8 Signs we’re turning into Our Parents (and that’s OK)



We all have our habits.  As children and teenagers, our habits, of course, were normal.  The actions of our parents?  Not so much.  They spoke of television shows and songs we knew nothing of while reminiscing about five and dime stores and baseball cards in bicycle wheel spokes.

It was bizarre.

Now that we’re older, well, it all makes sense.  Somewhere in our 30s, these bizarre habits seem to kick in and now we too, are perfectly fine starting conversations with total strangers in the store.  If we’re so inclined, maybe we’ll show them our carpel tunnel surgery scares too.

Here are 8 habits that say, without a doubt, we’re turning into our parents.

1.  We Engage in Early Morning House Checks


This is also known as, “I have to go to the bathroom at 2:27 AM, so I might as well give the house a once-over while I’m at it.”

Of course, it’s not uncommon to end the experience with a celebratory sip of orange or prune juice.  Yippee!  No burglar, creepy twins or rabid raccoon sightings!

2.  We Peer out the Window to Eyeball that “Non-Neighborhood” Car


Sometimes, when a flash of navy makes its way up a street typically lined with white and silver cars, curiosity, no, make that panic, sets in.  “Um, why are they slowing down in front of my house?”  It’s not the Prize Patrol, I’m sure of it.  Now, fear.

In this case, the need to stop dead in our tracks takes over.  The oven timer, the crying baby, the History channel’s “Ancient Aliens”  . . . none of it matters anymore.  In a matter of 2.3 seconds, we engage in a series of mental checks:  Did the neighbor mention anything about having visitors?  Do I remember anyone getting a new car over the weekend?  Have I seen that particular car parked on the next street over?

With one finger on the 911 button and the other cleverly lifting one of the blinds up to see without being seen, we try to commit the license plate to memory.

3.  We Think the World is going to Hell in a Hand Basket


Just as our parents were bewildered at our love for out-of-control music, we’re now the ones shaking our heads in disbelief.  Some of the music, not to mention the clothes, or lack thereof, leave us speechless.  Madonna at least had cones.

We also think the world is going to hell in a hand basket because it’s void of the goodness that made our time great.  Things like Pac Man and Luke and Laura on General Hospital.  Gum with comics in the wrapper and Strawberry Shortcake dolls.

Perhaps it’s just our increased exposure to, and understanding of world events, but it sure seems like this planet isn’t what it was even 20 years ago.

4.  We Actually Use Expressions like “Hell in a Hand Basket.” 

Enough said.

5.  We Watch Shows from Back in the Day because they were Wholesome


My parents recently started talking about the joy they’ve found in “Antenna TV,” a station apparently filled with loving, humorous and memorable dialogue from shows gone by.  I can relate, recalling my grandmother who used to refer to the show, “Perfect Strangers,” as a “good, clean show.”

I often pause to watch Colombo, The Cosby Show and tune in to Blair’s conundrums on The Facts of Life.  The shoulder pads, the hairstyles, the moral dilemmas (“should I do my homework or go to that pizza party with my friends?” are a far cry from the situations many TV children face today).  Sigh.

6.  We think Scars, Powders and Co-Pays are Bonding Experiences

In our youth, bike spills and skiing mishaps challenged us.  We stood up just as quickly as we were tossed from our Huffy, and then talked about the adventure for days.  But nowadays, we try not to stand up too quickly and worry for days if excessive dizziness is a sign that the end is near.

It’s also not uncommon to enjoy discussing body oddities, even though there was a time we’d giggle it off.  Talking with a colleague about the frequency in which we expel gas, for example, is more acceptable especially now that some of us are of colonoscopy age.

We think nothing of rolling our pant leg up in the middle of a Stop & Shop parking lot to show our neighbor (who has eczema) the pus party that just broke out on our ankle.

We’re in this acid reflux thing together, buddy.  I’m here for ya.

7.  We Talk to Strangers in Supermarkets


Used to be, shopping meant putting items in a cart and paying.  End of story.  Eye contact with strangers was rare, let alone starting a conversation with them.  But lately, it’s chat-mania.  Boredom?  Not at all.

We point to a stranger’s cart upon noticing their blueberries and thank them for reminding us about our forgotten list item.  When we round the corner again, we make sure to gesture downwards, informing them that we did indeed purchase the fruit.  We truly believe they share in our excitement.  Maybe blueberries tonight, to accompany the house check, we think.

This always reminds me of the supermarket scene in Mother (Debbie Reynolds, Albert Brooks) where acquaintances meet and end up discussing everything from a cruise to organic peanut butter.

8.  We Know that it’s all OK

Some of these so-called silly habits may seem bizarre, but one thing we can learn from our parents is that in the end, it’s all OK.  Things may change in life (unfamiliar cars and new scars), and the things we once dismissed with an eye roll are the norm for us now . . . and that’s OK.

We’re simply more comfortable with our habits, expressing ourselves without our “what will others think of me?” cloak.  “Older folk” actions are now more understandable, more admirable, more . . . us.

So while midnight house checks and encounters in Trader Joes may not be the stuff edge-of-your-seat novels are made of, they’re all OK in my book.


©Copyright 2009-2013, Jen Lilley’s Thought Buffet, and Thought Buffet. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lilley and this blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What a Skirt Taught me About Social Media & Life


Ever have a case of Eye Trickery? You know, when you pass a roadside sign and see Men in Fleas or Mean Trees instead of Men in Trees?  Do not Cross becomes Donut Boss.  Happens to me all the time, typically when anxiety (or too much caffeine) gets the best of me.

My most recent case of ET, however, has caused me to really think about the way I’ve been living. As a writer for The Budget Fashionista, a fashion and beauty website for women on a budget, I did a double take when I read about a particular skirt style. It said it had “abbreviated living.” Huh? A living skirt?

