Self Inflicted Stress Induced by Martyrdom

“We cling to our multitasking as much as we bemoan it.”

Amen sister. 

Thank you to Ruth Marcus and her article in today’s Washington Post for articulating one of the most powerful WHOLE Truths that a woman could ever reveal.  For 10 years we’ve asked women about their multi-tasking lives and usually what you hear is the  Half Truth: “I’m so busy and no one helps me.”  To get the WholeTruth all we have to do is ask “really?” and then the floodgates open. Women confess they they could have help from their husbands and children but that they don’t take it because they want it done the way they like it or they don’t want to surrender their role as do-er.

In our new book (have I mentioned there is a new book coming???) we explain that the reason women say that their families won’t help them is that they are motivated by, dare I say it, Martyrdom.  Women (I’ll include myself) like to talk about how busy we are, not in the hopes that someone will magically fix things but rather so we can get some hard earned empathy. 

Marketers (and television producers)  keep missing the mark on intepreting this Whole Truth and continue to play into the idea that women are overburdened (true) and  surrounded by haplesss men and useless children (probably not true) or they misfire and exagerate empathy in a patronizing way.

BTW, Ruth, when you get bored of your recipe I have a brisket recipe to die for!

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DR Delish

I’m a big fan of Phil Lempert and his newsletter The Lempert Report on all things food. His entry today told a great story that’s rich with Half Truths/Whole Truths, especially if you put two of his pieces together. Seems that 87% of consumers rely on their taste buds (VS their better judgment) for their grocery decisions. (No surprise if you look at the obesity epidemic…brain says less calories and belly says, more filling!)

But right below that entry, Phil challenged the prospects for drug store chain Duane Reade’s new healthy food entries. I’m with him, not only because the politically, organically, nutritionally correct takeout appeals to the head more than the gut but because of another recent study that showed that consumers are telling a big fat Half Truth whopper about calorie intake.

Supposedly in fast food restaurants where calories are posted, diners actually ate more of the higher calorie choices than before the numbers were posted.

So, Half Truth: I want to eat healthy. Whole Truth: Bring on the fries. And when you stop into a drug store for a lunchtime prescription, bet your overworked body is scanning for relief that comes with mayo, hold the whole grain.

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Diaper Genius


Big changes this week at the Chapman house. I just returned from maternity leave and Hannah has moved on up to size 2 diapers. Before I gave birth no one told me just how diaper obsessed you become in the first few months of motherhood. I thought the biggest worry would be about diaper rash but these little suckers help you keep track of how well your child is thriving…too few diapers and your baby isn’t eating enough…a mom’s worst nightmare! 

So my lifesaver was that little wetness indicator on the front of the Pampers Swaddlers Sensitives. Diapers today are so good at wicking away moisture it can be hard to tell when they are actually wet. It’s no surprise that diaper manufacturers figured out they were selling less diapers and needed to give parents and caretakers a reason to change more frequently. So while I know that a blue line doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change it right away (even if they want you to), that wetness indicator gave me the reassurance that I was doing a good job as Hannah’s mom and that was worth paying extra for!  

Now with Hannah at almost 15 lbs, I’m no longer as obsessed with the wetness indicator and dare I say it, willing to extend the life of each diaper. As we move to the next size I am reminded how many of my mom friends swore by Pampers Sensitives for the early months (although they never said why) but suggested going to whatever brand is on sale in the later months. How brand loyal are Moms once the insecurity of early motherhood has worn off?  For now we’re sticking with Pampers but I have to say the Huggies at Costco are quietly calling my name.

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Hop to the Shops


Ever since I caught the marathon bug a little over a year ago, I have become a glutton for gear.  Like a moth to a (rather expensive) flame, so am I to the many running stores that pepper the Manhattan sidewalks—taunting me with window displays of the latest shoe models and GPS devices.

In light of our down in the dumps economy, I’ve been trying to scale back on my “stuff”-buying–i.e. everything other than your basic food/water/shelter/cable.  I have been grudgingly, but dutifully, deleting the thousands of emails from retailers that flood my inbox daily, all promising sales, deals, blowouts…oh my.

