VIDEO: What Do Kids Think About Violent Video Games?

There has been a renewed discussion about violent video games and the correlation with real life violence.  This discussion crops up after every tragic mass shooting since the gunman more likely than not also played a lot of games like Grand Theft Auto or other violent games.

I’m not going to wade into this debate right now, (though I find this conclusion from Adam Thierer incredibly interesting) but at KidzVuz we thought it would be worth asking kids what they thought.

After all, this is the digital generation and it’s worth listening to them about the media, and world, they are growing up with.

Here’s the VIDEO:

Brave’s Merida – Redefining the Word Princess

There was a lot of uproar about Disney “sexing” up Merida in their lead up to her official induction into the Disney Princess Pantheon.  But, at the Disney coronation ceremony last week, which I attended as part of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, she was exactly as you would imagine – wild haired, bold, in her everyday velvet dress and riding a horse.

photo courtesy of Disney

photo courtesy of Disney

My daughters never went through a princess phase, but Merida they relate to.  Archery is one of their favorite sports – and my daughter could easily give Merida a run for her money in the biggest, curly hair category.

archerygirls

The word princess is weighed down with years and years of anti-feminist meaning – damsel in distress, pampered and spoiled, helpless and silly.  And if you’re also Jewish – well that just adds a whole other level of stereotype.   Thanks, Bravo.

But, I will be the first to admit I was all in for Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty when I was growing up.  Just like a was all in for Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman and Princess Leia – not to mention Sandy in Grease.   The “princesses,” didn’t differ in my mind from any other title and lead female character – they were all important enough to have the story revolve around them, or be key characters that drove the story.  And in the end, that is the most empowering message – you drive the story of your life.

So, I love this new I am a Princess Campaign from Disney.  I’ve written before about the power of owning a word that was used to put you down.  Girls defining what it means to be a princess now, to them, for them – that has the potential to be truly powerful.  Watch the video and tell me what you think.

 

Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief for Kids by K.I.D.S.

For the last few months we have been preparing at KidzVuz for a huge live event for tween girls and their influential moms in NYC.  Early on we were very excited to partner with the non-profit, K.I.D.S – Kids in Distressed Situations – and bring them in to the event, and to our KidzVuz users as we launch a new initiative to get tweens more involved in community service for other kids.

And then, this week, Hurricane Sandy hit us here on the East Coast.  We are fortunate that our NYC offices are fine.  But, for so many thousands of others this is not the case.

Everything K.I.D.S. does is focused on helping kids in “distressed” situations – from domestic abuse, poverty and natural disasters.  They leapt into action in the aftermath of Sandy and have been working non-stop to get kids who have lost so much, all the clothes, supplies and materials they will need to survive the next few weeks, be able to go back to school, and to somehow start to piece back together their lives in devastated areas.

Here’s how you can help:

To make a new product donation to the K.I.D.S. Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Fund, please visit www.kidsdonations.org.

Agencies in affected communities are in dire need of new apparel, blankets, shoes, toys, baby products and books.

Cash donations can also be made by visiting www.kidsdonations.org . These cash donations are needed to assist with the transportation and distribution efforts needed to move the product to our local partner agencies to serve the victims.

Because of their 10 to 1 system of matching $10 worth of product for every $1 donated, your $10 donation will provide $100 worth of brand new merchandise to victims in need.

You can easily make a donation by texting GIVE 8000 to 80088 to donate $10 to K.I.D.S. on your mobile phone bill.

To make a larger donation, please contact Cristina Morais at 212-279-5493 ext. 204.

Don’t feel hopeless – give a kid some hope instead!

Pregnant in Flats (Because I’m working all the time!)

This is a Maternity Monday post by guest blogger Jess Levey.  This series appears almost every Monday on Beccarama.

I have been taking a break from Maternity Mondays since, well, I have been very busy starting a new teaching job, shooting and editing weddings, and working in my art studio – did I mention, that I lead three different ‘work’ lives?  All of this busy-ness has got me thinking: When did it become OK for pregnant women to take on as much when they are pregnant as they did pre-pregnancy?

