Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Learning to Play September 16, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:39 pm

I have a handful of favorite scents: Easter lilies, gasoline, Chanel Mademoiselle perfume, a new can of tennis balls, sautéed garlic, and Play-Doh. There’s something magical about the colorful molding clay’s scent, and what better day to talk all things Play-Doh then today, National Play-Doh Day?! I not only love the smell of Play-Doh, I love playing with it, and I love the fact that something so simple is so good. So, let’s celebrate!

 

 

As with many a unique and successful invention, Play-Doh’s origin has gone through a metamorphosis and had nothing to do with fun and games. At the request of Kroger Grocery, Cincinnati-based soap manufacturer Kutol Products and employee Noah McVicker created a non-toxic and non-staining reusable modeling compound to remove soot and coal residue from wall coverings. But with the transition from coal-based heating to natural gas as well as the introduction of washable wallpaper, demand dwindled. Play-Doh, as it later became known, needed a new identity and all you teachers out there will be thrilled to know that it came thanks to none other than a teacher.

 

McVicker’s nephew Joe was the brother-in-law of preschool teacher Kay Zufall who persuaded them to manufacture their putty as a child’s toy because she had seen that kids found traditional modeling clay too hard to manipulate.  Joe was on board with the idea and shipped some of the product to a local school in the mid-1950s. Teachers and kids both raved so he offered to supply all Cincinnati schools with it and it officially became “Play-Doh.”

 

 

Working with no advertising budget but realizing the he had a winner, Joe took it to a manufacturers of school supplies convention in 1955 in hopes of getting it more exposure. His plan worked, as Play-Doh was picked up by Washington, D.C. department store Woodward & Lothrop and none other than Captain Kangaroo raved about it on his popular national TV show after being approached by Joe. In 1956 the McVickers formed the Rainbow Crafts Company to make Play-Doh and that same year Macy’s in New York and Marshall Fields of Chicago both opened retail accounts.  A mere two years later, Play-Doh sales reached nearly $3 million.

 

It wasn’t long before America’s favorite pliable putty was exported, beginning in 1964 to Britain, France, and Italy. The McVickers knew they’d hit gold and in 1965 Rainbow Crafts was issued a patent for Play-Doh and was purchased by General Mills for $3 million. Hasbro became Play-Doh’s owner in 1991 and manufactures it today through its preschool division. All of this makes this preschool teacher very happy.

 

 

As a preschool teacher, I’m forever grateful for Play-Doh. On any given day in my class, if I pull out Play-Doh and all the fun tools that go with it, kids will immediately drop what they’re doing and go at it. They love making pizzas, animals, letters, tacos, and shapes out of it and it’s so good for fine motor and other skills. Using their hands and fingers as they roll, smash, cut, and slice the dough, they don’t even realize they are getting their little fingers and hands strong and ready for future skills like writing and they’re improving their focus and creativity. It’s truly a classroom and kid-friendly win-win!

 

Classes and home everywhere agree, and since 1956 more than 3 billion cans of Play-Doh have been sold, which is enough to reach the moon and back three times. If you made a giant ball out of all the Play-Doh ever sold, it would weigh more than 700 million pounds and today it’s sold in nearly 100 countries and in more than 6,000 stores in the U.S. alone.

 

 

Originally only manufactured in off-white, Play-Doh now comes in more than 50 colors. A year after being introduced as a toy, it was offered in primary colors and its palette was extended to eight colors in the 1980s. Polls about which color is the most popular have revealed that Rose Red, Purple Paradise, Garden Green, and Blue Lagoon are the peoples’ favorites. With festive colors like glitter and glow-in-the-dark introduced in later years as well as gold and silver in 1996 in celebration of Play-Doh’s 40th anniversary, interest and innovation continue. Boy would I love to get my hands on some of that glitter goo or the gold and silver versions. And how much fun my students would have with the glow-in-the-dark one!

 

 

But back to that delectable Play-Doh smell. Who doesn’t love it? So many people, in fact, that for the compound’s 50th anniversary Hasbro created a Play-Doh fragrance and in 2017 trademarked the scent. The distinctive smell of Play-Doh is described by the company as “a unique sent formed through the combination of a sweet, slightly musky, vanilla-like fragrance with slight overtones of cherry” and was made for anyone looking for that scent so iconic and reminiscent of childhood.