In reality it was, “abbreviated lining” a style whereby the lining ends above the hemline. The rest just hangs looking empty, needing more.

Hmmm. Abbreviated lining living.


So I got to thinking: are we living abbreviated lives? Like the skirt, are our abbreviated lives leaving us with the feeling that something is missing? Are we cutting ourselves short of our full potential, sacrificing a bit here and a bit there . . . dare I say, skirting the issue?


Social Media: Are we Making our Character Count?

Even our social media mandates we live abbreviated lives. We think our character counts when, well, we make the right character count on Twitter.

Our interactions with family and friends are often social media dependent. If Grandma or Dad aren’t privy to the party or event, oh well. We’ll tell ‘em about it a week later. Our Instagram and Facebook friends see pictures of an event before Dad or Grandma even knows there was one in the first place. Sometimes, relationships fall by the wayside, ironically, thanks to certain sites that aim to bring them together. After all, why meet when you can “see” how I’ve been doing on the internet? Wouldn’t talking about it over lunch be a waste of precious time?


Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a Facebook addict. I’m on Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn and dabble with Instagram. And StumbleUpon. And Digg. Oh Boy. Clearly the importance of social media and the power it has to spread news, inspire, grow business and form friendships is a wonderful thing. But lately, I’ve been feeling like it’s been one too many status updates and not enough dinner dates for me.

Somehow I don’t think I’m alone.

In a way, we’re secretly more thrilled at a retweet, a Facebook like or text from a pal than a phone call with a loving relative we haven’t spoken to in ages.

Yet we continue: We send out new friend requests on Facebook, the modern-day equivalent to a third-grader showing up at the house down the street, knocking on the door to ask if Johnny can come out and play. Like the child, we sit and perhaps stew, wondering why Susie doesn’t like us anymore or why little Joe never accepted our friend request. We get over it 11 seconds later, moving on to share with our “real” friends pics of an apple pie we made. Bet you’re sorry you missed that, huh, Susie?

Will obits read, “born in #Wisconsin, John was a longtime member of the #VFW with 433 Facebook friends who once tweeted “#ILoveHamburgers because I don’t like cheeseburgers,” and who had a Facebook page consisting of 14,237 likes”?

I think not.

We’ll remember him (hopefully) for community involvement, his smile, his love of the Twilight Zone (and chocolate milk) and his passion for saving endangered species.

Too Busy to Breathe & Be

We want to be involved, even profess to be involved, but are we? Really? Does the quick “like” of something take the place of actual involvement in it? Is our retweet of someone’s call for action enough of an action?

Yet . . . we take pics, upload dozens of pics to various albums, crop the pics, put filters on the pics, manage the pics, caption the pics, tag people in the pics, edit the pics, delete a few pics . . . could it be that at times, we’re more consumed with posting our full lives, than losing ourselves in the moment?


Indeed, our gadgets and doo-dads fill us with the notion that we’re saving time and bonding with family and friends more. I kinda think it’s less. I don’t know about you, but the time it takes me to check out Facebook, mange my pages, see the latest Twitter trends, share stuff, text people about stuff I read on Facebook, check personal emails, pay bills online and scour news headlines (and . . . inhale), leaves me little time to get my oil changed, let alone make a phone call to a few good friends.

I came upon a quote recently that sums up a great deal of our abbreviated living:
“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” – Joseph Priestly

As I write this, it’s a pleasant windows-down kind of summer day. I’m all of 20 minutes from several beaches. My deadlines are met and just like that, I could be a few feet from seagulls and surf.

But someone just commented on something I posted, and well, it’ll still be nice out later.



©Copyright 2011-2013, Jennifer Lilley, FlabbyRoad.com and Flabby Road: Moving on & Leaving the Elastic Waistbands Behind. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lilley and Flabby Road with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Childhood Obesity Ad Gives People a Case of the “Creepies”

Causing an uproar: this photoshopped childhood obesity ad created by First 5, a California-based agency

Causing an uproar: this photoshopped childhood obesity ad created by First 5, a California-based agency

(Note: this post was published on my other blog, Flabby Road, on June 11, 2013 and I felt it was appropriate to post here as well.  Flabby Road stems from my 70 pound weight loss six years ago).

This is going to be a “here we go again,” story. It’s about humans finding things wrong with and exaggerating a situation until the original message is so mangled, no one knows what on Earth’s happening. We get mad at a shoe store employee who makes us fear antelopes and in turn, write nasty emails to frozen string bean companies. You’ll see what I mean.

Here’s some background: The weight gain, get-trim battle is nothing new. From Suzanne Somers touting her ThighMaster back in the day and now, gym memberships costing Americans billions of dollars annually, it’s obvious we can’t wait to shed the weight. Magazine covers are blanketed with topics such as, “How to Lose 25 Pounds by July 4,” we’re seeing an increase in nutritional information displayed on menus and folks are more aware of what our children are eating in school.


Indeed, childhood obesity is alarming: obesity among children and adolescents has tripled from only one generation ago. The health risks obese children face are serious issues, just as they are for adults. However, studies show that 1) obese children are more likely to become obese adults and 2) overweight children are more likely to battle self-esteem issues. At an age where kids can be ruthless about anything from a hairclip choice to pant style, we can imagine how hurtful unkind words over the very skin children live in can be.

The Controversy . . . or Not

So why then, are a lot of people in an uproar over a childhood obesity ad designed to educate people on the health consequences of children who consume too many sugary drinks? Awareness is a good thing, right?

Apparently, many are taking issue with the fact that California-based agency, First 5, photoshopped the ad. It shows an overweight girl sipping sugar directly from a sugar packet. An author found the original photo and showed a side-by-side comparison, letting the word know that what we’re seeing is an altered image.

