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.

Attendance

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

By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

Kat on a Plane with Bill MurrayEveryone asks themselves – what’s up with all those Bill Murray stories? There is even a new documentary, The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons from a Mythical Man that tracks down all the witnesses.

Several years ago, I was flying from Kansas City to NYC. I was late, almost missed the flight and cranky. I was shoving my bag in the overhead when a man, who was in the aisle seat, asked me if he could buy me dinner (which of course was free on Midwest Airlines). After I crawled over him and flopped into the window seat, I turned to him and realized who he was. With shock I said, “OMFG. You’re Bill Murray!”

I knew that this was going to be a really fun flight.

Bill purchased almost the entire liquor cart for us and I laughed so much that my face started hurting halfway through the flight. Bill is such a flirt with everyone! But, he also got a bit serious and talked about his kids and his love for Frank Lloyd Wright. He had recently taken them to see Falling Water in Mill Run in Pennsylvania.

At one point he wanted me to listen to his favorite band, Roxy Music. His headphones were out of juice, but he ran down the aisle of the plane asking people if they had any AA batteries. I’m sure someone took them out of their device, so he could have them.

When we were walking through La Guardia, I asked him how he deals with all the people staring and taking photos of him. Fifty years into his career he said he likes surprising people and doing whatever he likes, because he can.

By now, many people have Bill stories. He has turned being famous into performance art.

StewardessThere is the story of a stewardess, Bill called her over and asked her for one of her shoes. He poured his peas in her shoe and proceeded to eat them. He said that he thought her shoe would give the airplane peas some better flavor. He also walked around, picking up everyone’s trash.

He has bartended, crashed weddings and bachelor parties, picked fries off of stranger’s plates and walked up to people from behind, covering their eyes saying, “guess who.” He’s been spotted riding a child’s bike through Walmart, doing people’s wash at parties and trying to persuade a barista at Starbucks to slip some whiskey into his eggnog latte.

Murray often offers a famous parting shot to the stranger(s) he’s surprised: “and no one will ever believe you!”

That guy you see in the movies? That’s him in real life. I hope you get to meet him someday!

Kathryn McDanielMost of you who know me, know how much I loved living in a no maintenance loft in the Crossroads for years. When I got married to John 2 years ago, I moved to Westwood Hills. Anyone who has driven through this beautiful little city knows that residents are obsessed with their landscaping. Everything is perfect – mowed, clipped, pruned and planted.

Now I’m obsessed with gardening.

Honestly, I had never planted anything and always scoffed when friends talked about spending all weekend in their yards. Now I’m texting John… “STAND BY!!! multiple plants, bushes and trees arriving in 30 minutes, need to be unloaded.”

I’m constantly driving around town with my SUV loaded with something new and fun. I too, have become obsessed with gardening.

Kat's Gardening Obsession Kat's Gardening Obsession

The other thing I am obsessed with are pests.

I always thought those bunnies were so cute. Now I want to kill them all. They eat everything and multiply like… rabbits – ha! I recently planted several drift roses and within a week they had eaten half of them. Now I’m the crazy lady with chicken wire in my front yard.

I’ve started buying flowers and plants that rabbits hate: sweet alyssum, lantana, marigolds and geraniums – not my favorite flowers, but they will survive the buffet line.

Caterpillars, mites, bagworms, Japanese beetles (the worst), moths, aphids, ants and snakes have arrived. I don’t like to use a pesticide because of my bee friends, so I’ve been using Neem oil and dishwashing liquid. I don’t know if it’s because of all the rain, but they’re feasting on everything – some plants look like the leaves are made of lace.

Kat's Gardening Obsession Kat's Gardening Obsession

We built a beautiful patio with a stone wall last summer – now it’s home to numerous chipmunks who have burrowed tunnels everywhere. So cute, and so destructive.

Last year, I had a huge vegetable garden with my daughter Amy because of the pandemic – I had a chicken wire fence completely around it, but the squirrels would climb in and take one bite out of a perfect tomato or pepper and leave the rest to rot. Not attempting that again this year because it’s so easy to go to the Farmer’s Market every weekend.

Even though I may sound like I’m complaining  – I am LOVING every minute of it!

Kat's Gardening Obsession

Michele StillwellBy Michele Stillwell, Director of Marketing and Accounting at MEDiAHEAD

Holy cow, can you believe this weather?!? Well, at least Spring is just around the corner. March 20th is the official first day of Spring in 2021. Let’s close our eyes and picture green grass, flowers popping up, birds singing, kids laughing and playing outside. How about sitting outside to eat again and being able to breathe in all that fresh air? Oh my gosh, I can’t wait.

Spring Checklist

GardeningI love Spring! It’s time to start planting now, get your hands dirty and buy those little starter planters. You know the ones. Get your seeds for your flowers or veggies, or you can just grow some herbs if you like. (They will take that pan seared chicken to a new level.) Start now and it will give you something to look forward to.

Spring cleaning… not something I look forward to, but nice to have completed. Discard those unnecessary items that have piled up over the winter. Clean out the closets, basement, attic or just a corner of the house. Donate to a local shelter all your unwanted items. They would love to have them!

