (20) plus ten (10) others on honorary status and a handful on leave. This group shares a love of art and contemporary sculpture in particular. Today, the meeting is inside the gallery just outside the museum shop because it’s a cool, damp day. The park gets 300,000 visitors a year but only a fraction take advantage of a docent lead tour. Those who do, get a dose of insight, facilitated discussion and a little extra perspective. This is the crew that makes it happen.

Clara Coleman kicks off the meeting and welcomes three new docent candidates. Holly, Suzanne and Pam (more women to add comic contrast to me, the only male in the room and one of just two male docents). It doesn’t matter to me but it means I will likely find myself on a bus with these ladies to visit Chrystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas in November.

It seems like only yesterday when Mary Hanson and I were attending weekly briefings, “meeting the sculptures” and anticipating our first official tours as docents. Now we are veterans of our first Summer season. She’s seated next to me during the meeting so I know she also finds it interesting that docents have tenures often ranging between 10 and 25+ years.  

Barb Flunker is passing the torch after two years as docent group representative. Maureen Jennings is stepping up and joining Tony Vonder Haar to continue in that responsibility. Maureen is orchestrating the Chrystal Bridges trip . Coffee & Conversation, a collaborative program about Minimalism with the Kemper Art Museum (at Washington University) and a visit with artist Juan William Chavez are all in sight for the next 30 days.

Collection updates, capital campaign, personnel (PR, education etc) and a few highlights on Ann Bauer’s trip to Africa for a spectacular wedding, a wave of sign-up sheets for continuing volunteer tour opportunities,  a call for Hunt + Gather vegetable garden care volunteers and we are adjourned.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Contender at Sky Creek

Chapter Forty

I could have been a Contender.

Photo Shoot, Southlake, Keller and Autumn Leaves and Sky Creek Ranch Golf Club July 24-26, 2008

It wasn’t him, Charley! It was you. You remember that night in the Garden, you came down to my dressing room and said: ‘Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson.’ You remember that? ‘This ain’t your night!’ My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors in the ball park - and whadda I get? A one-way ticket to Palookaville. …You was my brother, Charley. You shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me - just a little bit - so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money…You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let’s face it …It was you, Charley.

In the comfort of Rob and Joy’s living room in Southlake we caught the conclusion of the 1980 movie, Raging Bull, with Robert DeNiro in the lead role as prize fighter Jake LaMatta. Jake is in front of a mirror practicing the Marlon Brando scene from the 1954 movie On the Waterfront based on the Tennessee Williams play by the same name. Both movies have significant plot lines around the relationships between brothers. The Brando portrayal is a classic and so full of emotion. My business trip to the Dallas area for the purpose of supervising a photo shoot of welding and cutting products in Denton is a great excuse to extend through Saturday to make time for my own brother, his family, my dad and visit mom at the Autumn Leaves assisted living facility. This trip is just about 30 days since my last visit from St. Louis and about 2 years from the visit before that one.

The really great thing about Rob and Joy is how easily they accommodate and welcome me whether it has been 30 days or 2 years. It is also terrific to spend some time with Megan, home from college; Tara college-bound next year and Kevin, on summer break from high school, who, next year will be the only Carroll Southlake Dragon left at 403 Atherton Circle).

Morgan Studio Texas
Rob is at a career crossroad, but has a pretty nice set-up in an outplacement office facility in Grapevine, Texas where he can make calls and work on his computer. His new corporate office is highly functional and includes access to secretarial services and a handsome conference room. Rob is president of Morgan Studio Texas. It’s a lean operation so Joy needs to be both trusted advisor and the only subordinate he can boss around. (Rob knows, however, that telling Joy what to do too often is entirely too risky at this juncture.) J.O’C.M. watercolors hang in his highly utilitarian office space: a Longhorn steer on one wall and the head of a horse on another wall. On the window sill rest a small collection of books including John Lucht’s Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 Million+ - your insiders guide to executive job changing and faster career progress and The Kennedy Red Book of Executive Recruiters. Rob is ready to do battle in the quest for his next career adventure. He’s also resigned to the notion that he next opportunity will be in the Dallas area (at least for now).