 

Not only does it smell good, but for many years if you created a fingerprint in it, it would actually fool fingerprint scanners. With new and improved technology this is no longer the case, but how amazing is that?! What you can do with Play-Doh today however, is create animated characters with its “Touch Shape to Life Studio” app, which allows kids to turn their clay creations into high-tech animated characters.

 

One little mystery about Play-Doh is what it’s made of. Hasbro says the compound is primarily a mixture of water, salt, and flour but word has leaked that it might also contain a starch-based binder, surfactant, preservatives, hardener, and even a petroleum additive that gives Play-Doh its unique smooth feel. And gluten allergy sufferers take note:  Play-Doh does contain some wheat and may cause allergic reactions to those allergic to wheat gluten.

 

 

It should come as no surprise given all of this that Play-Doh is in the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York.  It was inducted in 1998 and in 2003 the Toy Industry Association included it on its “Century of Toys” list made up of the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the 20th century.

 

I for one will forever include it on my favorites list and for that, I thank a teacher. It just goes to show that in the end, clever ingenuity when faced with adversity often wins and that learning is fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Very Brady Blog September 9, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:24 pm

 

Here’s the story, of a lovely lady…

 

Got you singing, didn’t I? Those are the opening words to one of the most famous theme songs in history and is, of course, that of “The Brady Bunch,” the iconic 1970’s TV show that this year is celebrating its 50th Anniversary with a big HGTV special and reunions galore. This “Brady Bunch” fan could not be happier! Are you with me?

 

 

Here’s the Story

Created by Sherwood Schwartz (I even knew his name and when I close my eyes I can see it in the show open), “The Brady Bunch” premiered 50 years ago this month on September 26, 1969 (the same year we landed on the moon and Woodstock was held) and ran until March 8, 1974. It was inspired by a news story about a blended family and Schwartz interviewed more than 260 boys and girls to find his perfect bunch. As for Carol (the lovable Florence Henderson) and Mike, Gene Hackman was actually considered for the role of Mike Brady, but at the time he was an unknown actor so Robert Reed was chosen instead. “The Brady Bunch” was hands-down one of my favorite shows to watch, along with “The Partridge Family,” and I still love it to this day. I wanted so bad to be Marcia Brady and thought she was so cool and so pretty. If I ever meet Maureen McCormick who portrayed her, I think I might even get a little nervous and shout out “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”

 

Truth be told, the acting wasn’t great and the scripts weren’t very believable, so why was “The Brady Bunch” a success and why is it still one in syndication?

 

 

Originally titled “Mine and Yours” by Schwartz, similarities were made between it and two hit movies from the time, “Yours, Mine, and Ours” starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball and “With Six You Get Eggroll” starring Brain Keith (Uncle Bill from another favorite of mine, “Family Affair”) and Doris Day (a forever favorite of mine.) It’s important to note that “Brady Bunch” scripts predated those of both movies.

 

As corny as it was, you can’t deny the Bradys were groundbreaking. The family was a blended one, consisting of the kids (Greg, Peter, Bobby, Marcia, Jan, and Cindy for those of you living under a rock for the past 50 years) of a widowed dad Mike and the mom he marries, Carol Martin. Funny thing is, it was never revealed whether Carol was a widow or a divorcee. ABC objected to Schwartz’s desire that Carol be a divorcee, so instead her marital status was never revealed. How times have changed.

 

Add to this the fact that back then Los Angeles and California were both cool and enviable places to live. What young American did not long to pack their bags and move the LA in search of their dreams? Again, how times have changed.

 

Carol and Mike must have done something right, as the six Brady kids in real life have remained fairly clean compared to many other child stars. You really haven’t heard about Marcia being in rehab, Bobby going to jail, or any of them making headlines. Instead, the six actors have kept working both on screen and off and for the most part, remain fairly normal people. This alone is worth celebrating.

 

Not everything Brady was perfect though. Case in point: Carol’s heinous hairdo!  I remember thinking it was soooo bad even back then. And how, pray tell, did three girls and three boys share one bathroom? No way, no how. And, did you know a toilet was never shown?