As I begin my third trimester I have developed new aches and pains, walking up a flight of subway stairs or bending over to buckle my shoes has become increasingly difficult. The pressure in my pelvis and uterus (and well, entire abdomen really) seems to be cause for alarm, but from what I have read, this is all normal. I am so thankful for the Ingrid & Isabel BellaBand that I’ve been using to help support and lift my tummy.

I wasn’t sure if I’d need it when they sent it to me a few months ago since I couldn’t fathom my stomach being big enough to need something like this – but now it’s a life saver – giving me support and taking weight off my back, especially while teaching all day, and shooting all night!

Finding something to wear is a whole other issue, especially since I am now teaching in a religious school where I need to hide my bulging cleavage which seems to want to pop out of even the highest of necklines.

Most of the time when I am home, I sleep or I think about sleep. I have never been a morning person, but my sleep patterns have become as upside down as a newborn’s.  On Sunday, I slept till 11am!  Then went to brunch with my husband where I drank two cups of (half-decaf) coffee and a ridiculously too heavy eggs Benedict with chorizo, came home and slept for another 2 hours! Granted, I was resting up in preparation for a wedding I was off to shoot starting at 5:30 in the evening and ending at 11pm, but even after all that sleep, I still felt exhausted.

So, I guess it is true that the 2nd trimester is truly the honeymoon period, full of much more energy than I think I ever had pre-pregnancy.  And, just as quickly as our actual honeymoon in Costa Rica flew by, so did the 2nd trimester. I just can’t believe that I have 3 ½ more months to go until my due date, and my workload will just get more and more intense as winter approaches.

All of this need for rest but lack of time to do so, has got me questioning this pressure that pregnant women have succumbed to be as busy as possible before the birth of the baby, if not even more so. We are so terrified of the possibility of three months without work post-baby, that we do as much as we can beforehand to make up for the likely lost income, especially if we are freelance like most of my friends and colleagues.

I am not sure this is healthy for my baby or for my sanity.  I am constantly hearing stories from friends about how they worked up to the very last minute before giving birth. One friend just yesterday was saying how she was shooting a gig in midtown (a 45 minute commute by subway) on a Wednesday and she delivered on Friday. Another colleague told me that she was shooting a wedding two weeks before giving birth, and she had three herniated discs at the time and was on Percaset! An artist friend told me that the day before giving birth she was on the last step of a 12 foot ladder installing a project in her studio. The stories of ‘survival’ continue and when women tell these stories, it is with a sense of pride. Pregnant women have not avoided this NYC mom competition to be able to do it all, regardless of how far along in pregnancy they are .

At first I welcomed my busy-ness, finding it a nice distraction from the daily changes that my body was enduring. But, now as my body seems to want to rest more, I am beginning to want to relax, connect with my unborn baby, work on my new hypnobirthing homework (more on that later), and search for more baby-must-haves to add to my registry. But, no time for that!  Mommy needs to work, so she can afford that Made in England Co-Sleeper!

What I Want My Daughters to Know About 9/11

English: Twin Towers NYC (scanned from print p...

English: Twin Towers NYC (scanned from print photos) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My daughters are 9/11 babies.  They were born in 2002, a little less than nine months after 9/11.  I was very newly pregnant that day, but so early I didn’t know I was pregnant for 4 more days.  We lived downtown and one of our favorite parts of our one-bedroom apartment was the view out of our living room window straight down 3rd Ave to the Twin Towers.  That morning my husband left early to vote in the NYC Democratic Primary before heading uptown to work.  I was still in the bedroom putting together my notes and thoughts before I started my day of writing.  All the blinds were down.

My husband burst back into the apartment and told me to open the blinds and look out the window because one of the Towers was on fire.   When we looked out the window it was apparent that they were both on fire at this point.  We spent the next incomprehensible moments watching out our window while watching Peter Jennings on TV at the same time.   And then the unthinkable happened –  the first tower collapsed.   We were frantically on email since phone service was down.  We waited to hear about one friend who worked in one of the Towers.  My sister showed up at my apartment at some point, having watched the same horrific scene from her roof downtown.  I couldn’t get a hold of my dad, a doctor in Brooklyn Heights, who was at his hospital as it tried to handle the inundation of stricken, shocked and debris-covered people who had walked across the Brooklyn Bridge looking for help, too stunned to process what had happened.  My mom was on vacation in Denver, unreachable.  Her apartment downtown was soon behind military barricades, the meatpacking district looked like a military zone.