Autumn Leaves
On Friday afternoon, I was able to meet Dad at his house and travel with him to visit Mom at Autumn Leaves. Dad just turned 90 last week. His freshly renewed driver’s license makes it possible for him to insist on driving. Unlike my brothers, Rob and Greg, and my wife, Lynn, I don’t feel the need to always be the driver in control. That said, however, in Dad’s car it is, at times, a little tense: 20MPH, drifting over the center line, ill timed turns and hesitations in traffic can make you want to be a tad more alert in the passenger seat.

Autumn Leaves in mid afternoon is jumping. There are 40 residents and many of them are enjoying the common area. Music is playing tunes by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Iced Tea (sweetened by Equal) is being served. We caught up with mom in a corridor. In spite of the fact she broke her hip just a month ago she’s up and around. She’s lively and there are glimmers of the Mary Morgan I remember, the kind of person who can make a perfect stranger feel like a close friend. She’s always been sociable. I’m convinced she recognizes me as someone she should know. However, instead of being sad or frustrated, she rolls with it.
“Ohhhh,” she sighs as she wraps me in a hug.
“You look very pretty today” I offer.
“Oh sure,” she responds with a touch of wit.
“And you are walking around. Last time I saw you, you were in a chair?
“Was I?” She has no memory of the last visit and I remind myself to confine remarks to what is in the here and now. Dad is nearby, but I am now her escort around the building. She moves with a sense of purpose and mission but she’s clearly not really going anywhere in particular. She agrees to stop and rest on a small sofa.
“I love you…You’re so handsome”
“No I’m not?”
“Oh, yes you are.” It’s a charming exchange. It’s also not too far from the script I would expect from my mom. She’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but she still has the uncanny ability be warm and loving.
“Let’s go.” mom doesn’t want to sit too long. We get up with a new sense of urgency and head down another hallway.
“That picture looks like it might be a DaVinci,” I said.
“It could be.” Her short response is both amusing and dismissive. I have no idea if she recognizes the artwork as a print of a detail from a DaVinci drawing.
“Let’s sit down for a while.” Again we sit.
“Ohhhh…You are so handsome… We haven’t seen him for a while.” She includes Dad in the conversation from time to time.
“Yeah. That’s Wes.” Says Dad. But I’m sure she isn’t processing the information. I am at peace with that. It’s nice that she seems in good spirits and happy to be center of attention.
“Let’s go.” Again we get up and walk. This time we are checking doors. Some are rooms of other residents, some are closets and some are exits. All are locked to her.
“Oh look Bonnie!” says Dad. (Bonnie is an aid that is originally from Kenya, Africa. She knows Mary Morgan and she gets high marks in Dad’s book as someone who genuinely cares for mom. She does her job well. On this visit, Bonnie presents Dad with a 90th birthday card. Dad’s disappointed that Bonnie won’t be able to join us for lunch at Rockfish, his new favorite restaurant.

Dad orders the Snow Crab. He’s paying. At $19.95, its most expensive thing offered as a special today. Rob has battered Alaskan fish-n-chips, I have the Mahi Tuna. Rob and I also have a Blue Moon Belgian draft beer. Rob invited Joy and Kevin and Megan and Tara. All politely declined the invitation. That’s okay, and fortunate too, since Rob was willing to assure anyone and everyone that non-seafood items were also offered at Rockfish. A fact that did not present itself on the menu.