Creepy Can be a Lot of Things. This Ad Isn’t One of Them.

We all have our definitions of creepy. This is one of mine.

We all have our definitions of creepy. This is one of mine.

A lot of people call the ad “creepy.” Maybe it’s a matter of semantics, but “creepy” to me is one of three things: 1) scary movies from my past, like Pet Cemetery 2) Pee-Wee Herman movie theater-like weirdness and 3) when a waitress under 30 calls me “honey” or “darling.’” In other words, scary things involving pets, pervs and overly-passionate professionals.

Perhaps people intend to say they find the ad shocking, not creepy. To which I say, “good.”

Sometimes we need to be rattled from our sensitivity cages. Yes, this world has become overly-litigious, overly politically correct, but when does it end? Having worked in advertising, I “get” that there are watchdog agencies monitoring us to ensure that what’s portrayed on the page (or TV commercial) is aligned with the realities of the product’s claims. But consumers getting in an uproar about an ad showing an overweight girl in an anti-obesity ad? That’s like being upset over an ad showing a mug for a coffee commercial.

Educating Versus Shaming?

Many folks are saying it harms the already-fragile ego of overweight children, “fat-shaming” them into eating better. The thought is that the photoshopped ad is too focused on appearance: children will be made to feel bad for looking “different” and parents will feel just as bad as they look over at their adorable pudgy eight-year-old playing in the sandbox. They then feel shamed into losing weight based on a looks issue, rather than a health issue.

Trust me, I know what it’s like to be judged on how I look. Being an obese high school junior, especially in a school that’s bigger on cliques than class, didn’t go over well with me. But I also know that ad agencies have mere seconds to get our attention. First 5’s visualization draws us in, getting the point across well. Plus, it’s handled tactfully. No one’s shaming anyone here.

The point of the First 5 childhood obesity ad is to educate. Had the ad showed a girl of an average weight surrounded by admiring friends next to a picture of the same girl, now photoshopped as an overweight child while much thinner fingers pointed at her on the playground, hands over their snickering pigtailed faces . . . well yes, then this would have been an offensive “shaming” ad. However this ad simply shows a before and after image to make a point based on stats: eating sugary drinks and having bad eating habits may lead to obesity. No more, no less. Yet here we go again. Surely, this will somehow come to be case against laundromats or maybe, scented candles. The shoe store/mailman/frozen string bean scenario.

No More Puppies Under the Christmas Tree

It’s common these days to read into just about anything in the world around us, be it a roadside sign, a facial expression or an ad. I suppose it’s par for the course today: we can’t seem to take much of anything for what it is. Surely an ad for a blanket showing a cozy scene of a puppy sitting under a Christmas tree would upset many: it should have been a dachshund, and the fact that it’s not is showing humans’ inability to recognize all breeds . . . it should also include a menorah or else allude to no religious affiliation at all . . . because of the animal choice, it’s “saying” that “holidays” and/or religion should “go to the dogs.” See how this spirals out of control?

Us humans often aren’t happy until we dig far enough in the good to find an imaginary bad. Then we’re satisfied.

Another bunch of people are angered because they say this ad does not provide a positive focus/solution. Am I missing something? The copy underneath reads, “Sugary drinks like juice, sports drinks and soda can cause obesity. Choose milk and water instead.” Seems like an educational statement to me. Seems to offer a healthy choice to me.

But Wait, There’s More (Read the Copy)

When I was an ad copywriter, the running joke was (still is) that “no one reads the copy.” We’re a visual society that reacts first at eye-catching images long before we read the words on the page, if we even get to that point at all. Many times, we’re almost so fixated on the image that we can’t move beyond. It’s too shocking, too pretty, too “creepy.” In turn, the image often becomes the ad, despite the fact that copy accompanies the visual. Seems like this is a clear case of “no one reads the copy” if ever there was one.

So, I say kudos to First 5. Their anti-obesity ad is attention-getting and educational, and done in a manner that is not offensive. The only shaming going on here is our inability to face the facts, photoshopped or not.

What are your thoughts about this ad?


©Copyright 2011-2013, Jennifer Lilley, FlabbyRoad.com and Flabby Road: Moving on & Leaving the Elastic Waistbands Behind. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lilley and Flabby Road with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In Today’s World, the Need for Niceness & Nonsense



Many people have told me that I’m too nice.  And they didn’t mean it, um, in a nice way.

A coworker once told me he was waiting for the day I’d take my arm and in one fell swoop, wipe my desk clear of pens, plants and creative briefs while shouting, “this is bullsh**!”

More recently, when I felt I engaged in adequate office gossip and ceased conversation about the defenseless individual (it could have gone on forever had I not), my boss laughed and said, “Jen, you’re just too nice.”

Since when was being nice—even too nice—a bad thing?

Why the World needs more Nice, Less Mean

Especially these days, the world needs more nice and less mean.  Many of us may not have been hurt physically by the Boston marathon bombings or lost someone in the 9-11 attacks, but still, every one of us has endured pain.  Our souls are saddened, our spirits increasingly shattered with each senseless act.  From the Timothy McVeigh’s and Ted Kaczynski’s, to the horror in Newton, CT and most recently the Boston marathon bombings (let’s not forget the tragedy that unfolds at our local levels – the animal abuser in our town, the rape of an elderly woman a few counties away, and so on) violence is running rampant.

Niceness, while it won’t take away the hurts or bring loved ones back, helps.  It reminds us that while we may be down, we’re not completely out, at least for long.  It encourages the healing process.  It makes things ok, if only for a moment.  From a smile to a random act of kindness and everything in between, niceness counts.  In niceness (politeness, respect, manners – call it what you will) comes hope.


