On What’s Most Important

September 20, 2012

Fame. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.


I work with famous people on occasion when I’m on a film or TV set. And what I’ve observed is the pressure they endure on a daily basis, trying to uphold a standard that the public has set for them. It is tiring, taxing and at best, unnerving. Everyone has an opinion of you and if you aren’t in the best of moods, it somehow lands in the tabloids the next day.

My sister once said, “I’d like to be just left of the limelight. In the mix, but not in the public eye.”

I see what she means now.

The other day I had the chance to drink champagne with several celebrities, but after a day’s work in a dusty studio that smelled of manure and pyrotechnics, I was ready for a shower and some pizza with the kids instead. So I drove the hour home, racing through the door with a heightened level of excitement to see everyone again, only to find my family busy with their iPods, laptops and television sets.

Enter the feeling of let down. It’s what my friend Donald calls the moment of doom right before you enter your familiar space at home. You know it will be different than you hope it to be, but hope dies last, as they say.

It wasn’t until we had assembled at the dinner table an hour later that I realized why I had run home instead of sipping the bubbly with the stars. It was a moment of belly laughs and connection and jokes with the kids that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. It may have been slower in coming than I had wished, but the love was there all along beneath the distraction of our digital world.

Fame can’t give you that. Family can.

Contagion is not just a movie

September 12, 2011

The movie Contagion is all the rage right now (thanks, Gwyneth!). But there is another kind of contagion we need to be thinking about as we enter the flu season.

Family Values @ Work, a national network of state coalitions fighting for paid sick days and paid family leave, created a great seven-minute video that highlights just a few examples of the 44 million Americans who have gone to work sick because they couldn’t afford to stay home.

Some shocking stats as cited on Family Values @ Work’s Web site:

  • During the H1N1 outbreak, 7 million Americans caught the flu from their co-workers, due in large part because of the lack of paid sick days.
  • More than 44 million workers do not have paid sick days while only 19 percent of low-wage workers have access to any paid sick days at all.
  • Workers earning low-wages are the least likely to have paid sick days.
  • Many workers with a significant interaction with the public do not have paid sick days. This includes three in four food service workers, three in five personal health care workers and three in four child care workers.
  • 1 in 6 workers have been fired or threatened with being fired for taking time off work to care for a personal or family illness.

Let’s help turn the US workplace into a human place to be. In sickness and in health.

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Terri Corcora has lived well outside her comfort zone for twelve years. Every day she has been called to stretch in ways she had not planned or ever imagined.

Within a month of her wedding, her husband started developing a neurodegenerative illness which over the years has impaired him greatly both physically and mentally. Within a few years, he could do nothing for himself. She has endured tremendous grief at the loss of her husband’s once-brilliant brain, and has undergone tremendous trials in caring for all his needs and every aspect of their lives with little help.

Her faith in God (and His grace) is what she has clung to all these years. But more than that, she has taken her grief and put it into action by becoming an active volunteer with the spousal caregivers organization, “Well Spouse (TM) Association“.

“I get through each day only by the grace of God – the faith I found and have hung onto over these years. I have truly been amazed at how I have grown and been able to build a new life as a caregiver and active volunteer for the Well SpouseTM Association.”

Terri’s endurance is both admirable and impactful. Instead of wallowing in her sense of loss, she has sought support, and lent it as well, to help others.

When we are other-facing, we enrich not only our own lives, but those of others as well. If you know someone in a caregiving situation, help them seek the help they need. Then, everybody wins.

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My dad occasionally sends me really cool stuff that he finds along his cybertravels. This one made me weep (I’m a sucker for Tim McGraw anyway). This young girl, Stacy Westfall, rides her horse with neither saddle nor bridle. She doesn’t speak, but gives her horse commands using her bare hands and legs.

May the power of slow embrace you with warmth and joy and remember to always live like you were dying…and, oh, this one’s for you, Dad. I love you with all my heart.

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A recent joint study on the effects of TV viewing on young children by the Universities of Montreal and Michigan found that by fourth grade the children who had watched several hours of television a day at age 29 months experienced a 7% decrease in classroom engagement, a 6% decrease in math achievement and a13% decrease in time spent doing physical activity. In addition, it was found that those same children had a 9% increase in soft drink consumption, a 10% increase in consumption of snacks, a 5% increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) and a whopping 10% increase in classmate victimization by the fourth grade.

As a TV actor, I’m certainly not saying television is the root of all evil. I’m saying we need to bring more mindfulness and discretion into how much of it our children consume.

Citibabes founder Tracey Frost took these stats to heart. Her New York-based community center is not only for kids, but also for parents. The purpose is to educate them while creating a safe place for kids to play.

“As a mom whose priority has been to educate and enrich my children’s world as much as possible,” she admits,”my first reaction [to this study was] completely one of guilt. While I am neither a child psychologist nor researcher, I am a mom, and it’s difficult to hear studies like these and not feel defeated in some way. Most parents I know educate themselves on the dos and don’ts of parenting, but we’re all human. Perfect parenting is an unfair goal.”

Offering enrichment classes such as the ones available at Citibabes is one way to get kids moving. “When it comes to TV,” Tracey says, “we reserve judgment and, instead, try to create a vibrant world of real-life experiences. Everyone can agree that real quality time spent face to face with other people is more fulfilling than virtual experiences.”