 

One question I always had was why in the world did Carol Brady need a live-in housekeeper when she didn’t work full-time outside the home? Come to find out that dear, beloved Alice (Ann B. Davis, a name forever engrained in my brain) had actually been Mike’s housekeeper so how sweet of him to include her in his new family. The boy’s dog Tiger also made the cut.

 

 

Ironically, the series was never a big critics or ratings winner, but in syndication it’s a huge hit with an episode said to be broadcast somewhere in the U.S. and abroad every day of the year. Schwartz believes part of its original appeal is because it was written from the kids’ point-of-view, not that of the parents. Situations like boy trouble, sibling rivalry, and meeting famous rock stars appealed to the young audience as did the fact that despite short-lived conflicts, the Bradys were a harmonious family that demonstrated respect, honesty, and acceptance. Every character was lovable in some way or another. For Cindy (Susan Olsen), it was that lisp. It was real and Olsen worked with a speech therapist until age 19 and ultimately had it corrected with surgery.

 

Season one focused on issues any blended family might face: accommodations in newly shared home, resentments toward siblings, and boy/girl rivalries and differences. After that initial season, scripts concentrated more on typical preteen and teenaged issues like puppy love, self-image, and responsibility. Remember when Greg was “grown up” and moved upstairs to his own private room and how furious Marcia was about it?!  Never was anything political brought up however, which is especially laudable given the fact that the Vietnam War was being waged during the series’ run. How wonderful if today’s sitcoms and TV shows would do the same, no?

 

Nonetheless, sensitive subjects were addressed. In one episode Carol reminds Bobby that the only steps in their house were the ones leading to the second floor. In other words, there were no stepchildren in the Brady household, only children.

 

 

The House That TV Built

Now, all these years later, “The Brady Bunch” is taking over TV again. HGTV’s four-episode miniseries, “A Very Brady Renovation,” premieres tonight and is the most anticipated of the many commemorations planned. The series will follow all six Brady kids as they help makeover the LA home that was used for exterior shots of their TV home and turn the inside into what we all remember the Brady house to be.  In it, each cast member is assigned a room to remodel, all the while being helped by HGTV stars Drew and Jonathan Scott of “Property Brothers” as well as stars from “Restored by the Fords,” “Hidden Potential,” “Flea Market Flip,” and “Good Bones.”  I can’t wait and already have the DVR set!

 

 

HGTV bought the home last year for nearly $2 million, outbidding many others. The actual house was never used in the making of the original series, with all filming done at Paramount Studios. But, what living and breathing Brady fan does not remember the classic suburban house and its distinct two story exterior?  In one episode Mrs. Brady gave the address of 4222 Clinton Way, but it’s recently been revealed the house is actually on Dilling Street in North Hollywood and tourists drive by it and take selfies 24-7. The fact that this mid-century modern abode is a nostalgic keeper says a lot, as most split-level houses of its kind are today’s tear downs, not fixer-uppers.  Actor Christopher Knight, who played Peter, told “Parade” magazine that he was always shocked at how connected the audience is to the house because they really had no recollection of it because they never worked there.

 

One thing I didn’t know is that the house was supposedly designed by Mike, an architect. It is said that the house, built in 1959, was selected by Schwartz because he felt it looked like something an architect would live in. Personally, I was always confused that the upstairs in exterior shots looked to be on the left side of the house but the interior stairs seemed to lead to the right. Now I know why.

 

 

I loved the Brady’s house. The kitchen was big and had double ovens! It was two-story. Mom and dad always casually sat and visited in the living room and the entry had double doors! The sleeper–style sofas in the den? We still have similar ones at my mom’s.  We call them the Brady Bunch couches. In that same made-for-television den was a painting on the wall of a young what looks like a Native American girl. Our friends growing up had the same exact print! I’m telling you, the Bradys were very special. TV magic. Brady magic.