We need more pleases and thank you’s.  Not half muttered, obligatory ones that are said because we know it’s the right thing to do, but because we genuinely mean the words.   Compliments should be extended for the sheer sake of offering honest praise, not because we think saying someone’s shoes look awesome will score us points in the get-a-promotion department.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve had my 38-going-on-5 “moments,” have dabbled in my share of below-the-belt sarcasm and innuendo.  In other words, I haven’t always been nice.  I’ve made others cry and hurt them greatly.  For that, I’m sorry.  I have told them—and God—this, and while an apology doesn’t erase the scars, it makes life a bit better, more peaceful and . . . nice.

I’ve been mad, angry, sad and envious, but still, I try my best to remain nice or find the nice qualities in the person, group or situation that created upset in the first place.  Now,  I don’t break out in song when discover Trader Joe’s just stocked a new batch of heirloom tomatoes and I don’t come to a grinding halt to let an old man cross the street five miles away, but gosh darn it, I’m happy and yes, I’m nice.

The Niceness Promise

While I know that negativity, gossip and overall meanness is often an unspoken prerequisite to climbing career ladders or gaining popularity among friends (a great way for insecure folks to bolster their own ego, or lack of, but I digress), I simply don’t have it in me to be a backstabber, to engage in potentially career-or life-ruining gossip . . . to be mean.  Others around me may hold tight to rumors, falsely spreading “truth” based on half-truths, faulty assumptions, questionable sources and foggy observation (of course while professing to have the clout and maturity to do no such thing) but I can not partake in the madness.


So, I will smile at others’ mean spirited intentions, turn from their unfounded words and . . .

I will choose niceness.

And I will continue to be nice.

I will be nice not only to strangers, but to my friends, family and yes, myself.  This means I will not get bogged down in worry of the stock market, rude drivers or a bad haircut so much so that I forget to say hello to a loved one or hold a door open for the person behind me.

If I get the “she better take her coo-coo capsules” stare at work because I think it’s, um, nice to head home for a family dinner around 6:15 after having already worked through lunch and arriving at 8:00 A.M., then so be it.  It’s not nice to not be there for a family who’s always been there for me.  And especially in these “you never know” times when parent, spouse or child could be injured or killed in a mall, theater, school, church or marathon, you can bet your sweet patootie that while I’m highly devoted to work, I’m much more in love with my family.

If any of this makes me too kind, too weak, too sappy, well, that’s nice.   


At home, I will be nice to me.  I will not go crazy over food I forgot to defrost, bills I have to pay or cats that decide to use the litter box just at the moment I decide to mediate in the same room. Of course I stress over bills and fear that I’ve spread myself too thin (who doesn’t?).  I’m nowhere near the bank account, shoe collection or publishing success I’d hoped for at this point in my life, but that’s ok.

It’s OK because I’m alive and that’s nice.   

I will continue to place value on kindness, humanity, good deeds and good people with an emphasis on the level of purity in hearts, not bank accounts.  Degrees of kindness matter more than the ones framed on an office wall.

That too, I think is nice.

I will continue to watch “cheesy,” good, clean “nonsense” shows like 7th Heaven reruns, Wheel of Fortune and Impractical JokersThe Cosby Show and Three’s Company take me back to purer times.  In today’s “remember when we were safe leaving the key under the mat?”  world, that’s fine with me.  It’s nice to go back in time, even though I know we’ve got a ways to go to get back to the security of that time.

Yes, I watch the more serious shows, and I know things about happy little trees and lycopene and extraterrestrial life, but many times, nonsense for the sake of nonsense is ok, even healthy.   Trips down memory lane are enjoyable.  Sometimes going back can propel us forward, too.

That’s very nice.

I will continue to go on with the silly “childlike nonsense” (there’s a difference between childish and childlike).  So I will go on the rides at festivals, not just take pictures of them (or worse, stare at them and ponder the effectiveness of a rusted bolt).  I will continue to make silly faces, and yep, maybe even post them online for no other reason than being goofy just feels nice.



Such childlike ways are often branded as “nonsense,” pointless acts that don’t put us any closer to that coveted new car, that salary increase or a household of better-behaved children.  Engaging in ridiculous actions are simply not what well-mannered adults do.  To that I say (with the craziest face I can muster): silly nonsense fuels the soul, is good for a laugh and gives our worries a break.

Embracing a kid-at-heart attitude is a nice feeling.

The world needs niceness these days more than ever, so let’s keep it going.  If we’re told we’re too nice, then too bad.  That’s the time when you cover your ears and in that sing-song voice, declare, “I doooon’t heeearr you, la la la” and run.  Smile more, fret less.

My wish is this:  May all beings be happy together.

Wouldn’t that be nice?


Music, Memories & Madness



Ah, music.  From gym playlists to concerts, tunes that let us get our groove on are always a good thing.

Whether chatting about Beyonce’s use of the “B-word” in her latest song “Bow Down,” reminiscing about music from back in the day (oh boy, that would be Def Leppard, Belinda Carlisle and Eddie Money for me) or excited about checking out a new local band, one thing’s certain: society’s enjoyment of and fascination with music never goes away.

Music defines us.  Many of my junior high and high school memories are of playing the cello.  Around that same time, I became hooked REO Speedwagon and Cyndi Lauper.  When Madonna came on the scene, I actually recall feeling a twinge of anger because Little Miss Newbie stole Lauper’s spotlight. The nerve!  And The Police?  I loved the whole “how’s it feel now that the table’s have turned” vibe in their “Wrapped Around Your Finger” lyrics.  It was the most creative twist in a song.  Ever.

