March 11, 2022

Bob Greene Helps You Feed Your Family Healthy Meals — For Less

I was so jazzed to get to interview health-and-fitness guru Bob Greene recently for makinglifebetter.com.

No, I didn't get to chat with him on Oprah. (I wish!) It was a phone interview. But boy, did his enthusiasm come right through the phone!

We talked about how busy parents can put good food on the table without breaking the bank by choosing quality over quantity, visiting the local farmer's market, skipping highly processed food, preparing and packing lunches and buying in bulk.

Check out the interview here.

March 10, 2022

Feelin' Girly

I live in a house with men. My husband. My 13-year-old son. Even the dog is a guy. There aren't a lot of pink t-shirts, ballet shoes or Taylor Swift CDs laying around the house.

But every once in awhile, it's nice to think about girly stuff: chick flicks, awards shows complete with the red carpet — and make-up.

When I Interviewed Mally Roncal, makeup artist to the stars (including Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé) for makinglifebetter.com, we hit it off right away. Mally is a (very) busy mom, and she knows what it's like to have crazy days with next to no time for yourself. (She even recently started wearing what she calls a "mom sweater," something she swore she'd never do after seeing her friend's mom wear the same sweater "day after day" when she was a kid. Sound familiar?)

"When I was growing up in upstate New York, as the only non-white kid, they called me 'Fish Lips,'" says Roncal in one of her how-to videos. Perhaps that's one of the things that helped her develop her current philosophy: "What makes you different makes you beautiful."

And beautiful she is, as you can see here. But what I love most about Mally is her personality. She's a hoot. Check out her videos on Mallybeauty.com or QVC (you can buy her makeup line on both) and you'll see how she gets everyday women. She's the kind of pal you'd want to take to martinis-and-manicures night. (You can even wear your mom sweaters.)

Mally sent me some items from her collection to try, and I've been having a ball playing with everything. The makeup comes in gorgeous cases, and it's fun to experiment with it all. The colors are natural and pretty. And it's a kick to know that I'm using a lipgloss shade that — who knows! — Mally may be using on J-Lo next week.

Here's my interview with Mally for makinglifebetter.com: "Pretty in Pink." She also shared some great tips with me for "Make a Tired Face Look Better — Instantly!" Nothing here requires 20 minutes in front of a mirror in the morning. Who has time for that when the kids need to get to school?

Have fun checking out Mally's how-to videos on QVC and on her website (see above). You'll get great tips, and I'm sure you'll find her to be just as much fun as I did.

After all, it's a kick to play with makeup and to look girly now and then — even if you're heading out to a Little League game.

March 09, 2022

How Does This Social Media Stuff Work, Anyway?

Are you on Twitter? Facebook? Chances are, if your kids are hitting the teen years, they're there. Or they want to be.

What's the best way to know what they're up to? Get involved with social media yourself. It's not that difficult — and it's a lot of fun. More and more parents are sharing tips via social media. Many parenting magazines now have Facebook pages, and the parenting community is "tweeting" like mad these days!

I wrote an article, for the April issue of the American Society of Journalists and Authors newsletter, about how writers can use social media to advance their careers. But the article is really helpful for anyone who wants to get started with social media. Check it out here. You can download the PDF at no charge. The article is on page 10.

I'd love to hear how you're using Twitter, Facebook or other social media to connect with other parents. Please leave a comment!

P.S. Of course, when I'm sitting her tweeting away and chatting with my parent buddies on Facebook, I look JUST like this model! ;)

March 03, 2022

Identity Thieves: Are They Targeting Your Kids?

When my son was in elementary school, we used the Internet to look up facts on dinosaurs, earthquakes and Benjamin Franklin for school reports. But now, as a seventh grader, Matt is starting to dip his toe into the social aspects of the Internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging. I’m sure he’ll be wanting to check out Facebook or My Space before long. (Although I’m certainly not pushing it!)

Of course, we’ve had conversations about the importance not posting personal information on the Web, for safety’s sake. But now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is urging kids to avoid posting personal information for another important reason: identify theft. The problem isn’t just for adults anymore, they say.