We walked to our neighborhood diner at some point, just sitting there collectively trying to eat and trying to figure out what normal would be in NYC.  We lived right off of Union Square, which quickly became the site of missing posters, of flyers, of family and friends holding out hope, trying to feel proactive.  It’s still hard to describe how this giant city felt like a small town.  How everyone was scared but bonded all at once.  There was nothing more horrific than what happened that day – but there was also a determination and understanding among New Yorkers that we were in this together.  As much as it happened to America – as much as politicians still try to use it for their own purposes – it truly happened to New York.

Everyone in my childbirth preparation class had a 9/11 story.  My pregnancy was in the shadow of that “recovery.”  I switched doctors partly because the hospital at which I was supposed to deliver was right across from Ground Zero.  My whole pregnancy I worried (and still worry) about the air I inhaled, especially that first week, when it was so intensely filled with the stench of burning steel, acrid odors, and a yellow haze.  Being pregnant during the aftermath of 9/11 was both life affirming and scary as hell.

So, how do I talk to my girls about that time?  The attack on the Twin Towers, the attack on NYC, is not just about terrorism and fear.  One of the things I most want them to understand – if anything can truly be understood from that awful day – is how the city came together during that time.  How hundreds of volunteers lined up to feed the first responders and firemen and policemen who tirelessly kept searching through the burning rubble to find the possible survivors, or find the remains of the victims so they could be properly buried or memorialized.  How volunteers came from all over the country to help.  How a mayor who we didn’t even like, stepped up to fill a giant vacuum of leadership and really came through when the city – and country – needed someone to lead.  How even though I was stunned and shaken and not sure if my beloved city would rebound – I was still hopeful because collectively the city had proved itself to be an extraordinary place full of kindness, grit and compassion.

Today, all over the country most people have moved on.  But, in NYC this still feels like a day meant only for memorials and remembering.  I am still shocked when someone invites me to something frivolous on 9/11.  This day remains different in NYC.   We remember not just because we lived through it, but because these were our fellow New Yorkers.  And I want my daughters to know they should proud to be New Yorkers, but not take for granted this amazing city full of different cultures, languages, food, energy and opinions.  I know I never will.

What Does the MOM Media Blitz Teach Our Daughters?

A few months ago I received a pre-release copy of Jill Smokler’s book, Confessions of a Scary Mommy.  I had it out on my kitchen counter, on the couch, on a living room chair – basically I would pick it up read a few pages, laugh, sigh and put it down.  It was the perfect book to enjoy in small bites, letting the voices of all those women resonate and relate.  What I didn’t expect was for my 9 year-old daughter to pick it up and basically devour it.

I didn’t know she was reading it until I heard giggling coming from a corner of the living room where we have the one big comfy chair.  (also the only chair, but that’s another story)  I hadn’t read through the whole book, but figured I knew it was mostly funny, tongue in cheek – whatever.  Then it got really silent.  About 20 minutes later my daughter came out of her room and approached me with a confused and concerned look on her face.  “Do you like being a mom?” she asked me.  And my heart sank.

Now of course a nine year-old doesn’t understand that moms venting and needing to commiserate is actually one of the joys of motherhood – and certainly of mom blogs and forums like Scary Mommy.  When my daughters were born and I was literally trapped in the house because I was pumping every 3 hours to make sure my twin daughters only got breast milk, and I held one of them in the dark in our walk-in closet for hours because it was the only way she’d be calm – and then felt guilty because I wasn’t holding the other one as much since she slept so well by herself in her crib – the days had so many shades of wonder, exhaustion, self-doubt, minor victories, and overwhelming love, that I couldn’t tell one from the other or have time to think about what other new moms were doing to get through those initial months.