However, in a rare moment of weakness I happened to click on an email from one of my very favorite sports apparel stores, JackRabbit Sports, and was struck by the incredible personalization of the letter.  More than simply offering me $5 off my next shoe purchase, and in addition to reminding me of the 10% every returning customer is privy to, it filled me in on exactly why I needed to hop on in asap. 

It gently brought to my attention the exact date that I purchased my last pair of shoes, followed by the well-known (but oft forgot) knowledge that the average lifespan of a running shoe is 400 miles.  And I had passed that.  300 miles ago.  To make it even more irresistible, they listed the exact store where they had my shoe (and size) in stock…and gave me the price after all of my discounts.  Literally all I needed to do was show up, hand over the money, grab the box, and head out. 

If you make it that easy, no one can resist….well, it would take a woman far stronger than I.

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Sharing my final (for now!) blog…with thanks


Here’s my last piece for my series for on my radiation reinvention plan. I’ve received some notes asking, “Are you really smiling through all this or is that just a Half Truth?” Well, I am and as evidence, here’s a photo of me taken about four days before the end of my treatment, with the red spot on my chest to prove it.

I also want to thank the many people who supported me and treated me throughout this process, of course, starting with my surgeon Dr. Lauren Cassell and the terrific radiology team at Beth Israel led by Dr. Manjeet Chadha.

But there are unsung heroines who should also get a standing ovation, not only for their talent and humanity but because like Just Ask a Woman, each is a female entrepreneur who’s either created or is part of a wonderful enterprise. My love and thanks to: Colleen Tomko of Body Betterment, Sarah Heward of Hardcore Pilates Studio, Ellen Miller of Muscle Therapy, Amy Coombs of Ishta Yoga. And a special smile to my “beauty therapists” (hey, it takes a village!) Mordechai Alvow and the staff at Broadway Nail Spa who always let me in, even just before closing time. Thanks to Jen, Tracy, Jean and Lily for being the best partners ever, and to all my Just Ask a Woman friends for your virtual hug…and to Joe, for his real one. (And to Rocky for licking my nose.) 

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Is this empathy or insanity?


An Australian trainer (and underwear model!) decided to stop exercise, eat whatever he wanted and gain weight so that he could ultimately be a better trainer for his clients trying to lose weight.  In total he gained 88 pounds and felt like crap.  Shocking.  His journey back to modeling, I mean health, is being captured (quel surprise) for a documentary called “Fat and Back.” 

Our now plump Adonis is having a tough time breaking his new addictions to sugar and carbs but what’s important is that he was able to empathize with the emotional mindsets of overweight clients.  I think it is great that he came away from this experiment knowing what it feels like to be stared at, or ignored or disdained.  I only hope that he takes off the weight with class and without an air of smugness that says “anyone can lose weight and it’s easy” because we know that it is really, really hard.

We are always telling our clients to really immerse themselves in their customers’ lives.  We’ve gone so far as to make our clients role play – we had a hotel client try and check into her own hotel with a roller bag filled with bricks and uncomfortable shoes.  Guess what? That executive took immediate action to better train bellman and to be more sensitive to female business travelers needs.  We’ve made clients shop their own websites, call their own customer service numbers and shop competitive brands just to gain some emotional intelligence.  This trainer certainly went the extra mile (or stopped going the extra mile as the case may be).

I will be keeping my eye on this story to see how his weight loss progresses. 

A tiny part of me is hoping that he struggles just so he can see what the rest of us go through all of the time.  A little schadenfreude never hurt anyone.

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MORE On the Sunny Side

If you check out, you’ll find another installment in my story of navigating breast cancer with a ray of sunshine. Thanks to everyone who’s reached out with good wishes and shared stories.  

In the spirit of Just Ask a Woman, I’ve been particularly tuned into the culture of “pink”, the wide community of breast cancer survivors. It’s kind of weird (and yet I suppose reassuring) when women say, “Welcome to the club” (a club I hadn’t really planned on joining.) I wonder how many underground Girlfriend clubs there are, linked by loss or achievement or quirk? Women crave common ground and will note the unspoken signals of a kindred spirit in a heartbeat and open up in ways that I’m not sure men would. As marketers, I think we spend an awful lot of time focusing on women’s differences when just below the surface, there are huge urges to connect.