Sky Creek Ranch Golf Club
With Dad’s permission, I checked into his spare bedroom on Friday night. Dad is going to be a part of the foursome Saturday morning at Sky Creek Ranch Golf Club. Rob and his boy Kevin will share a cart. Dad and I will share a cart. Dad’s house on Watercrest is right on the golf course. There’s plenty of time for Frosted Flakes with bananas, O.J. with extra pulp and coffee in the morning. Dad admits that he has forgotten which hole is right behind his house - the hole you can see from his breakfast table. I went on an early morning recon mission, a short walk through the gate in back and discovered it was hole number 7 – a par 5.
“It’s hole number seven. It’s a par five.”
“No it’s number 7. But it’s a par five hole.”
We are quite a foursome: Rob, Kevin, Dad and me. Kevin struggles but it is obvious he is an athlete. He’s 6’3” and a sturdy teenager. When he connects he’ll out-drive his dad. Rob has intense focus and concentration but an unorthodox address. He can’t help offering suggestions and coaching Kevin. “K-Mo, keep your head down. I’m no golfer but I noticed you came out of the shot a little early.” Dad is looking sharp in a golf shirt our sister Lynn bought him and a straw hat like something you would see Greg Norman wear. The hat keeps his face protected from the sun on a day in which it is expected to reach 100 degrees. I set up this tee-time for 8:06 a.m. and wrangled Rob into recruiting Dad and Kevin to play too. It’s a first rate golf course. I started trash talking Rob early in the visit. “You’re going down, Robo! Dad and Kevin are just witnesses to your crushing defeat!” We finished 18 holes. A foursome with 75 years between the oldest and youngest player!

As much as I pretended it was about fierce sibling rivalry between my brother and me, that’s not what it was about at all. It was about spending 5 hours with my Dad. It was about being with my baby brother. It was about being up close and personal and witnessing quality time between Rob and his son. The circle of life! We finished eighteen holes. Rob checked his phone. A text message from Joy, “Who won?” His none-response was as good as an answer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wit and Wisdom

Chapter Twenty Four
Miscellaneous Advertising Wit and Wisdom

I’m not sure you ever gain wisdom in advertising. That comes from living more than working I think. Still I’ve collected a few nuggets along the road. Here’s a list. I’ll just throw them out for your pondering pleasure.

Screw in a light bulb
How many copywriters does it take to change a light bulb?
Copywriter: I’m not changing anything.
How many art directors does it take to change a light bulb?
Art Director: Does it have to be a light bulb?
How many account executives does it take to change a light bulb?
Account Executive: I don’t know, but I’ll get back to you.
How many clients does it take to change a light bulb?
Client: I don’t know, let me call my agency.

The Genie’s Lamp
An art director, a copywriter and an account executive are walking down Madison Avenue in New York. They find a genie’s lamp. They rub it. A genie appears and says, “All right, I’ll grant you three wishes. But only three wishes between you” The three advertising people agree to each take one wish. The art director says, “Genie, I have no problem with a single wish. I know what I want. I want to be on in a villa overlooking the water in the South of France where I can pursue my lifelong dream to paint in the tradition of the French Impressionists of the late 19th century” Poof. The genie clicks his fingers, a puff of smoke and the Art Director’s wish is granted The account executive and writer look at each other in awe.

The writer quickly takes his turn with his wish, “Genie, I also have a lifelong dream. I would like to go to Europe and Write the Great American novel and live like Ernest Hemmingway as an expatriate in Paris.” Poof. The genie again clicks his fingers and again a puff of smoke and again the wish is granted leaving the account executive alone in front of the genie.

The account executive in disgust, puts her hands on her hips and says, “I want those two assholes back here right now.”Poof.

(Account Executives have the job of being the party-poopers because it’s their job to keep the work moving. The humorless among this breed have zero tolerance for the creative process. And many secretly envy what looks like a laid-back work ethic. If you think that way, try writing a 30 second commercial for a bank that’s informative, relevant, engaging and the client will buy. If it doesn’t your career is in the toilet.)

Degree of Difficulty
It occurs to me on a visit to a ski resort one time that advertising projects could be marked like ski slopes. A circle for a beginner, square for intermediate skill level and a black diamond for experts. That way the creative director can assign creative teams to projects that match the markings. It seemed very logical to me. A small space trade ad could go to a junior copy/art team and a bigger budget TV spot could be assigned to double-diamond experts. 

