By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

I don’t like pumpkin spice. There, I said it, go ahead and take me off your Christmas card list.

Never has a nation been so divided over an ingredient.

Just say NO to Pumpkin SpiceAfter Starbucks introduced the Pumpkin Spice Latte 20 years ago, it has become the undeniable start of the holiday season. It’s the coffee giant’s most popular seasonal beverage, with hundreds of millions of cups sold since its launch.

But pumpkin spice has jumped out of the coffee cup and has landed on almost every mass-marketed product this time of the year. Pumpkin spice now flavors everything from beer to pet treats, baby food, chewing gum, Pringles, M&M’s, and Oreos.

According to Nielsen research, 37 percent of US consumers purchased a pumpkin flavored product last year. Pumpkin pie filling still reigns as the king of pumpkin products with 131.26 million in sales last year.

Pumpkin spice also has equally passionate detractors – it ignites love and hate and that is what fuels this whole dynamic. Social conversations about Pumpkin Pie have increased by 88.59% over the past year!!

The Coffee That Tastes Like a Candle

Just say NO to Pumpkin SpiceJohn Oliver once called pumpkin spice lattes, “the coffee that tastes like a candle.” There is also a Facebook group called, “I Hate Pumpkin Spice” and t-shirts with slogans like, “Ain’t no pumpkin spice in my mug.”

But clearly, I am in the minority – only 8% of 20,000 posts mentioning pumpkin spice were negative.

I surveyed the employees at lunch today and only one was a pumpkin spice lover – I’m curious about the rest of you. What do you think about the flavor of pumpkin spice? Please let me know in the comments!

By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

Make your bed every morning!I can’t explain it, but if my bed and bedroom are a mess when I leave for work, the day goes to hell in a handbasket quickly.

My mother was very strict about chores, and the biggest one was making your bed every morning before you start your day. She even reminded me constantly as an adult, and especially when my life was going awry, to make my bed.

What is it about making your bed that allows you to be productive all day?

It may sound silly that such a small task would influence the rest of your day, but the survey found that completing this chore actually gives people an early sense of accomplishment that then helps them feel more productive throughout the rest of the day. More than eight in 10 bed-makers felt this way.

You don’t have to look far in most work environments to spot the most organized employees. You know, the ones who are rarely without their planning journal or regularly checking their smartphone or tablet for notifications on the next client video conference. Chances are, they’re part of the 72 percent of bed-makers that like to organize and plan.

Those who make their bed each morning also tend to have much healthier habits, like organizing, eating healthier, setting personal goals, and following their routines and schedules—and they usually get a better night’s sleep. If that doesn’t persuade you to start making your bed each morning, I don’t know what will!

By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

Kathryn McDanielI have been thinking about the following question after my friend, Jaime Simpson, asked me to be on her podcast Winners Win.

Is there a characteristic or value you hold personally that helps you succeed or be a “right fit” for your role?

I can’t believe that it has been 31 years since I bought a little printing company because the owner was going to prison for counterfeiting – and moved to KC not knowing a single person with an 11-month-old baby!

I’ve always had what people call grit.

Everyone told me that there were already too many printers in KC when I first started making sales calls. But you can face adversity more confidentially when you are determined to make it through, giving you the drive that you need to come out on the other side. I had the unflinching belief that the company was going to be successful, and I told them so.

I am also the type of person that gets up every morning in a good mood. It’s important to feel that everything is going to be okay, no matter what. After surviving cancer – what’s the worst that can happen? A kind, cheerful persona is also helpful to keep your clients and employees calm when situations arrive.

Putting in the work.

Grit is related to a mindset in that if one believes that failures are due to their fixed traits, there is no reason to try again. Conversely, individuals with growth mindsets are more likely to be resilient and have more confidence to plan and prepare to overcome adversity. I love this Bear Bryant quote…

“It’s not the will to win that matters; everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”
– Bear Bryant

When the Going Gets Tough.

GritThere have been times in my life that I truly believed there was no way out. The collapse of my ex-husband’s business, which caused terrible financial blowback on my company, the death of my beloved, my cancer and lastly, the pandemic – who would have predicted that! There is an old saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I truly believe that we need to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, even when things get tough.

