Alison Garwood Jones

I Miss My Mommy: a graphic novel to help orphaned adults through grief

April 10, 2024


All of us will have to do life without our parents at some point. I decided to write and illustrate a book for orphaned adults  to shows what grief looks like.

I MISS MY MOMMY: 150 Portraits of Orphaned Adults takes you right to the heart of the five stages of grief through 150 portraits, some grim, some funny, but all relatable.

It’s the world’s first picture book for big people without parents!

It’s set for release May 10, 2024 – in time for Mother’s Day.

The stage you’re in may change by the hour, or even the minute. The book helps readers struggling with grief sit with emotions they’d rather avoid but can’t stop feeling.

Dip inside to find yourself, or someone you love but don’t quite understand. Better yet, present the book to someone who’s missing their mom on Mother’s Day.

Pre-order HERE!

Folks who pre-order will receive a complimentary chapter.

New Book - I Miss My Mommy:150 Portraits of Orphaned Adults by Alison Garwood-Jones

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Mother’s Day Grief Survey

February 28, 2024

Hi Everybody:

I want to include you in a story about Mother’s Day. I know many of my friends and colleagues here have gone through the experience of losing your mothers. You’re my people.

A lot of you are also doing life without your dads. Like you, I’m an orphaned adult.

With your help, I want to write an article called, “It’s Just A Day: Orphaned Adults Share How They Get Through Mother’s Day.” To do that I have crafted a survey to capture your thoughts. (link below)

The article I’m planning, which I’d like to pitch to the Toronto Star, coincides with a book I am publishing the week of Mother’s Day. I MISS MY MOMMY: 150 Portraits of Orphaned Adults is the world’s first picture book for big people without parents. It is 280 pages of drawings and short captions about our least favourite emotion, grief. Cover reveal coming in April.

I MISS MY MOMMY captures the Five Stages of Grief through a series of intimate portraits that are funny, grim, and relatable. I called my fictional cast of mourners “The Stagers of Grief,” and I followed them around with my sketchbook and brushes as they moved through their eeriest, rawest, softest, and biggest breakthrough moments.

Unlike past Star articles about Mother’s Day, I want this one to offer a wider range of voices and experiences from our cohort (orphaned adults 45+). What I’d like to find out from you is, what kinds of feelings and memories do you bump up against every second Sunday in May? As a reminder, this article is not about not being a mother ( #Bless), it’s about being an adult whose mother is gone.

I am genuinely interested in finding out how you honour the good memories and manage the bad ones (afterall, grief can also include thoughts about the mother you wished you had). I’m not interested in writing an article that leans into saintly stereotypes about motherhood. Rather, I want to share short vignettes of how her choices and personality shaped you and the life you are leading now. I want to show how our cohort of orphaned adults is facing up to grief, and learning to manage it through rituals or self-care.

This article also won’t be about how you keep busy being a mom or dad or a grandparent on Mother’s Day. It will be about how you sit with the moments of silence that push their way through the busyness and make you consider what it meant being your mother’s child.

Through your range of voices and experiences I would like to offer other grieving readers a sense of recognition and comfort. I will honour your privacy should you choose to use a pseudonym. I hope that it inspires greater honesty in your answers.

If you are interested, please join me over at:

Thank you for your willingness to share your notes from the road. If you mother is still with us and I have mistakenly tagged you, I sincerely apologize.

The poll will close on Wednesday, March 13.

Alison xo

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Learner Profile: Megan Fleming

January 24, 2024

Learner Profile: Megan Fleming

From Research Assistant > Podcast Host > Communications & Knowledge Translation Officer

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Megan Fleming knows this first hand. She is the Communications and Knowledge Translation Officer at CanPath, Canada’s largest population health study.

In early 2022, Megan’s face popped up on my Zoom screen as one of 40+ learners enrolled in the Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media (2875) course I teach at the University of Toronto’s School of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies (SCS Connects). From the beginning, she was clear why she was there.

With a newly minted MA in Health Promotion from Queen’s University, Megan wanted to make the leap from an administrative role to her first job in her chosen field. Her ongoing research was showing that the job she wanted hadn’t been posted yet, and she wanted to be ready the moment it dropped. Her faith in the process was beautiful.

Over the next three months in class, Megan took the time to study the playbook for the most current best practices in digital content creation and distribution and applied them to Holding Healthy Space, a podcast she created.