Marrying Rick Springfield and Wearing Naughty Bracelets

Of course, like many girls back then, I knew I’d eventually exchange vows with  Rick Springfield.  Well, perhaps Jack Wagner – remember his song, “All I Need” and his GH character Frisco?  Sigh.  Bono in those sunglasses was just . . . wow.  Today, Bon Jovi’s charismatic smile and ability to play up the camera continues to charm me.  Clearly, band member crushes are not uncommon. I can still see my Mom’s hand-drawn heart on the bottom of a wooden chair.  Inside the heart was her Monkees devotion:  the word, “Davy” had permanently scarred the seat, but healed her teenage heart.  My friend in high school declared his love for Her Hotness, Lita Ford, adding that she looked good for “someone in her forties.”  And heck, who doesn’t admire Tina Turner’s sculpted legs?

album-Rick-Springfield-Working-Class-Dog madonna rubber bracelets

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was an eargasm before “eargasm” was even a word and anyone wearing plastic “Madonna” bracelets was in touch with their inner material girl.  My Jackson faves?  “Beat It” and “Dirty Diana.”    Apparently the Madonna bracelets carried some kind of raunchy boudoir “let’s wear cones-on-our-breasts” meaning, but at that age, what did we know? Or care? We were cool without even knowing why.

Loudness & Creativity

“Eye of the Tiger” was fierce enough to make my even my Sinatra-loving grandmother tap her toes, although our fourth grade teacher was visibly upset when an impromptu auditorium gathering forced her sensitive ears to hear another band class perform the tune.  Us kids were in our glory.  But Miss. Forsell would have nothing to do with such nonsense.

I recall (somewhat embarrassingly) blasting Air Supply as my friend MaryAnn and I used the handles of a jump rope as a “microphone,” her at one end and me at the other, belting out lyrics that stopped only when our Strawberry Quik sugar highs did.  In later years, Molly and I had a momentary obsession with Boston’s “MaryAnn,” and during one long road trip, drove my parents crazy with our incessant “press rewind” requests.


Boston and more Boston, please.

In my early thirties, several of us silly coworkers enjoyed a game of “Create a Band Name” during our lunch hour.  The idea stemmed from a discussion about the peculiarity behind some band and song names. Smashing Pumpkins.  Alice in Chains.  So we devised our own rules by scrawling random words on paper, tossing them in a box, then plucking them two or three at a time. We laughed ourselves silly at our creations: band names like Diabetic Wedding, Junkyard Erosion and Nylon Sexpots emerged. Somehow, “Blind Johnny & the Menstrual Bagladies” became the most memorable and is still the first we recall to this day, almost 10 years later.  Song and album titles included Eternal Flatulence, Flighty Urges and Toothless Lamp Post.

At times, I get a case of Solo Sillies and play out scenes in my head where I imagine getting in a taxi.  When the driver asks my destination, I pause and say, “won’t you take me, take me to . . funnnnkkkkky toooowwnn” at which point I crack myself up, then get back to paying my bills.

Good, Bad & Weird Memories

Some of the memories are not so great.  For reasons still unknown, my mother immediately switches the station if a CCR song plays.  In another case, my friend was more nervous about the DJ forgetting her request to not play Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath my Wings” than she was about having cake smashed on her face.  Personally, Richard Marx triggers my station-changing finger.  Too sad, even though it was well over 20 years ago.  My other no-no?  Paul Simon’s “Call me Al.”  It’s a catchy tune, but friends played it over so many times one weekend that I seriously think it did something weird to my brain.


One friend’s wedding no-no.

Then there are song moments.  And I mean moments.  It’s that part that makes the whole tune so worth listening to, even if the rest of it is ridiculous – or not.  I enjoy the Chipmunk’s Christmas song (no, I’m serious), but for two very specific reasons: Alvin’s cute grumpiness (“O . . . K”) and later, the simplicity behind the gift request: “I just want a hoooooola-hoooooop.” Adorable. I love Whitesnake’s violin-bow-on-guitar sound in “Still of the Night” (specifically at 3:15 into the song) because well, its the coolest part of the song. And then there’s that whole “red light, yellow light, green light go” thing in Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” Yeah, I don’t get my red light lyric obsession either, but whenever that song plays, I make a point of listening to that particular bit. Gerry Rafferty and the sax in Baker Street is beyond wonderful.  Sometimes, those moments come abruptly: I’ve awoken with David Bowie’s “Heroes” and Jackson Browne’s “Lawyers in Love” in my head for no reason whatsoever.


Don’t even get me going on concerts and my ever-changing tastes in music.  My first concert was a late 80s Scorpions show in high school.   A decade after, I enjoyed a Judy Collins performance.  (Is it too much to admit to still singing “Send in the Clowns” in the shower?  I mean, tile echos make everyone sound awesome).  A few years ago, I saw Eddie Money.  Even though I cringed when he spun around a wee bit too, um, enthusiastically, I felt  über cool, especially when I heard those first few recognizable notes of my Money favorite, “Take me Home Tonight.”

These days, I’m enjoying the cool tunes of The Slakas, a terrific classic rock cover band based out of southern New Hampshire (Billy Squier, Foreigner, Heart . . . ).

My iPod? Wow. It has everything from Disturbed and Jewel to Bruno Mars and Bocelli.

My Dad, an announcer at a local upstate NY radio station during his teenage years, showed me his set of eight-tracks. It was 1980-something and I had no clue what those boxy clunkers were.  My records were far cooler, or so I thought. To this day, he gets a kick out of “announcing” the song, artist and year before his XM radio displays the information . . . and his resulting smirk says he still nails all that Grand Funk Railroad and Jethro Tull goodness.


Dad, back in the day.

Music transport us, soothes our soul, even stirs up the pot.

Even when we don’t intend it to.

What does it do for you?