The practicality of this system broke down when a creative director pointed out to me that more people break their legs on the bunny slope than anywhere else.

Classic Client comments
“Make the logo bigger.”
“Why do you guys always design spreads.”
“Great, I like it but...”
“Are we gonna make our closing dates?”
“If your creatives want to do it so badly, let them pay for it.”
“This sure is an expensive ad.”
“Will this ad sell product?”
“I know we asked for a lot of changes but this ad looks like Hell.”
“What else do you have?”

Advertising Acid Test:
Does it communicate a product benefit?
Is it relevant?
Is it respectful?
Can we be proud we produced it?

More Nuggets:
If you want it good, fast and cheap. Pick two.
Quality = design + materials + workmanship + durability
Advertising is not brain surgery.
“How big can we get before we get bad?” (Jay Chiat said that, I think.)
Respect the value of time.
Time is money.
Be a member.
Get Famous. (Do great work. Stuff people will remember.)
Set goals. Set New Goals.
Under promise. Over-deliver.
Network (make it easy to help and be helped.
Follow up.
React to news.
Be connected.
It’s not easy being anybody. (But no-one is better at being you than you.)
Feel good. (Take care of yourself.)
Add value.
Manage down time.
Celebrate Success.
Be the best.
Your best work is ahead of you.
Make your breaks. (People will think you are lucky.)
Ask yourself, “What is the very next step?”
Make honest assessments of limitations and barriers.
Be positive.
Be a mentor.
Give something back.
“The only cats worth anything are the cats who take chances.” (Thelonius Monk)
Remember people when you have a hit movie.
Do the right thing. (Spike Lee)
Life is what happens while you’re making other plans. (J. Lennon)
Be in touch with pop culture.
Be creative.

The Toy Business

Chapter Four
The Toy Biz

Once again, nothing especially qualified me for this job except now I could claim to be a veteran of the agency business. (It only takes a couple of years to become a veteran in advertising. You can face almost every basic situation in that time and determine for yourself if your any good at it or not.) Now, I realized that the account hardly mattered in most cases. The skills required: be able to think, be objective, be strategic, be organized, keep projects moving along as painlessly as possible, and be smart enough to learn about the category, competition, and nuances of the client’s business. I was a natural. I was like Tom Hanks in the movie BIG. By this time my own kids were old enough (young enough) for me to have a built-in test lab in my own household. But the best thing about it was that I had a real affinity for new products and new product development. (I should say I liked it. That doesn’t mean I was any better than anyone else at picking winners over losers.)

The account was divided into core business and new products. This isn’t too unusual for a toy company. The Toy industry is constantly on a quest for the next big deal. Success stories like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Cabbage Patch Kids, Trivial Pursuit, Rubik’s Cube and a hand full of other blockbuster products are fairly rare when stacked against marginal and losing toy product introductions. Toy companies, are obsessed with finding the next gem. It was your “core” dependable sales that generally financed this quest. In the case of Matchbox, it was diecast miniature vehicles (cars and trucks) that paid the way for the new product research and development. The “core” business at Matchbox was a brisk and healthy business. The diecast miniature vehicles are a basic staple product and usually sold for about a buck each at retail. The problem was Mattel’s Hot Wheels had been stealing market share of the diecast miniature segment since the 70’s. Others, notably Lewis Galoob Toys were gaining with an even smaller scaled product called Micro Machines. Matchbox felt they needed to use the profits to fund other new products. Licensing “intellectual property” from TV, Movies, books, comic books and other sources had become a popular hedge against product failure. By using “borrowed interest” in characters and story lines, Toy companies could capture the imaginations of their audience faster. Licensing is one way toy-makers seek to reduce the risk of tooling-up and creating a line of toys. But this is still a guessing game. Matchbox was involved in a number of Licensing agreements and negotiating dozens more. In addition to licensing, the R&D people at Matchbox explored relationships with dozens of toy designers and inventors. They also had an in-house staff of specialists in manufacturing and buying overseas in places like Macao on main-land China. They treated me as an extension of their marketing department because they were short-handed. (They intended to stay that way until they could manufacture a few hit products.) It was a pressure filled situation for all involved. People in the toy business thrive on the stress just like people in advertising agencies thrive on the anxiety associated with coming up with the next breakthrough advertising campaign. I was loving it. And I was, in relative terms, successfully leading a high profile account.