PROTECTING CHILDREN’S INFO ONLINE

According to the FTC, identity theft from victims age 18 and younger increased from 6,512 in 2003 to 10,835 in 2006. (These figures are based on formal complaints only, so actual incidences of identity theft are higher.) In 2003, about 3 percent of identity-theft victims were younger than 18. By 2006, the figure had risen to 5 percent.

The “friends-of-friends” aspect of social-networking sites allows pre-teens and teens to provide information about themselves that can now travel far beyond the kids they know. And these sites can increase our kids’ exposure to people who have criminal intentions. The FTC and other online-safety experts (see below) suggest these tips for socializing safely on the Web:

°     Know the potential audience. Think about how different sites work before deciding to join a social-networking site. Some sites will allow only a particular community of users to access posted content. Others allow everybody and his brother to view postings.

°     Encourage your child to think about keeping control over the information she posts. She might consider restricting access to a select group of people, such as her buddies from school, a club, a team or a community group.

°    Keep critical information private.
Tell your child to never post his full name, Social Security number, address, phone number or bank and credit-card account numbers — and don’t post other people’s information, either.

°    Keep screen names vague. Make sure your child’s screen name doesn’t say too much about her. Kids shouldn’t use their name, age or hometown on social-networking sites.

°    Remind kids that posted material never disappears.  Once your child posts information online, he can’t take it back. Even if he deletes the information from a site, older versions exist on other people’s computers.

THESE ORGANIZATIONS CAN HELP

To learn more about avoiding identity theft online, check out the following organizations:

°    i-SAFE — Endorsed by the U.S. Congress, i-SAFE is a non-profit foundation dedicated to protecting young people on the Web. The site incorporates classroom curriculum with community outreach to empower students, teachers, parents and law enforcement to make the Internet a safer place.

°    National Cyber Security Alliance — This non-profit organization provides tools and resources to help keep kids (and adults) safe online. NCSA members include the Department of Homeland Security, the FTC and many private-sector corporations and organizations.

°    Staysafe — This educational site helps consumers manage online safety and security issues.

°    Wired Safety  This group is made up of volunteers around the world. Wired Safety provides education and assistance on all aspects of cybercrime and abuse, privacy, security and responsible technology use.

°    Federal Trade Commission — To file a complaint or to get information on consumer issues, visit the website or call toll-free 877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity-theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law-enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

°    GetNetWise is a public service sponsored by Internet-industry corporations and public-interest organizations to help ensure that Internet users are protected.

°    Internet Keep Safe Coalition. This site, the home of Faux Paw the Techno Cat, was created by a coalition of 49 governors, law-enforcement agencies, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other associations dedicated to providing tools and guidelines to teach children to use technology safely.

OTHER WAYS TO AVOID KIDS’ IDENTITY THEFT

Experts at Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, note that child identity theft can go undetected for years because it often isn’t discovered until the victim applies for credit, tries to rent an apartment or tries to open a bank account. There are things you can do to protect your child against identity theft offline, too:

°    Don't let kids carry their Social Security cards in their wallets. These cards should always be stored in a safe place.

°    Keep your child’s magazine subscriptions under your name, not his. This helps prevent your child's name from appearing on mailing lists.

°    Pay attention if your child starts receiving junk mail. If your 12-year-old suddenly begins receiving credit-card invitations in her name, it may mean that her personal information has been compromised.

°    If someone insists he needs your child's Social Security number, verify that he really needs it. I have started questioning this practice at doctors’ offices, and have refused to give out my family’s Social Security numbers to be used as patient identification numbers. When I explain my reason for refusing, most staff members have been understanding. Some have even said “Gosh, I guess I shouldn’t give mine out at my doctor’s offices!”


March 02, 2022

Teens and Smoking: Why?

On the way back from dropping my son off at school this morning, I pulled up alongside an older Volvo at a stop light. I smiled when I saw two girls, about 17 years old, in the car, thinking that the driver's parents had probably made darned sure she was driving a safe car.