I have been blessed to have had people in my life that were resilient and demonstrated extraordinary grit and mental toughness throughout my journey. I have always been impressed by the people who displayed certain characteristics that allowed them to push through adversity and even excel while doing so. All of these traits have played a huge role in my success and the way I approach everyday life.

What traits have played a role in your success? I hope this resonated with you!

By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

AutumnIf you’ve never heard of the word hygge, it’s the Danish concept often translated as a sort of coziness.

For me, autumn means coziness. The colder weather makes me want to snuggle up with a good book or watch a movie under a blanket on the couch. As soon as we get home from work its pajama time!

It can be hard to slow down this time of the year with everything happening.

Our culture equates our value with our output.

We only let ourselves rest to have the energy to work harder or after we’ve checked everything off our to-do-list and completely exhausted ourselves.

A few years ago, my family decided no presents – just family time together, cooking, games, and snuggling. The amount of stress that this relieved for all of us was magical.

“Resting is generative. It’s not frivolous and it’s not a luxury. It’s something that allows us to tap into our creativity and imagination and heal our bodies.”

CozyThere are so many other ways to embrace your right to rest this fall season, whether it’s in the kitchen, living room or your favorite cozy nook in the house.

Create more free time – cozy up to a good book and take a break from the internet. Reading with a fire or a candle when it is freezing outside is just pure heaven.

Find ease and comfort in the kitchen – cut down your cooking and cleanup time. This time of the year we prepare lots of meals with just one pan. This helps me reduce the time cooking and cleaning – leaving me more time for lounging.

Make your home an oasis of calm – don’t let the mess get in the way of rest.

Engage in comfort decorating – destress your space and make your home your sanctuary to come home to. Candles, throw blankets, plants and a warm fire can keep me in my pjs all weekend this time of the year!

By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

Doing something that you have never done before can be scary or intimidating. However, when you do something you’ve never done before, it can be healthy and expansive for you.

John and I recently got out of our comfort zone by attending Format Fest – a three-day music festival with large installations of art and hundreds of bands.

Format Festival Format Festival

Artist Nick Cave and his Soundsuits

I really wanted to go because one of my favorite artists, Nick Cave, was going to be there with people dancing in his sculptures called Soundsuits.

Cave’s best-known work is the Soundsuits series, costumes that completely cover the individual’s body. They camouflage the wearer’s shape, enveloping and creating a second skin that hides gender, race, and class, thus compelling the audience to watch without judgment. He created his first Soundsuit in 1992 as a response to the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles.

Nick Cave Nick Cave

The installations were so incredible, as were the Nick Cave dancers, but I learned that I am in no condition to stand up until 2:00 in the morning watching bands after being out in the hot sun all day.

By Day 2, I posted “This can’t be the same body that used to go to 3-day music festivals!” Of course that was in the late 1980’s.

Often, doing something new is the best way to engage in self-discovery, and I have discovered that I will not attend another rock fest unless I can bring a chair!

I did get some incredible pictures though.

Format Festival Format Festival

Mexico CityBy Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

Recently, I was able to take a trip to Mexico City. I wanted to share what a great experience we had!

“Death peels my teeth!” (Translated means death can’t do anything to me!)

The proverbs in Mexico City are as interesting as the people, museums and the arts.

We spent several days with private guides that had been born and raised in Mexico City. Many of these expressions related to something that had happened thousands of years ago. These sayings have been passed from generation to generation, along with their traditions. (Some of these even mix into our traditions here in the United States.)

Mexican people have an incredible amount of history in the heart of the city. They’re proud of their heritage that goes as far back as Mesoamerica – the indigenous people of Mexico. There were thriving empires in Mexico thousands of years before the Europeans arrived – the people were skilled in construction, astronomy, math and warfare.

Mexico City Mexico City Mexico City

Mexico City Reminded Me of Rome

There were many things about Mexico City that reminded me of Rome – layer upon layer of history, buried beneath the streets. Whenever the city was conquered, stones were removed from pyramids to build temples, and then those were deconstructed to build churches when the Spanish arrived. Fortunately, because everything there was built layer upon layer, they have been able to excavate entire cities beneath the foundations of Mexico City.

There are almost two hundred museums in Mexico City and the art was incredible. The folk art was some of my most favorite that I’ve seen in my travels.

