Sunday, May 23, 2010

Detox Your Kids From Screen Addiction

Raising kids today seems to come with screens attached; multi-media screens that is. From a very early age, the world of TV, computers and cell phones have become cultural norms. Toddlers get hooked on PBS, can manipulate a mouse like breathing air, and can work the 'aps' on an iPhone better than we can. By elementary school, they are getting homework links online and know how to search the internet to spell a word, instead of using the dictionary. They use a screen for everything!

While TV addiction is still a concern to me as a parent- it is the multitude of screen related activities that kids utilize in their free time that has got my parental panties in a wad. Here's an example of a typical afternoon for a tween or teen: watch a few stupid shows on Disney channel, go online to check emails and hang out of Facebook, IM a few friends online, join a chat, listen to tunes and scan a few websites. After that, their cell phone chimes a text, so they attend to that, grab a snack, then head back to the TV to play a few rounds of Wii.

According to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids today spend nearly every waking moment-- except for the time in school -- using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device. In fact, kids ages 8-18 spend an average of seven and-a-half hours a day with various devices. That is over 53 hours per week! Many kids send and receive hundreds of texts per week, with no end in sight. In fact, their ability to multi-task simultaneously with multiple media truly boggles the mind.

I am recognizing this trend first hand at home. My four kids constantly fight over the computer in our living room. The 14 year old wants to check out guitar rifts on YouTube, the 11 year old has discovered emails and is obsessed with sending stupid notes, and the seven year old twins want to play online games. The amount of time they actually used the computer for school stuff was miniscule compared to the time they used it for everything else.

I realized how much time and energy I was spending breaking up fights, setting timers, and vainly trying to monitor their time on all these various screens, and I finally hit the wall. In one fell swoop, I made one of those parental directives that spew out of some primal place of desperation- a threat so outlandish that even I knew it was absurd. "That's IT!" I declared with a force like Moses admonishing the naughty Israelites for worshipping cows, "No screens of any kind for a full week."

The silence was deafening. What had I done? Who cares about their moaning and groaning, what in the heck was I going to DO with them for an entire week without our habitual distractions? Making a mental note to pick up a case of chardonnay, I decided to stick to my guns with this unplug and recharge experiment; and see what happens.

Are your kids "screen addicted?" Overall, I don't think my kids were all that bad, as we are fundamentally cheap and hence a fairly low tech family. Yet, watching their ability to manage their time without having some sort of computer, television or cell phone on hand was quite an enlightening experience.

Kids who constantly have a ready-made distraction on hand lose the ability to come up with something to do, be creative, and relax their bodies and minds at the same time. The first 24 hours were completely brutal. I must have heard, "I'm bored!" a thousand times. My daughter actually got in my face and contended, "I NEED to go on Facebook MOM!" My son said he was the joke of junior high and had to translate messages to his friends to post for him during his hiatus.

To be fair, I limited my time on the computer and the phone from 3pm-bedtime as well. It was interesting to notice my internal urges to saunter over to the computer and dump the email box were pretty darn powerful! Clearly, I was screen addicted too.

Yet, inevitably, a funny thing happened. Once the kids realized there was no caving in - they gave up the fight and found other things to do. Thank God I did not try this in the dead of winter. With warm weather beckoning, the bicycles and roller blades were taken out of the garage, old crafts dug out of the closet, and the older ones played school with the younger ones -- it was pretty creepy. Our house was sort of a nice, "Mayberry-esque" place to be.

By the end of the week, the decibel level in the house had decreased dramatically. The kids seemed calmer, fought less often, slept better, and once the initial detox had passed; they did not miss it as much as they thought they would.

Change is not easy, for adults or children, and changing a habit takes at least seven days. If you are brave enough, I recommend taking on a "no-screen week" as a powerful tool to help children reset their biological batteries. The process allows kids the opportunity to find a little quiet, self-reflection, imagination and connection with others that goes far deeper than their screens will ever touch.

Parents may think they do not have control over our modern media insanity, yet we have more influence than we realize. Even though our kids' brains are capable of this level of multi-tasking, their growing bodies do not flourish in cyberspace. The body needs time to rest, be in sunlight, run around and even be bored.