They were so young and beautiful. Smiling, chatting, downing their Starbucks coffee drinks. Then, almost in unison, they both stuck their hands out the car window and flicked ashes from a cigarette.

My heart sank.

My mother in law, Pat, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) when my son, Matt, was just in first grade. A lifelong smoker, she tried many times to quit. But the habit, which she picked up in college, was too tough for her to give up. I remember her telling all this to Matt and then telling him to NEVER start smoking. To this day, he still talks about that conversation with his grandmother.

This morning, I wanted to get out of my car and go tell all of this to those girls. Those lovely, healthy young women with beautiful skin, bright eyes and (I hoped) still-healthy lungs and hearts.

I didn't, of course. The light turned green. We went our separate ways. And I don't expect those two girls to be seeking out a parenting blog... Until they are parents themselves, of course. When they're addicted to smoking and worried like hell that the second-hand smoke, and the example they're setting, might be hurting their kids. When they're looking up articles on Google about how to quit smoking or how to make sure their own kids never smoke.

How much easier it would be for today's teens to not pick up that first cigarette. Or to quit now, after a few months of smoking, rather than having to stare down that nicotine beast after a decade or more of damage.

If you're a parent who is smelling cigarette smoke on your kid's clothes when then come home, please show them this post. You may not be the parent of those two particular girls. But then again, there might be an older, gold-colored Volvo sitting in your driveway right now.


March 01, 2022

Experts Say Cell Phones Distract Preteen Pedestrians (Well, Duh.)

Thank goodness they did this study in a simulated pedestrian environment...

A new study has examined how cell-phone use distracts preteens while crossing the street. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham worked with children ages 10 and 11. 

Distraction was created by cell-phone conversation with a research assistant. When distracted, the kids were less attentive to traffic, left less time between themselves and the next oncoming vehicle and were involved in more collisions and near misses.

While cell phones offer convenience and safety to families, the study authors stress that pedestrians — especially children, who are likely to be more distracted than adults — should limit cell-phone use while crossing the street.

Seems like it might be time for yet another reminder to our kids about pedestrian safety. (Just don't call them on their cell phones to remind them...)


February 27, 2022

Welcome Pot Smokers!

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

You gotta love Google. It always amazes me how people find this blog, and it's a hoot to see some of the Google searches that result in people clicking on a parenting blog. How about these:

°    "How to prep and smoke weed" (Sorry, Dude, but you ended up with my article for parents on kids and pot.)

°    "What do you do when your teenager is smoking pot?" (OK, I'm seeing a trend here. Maybe the first one was searched by a teen and the second one by his mom?)

°    "Idea gift teacher child always late pick up" (Always late pickup? So you need a gift to say I'm sorry for all those late arrivals at day-care pick-up time? I'm guessing the teacher would prefer you spend the money on a watch. Teachers need to get home to their OWN families at the end of the day, right?)

°    "Cell phone in washing machine" (After I did a post on this when my son left his cell phone in his pants pocket — and it got drenched — the post became my most-visited ever. At least our family isn't alone!)

°    "Sick of video games" (Me too.)

°    Can my child get MRSA at school? (The number of searches that hit on the MRSA post here on the blog is going up, up, up. Remember to tell your kid not to share gym towels — and not to sit his naked butt on the bench in the locker room. Now there's a dinner-time conversation starter!)

Keep those Google searches coming! I love having you stop by — however you get here.

February 25, 2022

Follow Your Favorite Parenting Magazines on Twitter!

Twitter is everywhere these days. As a parent, I love it. Looking for links for everything from potty training to college-savings advice? Type in key words on Search Twitter. Looking to connect with other parents? You'll find plenty of friendly faces.