Note: I wrote a variation of this post for The Budget Fashionista, a beauty and fashion website for ladies who like to look their best for less.  It appeared on 4/4/13 and highlighted music-inspired jewelry.  This Thought Buffet version features additions and much more personal elaboration, and has differences from the original post on The Budget Fashionista.  If you’d like to check out that post, or better yet, if you’re inclined to publicly declare your love of hip shakin’ goodness, check out the affordable music-inspired jewelry I mentioned on The Budget Fashionista, all under $50.

Hurricane Sandy Hit & We’re Giving Each other The Finger?


Boats are strewn among houses amid wreckage from Superstorm Sandy in Sea Bright, New Jersey. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Over the past week, the news has been filled with footage and updates regarding Hurricane Sandy’s devastation and recovery efforts. Referred to by many media outlets as “New Jersey’s Katrina,” the superstorm has claimed lives and livelihood here and across several other states.  Some lost power. Others lost  homes, business and in some cases, family members.

As a New Jersey resident for over 20 years, I’ve never lived more than 15 miles from the ocean. It’s difficult to comprehend when Governor Christie and others say that most of the Jersey shore is now entirely “unrecognizable”  or altogether gone. Homes, possessions and pets are no more, swept in the ocean along with the twisted metal of entire roller coasters from nearby boardwalk amusement areas.

Seaside Heights Funtown Pier, NJ. Superstorm Sandy 2012.

Much of my childhood was spent on Staten Island (also greatly impacted by Sandy) where trips with family to head “down the shore” made me lose sleep with excitement.  Through the years, there were strolls along the shore, enjoying boardwalk taffy and bonfires and of course, plenty of swimming. One unusually hot April day a few years ago brought hundreds of people to the shore. I joined them on Sandy Hook, one of my favorite places, grinning ear to ear at the pre-Memorial Day delight of wearing suntan lotion.  Just a few days before Sandy hit, I sat on the Point Pleasant beach and watched the wonderful sunrise.  I made the rest of that day a “beach day” as I drove through Spring Lake, Ocean Grove and then along Ocean Avenue passing through Monmouth Beach, Sea Bright and finally, Sandy Hook.

Yesterday, I spoke with a friend who is now in a hotel room miles away, unsure of the status of her Sea Bright condo.  Low-flying  Coast Guard helicopters are a routine sound as are the sights of the National Guard waving people through blocked intersections, downed poles and buckled streets.  Parts of the shore do not exist.

Sunrise, Point Pleasant, NJ October 26, 2012

Point Pleasant beach October 26, 2012

Yet while many people have pulled together to assist others by making monetary donations, volunteering at soup kitchens or donating food and clothing, there are those who have exhibited shockingly appalling behaviors.  Their childish “woe-is-me-and-nobody-else” whining and unwarranted rage (although, is rage ever warranted?) towards another person is an embarrassment to the human race, a shameful reflection of character and very, very disheartening to observe.

Actually, this could be said about behaviors in response to Sandy’s devastation just as much as it could be about how many people handle an ordinary day at work or home. A perpetual bad attitude, the inability to respect others and throwing their hands up in the air at adult life responsibilities, especially at times like this, does not demonstrate confidence and courage but rather cowardice and crudeness.

I say this because of what I observed yesterday: Big time road rage while waiting in a local gas line for over an hour. The man behind me could not help but to block the intersection and it was enough to set off the woman on the side road trying to cross. She had enough. She actually got out of her car, pounded her fist repeatedly on the man’s van door and hood, then shouted that he shouldn’t have blocked the intersection.  I couldn’t help but tremble as I watched from my rear-view mirror, her tone and frowns as deep as her impatience and lack of respect. The driver basically ignored until she returned to her vehicle. This of course, caused others to yell from their windows, a domino effect of anger that is often seen spewing forth from little minds trying to make big moves.

I spent the rest of my wait feeling nervous inside, listening to yells and honks and watching angry fists and fingers rise towards the glorious sky.  Just as I got to the tank about 30 minutes after this incident, a pedestrian came running up to a nearby police officer. She was breathless and near tears as she informed him that a fight was about to break out.

Moments later, my tank was filled. The instant I left the station, I felt lighter inside. Forget gas, I felt more grateful to have escaped near-riot experiences.  Yet my heart felt deeply saddened.

Entire boardwalks, homes and business are forever gone, the National Guard is in our own neighborhoods and for some, family members have died or are missing. We are all, in our own way, struggling. And yet, many folks—likely the same kind of folks who are bothered by sunlight but wait for someone else to buy them sunglasses, the same kind of folks who complain rather than contribute, the “I’m the only one in the world (or region, or mere moment)”—these people have nothing better to do than yell and pound their fists in anger all in their attempt to get ahead and ironically, move forward with their lives in peace and happiness.

We’re in this together, everyone. Not just concerning Sandy, but this thing called Life.

Let’s learn to play nice.

Sign in Tinton Falls, NJ November 3, 2012.

How Pumpkins Can Help Your Brand: Trying New Approaches to Generate Awareness


When it comes to all things advertising, marketing and public relations, immersing yourself in your brand, or your client’s brand, is as automatic as getting in your car and turning on the ignition.  (Unless you’re still driving a Chevy Citation hatchback or an ’87 Cutlass Ciera, but I digress).  It’s second nature.  You know every detail about the competition, subscribe to updates, browse relevant twitter feeds and scour just about every site known to man. That’s a given.

But what about looking more at the world outside of your brand or delving  deeper into some of its “unknown” facets no matter how “out there” or seemingly insignificant (even irrelevant) a particular aspect about it may seem? Or if you’re already doing it, consider doing it more often.  We’re all suckers for those “did you know” tidbits, those product and people backstories that tell the world something new.