 

 

Much has been revealed about the cast, including the fact that Barry Williams (Greg) and McCormick had their first kiss while filming in Hawaii and that Olsen and Mike Lookinland (Bobby) used to make out in Tiger’s doghouse. The fact that Reed was gay was kept secret by the entire cast until his passing and Olsen and Lookinland have since shared that Reed was more of a father figure to them than their biological dads. Today Williams and Christopher Knight (Peter) remain friends and were at each other’s weddings but sadly, McCormick and Eve Plumb (Jan) didn’t get along during filming and still don’t.

 

McCormick however developed strong bonds with both Davis and Henderson and they remained close up until the two elders passed.

 

Perhaps all of this is why it’s so wonderful and why I love that all six actors reunited for the making of anniversary-related events including Brady-focused episodes of “Chopped, “Pioneer Woman” and other Discovery and Food Network shows. I have to believe that Henderson, Reed, and Davis would also be involved if they were still with us today. Reed passed away in 1992 and Henderson, who was born on Valentine’s Day, succumbed to a life-long battle with heart disease in 2016 at the age of 82. Following her years of playing the Brady’s devoted housekeeper, Davis lived a quiet religious life until her death in 2014.

 

We all had our favorite Brady, but perhaps it was beloved Alice who ranked highest. Alice was indeed a bit odd, but she was spot on when it came to solving family conflicts, being the voice of reason, and cleaning up messes. She was the mainstay of the family and the kids always knew they could count on her as a trusted confident and sounding board. We all need an Alice in our lives, right?

 

 

A Tune for the Ages

I started this blog with the first line from the show’s open; an open that will forever live in infamy and is truly a cultural phenomenon. The at the time “high tech” style has been credited with “The Brady Bunch effect” and it was selected by “TV Guide” readers as the eighth best show opener ever. My guess is that as you’re reading this, you’re singing the song and visualizing the faces in the tic-tac-do grid design.

 

Written by Schwartz and Frank De Vol, it was originally arranged and performed by a group called “Peppermint Trolley Company” but in season two, the Brady kids took over the singing of it. I remember when that happened and thought it was so cool!

 

I also loved some of their other songs, especially when they sang “Sunshine Day” and “Keep on Dancing” (in those matching blue and white pants and sweaters outfits!) from the episode where they were on “Amateur Hour.” The Brady kids also recorded several albums but none became hits. Oh well, for that we had “The Partridge Family,” right?

 

 

The new anniversary events are just part of the popular Brady bank vault.  Sequels and spin-offs have also hit the airwaves, as have an animated series, a variety show, TV movies, and a stage play. Apparently we never get bored with all things Brady.

 

So that’s the story of a man named Brady and his blended bunch that influenced a generation of fans and continues to do so. I have a hunch we haven’t seen the last of the beloved Bradys. Carol and Mike would be proud.

 

 

A Day to Work on Your Attitude and Go Fishing! September 2, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:53 pm

 

As we celebrate Labor Day today, let’s remember the reason for it: all those who work and labor. Quick history before I move onto today’s blog:

 

Labor Day pays tribute to American workers and their achievements, sacrifices, and contributions. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a national holiday in 1894. To all you laborers who have today off, enjoy your day and to those who don’t, thank you!

 

The challenge for many employers and workers will start back up tomorrow as we head back to the office, the store, the plant, the school, and other places of employment. It’s every boss’s dream to have a successful business filled with people who are happy to be there and ironically the needs of an organization and the needs of its workers are often the same: creativity, passion, flexibility, and devotion. But how do we get there? One proven way? Fish! Yep, fish. As in Seattle’s fish mongers.

 

The fish mongers at Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market are famous. Tourists line up to see them in action and locals buy many a cod and salmon from them. It may all look like fun and games from the outside, but their jobs are anything but glamorous. They must hate their jobs and have horrible attitudes, right? Wrong. In fact, their work ethic is among some of the best and if you don’t believe me, I’ve got a book for you. It’s called “Fish!”

 

 

Billed as “a proven way to boost morale and improve results,” I first heard about “Fish!” during a staff development training some years back. I was fascinated by the concept it details and always meant to buy the book but never got around to it. Then this summer I took an impromptu trip to Seattle and bought it as my official souvenir. I finished it in one reading.