I was shocked when I arrived, because the city is so cosmopolitan, unlike the coastal regions of Mexico. The food is incredible. Our first night out to dinner, I wore sneakers, a tube dress and a fanny pack. (This resulted in the next day requiring a shopping trip for some of the beautiful, flowing dresses that the sophisticated women wear.)

Mexico City Mexico City Mexico City

The Mexican people have had to be resilient with all the invasions over thousands of years – they also have a saying for this.

“We are all mule drivers in the fields. We are all human beings making our way through life. Don’t criticize or judge others. We are all subject to problems and failings.”

They know that traffic, population and politics will stay the same, but your attitude towards them will define the outcome of things. A good lesson for all of us!

If you get a chance to visit Mexico City, don’t hesitate. It’s a vibrant city full of colors, history and good food. And we felt safe everywhere we went. Go for it!

By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

The Sisters TripMy sisters and I recently took a trip to Bloomington, Indiana to bury my father. It was one of the first times in many years that we were able to spend a week together after raising kids, work and all of us living in different parts of the world.

A best friend is a gift in life, but sisters share an unmatched bond.

Even when the world seems like it’s working against you, your sister is always there for you to fall back on. We watched each other grow up, have been the primary witness to each awkward stage of life and my sisters have been there for the good times too. Four girls born within six years! Absolute chaos in our house growing up… I’m not sure how my father survived it.

We lost one sister, Susan, to cancer fifteen years ago, so we let John, my husband come along as the honorary sister.

We spread our father’s ashes in his favorite place – a farm a few miles southwest of Bloomington. The farm is surrounded by housing developments on two sides, but the 160 acres remain pristine with deer, wild turkeys, a sandhill crane couple, ducks, flying squirrels and coyotes that howl in the night.

We spent two days in the woods hiking and telling stories, like only sisters can.

The Sisters Trip The Sisters Trip

A few cocktails were consumed, and I honestly haven’t laughed like that for years.

We were beyond silly some nights telling stories and being goofy.

The Sisters Trip The Sisters Trip

My sister Amy was in the fashion industry, and she’ll tell you the truth when you commit a fashion sin – I always rely on her to choose the best outfits for me. She’ll immediately notice when you’ve done something different with your hair or lost a few pounds. Amy has always been my partner in crime, even when she knows better – best not to share any details on that! She has always been the one that I can confide my deepest, darkest secrets to.

The Sisters TripMy youngest sister Elizabeth, or as I like to still call her Betsy, doesn’t have to be briefed on our family’s strange idiosyncrasies – she is well aware of them. She can say just one word to make Amy and I laugh uncontrollably, and it’s the Wait-Stop-I-Can’t-Breathe kind of laugh. She loves me for being me, and she doesn’t try to make me into something I’m not – like a conservative lol. We’ve grown closer the last 10 years after she moved back to the states.

Sisters are the best – they’ve known you longer than anyone else, so they understand where you’re coming from. I hope we continue to take a sister’s trip every year. I really cherish my time with them!

February was a tough month for myself and my employees. Not only did we have to deal with the death of Tom, my father, but we also lost our beloved Izzy – who most of you have been following in our office and blog for years.

As much as you prepare for this moment, the experience left us reeling with the seven stages of grief: shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, depression, upward turn, reconstruction and acceptance. And grief does not follow a straight line – it bounces between all the stages.

Strategies for coping with grief are varied – my sisters and I dealt with his death with wine, cheese, chips and togetherness. Bill and Dory cuddled Izzy for weeks to let her know how much she was loved.

Bill and Dory’s Izzy

Izzy Izzy

It helps to know that you won’t feel like this forever. Take care of yourself and allow it to go.

You can handle this, even when you feel like you can’t. Don’t try to stifle or avoid your feelings, make space to experience painful emotions and ask for help if you need it. You’re not alone.

Be gentle with yourself. I found grief to be exhausting so I carved out time for lots of rest. Your feelings are normal – the process makes it more difficult if other people around you tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. Allow yourself to feel whatever the heck you want, that’s your normal.

Grief comes in cycles, not a straight line. You reach a point where you feel good, only to feel bad again. Grief has been described as a series of loops.

Bill told me this week that he still thinks about Izzy every day, even though they have a new addition to the family (more to come on that later). Ride the wave.