Take pumpkins. They’re for carving, yes. But they may also be a very timely “in” for your brand. Suppose you own a line of beauty products, one of which boasts radiant skin benefits thanks to its use of ultra-hydrating pumpkin enzymes. With the autumn season on everyone’s minds,  from pumpkin picking to pumpkin painting, now is the perfect time to capitalize on the moment. In this case, strike while the season’s hot!

While everyone’s reading about the best local pumpkin patches (and likely getting tired of the same ‘ole fall stories) why not give your audience and the media a fresh twist on the season? Enter: your product. The fall is all about pumpkin pies, pumpkin patches and. . . your product’s pumpkin enzymes. It makes for intriguing reading that people will want to learn more about, a welcome break in the endless stories about cider-making day trips.

Also consider looking into the future. These days, there’s a date with a designation for just about anything. From International Cookie Dough Day to Lost Dryer Sock Day, there’s bound to be one that’s an ideal match, and therefore a prime opportunity, to tout your brand. Check out the United Nations’ list of world observances by day for ideas.

For example, November 14 is World Diabetes Day. What’s that have to do with your client’s dental instruments? Plenty, given the increase in oral-systemic findings which link improper oral health (and often, subsequent gum disease) to an exacerbation, or even creation, of certain complications including diabetes (all thanks to bacteria giving the circulatory system a tough time). Perhaps this is a great opportunity for an announcement that a percentage of dental instrument sales during the week of November 14th will be given to The International Diabetes Foundation.  It’s a win-win. It’s for a great cause and positions your brand positively.

So go ahead . . . check out other dates to see if there’s a potential opportunity to showcase your brand and then get the word out to the masses! Of course, make sure the day is aligned with your brand’s message. If your brand consists of quirky packaging and more atypical product names, why not have fun with it and select one of the more unique awareness days out there (National Bologna Day or National Kazoo Day), then build messaging around (or taking a stance against) it?

So, while you’re busy reading up on the latest, don’t overlook some of the sometimes not-so-obvious approaches that can help generate increased awareness.  We’ve all done it; in the daily mix of LinkedIn this and trade pubs that, it’s easy to overlook some “buried” brand element that has a truly remarkable, creative place in the world.

In the words of the late Steve Jobs:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Jennifer Lilley is a creative writing professional with 15+ years of advertising and public relations experience. She also enjoys photography, fitness, coffee and great puns.  She lives in New Jersey with her cat Mango and admits to only washing her hands twice so far today, Global Hand Washing Day (Oct. 15). 

© Jennifer Lilley and Jen Lilley’s Thought Buffet, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lilley and Jen Lilley’s Thought Buffet with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

10 Things to Never Say to a Writer


Have you hurt a writer’s feelings lately? Do you even care?

Here’s a fun look at 10 things a writer can live without hearing:

1.  “Oh, you’re one of those types.”

Why, of course we are. We sit around all day under the open arms of a shady oak tree, carving poetry into its bark as we ponder mysteries like crop circles and Lindsay Lohan.


We do it under birch trees, silly.

2.  “No one really reads the copy anyway.”

Yes! They liked the way the ad looked. The heck with the copy!

Back in my Madison Avenue days, I got this one a lot.  The satisfied smiles and “awwwws” would ooze from client’s mouths quicker than you could say, “but wait, read the copy too.”

Either they had outstanding eyesight or . . . (sigh) they were so smitten by the striking visual prowess that stood before them (hey, I can admit it) that reading copy was virtually pointless.  Words were just a hodgepodge of ugly Afterthought Misfits, tagging behind one beautiful image after another.

So it goes.

3.  “The client just decided to make this a ‘product is hero’ ad.”

Translation: all those creative meetings and ah-ha shower moments laden with clever headlines and life-changing body copy? Out the window! New title for the creative department: Senior Phone Number & Website Inserter.

Everyone knows it’s all about the pretty pictures; no one really reads the copy anyway.


4.  “Is that really what you always wanted to do?”

You’ve really always enjoyed writing? Seriously?

Often coupled with a head tilt and an “I’m so sorry” air of pity, this one is enough to make you want to reach into your back pocket of childhood nannie-nannie-boo-boos and ask, “is that really what you always wanted to smell like?”


Of course it’s what we’ve always wanted to do.  Cliché but true: it’s who we are.

5.  “Yeah, but what do you do for a living?”

Um . . . no offense taken.

I get it. We all just hang around Barnes & Noble with our moleskin journals clenched tight to our penniless palms and wonder about tomorrow.

For crying out loud, we do the same thing you do for a living: work hard—really hard—at this writing thing. Lose sleep over it. Love it.  Hate it. Wonder for much longer than we should if we would have been better off writing, “excess” instead of “plethora” (thus beginning a domino-effect of insanity: when the new word moseys in the story, the feel of the sentence becomes altered, throwing an entire paragraph off kilter . . . in other words: rewrite. All this over one measly word. Wouldn’t have it any other way, though).

We enjoy writing with a passion so great we can’t imagine a life without it and its creative freedoms.

What do you do for a living?

6.  “You’re a writer? You and everyone else, ha ha.”




You’re a veterinarian? You and everyone else.

You’re a cashier? You and everyone else.


Guess it’s a typical case of everyone professing to be an expert at everything. Sure, I know that these days, everyone’s blogging, posting, responding, submitting, journaling, suggesting . . . you get the point. So yeah, I suppose everyone’s a writer. Some are cranking out two-sentence “blogs” riddled with typos. Others are submitting irrelevant news story responses that bash “yo momma” more than they stay on topic.

Yup, everyone’s a writer.

And Paula Deen has a Brooklyn accent.

7.  “You must be awesome at ‘Words with Friends!’”

Words.  With.  Friends.

Isn’t that  . . . conversation?