 

Since its first printing in 2000, the book has sold more than 5 million copies in 35 languages. It is one of the best-selling books of all time and is used today by executives and trainers across the globe as a way to improve morale, increase production, build trust, and develop teamwork in businesses big and small. So what ‘s the secret?  The “Fish Philosophy,” which has four simple but effective practices: Choose Your Attitude, Play, Make Their Day, and Be There, all of which can be applied at work and in every phase of your life. When applied daily, they help anyone be more energized, effective, and fulfilled. You will also experience a positive change in your relationships and in yourself. In the end, it’s all about shifting things toward the positive and who doesn’t want that?!

 

But, they aren’t a “to do” list of rules to check off, but rather a way of thinking. The Fish Philosophy is a way, not a day.

 

 

In short, the book tells the story of Mary Jane, a big time boss lady whose staff just isn’t happy. She happens upon the Fish Market and is stunned at the sounds of laughter and remarkable energy emitting from an otherwise non-desirable workplace. She befriends fish monger Lonny, trains her staff in his four-step philosophy, and the rest is staff improvement and training history. At first hesitant and skeptical, Mary Jane’s staff reluctantly took part (they had no choice!) but ended up embracing the model and became an amazing, award-winning group. How’d they do it? First, by changing the way they looked at things.

 

 

 

CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDE

This is the core of the four Fish Philosophy ingredients. Without it, the others won’t happen.  In a nutshell, it comfirms that even though you may not have a choice where you work or the job you have, you have a choice about the way you do your work. Like a fish monger, you can love what you do even if you may not be doing exactly what you love. By accepting the fact that you always have a choice about the attitude you bring to the job, you realize you choose the kind of day you have. So, as long as you are going to work, you might as well make it the best day you can, right?

 

It sounds simple to understand, but may be a bit difficult to do. For starters, stop with the victim mentality. The “woe is me” attitude is killing this country right now. Pull up your boot straps and grow up. Don’t take things so personal and don’t blame others for your problems. Instead, make the best of it and accentuate the positives, what few there may be.

 

Yes, we may not have multiple choices where we work or the job we have, but we have everything to do with how we approach that work. If you want to change your culture, change your conversations. If you gripe and complain, make sure your words lead to solutions or accomplishments. Your attitude my friends, has a lot to do with how you are treated and what happens to you. Bring your best qualities to work every day regardless of what is happening around you. Your choice. Choose your attitude!

 

 

PLAY

This second ingredient of the Fish Philosophy may sound frivolous, but it’s anything but. Think about it, happy people are healthier people and happy people treat others well. Creating and allowing opportunities for staff members to play together results in an energy-filled workplace, promotes problem solving, stimulates creativity, decreases turnover, and improves teamwork.

 

Everyone wants to play on a winning team, right? So what are the traits of winners? They take pride in what they do, they work hard, and they have fun. In this type of workplace, time passes quickly and work becomes a reward rather than just a way to rewards.

 

Yes, take the business seriously but look for ways to incorporate serious fun too.

 

 

MAKE THEIR DAY

This third ingredient is all about is all about making memories for others…good memories. Not only is this good for business, it gives individuals personal satisfaction in knowing they made someone’s day.

 

Start by asking “what can I do?” and then find creative ways to engage clients and always respectfully include them in your workings. Always be on the lookout for the next opportunity to provide positivity and whatever you do, be fully engaged in your work and be present. This leads us to…

 

 

BE THERE

We are a distracted society. Always on our phones and forever so busy. Not good. Not always productive.

 

Instead, how about being fully present and focused on what others need from you? Look people in the eye; focus on them not on your messages. Show them consideration and truly listen to them. Acknowledge their needs and their accomplishments. Aren’t all of these traits the very ones you in turn want from others? Be the first to demonstrate them.

 

 

These are all lessons that build better workplaces but they also build social competence, something so desperately needed in today’s schools, society, and world as a whole. So in the end, if you want to transform your work into your passion or simply crave energy, spirit, and fun, think of Fish! It might not be the end-all solution to all workplace or personal trials and troubles, but if it can work wonders on fish mongers, I’m pretty sure it can work for you and your staff and maybe, just maybe, result in personal and/or organizational transformation. In the end, sometimes in order to change the culture, you have to change yourself. You can choose to change or not. Change is risky, but so is the risk of not changing. Maybe it’s time to go fishing .