But, when I recount those early days to my daughters I don’t go into the parts that drained me or made me almost burn down the apartment building when I fell asleep while sterilizing my pumping tubes and gear.  They were babies of course.  Babies can’t help the demands they make of you.  But we can help the demands we make of ourselves.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot with Mother’s Day coming up, and all the silly Mommy Wars talk and the new ridiculous Time Magazine cover meant to shock.  My daughter saw that cover yesterday and couldn’t even make sense of it.  I couldn’t either.

But, it became a discussion about motherhood, about choices, and most of all about how the media will try to make huge issues out of topics that are not that huge at all.  That a real article about a woman being “MOM Enough,” would include her being mad enough.

Mad enough to demand better health care for babies and children like they are doing at Shot At Life and R Baby Foundation.

Mad enough to demand quality education for kids starting in preschool like they are doing at Save the Children.

Mad enough to demand that the media stop trying to pit moms against moms and realize that the highs and lows of motherhood are what unites so many women – no matter how they choose to parent – like you see in all of the incredibly honest and real mom blogs across the net from all parts of this country and beyond.

Mad enough to tell their daughters that being a mom is personal, not political.  That just as no one has a right to tell them how or what to do with their own bodies and minds, no one has the right to tell them what a “real” mom looks like, if and when they choose to become a mom.

Most of all, mad enough to know when to take their daughters by the hand and lead by example.  We moms can be a very judgemental lot – that’s what the media is counting on, after all.  So this Mother’s Day I am giving myself a gift.  I am not going to fall into the trap of rolling my eyes at the moms on the extremes of the parenting spectrum.  Or the moms whose choices are so blatantly different from my own.  Or the judgement I pass on myself every day for feeling like I fell short in some way or another on the Motherhood scale.  It’s not just a Mother’s Day gift for myself, it’s a gift to my daughters – so when they grow up and choose to be mothers – and I hope they do – they feel empowered, self-assured and excited, even in the midst of feeling scared and unsure.  It’s about winning the Mommy War that goes on inside myself every day – and that’s a war worth winning.

 

 

 

 

 

Educate to Eradicate Poverty – ONE.org 12 Days of Change Campaign

The education reform debate in the US focuses on testing, achievement measurements, teacher evaluations and data driven discussions that often miss the one major point – our education “problem” is a class and equality problem.  If we dig down deeper into the causes and obstacles facing many of our students poverty is more often than not the deciding factor in whether or not a child will succeed in school.  But, imagine if you had to dig down even deeper than that – to the point where not even having a school or access to education was the issue – and then you start to understand the challenges facing developing nations in Africa.  How can you possibly tackle the greater issue of poverty without taking on the issue of education?

According to ONE, The Advocacy Non-Profit founded by Bono and his wife, education not only provides children and families with a pathway out of poverty, but it can also yield even bigger returns for the world’s poorest countries through its impact on areas such as health and the economy. Educated mothers, for example, are more likely to have smaller families, and have their children immunized and send them to school. Education can also provide families and countries with more economic opportunities and help promote the civic participation that is critical to building democracies.

Less than 1 percent of the US budget goes towards foreign aid.  But look at this infographic, which shows the effect that small amount of money has on an area like education according to the US Aid website:

What ONE small thing can you do today to make change happen?  Watch the video below by ONE member Katie Meyler, about a young African girl named Abigail.  It’s a story about how education is the most powerful change agent there is.  Abigail is now in school and at the top of her class because of More Than Me.  The video was produced by the What Took You So Long foundation.

Watch it and share it – on Facebook, twitter and beyond.

Thinking Different: The Real Legacy of Steve Jobs

The first computer our family ever owned was an Apple IIc.  I was around 12 years old when the white box appeared in our home, and truth be told we didn’t use it much.  Other than typing up school papers once in a while and printing them on the rickety printer with its perforated-edged paper it wasn’t quite clear why we needed a computer in our home.  After all, my math teacher at the time still insisted that we do all of our homework with carbon paper so we could keep a copy.  But there was something about that Apple with the little rainbow Apple logo there on the monitor that was accessible, friendly, even then.