And if you'd like to follow your favorite parenting magazines on Twitter, just start right here:

Calgary’s Child - @CalgarysChild
Chesapeake Family - @ChesFamily
Columbus Parent - @ColumbusParent
Houston Family - @HoustonFamily
Metro Family (OKC) - @metrofamily
New Jersey Family - @njfamilymag
O.C. Family - @ocfamily
Our Kids San Antonio - @OurKidsMagazine
Parenting and Babytalk - @parenting
SW Florida Parent & Child - @gulfcoastmoms
Wilmington Parent - @WilmingtnParent

If you're the editor of a parenting magazine, and you'd like to be added to this list in the future, please drop me a line at kathy@kathysena.com. Thanks!   

February 24, 2022

Join Our Parent Talk Today Fan Page on Facebook!

Looking for a great way to keep up with Parent Talk Today while also being able to start your own discussions about parenting, post photos and chat with other parents?

Pop on over to Parent Talk Today's new fan page. We're having a great time! See you there.


Are Your Kids Sexting?

Terrific piece by Nick K. Mandel, over on the Consumer Reports electronics blog today, on sexting, where cell phone users — usually teens — exchange provocative, sexual photos of themselves using their cell phones' built-in digital camera.

(Disclosure: I work for Consumer Reports as their social media reporter. You can follow me at @CReporter on Twitter. I primarily cover consumer issues there, but that also overlaps with my parenting reporting here. After all, we parents are some of the biggest consumers around!)

Mandel notes that a survey from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy suggests that one in five teens have "electronically sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves." A percentage that high means that many parents who think "my kid would never do that" may be surprised to learn the truth.

Check out Mandel's post and the articles below. Then talk with your kids if you think they may be fooling around with sexting. Chances are, they have no idea how serious the consequences can be.


February 13, 2022

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February 09, 2022

What if Newspapers Didn't Exist?

Is your son studying American history right now? Is your daughter working on the school paper? Do you want your kids to learn about the news of the day? To be informed citizens? Then you obviously care about newspapers. And you have certainly heard about the current decline in circulation, the folding of long-standing papers, the layoffs.

Newspapers are important to this country. And they are hurting right now. Today's guest blogger, TJ Sullivan, is taking doing something unusual to bring newspapers to our attention. Check this out — and please share it with your kids...

Thomas Jefferson did not wish to become a wolf.

Odd as that may sound today considering all the good he did his country, Jefferson worried about the possibility, so much so that, while on a trip to Europe in 1787, one of his letters home became a kind of dissertation about the people he'd seen transformed into "wolves and sheep" along the way.

Cloaked in the garb of government, Jefferson wrote, the leaders of Europe had managed to divide their nations into two distinct classes -- "wolves and sheep" -- with the ruling class preying upon everyone else.

It was, Jefferson figured, the result of the public's inattention, an inevitability wherever government was permitted to exist absent a free press.

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."


Those words appeared in Jefferson's letter to Edward Carrington, a Virginia statesman who was serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In it, Jefferson went on to say that, without newspapers, he feared the American public would stop paying attention to their government. Once that happened it was only a matter of time before Jefferson, the Congress, and the whole of the American government turned into a pack of wolves preying upon sheep.

Wolves and sheep. You don't have to be a Jeffersonian scholar to comprehend what it means.

Yet, here we find ourselves more than 222 years later in the midst of a newspaper crisis that TIME magazine says has reached "meltdown proportions," meaning our transformation into wolves and sheep may soon be a foregone conclusion, and still the majority of the American public appears oblivious.

Many newspapers have closed. Buyouts and layoffs have decimated once great institutions of American journalism. And despite all that, some of the craziest last-ditch efforts you ever could have imagined are being implemented in the effort to stave off death.

- The Los Angeles Times has killed its local news section.

- The Gannett newspaper chain has put its newspaper employees on mandatory five-day furloughs.

- The Detroit New and The Detroit Free Press have ceased daily home delivery.

These aren't sane measures. Indeed, had anyone suggested such things two years ago they'd have been branded a lunatic. But as we approach panic mode, even remotely plausible ideas seem worth a shot.