Newsflash. Some of us have never even played the game.  Just because I’m a writer, does not mean I greet every sunrise with a crossword puzzle, ponder my inbox “word of the day” for hours and rearrange magnetic refrigerator letters as soon as I get home.  (Although I have been known to respond to emails in rhyme . . .  ah, must be the coffee kicking in).

I love, love, love to write. But there’s more to us writers than staring adoringly at our bowl of alphabet soup. Our firstborns aren’t named Prose Williams or Irony Smith. We swim, bathe and drench ourselves in words, but such immersion is not synonymous with drowning.

8.  “What do you do with all that free time?”

I’ll tell you what I do. I feel my blood pressure spike when such a question spews forth from your itty bitty curled up lips, that’s what I do.

Free time, my sweet patookie.

9.  “Lucky you, an easy job like that!”

Oh, yes indeedy, it’s a breeze to adopt various writing styles at the drop of a hat. Oh, and trying to inform while simultaneously entertaining readers? Piece ‘o cake.  Novels?  Done in one, two weeks tops. My blog posts? Five minutes. Drafts? Drafts are for sissies.

When I worked as an ad agency copywriter, I used to have this quote on the back of my business card:

“When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.”

– Enrique Jardiel Poncela

True words, my friends. True words.

10.  “Writing must be sooo boring.”

This is akin to telling an antique automobile restorer that his passion is downright absurd—to his face. While standing in his garage.

You’re a radiologist? (Eye roll) Whatever.

A motivational speaker?  Stooopid.

Maybe writing ain’t (yes, I said, “ain’t”) your cup of tea, but let’s agree on this: I respect your choice, you respect mine.

Writing is anything but a bore. It’s a thrill, a challenge, a maddening yet supremely satisfying adrenaline rush. It’s bliss.

I also enjoy this quote:

“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.”

 – James A. Michenerl

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some more tangling to do.

No birch trees in sight, thank you very much.

Frozen Peas and Capris? Yes, Please.


Thanks to a frenzy of “Walmartian” websites showcasing customers clad in Richard Simmon-esque shorts, white fishnets and orange pumps (and that was a man),  “chic” and “Walmart” don’t quite go hand in hand.

So like a bullied child, the store gets made fun of, laughed at and worst of all . . . ignored.

Therefore, it’s high time we embrace our “glass half full” optimism and flirt a little with this mysterious underdog. That is, let’s give Walmart  —one of my favorite stores (there, I said it)— a try.

A more serious try.

Together, we can push this Grannie bloomer and kitty turtleneck “WalMyth” to the curb and instead, browse flattering cups – demi and ceramic. There, we can choose between hair colors and hair traps, 3-inch pumps and 3-pound weights. Through it all, we’ll look more closely at the quirky characters in bestsellers or on funky graphic tees and not so much at the ones that may be standing next to us.

Let’s not forget the convenience factor, too. In today’s world, it sure is easier—and expected—to have immediate access to everything you want, precisely when you it. What store does this better than Walmart? Feta cheese, doe urine, Nair and a Paula Deen stockpot.

All that, plus the chance to spot a spandex-wearing grandmother desperately trying to find her electric blue eyeliner . . . and her unique inner chic.

Welcome, Walmart shoppers.

The roasted chicken and clothing combo.


Is it me, or is that Potato Smiling?


Here's Lookin' at You, Spud

There’s the famous Face on Mars, the Jesus Toast Face  (Crust Almighty . . . all the media hype that one got!) and even partial faces like the breathtaking God’s Eye Nebula image.

But that’s old news.

Introducing (drum roll please)  . . .

Ultra-Alarmed Ultrasound Face. A November 4, 2011 article appeared on major news sites showcasing a rather startling tumor discovery. It was clear as day; no head tilts, eye squinting or fancy libations were needed to view the face in this image:

But it doesn’t stop there.

Prefer art over ultrasounds? The latest news revolves around the appearance of the devil’s face in Giotto’s famous fresco, “Life and Death of St. Frances.”  Dark horns and a profile lurk in the clouds. It’s believed that this was an intentional act carried out by the 13th century painter who apparently did this for the fun, er, hell of it. Turns out, the devil really is in the details.

The proliferation of faces brought to our awareness by the media as well as friends (finally, friends admit to seeing faces too!) brings me a bit of relief. For years now, I’ve seen faces. Faces everywhere.

When Life Gives you Lemons . . .

Picasso-esque Tree Face

Throughout my life, there’s been friendly food faces and grinning skyscrapers, terrorized expressions of firepit logs and even unhappy little candles. I’ve been talking about seeing faces ’til I’ve been, you know, blue in the face.

Petrified Wood: Facing the Flame


Straight Faced

Face the Facts: Just Your Usual Case of Pareidolia

So I did what many people do when they think they suspect a fever or a case of the crazies: I turned to the good ‘ole internet for some “am I normal?” assessments. Turns out, the phenomena of seeing faces in objects like shoe laces or chicken wings is called Pareidolia.  Whew.

I see you!

A 2007 NY Times article delves into the reasons why we see Demi Moore on a radish or Bozo the Clown in molten lava. According to Dr. Takeo Watanabe, a neuroscientist at Boston University, when the brain is exposed to a stimulus, it continues to perceive that stimulus even when it’s long gone. So, our gray matter holds on tight to all of the faces we’ve seen throughout our lives. From pictures of Grandma to strangers at Disney World, we remember every nose, scar and expression and apparently, we’re always in a state of high face recognition alert. Dr. Watanabe concluded,  “people have gotten so used to seeing faces everywhere that sensitivity to them is high enough to produce constant false positives.”

Sad Candle

So, what does this all mean? Whatever you want, I suppose. Messages from the heavens? Perhaps. A fantastic Jesus on a Jerky eBay sale?  Could be.  

But maybe, just maybe, it simply is what it is. Let’s face it, even Freud once said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Or is it?

All Smiles!