When I went to college there were only a few students with their own computers.  Big, chunky, heavy monitors that took up an entire dorm sized desk and ran MS-DOS.  But, when I bought my own computer my sophomore year with the money I had “inherited” from my Great Aunt ($1,000) when she passed away I knew right away I wanted the Mac Classic.  Right out of the box a Mac worked as soon as you plugged it in.  The little Mac OS smile popped up and even on that tiny black and white screen you felt connected – not to the net – there was no real public internet yet – but to the computer itself.  I named it R2D2.  Yes I really did.  And I was not alone.  Everyone who owned a Mac named their computers, felt protective and connected in a way that PC owners did not.

But something else was true and that was that choosing to buy an Apple Computer made you different.  It was for “creative” types (non-Apple people didn’t say that as a good thing), you were not a serious person – a person meant for, or was in, business.  Of course those people spent hours trying to locate their files on some god-forsaken directory, or spent hours installing and figuring out how to set up their computers from the get go.  But still, that perception lingered.

When my boyfriend (now my husband) went to buy his first computer I went with him to make sure he bought a Mac Powerbook.  In color!  That’s how I knew I could marry him.  (Also, he looks a lot like Steve Jobs – A LOT – but I’m assuming that was just subliminal.)  And so it went.  Got the iMac G3 in Strawberry when that came out, a PowerBook G4 (again with inherited money when my grandfather died.  Again $1000), then another iMac, a MacBook and now a MacBook Pro.  And for most of that time people still looked down at the Mac.  Mac people were a “cult”; artists, writers, etc.  And Mac people came to embrace that.  When Apple launched their Think Different campaign they embraced that too.  I used to love walking by that giant billboard in SoHo of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog with the Apple logo and the Think Different slogan.  When you owned a Mac you really did feel different – in all the best ways.

Then of course the rest of the world caught up with Apple.   The iPod, the iPhone, the iPad started making converts of so many.  Apple offered even the most conservative of computer users a way to embrace the connectivity and personalization of our new world.  People who for years interrogated me about my choice to use a Mac are now toting around a Mac Air or an iPad like it’s an extension of their body.  I’ll never forget the one family member who bought his daughter a Macbook a few years ago – the first Apple computer they had EVER owned – and he said to me with a look of total shock, “You know you just plug it in and it’s ready to go?” Yes, of course I knew that – I also knew that those who are the “creators” – the big thinkers, the ones who push limits or turn things inside out and backwards – finally started to feel vindicated.

There are so many people speculating about what Apple will look like without Steve Jobs‘ incredible vision and brilliance.  And it’s a real worry of course.  But I also think about how he turned so many ordinary people into daring creators through the ease and accessibility of the iPad and the Mac – how the iTunes store has given little ol’ me the power to podcast to thousands of listeners – or anyone the ability to record, edit and create films and music with ease – or entertain or just participate through an app on the iPad.  He has enabled and empowered kids to become the next visionaries through his products and design.  An entire generation of kids who are pushed to think differently – that’s the legacy I most want to see fulfilled.

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No One Puts Women Bloggers in a Corner – Except Women Bloggers?

Earlier this week Susannah Breslin wrote a post on Forbes Women titled, Why Women Shouldn’t Go to Tech Conferences.  In a nutshell, she was upset about the frivolous and seemingly non-tech way that women were presented, and chosen to present, at Tech Week.  Having just spoken on a panel at CE Week in New York a few weeks ago I gave this article a serious reading – and commented accordingly.  But, I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Something about what Susannah touched upon is all too true – and with BlogHer just a week away I haven’t been able to shake the thought that women are being put into tech “lite” panels more often than not.  I have complained quite publicly that many panels and conferences aimed at women are incredibly lacking in real data, concrete takeaways and information and are often full of generalizations and “feelings.”  But, looking back on all of the panels and conferences this year I also felt that way about many of the panels that had men on them too.  Maybe the truth is that few people are actually experts, that many conference agendas are packed with people who know someone, or have an entertaining power point presentation or a huge twitter personality that is fun to be a part of in person but doesn’t give you a whole lot to work on when you leave the room.