This blog post from the SCS website shows the steps Megan took to prepare her skills for her new job and a new future.

Megan’s story highlights the role continuing education can play when we try to balance our personal career goals with evolving technology and emerging job roles. Her dream job appeared just as she was finishing the course.

As an instructor, I love seeing how students create valuable digital assets in class that can become the stepping stones … no, the jetpacks that thrust them into brighter, more fulfilling careers.

Way to go, Megan!

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Dr. Fei-Fei Li

January 16, 2024

Computer Scientist Dr. Fei-Fei Li told Kara Swisher in a recent episode of the podcast ,On, that she only feels hopeful about the unleashing of AI across society when she feels she is “participating in the change.”

Dr. Fei-Fei Li on AI

“If people like me and you, Kara  — we’re not powerful or extremely rich [and Dr. Li is a female and a minority] — if people like us feel like we no longer have any say or any way to participate then the hope will be gone. But right now, as a researcher and a technology leader, I’m working with students who always make me feel hopeful. I’m working with civil society. I’m working with policy makers. I’m working with industry. And right now I’m still holding the hope. I’m not letting go of the work, therefore I’m hopeful. If I feel there is no place for people like me to participate, then that’s the beginning of trouble.”

If you’re a paralegal, a kindergarten teacher or an HR professional how can you participate?

Play with the tools. Start with a search-generative tool like PerplexityAI or Microsoft CoPilot. See how it can help you manage your home or your kids or plan your next vacation.

Next, advance to testing how it handles different aspects of your job which, yes, can be as scary as waiting for lab results from your doctor. But ignorance is never bliss.

Taking a class with other humans is always a good way to feel more supported and less alone in times of rapid change.

Finally, read Dr. Li’s latest book, “The Worlds I See: Curiosity, Exploration, and Discovery at the Dawn of AI.” It encourages people of different backgrounds to “join in the learning and feel the hope in the doing.”

Source:“Fei-Fei Li and a Human Approach to AI,” On with Kara Swisher” (Replay: Jan 14, 2024)



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Coffee Talk

January 14, 2024

The Sunday Funnies. ~ By Alison Garwood-Jones

Coffee Talk Cartoon strip by Alison Garwood-Jones

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The Evolution of Digital Strategy

January 12, 2024

2024 marks ten years since I started teaching Digital Communications Strategy & Social Media (2875) at the University of Toronto.

2014 was another era: Obama (the 1st social media president) was still in office, Brazil was wild about Justin Bieber, and those of us who lived online were gripped by a condition known as #FOMO.

This slideshow looks at where we are right now:

The evolution of Digital Strategy: 2014-2024
The evolution of Blogging: 2014-2024
The evolution of Social Media Strategy: 2014-2024
The evolution of SEO and Search: 2014-2024
Artificial Intelligence: 2014-2024

The new year is also the perfect time to say how grateful I am to Martin Waxman, Eden Spodek, Diane Begin, Donna Papacosta, and Andrew Jenkins for showing me how to find my voice as a university instructor. Thank you as well to Cynthia Bettcher, Keri Damen, Sam Levy, Marisa Ciappara and Lee Gowen. It takes a village to ensure that learners get the most up-to-date version of their industry.

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What Employers Are Looking For

November 20, 2023

Opera glasses illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

This morning, a smart student reached out and asked if she could join me for Office Hours later this week. She wants to know, “What are employers looking for right now?”

People who sign up for my digital strategy and writing courses quickly learn that I believe in the Church of Creativity and Eternal Learning, but I suspect she is reacting to those times in class when I let honesty get ahead of hope with nakedly chilling statements like:

“Marketing is an absolute mess right now.”


“You’re here because you know that writing is the best way to assert your agency and figure out what you know. And if you feel a bit sick right now that’s because AI has turned both of those things upside-down.”

By the way, it doesn’t feel right calling this colleague “a student,” although she is enrolled in my “Writing Digital Content” course at the University of Toronto (SCS).

And, while I’m technically the instructor, the only thing I’m in full control of right now are the admin settings on our recurring Zoom meetings.

As for knowing what the future applications for writing and content marketing will be, no one individual or institution is hoarding all the answers, although some pretend to judging by their ads.