TIME magazine's cover story this week, a very thought-provoking piece written by Walter Isaacson (a former TIME managing editor, and president and CEO of the Aspen Institute), suggests the solution may be to charge readers for access:

"Under a micropayment system, a newspaper might decide to charge a nickel for an article or a dime for that day's full edition or $2 for a month's worth of Web access. Some surfers would balk, but I suspect most would merrily click through if it were cheap and easy enough."


Simple enough, except that, as Isaacson points out, it's not new. Writers have been charging readers for news since paper put cave walls out of business, but, despite that, prior attempts to make readers pay in the wired world of the World Wide Web haven't gone over very well.

Which brings us right back to where we've been for years while, in the meantime, another newspaper (Denver's Rocky Mountain News) rages against the dying of the light.

No more.

It's time to do something drastic.

It's time to do more than join another Facebook pledge group, or promote a campaign like National Buy A Newspaper Day, or to purchase some overpriced t-shirts emblazoned with the message "Save a journalist, buy a newspaper."

It's time to admit that, regardless of how many readers may be clicking through newspaper content for free on the Internet, newspapers don't matter to those readers because Jefferson's concerns aren't on their radar. They've got enough to worry about. They've got jobs of their own. They've got this much time to read blog X, Y and Z, and click their way over to the paper and back, or not, or whatever, but there's no compelling reason for them to stop and think about what would happen if the newspapers providing all that news ceased to exist.

To the average reader wolves and sheep are little more than characters in a fairy tale.

It's not that Americans don't care. It's simply a matter of human nature. Until the discomfort reaches the readers -- at which point it will be too late -- there's no motivation for them to get involved in finding a solution.

Clearly newspapers can't solve this alone. They've had years. They're lost. And, at this stage, asking for directions isn't enough to put them back on track.

Now is the time for newspapers to do something proactive; time for them to demonstrate what life would be like without them.

It's time for every daily newspaper in the United States, in cooperation with the Associated Press, to shut down their free Web sites for one week.

Yes. Shut it down. Blank screen. Nothing.

Of course, news would still be reported daily in every newspaper's printed product. No editor, or reporter or publication would dare shirk their watchdog responsibilities. This isn't about stopping the presses.

But the Web? People can do without news on the Web for a week. They won't like it. They'll complain about it. But, that's exactly what has to happen before they can be expected to care.

Pulling the plug gets their attention.

So, here's the proposal: At the stroke of midnight on Independence Day, Saturday July 4, all daily newspapers ought to switch off their Web sites until Friday, July 10.

Call it "A Week Without a Virtual Newspaper." Call it crazy. Call it costly. Call it whatever you want, but it's no more drastic a measure than asking people to work for free.

A move like this puts the crisis where it ought to be, front and center at the top of every newscast. It makes it impossible for anyone to deny where the majority of news content comes from, and why it matters. For without virtual newspapers, what would Drudge report? What would Huffington post? What would Google News and Yahoo News and all those cut-and-paste blogs that get so much of their material from newspapers have to offer if newspapers went away?

Not that there's anything wrong with public affairs blogs, aggregate news sites, or any other online entity that makes use of newspaper reports. The point of pulling the plug for one week isn't to harm them, but to emphasize the origin of all that news content, and why everyone should care about protecting that source.

Pulling the plug is perhaps the only way to make people outside of journalism sit up and take notice that this isn't about jobs in journalism, but American Democracy.

It's about wolves and sheep. Wolves and sheep.

The petition is available online at this link.

-- TJ Sullivan

February 06, 2022

Guest Post: Cover Up! The Kids are Watching!

Example of cleavage from a German lingerie adv...

Thanks to Lynn Armitage, who blogs over at A Mad Mom, for this guest post. Lynn doesn't pull any punches here! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post, especially if you have a young daughter. Thanks, Lynn!

Yesterday, I went into a young girls' clothing store called "Justice" to return a sweater that I had bought my daughter for Christmas that she was too afraid to tell me she hated and would never wear. The tags were still on it! (What is it about mothers turning into fashion failures after they have kids?)