I don’t want to see the ghetto-ization of women at tech conferences.  I hate the idea that women need a separate “mommy” track or that all they want to do is gab about being better at social media because hey, women like to talk!  On the other hand, who can hold forth on a panel about how brands should and could work with mom bloggers other than mom bloggers?  The goal is to have women talk about SEO, programming, coding, sales, raising capital, growing a business and social media, marketing, PR and more.  When women are fully integrated into all programming, the specialized “women” tracks won’t seem so precious.  That should be the goal – not that women should just forget about being a part of tech conferences, but that women should get their geek on and fully embrace aspects of the technology they are using everyday – not just be a conduit to the coveted female consumer.  There is power in that influence for sure but there’s even more power in not being pigeonholed.

I will be heading to BlogHer next week, and make no mistake about it I am thrilled to connect with so many brands I love, I use and I hope to have sponsorship and campaign partnerships with in the future – for Beccarama, the Blogging Angels and most importantly for me now as the co-founder of my internet start-up, KidzVuz.com.  My focus is on building a business – and I will take all of the information, guidance and resources I can get.  That’s what I look to get out of every conference I go to and that I’m a part of – no matter what the gender make-up of the panels and workshops.   Maybe it’s hypocritical to demand parity at tech conferences and yet celebrate that BlogHer is for women only – I can live with that.  As I’ve said before, I’m thrilled that BlogHer is for and by women.  I will be hanging out at the Geek Bar to learn from some very tech savvy women and then I will turn right around and have an awesome day sponsored by Sony, getting new profile pics and my hair and makeup done, because I for one won’t be put into a virtual corner.

I Love Your Blog – But Not You

One of the unanticipated perks of being a mom blogger is all of the amazingly talented, funny, witty and inspirational women that I’ve gotten to know.  In New York I am fortunate to have a group of women (and a couple men too) whom I regularly see at events or record with or work with for days on end.  When I head out of town for an event or a conference I am usually extra excited because it means I will meet women whose work I read regularly and I feel like I know even though I’ve never actually seen them face to face.  So it is strange when I meet someone in this world and I really don’t like them.  But, it happens – and it’s very uncomfortable.

Celebrities often talk about how regular people assume that they know them because they relate so much to their character on TV or in films.  I think the same thing happens with bloggers.  While many journalists have followings bloggers are more personal in their writing for the most part.  Even political women bloggers tend to take on a personal note, sometimes relating their views back to their family or community.   When you add in the fact that bloggers feel banded together by being outside of mainstream media there is an added feeling of familiarity among the group.  I have had moments when social media made my day – when Judy Blume tweeted me, when Diane Ravitch retweeted me to name a few.  It’s not that I felt like Judy Blume and I were suddenly BFF (though my 11 year–old inner self hoped really, really hard for that) it’s that there was a feeling that this person whom I admired got me.  For that instant I was recognized by someone that mattered to me on a gut-level of giddiness.  When the opposite happens it’s like a slap-tweet (sleet?) in the face.

Last year at BlogHer I had that discomforting experience.  I met a blogger whom I admired online.  I sometimes dabbled in her niche, but it’s not my regular beat.  We both wrote for several common outlets.  We had commented back and forth occasionally – though looking back I think I commented on her posts more than the other way around.  But when I met her at BlogHer she was beyond dismissive.  There were brighter lights to stand near and she clearly had an agenda in mind for that day – and it was all about getting to some very big non-blog fish.  I get that.  But it totally changed my view of her and her blog.  I still read it when a tweet or FB post grabs my eye but I don’t participate in her community.  I also don’t respond to her fairly regular calls to action on her behalf – voting, entering giveaways, retweeting, etc.  I realized that while her blog is about bigger picture issues, she herself (at least to me) is all about promoting herself.  And that’s fine.  I just have to come to terms with the fact that I can like the blog without liking the blogger.  Maybe that means blogging really has entered the mainstream after all.