How long do you think you would last without any sort of screen in your life during non-work hours? Try it out and let me know what you experience. Or, if you are a parent, and have enough chardonnay, try it on your kids -- and let me know how that goes too. Love to hear your comments below and feel free to share this on Facebook or Twitter in the icons above. Click on "Become a fan" to receive weekly updates of my posts.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tips to Manifest Your Dreams

What does it mean to manifest hopes and dreams in your life? The idea of visualizing something we want, and attracting it to us, is an ancient principle of life. Some choose to pray, while others chant, meditate, visualize or create affirmations. Yet, the never-ending tragedy of global economic catastrophe, volcanoes, oil spills and war has beaten many positive thinkers right down to the ground, and taken a tremendous toll on our collective psyche.

Do you believe, deep down, you can manifest your dreams into reality? Many people I have spoken to confess they haven't bothered to dream in a very long time. That fear constricts both individuals and even organizations from believing, and taking essential risks.

A psychology professor at Yale recently asked her undergraduate students to complete an "art therapy" exercise. She passed out paper and crayons, and asked them to draw a picture of what they thought their life was going to look like. Upon receiving the assignments, she was shocked to see most of the pictures were images of hopelessness -- dark colors, falling off of a cliff, hitting a brick wall, or being generally unfulfilled. If our "best and our brightest" are afraid to dream in their early twenties, something must be done.

The ability to imagine something better is the fuel of all great invention, change or innovation in life. Without it, we are essentially floating adrift without a compass. Google is the grand champion of visualizing dreams, and making them happen. They give their managers 20 percent time off -- just to work on personal dream projects. Chade-Meng Tan transformed his engineering job to become their official "Head of Personal Growth" and teaches a Mindfulness based Emotional Intelligence course for employees. Meng hopes to see every workplace in the world become "a drinking fountain for happiness and enlightenment."

Imagine what would happen if you took 20 percent of your time to work on your dreams. Can you feel the tingles of excitement just thinking about it? Here are some free tips to get started:

  • Create a "Bucket List." Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman starred in this wonderful film as strangers who both found out they were going to die, and they created a list of all the things they wanted to do before "kicking the bucket." Some were huge, like sitting on a pyramid, and some were small, like laughing until you cried. Your turn! Create a bucket list to see what is lying deep in your heart.
  • Make a Vision Board. Sure, you have heard it a million times before, but when is the last time you actually MADE one? What you see is what you get in life. Get out some magazines, cut out images that attract you, paste them on a poster board, and hang it where you can see it. They W-O-R-K, just ask Nick Cannon who said his vision board brought Mariah Carey into his life.
  • Pay it Forward. If you run across someone who needs something, give it to them and smile. Consider it direct charity with no expectation of return. The art of giving is like rocket fuel for dream manifestation.
  • Sign up for "Thoughts become Things" is the motto of which sends daily "Notes from the Universe." I guarantee they will cause inner reflection, a hearty laugh or an indrawn breath of utter truth. Creator Mike Dooley describes the notes as, "Spiritual but not religious, inspirational without commitment, empowering yet caffeine-free."

Here is a sample:


A question, from your friend the Universe:

Just how much time do you spend
thinking big? I mean really, really BIG?

Good, very good! Because that's exactly how
much of "it" you're going to get!

What a coincidence.

A dear friend of mine has been working very actively on manifesting her dreams. She has been creating bucket lists and vision boards for what she wants in her life. Some are small, like buying a kayak, and others are grander for family, marriage and community. She even wrote a check to herself, from "The Universe" for an outlandish amount she never thought she deserved.

One day she said she had a "weird confession to make." Less than two weeks after making vision boards and writing her check, her father suddenly passed away, and she was notified that she and her sister were to receive a sizeable amount of money from a Swiss bank account she never knew about. Turns out it was the exact amount she wrote on her vision check.

Her business was booming, and life was blossoming, yet the art of receiving was harder than she imagined and she began getting intense headaches. One night, she had a powerful dream.

I was with a stranger who told me to get rid of the headache I needed to take out my "wishbone." I told her I didn't have a wishbone. She looked at me as if I was crazy, and said "of course you do." She reached behind her head and pulled out a massive wishbone from her back. I couldn't believe my eyes, and told her I certainly don't have one of those.

She pointed behind my neck, and told me to pull. I did, and sure enough, with a lot of pulling and tearing at adhesions in my spine, I slowly pulled out this wishbone about three feet long. I was stunned and told her in amazement that I had no idea this was ever a part of me.

She said that everyone has a wishbone, and most people don't recognize it exists, or its power. She told me we have to pull it out every day and use it as a compass in life. With use, it will be less stiff and difficult to access, and helps in daily decisions.