I walked up to the register and standing behind it with a pretty little smile on her face was a 20-something gal looking perky -- and quite seductive in a top cut so low, I could almost see her areolas. I looked around to make sure I hadn't accidentally walked in to a Frederick's of Hollywood, and for a split second thought I should check the sign outside the store to see if it said, "Girls! Girls! Girls!"

I was flabbergasted that a clerk working in a store that sold clothes for young girls between 5 and 12 years old would be dressed like a stripper. Had she no common sense? Doesn't she realize that our young daughters are watching, and learning, from her generation of young women? If they see all these gals walking around baring their breasts like it's a mandatory dress code for that age group, they will think it's OK to dress that way, too; that sexy and slutty are "in," and modesty is SO uncool.

What are these salesclerks thinking when they get dressed for work? Do they think some really cute guy is going to walk in to a store for little girls, for no apparent reason, see them up at the counter showing their nipples and think, "You are SO hot! I want to whisk you away from this miserable minimum-wage existence to birth my babies!" (Picture Richard Gere in "An Officer and a Gentleman.") These stores aren't bars or nightclubs -- they are WORK places!

So I did what any Mad Mom would do: I asked for the manager. I told her that I was a mother of a tween -- a very impressionable tween -- and that I didn't appreciate shopping in a store for young girls where the salesclerks are dressed like hookers. I suggested that she tell all the Justice employees to cover up -- or at least wear cammies over all that cleavage. I told her it is highly inappropriate to dress like that around our innocent young daughters and that they had an obligation, working in a store like this, to be role models for our children.

In other words, I suggested she mandate a new dress code for her employees of "Less cleavage, more class."

And I'd like to encourage every mother out there who has a young daughter to follow suit. If you walk into a store that sells products aimed at your child, and the salesclerks look like prostitutes, PLEASE go up to the manager and let her know that you're not going to be shopping there any longer if her employees continue to dress like that because it's sending the wrong message to our children, who are oversexualized enough as it is.

If each of us can do this one little thing, we may be able to help our daughters hang on to their innocence a little bit longer.

Better yet, send a complaint to their customer service department. Maybe if they get hit with enough Mad-Mom e-mails, they might reconsider their employee dress code. Here's the link. (and a BIG thank you to Joe at Hey Joe for suggesting that we approach them digitally!

February 03, 2022

When Would YOU Call The Police?

Terrific piece in the New York Times today — "When Do You Call The Police?" by Lisa Belkin.

"You’ve seen it too often on the news — a child is found (sometimes too late) in an abusive home," writes Belkin. "A baby dies in a hot car. A teen shoots up a school, and it turns out he was ignored or mistreated by his parents. You wonder — didn’t anyone notice? And why didn’t they say anything?"

ABC’s new show What Would You Do? sets up such situations and watches as average people decide whether to get involved or mind their own business.

When DO you call the police? Speak with a teenager's parents? Notify the school guidance counselor? When are you possibly overreacting and when might you be ignoring a potentially dangerous situation?

As parents, these are tough calls to make — especially when it's tempting to just mind our own business and not risk angering a neighbor, a parent from school, one of our kid's friends...

Would would you do?





February 02, 2022

Get Your Consumer-Information Fix at @CReporter

Are you, like me, a big Consumer Reports fan? Wish you had a place to go for great links to all things consumer-related?

Starting today, I'm the social media reporter for Consumer Reports, and I'll be sharing all sorts of great info over at www.twitter.com/CReporter. If you're on Twitter, please follow and say hello. You'll also want to stop by CR's terrific blog.

Not on Twitter? It's easy — and free — to get started. Just go to Twitter.com.

I'll still be here, of course, bringing you lots of great parenting ideas as always. I see this new project as a great complement to what I'm doing here. After all, who needs helpful consumer information more than parents?

P.S. Stop by the CR blog to learn more about tomorrow's free breakfast offer at Denny's. Bring the kids!

January 28, 2022

All Hail Mommy Bloggers — and Social-Media Fans

I'm so jazzed to share this fun Parents TV video about mommy bloggers with you because it features two terrific friends and colleagues, Jen Singer of MommaSaid.net fame and Amanda Wolfe, Parents magazine's media editor and editor of GoodyBlog.