Here’s what I do know: you can proactively research what needs are not being met in companies, pick one, and get really good at that. Before you know it, you’ll be standing in front of them shaking your Christmas bells and singing, “I’ve got a tool that can transcribe that podcast for you in less than a minute. Next, have you considered …?”

Your can start your research here.  Last week, Deloitte’s Future of Canada Centre dropped a report — Digital Equity: Empowering All Organizations to Succeed in the Digital Era — citing a list of needs employers are having a tough time filling.

The report, conducted between August 2022 and March 2023, interviewed 804 Canadian senior business leaders in the private, non-profit and public sectors, with special attention on small and medium-sized enterprises.

It asked leaders what their biggest ongoing employee challenges were. Remember, those challenges could be your next job. All you need is the courage to put in the prep work, then pitch yourself as the solution (even when you don’t feel ready yet):

Job Opportunity # 1:
67 per cent of organizations with over 10 employees say hiring digitally skilled workers is somewhat or very challenging, which rises to 70 per cent for medium (100-499 employees) and large organizations (500 employees or more).

Here’s Your Chance to:
Enrol in university continuing ed classes to keep improving your digital literacy and your mindset towards tech. Remember to showcase your updated certifications on LinkedIn while you are pitching future employers. And if you are currently enrolled in classes that teach you how to update and expand your digital skills, well then, you are ALREADY DOING what future employers need you to do so they can hire you! Remember: companies today are hiring for skills, not degrees (my two degrees are in Art History, for crying out loud).

Job Opportunity #2:
A majority (58%) of survey respondents say uncertainty about which technologies would be most beneficial to their organization is somewhat or very challenging. Challenges include a lack of in-house specialized tech experience to shape digital strategies in areas like SEO, Data Analytics, and AI apps that improve customer insights and decision-making.

Here’s Your Chance to:
Fire up your research and writing skills and commit to building a list of the SAAS products currently trending your industry. Do you have your eye on company with a mission you admire, but whose tech know-how may need updating? The answers to who this company is, what they need, and what SAAS tools might serve them best is a LinkedIn, ChatGPT and Google search away. Reach out and find out how their tech transformation is proceeding, and offer your help. BTW: People who come to my classes identifying as Writers and Comms Professionals have their eyes opened during sessions on Generative AI use cases, SEO tactics, navigating Google Analytics 4 and a sprinkling of UX design. Yes, we talk specific tools.

Job Opportunity #3: 
The report says companies who are having troubles finding and retaining digital talent need to think strategically about their talent value proposition and how it can speak better to digital and tech talent – including by being purpose/mission-forward.

Here’s Your Chance to:
Remind yourself what SMART objectives are, how you set them, why they are essential to business growth, and why you should ask a company to share its business objectives with you. Do they align with your values and what impact will this work have beyond the company? My Digital Comms Strategy Course tackles SMART Objectives and demonstrates how they provide a road map to help navigate people, processes, and systems.

Job Opportunity #4:
The Canadian Federal Government has funding to help support digital adoption in the workplace, but companies aren’t accessing it, either because their programs were never marketed properly, their webpages weren’t optimized for search, their application process wasn’t sufficiently streamlined, or All of the Above.

Here’s Your Chance to:
Build a Google Doc linking to all the current available government funding programmes, and make it public. Then pitch the development director or CFO of a non-profit you’d like to work at and find out if they are aware of this cache of untapped funding? Your research and reporting abilities could get you in the door.

Job Opportunity #5:
Progress is lagging on laws and policies that accelerate digital adoption.

Here’s Your Chance to: 
Think about a career in public policy at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED). IP law, with a focus on AI and copyright, will also provide you with years of opportunities.

The report goes on to show opportunity gaps in other areas including: data protection and privacy, cybersecurity, and connectivity in rural and low-income communities. I’ve only highlighted a few to get you started.

In the meantime, keep your mind and heart open and look for ways that workplace knowledge and operations are falling behind.

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Penelope Fitzgerald on Builders & Takers

November 13, 2023

Occasionally, a novelist comes along who distracts me from my love of biographies.

Enter Penelope Fitzgerald, the English novelist and author of The Bookshop.