Show Room Pitch (Media flowchart vs. The Buy)

I became a part of the annual ritual known as The International Toy Fair in New York. This extravaganza takes place in New York every February. It has since the early 1900’s and is something of a tradition for toy companies. The idea is to impress retail chain buyers with new products (often presented in prototype form) and dazzle ‘em with advertising and marketing plans. The agency was intimately involved in the assembly of props and visual aids including giant flow charts of media plans. (This media would only run if the buyers from Toys R Us, Walmart, K-Mart and other retailers show enough confidence in the line to place advance orders.) The tradition continues today but the number of toy companies is shrinking. The Toy industry is consolidating. (Matchbox has since been acquired by Tyco Toys which was later acquired by Mattel.) This was fast-paced, fun, and challenging. I was just 30 years old and I managed to get promoted to Account Supervisor on a great account. It was a great account because it was all about fun, all about creativity. The title of Account Supervisor was more recognition of my contribution to the business than any real improvement in ability, status or salary. I always considered this promotion to be a “battlefield” promotion. I had ridden a difficult, demanding, high profile account and lead it successfully. I was having lots of fun the whole time. I was promoted with some fanfare at the famous New York Steakhouse, Smith and Wollensky’s (affectionately known to some of us at the agency as Smith and Expense-sky’s.) I was proud to have earned the promotion. I was especially proud of how I earned it. It wasn’t a condition of employment. It wasn’t a token bone thrown to a loyal employee. It was recognition of 1.) Saving the business at least once and 2.) being the “go to” guy on a difficult account. 

All was going well now. I was on top of the world in the land of Toys. As I mentioned earlier, “The only constant is change.” Sawdon & Bess was owned by a big agency known as Ted Bates, a giant packaged goods agency known for some of the world’s most inanely memorable advertising. Ted Bates was sold to Saatchi & Saatchi, a growing colossus of a holding company for advertising agencies. Saatchi & Saatchi had just found the key to making the agency business profitable. Going public in a big way, they’d buy agencies from people who had ownership by virtue of sweat-equity and turn it into the kind of equity you can buy and sell in the form of Saatchi & Saatchi stock. Suddenly Sawdon & Bess was caught up in this paper chase and became a pawn in the agency shuffle to show attractive quarterly earnings. Some genius bean-counters at Saatchi & Saatchi decided that Sawdon & Bess could merge with other agencies they controlled. So Sawdon & Bess became a part of a larger entity known as AC&R/DHB & Bess. (It really rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? How would you like to be the telephone receptionist at this place?) I moved into the offices with the newly merged agency at East 32nd Street. The culture of three unique agency environments forced to live together and the unfortunate consequence of Matchbox becoming a less important account in the newly merged concern, led to my inevitable exit. A headhunter’s call with news of an opening at the front lines of the cola wars was too intriguing to pass up, especially since it seemed to me seemed like a fine agency and a cool assignment.

AC&R/DHB & Bess was going to mess it up without me, thanks. (My battlefield promotion was yesterday’s news. Just another chapter in the roller-coaster business of advertising.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Posting a Toast

My son Ben and Allison were married 10-27-2012 in Miami. This post is of the toast I hoped to offer them as they start their journey together. It includes a tribute to my wife and daughter and others as well. Naturally, I delivered a flawed version at the event. It was a beautiful ceremony.

I want to offer a big Thank You to the wedding officiate Skye Palmer... 