Think about the extra hours of sunlight. Oh yeah! The longer days means there is more time to spend outside, on nature walks, bird watching, walking the dog(s), sitting on the deck, going to the park and spending time with your family.

(I really hope you are visualizing this with me. I’m trying to picture all of this in my mind as the temperature outside is a whopping 9 degrees.)

Spring Bird WatchingOk let’s keep going. Oh, how about the lilacs blooming and all the wonderful smells? Yes, driving down the road with the windows down… and what great smells you get of all the blooming trees and bushes.  The dogwoods, Redbud, Magnolia and sweet Mimosa.

Dining out again! Do you remember those days? Great weather means dining out! Yes, we get to be with our friends and family and sit outside and enjoy eating, barbecuing and just having fun.

So, I say we need to look ahead and focus on all the good that’s coming. Nice spring days, warmer weather (really soon) and getting to be outside and enjoying time with our family and friends once again.

SPRING!!! It really is just around the corner.

By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD

Kathryn McDanielFrazzled much? We’re all going to walk in really slow. Be good. Be quiet. Don’t touch anything.

Now that I’ve lived through an actual plague, I totally understand why Italian Renaissance paintings are full of naked, food-stuffed people laying on couches. The only difference is that we have Netflix and they didn’t.

I’ve just accepted that I’m not going to even try to accomplish much while it’s zero degrees out there, and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. I think people are finding it harder and harder to get things done and to stay motivated.

The internet wants you to believe that you aren’t doing enough with all that extra time you have now. I won’t write my response to that in case any children are reading this. In the midst of a global pandemic I’m just trying to be OK with just being.

Can we also accept that yoga and sweatpants are here to stay for work? I don’t think I could actually fit into a pair of my jeans from a year ago, and I think comfort and occasionally working at home will continue after the pandemic.

No bra? No problem.

No bra? No problem.I had a Zoom call with a client this morning and she warned me that she wasn’t going to be wearing a bra – what? I haven’t had an actual bra on for a year. Our standards for humor are steadily decreasing during the pandemic – I thought it was hilarious that a boss accidentally turned on a potato filter during a Zoom call and the lawyer that couldn’t turn off the cat filter. I literally laughed uncontrollably for 10 minutes.

Humor is healthy for you – that’s why we need it now. It’s an important coping mechanism and an important part of mental health. The laughter it inspires, is our built in mechanism for managing stress.

This year I won’t be baking sourdough or planting a huge garden like last year. But as soon as it’s warm enough I’ll hopefully be patio drinking with friends… lots of friends.

By Michele Stillwell, Director of Marketing and Accounting at MEDiAHEAD

Michele StillwellI absolutely love bird watching and feed the birds all year round. It’s really cool to see what kinds of birds come in the winter vs. the summer. My favorite bird is the hummingbird. Do you know that hummingbirds travel 4,000 miles and actually spend the winter in southern Mexico? Amazing birds… and they just fascinate me.

Birds spend most of the fall migrating, and several species travel from one state to another, North to South, even from the North Pole to the South Pole!

My husband and I spend lots of time putting out seed, peanuts and suet for all the birds in our area, especially this time of year when it’s so cold and food is scarce. On any given day in the winter, we have Cardinals, Blue Jays, Flicker, Red Belly, Downy, Hairy, Junko, Carolina Wren, Finches, Tufted Titmouse, Nuthatch, Sparrows, Chickadees and so many more.

In the summer, we feed the Baltimore Oriole, and of course the little Hummingbirds. We get such a variety of birds in the summer as well.

Bird WatchingWe also have a Kestrel that likes to sit in our neighbor’s tree, and hunt’s for some of our birds occasionally. This Kestrel will sometimes land right on top of our bird feeder and just sit there. They are so beautiful. It’s really weird because the other birds seem to know he’s around, and they all just disappear when he is near.

I love to take trips to go bird watching.

My family usually goes with me, we take the binoculars and our Missouri bird book. We’ve identified several birds that are just so cool. It really depends on where you go, and you really have to look pretty hard to find them. When you do find a rare bird, it’s fun to write them down and see how many you’ve identified. Another form of hide and seek.

Just last week, my husband and I went to Smithville lake on Saturday and watched about 20 to 30 Bald Eagles fly over the lake. It was amazing! Eagles are the most majestic bird ever. I had no idea there were so many at Smithville. Just incredible! I could have sat there all day long.

I had the most incredible conversation with my mother before she passed away.

The Wren my mother sent.I actually had several conversations with her, but the one that stays in my heart is that I asked her to send me a sign when I’m sad and thinking of her. She asked me what kind of sign I wanted. I said, “send me a little bird to make me smile and be happy.”

My mom had birds all the time at her house and she also had lots of bird houses. She had a little Carolina Wren build a nest inside one of her bird houses and they would have babies every year. I’ve never had a Wren show up at my house. I don’t have a bird house, I just have bird feeders.

Ever since my mom has passed, I’ve had a little Carolina Wren that shows up and sits on my deck. Occasionally she will eat out of my feeder, but she just seems to show up when I need her the most. Hi mom.

Birds are amazing and a wonderful gift from above.