Portrait of a woman with Eugene Waves by Alison Garwood-Jones

I’ve decided this drawing is her protagonist, Florence Green. Florence’s honest attempts to open a jewell of a bookshop in her seaside English town were destroyed by the coordinated efforts of a status-hungry social climber, indifferent bank managers, and corrupt solicitors. There are no happy or romantic endings in this book (the only romance is with books).

The way Fitzgerald describes how decent, powerless people confront and move through failure is breathtaking. She famously believed that the real division in life, the only one that matters, is that between the ‘exterminators and the exterminatees, with the former, at any given moment predominating.’”

It’s hard to follow that sentence, except to say that Fitzgerald handles the harshness of life with clarity and even wonder.

Drawn in Procreate #ClassicOilBrushes #1920sPalette

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November gales

November 3, 2023

Abstract Art by Alison Garwood-JonesI drew this in the Procreate app using an Apple Pencil. I felt lighter when I finished it.

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Why I Love Old TV Commercials

September 1, 2023

If you want to time travel back to your parents’ rec room and hang out with your 10-year-old self, play these YouTube compilations of old TV commercials as you go about your day.

“Nobody can do it like McDonald’s can” 

“Coffee Mate tastes great (repeat) 

“Brush your breath, brush your breath, brush your breath with Dentyne!”

To get you started, here’s a reel from the 1970s.
And another one from the 1980s.

In times of wrenching change, I can’t tell you how fun and comforting it is to hear the familiar Apple Jax jingle, or the the Bits ‘n Bites guy kicking back in his hammock and extending a bowl of munchies my way.

The armchair sociologist in me is amazed to see how far women have come since the time of Love’s Baby Soft and Spic & Spam. If you’re still convinced no progress has been made — the overturn of Roe v. Wade will make you feel that way — this will hearten you.

In the 1970s, girls in commercials were consistently portrayed as pigtailed and beribboned little darlings. They hung out in groups and spent most of their time playing inside with dolls or stirring and loading small cakes into toy ovens. They rarely hoisted themselves up inside treehouses or got out of breath like the boys.

In reality, there were plenty of girls who swung from trees and bombed down hills on their bikes. Some of us made sure the whole neighbourhood could hear the flatulent trail coming from the cardboard flaps strumming against our bike spokes. But to be a biker chick AND the proud owner of a toy oven …  well, that was too many contradictions for most brains.

The sugar-and-spice cutie pies have been replaced by the STEM girls and soccer champs. Thank god.

As for grown women, they were divided into the following categories:

•  Housewife in the cotton house dress who got her hair set once a week and was always complaining about tough stains

•  Bossy manicurist with an eye for great hands

•  The sex kitten with a whispery voice and the killer bod. She was always raking her long, manicured nails (courtesy of Madge) through the chest hair of some moustachioed catalogue model whose musky scent came through loud and clear. Oh, and she could sing and sashay like Marilyn serenading all the presidents’ men.

• And there was the dingbat. Here’s a sample:

From my 2023 perch, none of these women (except for the bossy manicurist) could be counted on to tell the truth. Tell us how you really feel about cottage cheese and lettuce, your middle kid’s personality, bad sex, shitty pay, and your boss’s tongue. Madge balanced her own books, so she could speak her mind without fear of repercussions. The rest of them smiled through everything.

Let’s face it, women in commercials weren’t real women. They were men’s ideas of women, minus anything remotely impressive or nuanced.

But wait, you say, what about all of those commercials about our intimate odour problems?  Or, the wet blankets that kept getting thrown over our weekend plans to go swimming in a white bikini? Those told the truth, didn’t they? Again, those were male advertising execs putting their stamp on our body’s unpredictable blooms, and shaming us into buying products they were inventing and selling to control that stuff.

Talking about the persistence of the male lens in framing the female experience isn’t new. But it’s only been about 20 years since the concept moved out of academia and into popular culture. By the 2010s, words like “manspreading” and “mansplaining started getting tossed around like frisbees on a bright summer day. (Imagine trying those words out on Burt Reynolds in 1977). And while some say “Enough already,” I say, it takes time and a nauseating amount of repetition to actually reverse old cultural norms.

Habits only die and behaviours only change when we highlight the errors of our past ways and explain the new outcomes we’re going for with the same frequency we try and teach toddlers to say please and thank you. Eventually the concepts stick.

Unless, of course, a few bad men decide to deploy tanks and erase it all. I’ll need some fries with that thought.

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