Whether your dreams are large or small -- find your wishbone -- and use it as a compass in life.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mother's Day Reads: Featuring a Mennonite, a Mother and a Goddess

Let's face it, Mother's are pretty simple creatures and don't require much on our special day. We love home-made cards, breakfast in bed, flowers or anything resembling a foot rub. I love books. I have found the tactile sensation of thumbing pages, underlining passages and triumphantly slamming it shut after the final words are read is one of my favorite ways to "Unplug and Recharge." To celebrate Mother's Day, consider giving your mom a new book, a nice cup of tea and some spaciousness to become lost in a great story.

And I do mean b-o-o-k, not some sort of electronic gadget thing-a-ma-jig. I must admit, I am a dinosaur, and cannot bring myself to use a Kindle. It seems sacrilegious somehow. This past weekend I was returning home from the Wisdom 2.0 conference- essentially an "early Mother's Day" gift for me of hanging out with friends, colleagues and fascinating people for three days with nary a kid in sight.

As our plane prepared to take off and fly across the country, I had a couple new books ready to roll, and was psyched. My seatmate, in 12D, took out his Kindle, pushed the "on" button - and nothing happened. Apparently, he fell asleep reading it the night before, the battery was dead, and he was now out of luck for the 3.5 hours in the air. I swear he was fuming for a half hour, while I smugly buried my nose in the musty smelling pages of sweet delight.

Whether you love the Kindle or book, here are three gems I have recently read that would make a fabulous Mother's Day gift. I selected three different genres; including a hilarious memoir on par with Eat, Pray, Love, a poignant address from mother to her young children, and an inspiring collection of essays from an 'A-list' group that will inspire and energize.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen recently came out in paperback, and is a classic laugh out loud memoir that is impossible to put down, and reads like a great chit chat with your best friend in a coffee joint. Janzen's book opens with the triple whammy of hearing her control freak husband is leaving her for a guy named Bob he met on, followed by suffering a horrible car accident, and facing an academic sabbatical to fill. In order to cope and heal, she journeyed home to her parents and her deeply conservative Mennonite roots. Within the first ten pages I was cracking up, engaged, and hooked on Janzen's easy breezy style, and sublime use of words- like calling the Mennonites " turbo-dorks."

No one can say it better than Janzen herself. Check it out:

Kelly Corrigan is the author of bestselling book The Middle Place, and YouTube sensation, with over 4.6 million hits on her essay "Transcending: Words on Women and Strength," about her Mother and her circle of friends called "the hens." If you didn't see it last year, belly up to the monitor with Mom, and bring some Kleenex. It is the ultimate tribute to women, and their ability to hold each other up.

Corrigan's follow up book, Lift, is a delicate, funny, and piercingly honest letter to her young daughters. Recognizing the precious "little girl" phase is quickly fading away, Corrigan sat down, and decided to describe "how it is with us" and capture the realities of motherhood in an age they are likely to forget as adults. Motherhood is hardly a picnic, and in fact is filled with turbulence, fears and sometimes regrets. The title, Lift, reflects the paradox of the mothering metahor. "Turbulence is the only way to get altitude, to get lift. Without turbulence, the sky is just a big blue hole. Without turbulence, you sink." I loved this little book like savoring a favorite piece of dark chocolate with rock salt.

Here is Corrigan sharing a passage of the book at home with her girls:

Finally, a dear friend of mine sent me a new book called Goddess Shift- Women Leading for a Change- a non-fiction anthology of essays that is very different from the two lighter reads above. This book is hard core inspirational collection of essays from a truly amazing list of women including Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, Barbara Walters, Riane Eisler, Venus and Serena Williams, Jane Fonda, Riane Eisler , Oprah Winfrey, and Angelina Jolie.

A fabulous gift to leave by the bedside, each of the essays are geared to celebrate how far women have come, and to honor those on the forefront. Stephanie Marohn, the editor, describes it as,
"a celebration of our new community, the vision of a more just and loving world. Gathered in this book are some of our living goddesses who have much to say about what women bring to leadership, how women can empower themselves, and how women are creating change in all walks of life."

Goddess Shift offers personal insights that collectively are a deep treasure for women of all ages. Of particular note is all of the royalties are being donated to non-profit organizations that support women's change, including the Global Fund for Women, Capacitar, and Tostan.

Here is a wonderful interview from this week on Fox News about the book, featuring Olympia Dukakis talking about the goddess. Fox News and the Goddess? WOW!

Celebrate all the women in your life who have mothered you in some way. The women who made you laugh, made you cry, or inspired you with their love and leadership. Do you have any special books to share that celebrate women's journeys, motherhood or empowerment? Love to hear them in the comments below and Happy Mother's Day.