When I asked Tracey what we could do to create healthy viewing habits in our kids, she suggested the following:

- Role Model: The best thing you can role model for healthy TV viewing is, ironically, turning the TV off. Showing kids there’s more to life than a video screen is key which is why getting outside to the park, the beach, or just running some errands models the fun of physical activity over being a couch potato.

- Conversation starters: One thing that comes naturally to grown-ups that may not be easy for kids is the importance of discussing what’s happening on TV. When my husband and I watch TV, there’s always a conversation to be had whether it’s debating a point that’s been made or sharing complimentary information about the topic we’re watching. We try and modify that in an age-appropriate way whenever we watch TV with the kids. Asking questions about what we just watched is the best way to get kids thinking actively about what can turn into passive viewership.

- Reward: Sometimes the power of television is too seductive for kids, not unlike sugar and sweets. So, just like we’ve made dessert a “treat” after a healthy dinner, you can extend that lesson to watching TV. Make a chart for the fridge – and include the whole family – indicating what physical or “real world” activities were done for the day in order to “buy” TV time. An hour at the park might mean an hour of your child’s favorite show. A half-hour of reading a book might mean 30 minutes of playing games on the internet. Instituting a system of checks and balances may seem too rigid, but for young children who like structure and reward, the strategy works and you can always ease up as they get older.

So what do we do when they wing about wanting to watch just one more show? Tune in next time when Tracey offers up ways to draw the line and provide TV viewing alternatives.

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Slow en Espagnol

September 24, 2009

In a few hours we’re boarding a plane to Barcelona. The late-summer sun has kissed our skin good-bye as we enter the warmer climes of the Spanish coastline. My sister and brother-in-law are making happy suitcase zippering noises, a reminder of adventure and good food to come.

We’ll be breathing the slow Spanish air for four days and three nights. Tune in for more stories soon!

Back to Nature – for Kids

September 13, 2009

Go outside!

I shout that at least once a day. What is a pariah to my kids, is the saving grace to my mental health and, as it turns out, theirs, too.

The Ad Council and the U.S. Forest Service have created a campaign to encourage today’s youth (specifically tweens aged 8-12) and their parents to re-connect with nature by experiencing it first-hand.

There are many health benefits to kids who spend time out in nature. Time spent in nature gives kids the ability to engage in unstructured and adventurous play, improving their physical and mental health and emotional well-being. It also helps create a conservation ethic and a life-long love of nature. And did you know that the close proximity to open green space is related to reducing childhood obesity? The closer the trees, the easier they are to climb.

More fun facts:

• U.S. children spend 50% less time outdoors than 20 years ago
• Research shows, that children who play outside:

  1. play more creatively;
  2. have lower stress levels;
  3. have more active imaginations;
  4. become fitter and leaner;
  5. develop stronger immune systems;
  6. have greater respect for themselves, for
    others, and for the environment.

• Based on research conduced by Euro RSCG, 88% of tweens
like being in nature and 79% of tweens wish they could spend
more time in nature.

So go slow. Go natural. Go to the forest and breathe…

I’m excited to have public radio host Gary Ellenbolt’s participation in this Wednesday Wisdom series. His message is one to which we can all relate ~ finding time to show others you love them.

Listen to Gary Ellenbolt share his wisdom of taking the time with those who matter most. [Listening instructions - click on the link, then click again for your media player to open. Be sure to deactivate any pop-up blockers.]

Family Vacation

August 7, 2009

Air travel leaves me with a blend of thrill and fear. There’s something remarkably impossible about lifting people into the sky for a few hours, only to land safely on the other side of the world. When packing, I usually reach a point where I say “If I don’t have it by now, I don’t need it.” It’s a motto of mine I use for most every occasion that involves hunting and gathering.

The holidays is another time of year in which I engage in the “Done, not perfect” attitude. We can only get so much done, see so many people, wrap so many gifts.

Taking vacation to see family, like we are tomorrow, is no different. Everyone wants a bit of your time; it is a loving and joyous request that can sometimes pile up into a scheduling nightmare. We are challenged to learn to say ‘no’ with kindness, to set boundaries and to preserve the integrity of what vacation is all about ~ rest, relaxation and fun!

Take the power of slow wherever you go. I am reminded to do the same.

Space Clearing

July 12, 2009

Whether we carry our baggage inside or out, we all have our own load to bear. My ten year-old daughter’s room is no different. Her biggest issue is The Paper Plague. She starts projects, usually stops mid-page, then stuffs it messy roomin a drawer, on a surface or under her bed. We tackled her desk, then her floor, then her drawers. By the time we had gotten to her shelves, I had engaged in full-blown ruthlessness. I even tossed old paint-by-number pictures that never made it in their frames, much less on the wall.

We engaged in what Arielle Ford calls ‘space clearing’. When we unload our junk, we make room for new experiences. I tried to convey this notion to Sophia:

“All of your unused paper is in this drawer,” I happily pointed to her top desk drawer that was bulging with supplies. “All you need is a new concept,” I told her, mimicking what my cosmetician had told me just a day before (of course, she was trying to sell me a new product line; I was merely trying to sell Sophia on the idea of cleanliness!).

Toss out three things you no longer need. Go to one drawer and empty it. Evaluate what you’ve been keeping and why. Then, if you really don’t need it, give it away or a toss.

I can already breathe easier in Sophia’s room. Now, all I need to do is tackle my own…

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