First, To ALL of those who are no longer with us today…

We know you are with us in spirit. To name just a few: (Lynn’s Dad) Dr. Sam Stevens, (my Mom) Mary Francis Lawton Morgan, my Uncle Andrew Morgan, my dear cousin Vince Morgan…To family and friends (near and far);

My Dad (60-minute Morgan) who is 94 years young

and here from in Tampa. (I love ya Dad.)

Cousins, collegues, college pals and teammates,

Digger and David, Randazzle and the other David,

Perry, Max, Erica…

Morgan families: Sundance, Lynn, Greg, Dan, Rob/Joy…

Thanks for being a part of our lives.

We love all of you …for who you are.

Toby – you are a remarkable.

You are the chairman of the board and our greatest patron.

We cannot thank you enough for all you have done

and all that you continue to do.

Lindsey –You are the first in our next Generation

The world is a better place with you in it.

You have always been a loving and giving person

(and an awesome sister).

You are such an important part of our family

You are a General on land, a parrot head, a runner,

a role model and an inspiration. ..

You’ve moved and adapted

and become an outstanding adult.

We are so proud of you.

If I can borrow a line from Voltaire’s Candide:

“Things happen exactly as they should,

 in this… the best of all possible worlds.”

Lynn – you are a rock.

You are the glue that holds us together.

You are the President and CEO of our family

“When Lynnie is happy, I’m happy…”

Bing, you are the best wife I ever had!

“Baby you are the greatest…”

And you are a great mom too.

(at every open house and parent teacher conference)

It has always been clear;

Those cookies you bake come with a veiled threat.

“We can do this the easy way  or we can do this the hard way…”

God Bless the teachers and coaches who went toe-to-toe with Mrs. Mo.

Bing, we were married on a rainy day in Miami 32 years ago.

(I know what you are thinking, if not saying out loud…”the longest 32 years of my life”…ha ha)

We’ve seen plenty of sunny days since. (A lot of them!)

We’ve been to New York, LA, Raleigh, Miami and the UK;

We’ve been to the U.S. Open and Wimbledon.

(Are you sure you don’t want to do to Machu Picchu w/ me?)

Ben –You are “The silent leader”… You quietly earn respect.

From Seagull, to Sunniland, to the big Apple (NYC);

You demonstrate a maturity beyond your years.

You are the guy they trusted to protect the goal  (the Enforcer)

The value you bring cannot be shown on a spreadsheet.

You have intangible assets…loads of them…

the kind you want in a teammate, a friend and a partner…

 Allison you are a champion.

You once told me Ben was amazing… At Ben’s Graduation, Remember?

(I remember thinking “well, duh!” roll the...Kanye West soundtrack…ha)

But now we can see that you are pretty amazing yourself. 

You entered our lives with such style and grace.

We are so grateful to Jean and Tom and your extended family for nurturing you and putting you on the path…

that lead you to us.

We love you.

Ben and Allison - Life is too short.
The painting in your New York City apartment says it all:

“Life does not have to be perfect, to be wonderful.”

This is a beginning and a celebration.

We trust your journey together will be most rewarding.

To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling:
Dream---and not make dreams your master;
Think---and not make thoughts your aim,
Meet with Triumph and Disaster;
Treat those two impostors just the same.

In the words from a Sinatra song:

Blue Skies - smiling at me;
Nothing but Blue Skies - do I see.
Blue Birds singing a song;
Nothing but Blue Birds all day long.
Never saw the sun shining so bright.
Never saw things looking so right.
Noticing the days hurrying by;
When you’re in love, my how they fly
Blue Days, all of them gone;
Nothing but Blue Skies from now on.

God Bless You!

We love you!

Blue Days, all of them gone;
Nothing but Blue Skies from now on.

Irish Blessing
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be ever at your back.
May the sun shine warmly upon your face.
May the rain fall gently on your fields.
May the good Lord bless and keep you
in the hollow of his hand.