I'm one of Jen's columnists on MommaSaid.net. (How cool that they mentioned the columnists in the report, too.) Check out the column, "Boo Boos, Germs and Pap Smears," here.

Both Jen and Amanda will be speaking on my panel on social media at the American Society of Journalists and Authors annual conference in New York City on April 25. If you're a writer, blogger (mommy-blogger or otherwise) or a social-media fan, you won't want to miss this conference and this panel. To learn more about the conference and to register, click here.

In addition to Jen and Amanda, the panel will feature Redbook editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison (yep, she blogs, too, over at Something About Stacy) and Peter Shankman of Help a Reporter Out fame. Hope to see you there!


Just Another Day for a Work-at-Home Writer Mom

You know the day isn't going to start off well when the very first words you hear, after the clock radio starts blaring "Don't Stop Believing," is "Mom! Charlie (the dog) threw up in his crate."

Ugh. Nothing like dealing with dog puke before you've had a chance to brush your teeth.

Oh, but we're not done yet: "Mom, I don't feel so well."

So here I am, with a kid home sick from school, a bedroom that smells like dog vomit, breakfast to make and a 9 a.m. conference call with three people in New York who will decide whether they want to hire me for a great freelancing gig.

In other words: No time for Calgon to take me away.

But it all got done. By 8:55, the bedroom smelled better, the school attendance folks were called, and the kid was fed and was happily lounging in the den drinking orange juice and watching a Bill Cosby DVD.

And there I was, at 9:00, in my home office sounding (I hoped) like I had it completely together as I talked with three very nice people on a conference call — as the dog barked in the background.

Hey, nobody ever said this working-from-home thing would be easy.



January 23, 2022

No Health Insurance? Here's Help

It's tough not to worry.

Turn on CNN and you see stories about hundreds of people losing their jobs as employers resort to layoffs, companies downsize and businesses go out of business.

“Losing your job is scary enough,” says Adam Goldstein, M.D., a professor of family medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. “But for some people, such as those who have chronic health problems that require both medications and regular visits to the doctor, that fear becomes magnified by the loss of health insurance that often goes hand in hand with the loss of one’s job.”

More than 45 million Americans had no health insurance in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. What to do if it happens to you? Goldstein offers the following tips:

°    Check to see if you qualify to continue your current health insurance under COBRA. COBRA is a federal law that gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits for limited periods of time after job loss. Qualified individuals still must pay the entire premium for coverage to continue. For more information, click here.

°    Call your primary-care doctor and explain your situation. Most physicians will work with you to ensure that you still have access to care while you work out a way to pay your medical bills. They may have a sliding-scale policy to allow those with fewer financial resources to pay less at each visit.

°    Seek care at a community health center or free medical clinic whose mission is to serve patients, regardless of their ability to pay. Federally supported community health centers also provide a range of primary-care services on a sliding-scale fee basis. Also, take advantage of the free blood-pressure machines available at many pharmacies.

°    Try to get your medications at reduced or no cost. Prices in pharmacies may vary widely, with the most expensive charging two to five times more than the least expensive. Shop around. Many pharmaceutical companies offer medications for free for a limited time to patients with no income and few financial assets. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance offers access to more than 450 public and private patient-assistance programs, including more than 180 programs offered by pharmaceutical companies. For more information, click here.




January 20, 2022

Guest Blogger Jessalyn Pinneo: "Welcome to Washington, Mr. President!"

Today I'd like to welcome a wonderful guest blogger, Jessalyn Pinneo, from over at one of my favorite blogs: There Is No Spoon (A Millenial Grows Up).

I've known Jessi for about a decade, and I've loved watching her as she begins her career in Washington D.C. Jessi was fortunate enough to be a witness to history today. And I wanted to share her story in her own words. Thanks, Jessi!