Kat’s Father Tom

Kat with Dad and Fam Kat's Notes from Dad Kat's Notes from Dad

I will miss my father, but I also celebrate his fascinating 93 years of life. He had four daughters who adored him, three wives that he outlasted, was a world traveler and visionary. He delighted in regaling family and friends with his many stories and THAT we will miss most of all.

Gentry Brothers CircusI’m sure some of my friends and clients will laugh when they read this blog and find that my roots come from the circus. Always the entertainer and storyteller! I grew up with my grandparents’ stories of elephants, camels, zebras, ponies, monkeys and dogs.

The circus was started by four Gentry brothers from Bloomington, Indiana in 1885 and was probably the greatest dog and pony show ever developed. My grandmother, Nana, was a Gentry.

My grandmother’s favorite story was a poodle that was placed in a burning building and rescued by a clanging wagon of monkeys!

My grandfather’s favorite story was when they were building the Fiji house at Indiana University, the limestone columns were too heavy, so they enlisted Nana’s elephants to drag them from the train tracks to the fraternity house. Can you imagine!?!?

Positive Reputation Leads to a Name Change

Gentry Brothers CircusThe circus had developed such a reputation by 1902 that the name was changed to Gentry Brothers Famous Shows. An elaborate route book was published that year that listed a total of 72 railroad cars, 22 elephants, 12 camels, 150 ponies, 90 dogs, 60 monkeys and a zebra.

By 1910, the Gentry Brothers circus was considered the largest traveling show in the United States. They had an 18-piece band and a steam calliope. They also added trapeze acts, a side show and a cookhouse.

The Gentry’s advertised “educated Persian sheep and performing razorback hogs.” The Monkey Fire Department was widely recalled and big pyramids of numerous ponies, military pony drills, dancing ponies, high diving ponies, rope jumping ponies and dancing ponies. The Schneider dog family, wire walking dogs, trained pigs and goats.


Gentry Brothers CircusMany problems confronted the circus, but the critical one was that the owners never know how many people were going to attend – sound familiar? They also encountered an epidemic (the flu of 1918 – sound familiar?) Weather and other natural circumstances also caused headaches – a tornado in Nebraska, a 12-inch snowstorm in June in Colorado.

One interesting local tidbit was that their wagons came from the Beggs Wagon Company, who made the “highest class circus wagons on the market.” Their building was near the Rieger Distillery right here in Kansas City.

The Gentry Brothers closed in October 24, 1929 – the next day was Black Friday on Wall Street and my father was born in June of 1929, too young to enjoy all the animals and circus fun.

The last of the circus brothers died in 1951, but what a wonderful ride they and my Nana had!

Gentry Brothers Circus

By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

I’m currently editing a book that my father wrote about a motorcycle trip he took to Europe in 1951, after WWII. He traveled up to Quebec from Indiana and caught a freighter to the white cliffs of Dover, England.

Kat's Father's MotorcycleAfter he arrived, he purchased a WWII motorcycle (with no shocks) and rode 7,000 miles, including time in the Russian sector and all the way up to Norway and down to Spain.

He slept in barns, haystacks, youth hostels and dingy hotels. Most of his diet consisted of wine, bread and sausages in his saddlebags.

He writes halfway through the book, “my clothes are in bad shape. The cords were in shreds by the time I got to Vienna. My jacket is thread bare and my gloves have holes in them. I needed refitting in Brighton and it is necessary to travel light, as I must carry a certain amount of food with me.”

Most of Europe was still re-building from WWII and he talks about what a strange sight it was.
“First a feeling of disbelief, then wonder, then you are ashamed, because you have done this. You have knocked great buildings into great piles of rubble, into lonely walls and twisted steel. And if a building does stand, there is absolutely not one that is not completely pockmarked – chunks of plaster, stone and brick have been splattered away.”

After 7,000 miles, as he was heading to Dover, the engine finally gave out with 35 miles to go. Fortunately for him, two Tommies came along on motorcycles and gave him a ride to the ferry.

Such an unusual trip for a twenty-two year old boy from Bloomington, Indiana.

My father traveled back to Europe every year after he graduated from law school and I started going with him when I was thirteen.

He is in hospice now and his absolute favorite thing to do is reminisce about his many trips.

I’m so glad at the end of his life that he got to do all the things he wanted to and can still travel to far off places in his memories.


Kat's Father and Friends During Travels