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Living on the Sunny Side of Cancer


Ok, the cat is out of the bag now, or at least my stage 0, non-invasive DCIS breast cancer is, since I’ve decided to tell my story in a ongoing blog on

I’ve actually known and been dealing with this since April when a mammogram came with unwelcome news. First off, I’m fine. Actually I’m more than fine because not only was today my last day of radiation, it’s also turned out to be a real beginning for me. When I found out about the cancer, I was as shocked and worried as anyone would be, even if this is a curable form. But I guess that everyone has their way of dealing with what comes their way and I decided very quickly that I would face it squarely and get on with it, sort of the way I have approached my entire life and career. More than that, I decided that I would make this something positive and see if I could come out the other side, even healthier than the treatment could make me.

I’ve been on my own ‘radiance plan’ and it’s really worked for me. And I’ll be sharing it on the blog. But the most important moments for me have been the kind you see when you really look in the mirror at what matters to you. I’ve been brave and I’ve been chicken, but most of all, I feel I’ve been loved and coached through this and for the first time, learned what it meant to ask for help, since I’m better at being a type A, “I can do it myself” woman.

As much as I’ve been open about my personal life at Just Ask a Woman, even in my book, “Time Off for Good Behavior”, I think that what I will reveal in this blog will go farther because I owe it—to the women (and men) who helped me and to those I hope to help by opening up about this. I hope you will go to the site (Under Health concerns/breast cancer) and follow my journey, and if you check “I liked this story”, well, that would be really nice.

There’s a sunny side to every street. Come walk with me.

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BFFs make you healthier!

I was thrilled to see today’s New York Times and Tara Parker Pope’s  column (I heart her writing SO much)that confirmed that friendships among women actually correlate with better health.  It makes perfect sense.  More than once I have been inspired by a friend who starts a new regime.  My online group of moms made sure that I didn’t ignore my lingering flu and I never knew what sassy water was until I ran into my friend Jen at a shoe store.  (She has lost more than 100 lbs and is worth listening to!) My mammogram was easier to handle because my friend told me what to expect. 

“In general, the role of friendship in our lives isn’t terribly well appreciated,” said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. The experts have spoken and I say Hell Yeah!

While much of the evidence is anecdotal (women with more friends have less stress and therefore get fewer colds) there are some long term studies to back up the theory.  So hooray for women’s friendships.  Plus I will live to be 200 years old since I’m still friends with my mates from pre-K (and pre-Facebook).

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Seamless Web meets Healthcare

Seamless Web is one of my all time favorite NYC conveniences – go online and order food to be delivered from your favorite restaurants to the office without having to deal with people. I don’t have to call and be put on hold and then give my detailed order while the waiter on the phone sighs impatiently just log in and lunch magically appears.

I was recently intrigued by a company called Hello Health that works sort of the same way.  The company, currently testing in Williamsburg and the West Village of NYC, offers cost effective health care for the uninsured by leveraging modern technology.  For $35 a month you basically can email and text with physicians (office visits can cost $100 – $200 and there is no hospital coverage) to take care of your routine health needs.


  • This kind of convenience totally appeals to my need for speed, my impatience with waiting for return phone calls and the fury I feel when I’m left in a waiting room more than 5 minutes.
  • Offers a great choice for freelancers who are generally in good health
  • Very cool application of technology 


  • While I’m all for the streamlining in health care this one has me a little bit worried.  Doesn’t this arrangement make the doctors legal drug dealers? Do they need to see a patient who says they have Strep throat or do they just go ahead and prescribe? When I let my mind wander I think about all of the antibiotic resistant people there will be in 10 years.
  • What about preventive care? Could a very serious condition go undetected or be mistreated because of the lack of face to face encounters? I know that traditional doctors are already nervous about losing patients now that Pap tests don’t need to be done every year (Bravo to our former client Qiagen!).

Personally, I’m also keeping my eye on which like my favorite reservations website OpenTable lets you find same day appointments with available doctors.  There are patient reviews, bios and pictures of the doctors.  This feels like empowerment to me!

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December 5, 2021
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
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