Welcome to Washington, Mr. President

My legs are half-frozen, my hair is a tangled disaster, my shoulders are knotted and sore from hunching against the wind... and I've never been more thrilled, inspired or hopeful in my life. Why? Because I stood on the National Mall at noon today and watched President Barack Obama take his oath of office as the 44th President of the United States.

I was not an Obama fan during the primaries. I was pulling for John Edwards, then for Hillary Clinton, shaking my head at Obama's lack of experience and rolling my eyes at his celebrity status with so many people my age. But then, the last few months of the primaries, I started really listening to what he had to say, watching the way he interacted with people and the effect he had on them.

Once I started paying attention, I couldn't actually find anything to dislike about Barack Obama at all.

As the general election heated up, so did my enthusiasm for the Democratic candidate, this husband, this father, this basketball player, this statesman whose love of country resonates in every word he speaks. Well before November 4th, I was committed to doing what I could to see him elected, not only because he was my party's candidate but because I finally saw in him the spark that so many others were drawn to before me. The hope, the commitment to change not only for the betterment of this country but for that of the world, and the unflagging patriotism that acknowledges our country's failings at the same time that it reminds us of its greatness and its potential.

On November 4th, I cast one of the millions of ballots that helped turn Virginia blue, then sat on the floor in front of the TV with tears streaming down my face as President-elect Obama gave his address from Grant Park in Chicago. And today I stood on the Mall, again with tears in my eyes, and listened to President Barack Obama speak for the first time - seriously, hopefully, determinedly - to the American people.

I've always been proud to be an American, proud of the dreams and determination that have made us what we are, proud to be part of the astonishingly diverse heart of this country. But I've never been as filled with hope, and the belief that the status quo can change for the better, as I am today.

The day before the election, I wrote a post for my non-profit's blog, an excerpt of which I've been thinking about for the last week or so:

"I have a challenge for our next president, whether he turns out to be Barack Obama or John McCain:

Hold onto the sense of community that’s grown among your supporters, among the citizens of this country, during the campaign. It’s been a long one and we’re all tired of it, but we’re united in our desire to see a better, brighter future for America. Take that unity and hold it up for the country to see, make it clear that regardless of who any one person voted for, the next steps in American history are up to all of us. Foster that sense of community among the diverse voices that comprise the citizenship of our country. If you do, I believe that you’ll be able to accomplish more than any president in the past 20 years has dreamed possible.

Use the collective energy of that community to fix what’s broken... Gather it around minority groups who are too often the innocent victims of attackers who don’t understand them and only recognize them as different and therefore dangerous. Pit the enormity of that positive vibe against the negativity of... extremist positions, and let’s see if we can’t overwhelm them in such a way that makes them obsolete.

I believe the American people have the power to accomplish all that and more and I challenge you, Mr. President, to harness it. The marathon [of the election]’s almost over, but the real test of strength has yet to begin. I hope you have the guts to meet it head-on, and win."

I'm sure no one in President Obama's closest circles (and probably not many in mine, for that matter) has read that post — November 3rd was kind of a busy day for them! — but listening to him speak, the following night and this morning, I feel heard. And I believe that with President Obama in office, the dream of a united America, of an active citizenry and a government — or at least a White House — that hears and fights for the needs of its citizens can once again be a reality.

If I didn't believe that, I probably wouldn't have walked the 4.5 miles from my apartment to downtown D.C. in this morning's 20-some-odd-degree weather, bundled up in tights, knee-highs, wool socks, jeans, tank top, long-sleeved tee, sweater, windbreaker, scarf, coat and fleece headband, with hand warmers in my pockets and toe warmers in my shoes, to stand with the mass of people that filled the entire length of the Mall and the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and watch the swearing-in of our 44th president. If I didn't believe that, I would likely have spent this Inauguration as I spent the last one: ignoring it, and wishing the motorcades and barricades and military checkpoints would stop messing with my routes through the city.

But I do believe it, so I wanted to be there, to watch history in the making, to watch the first moments of a presidential term I believe will bring extraordinary and much-needed changes to America. And to say: Welcome to Washington, Mr. President!

Cool Baby Stuff — And a Great Cause, Too

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