Martha Stewart proves that no one can talk sh*t about bloggers – except other bloggers

Martha Stewart at BlogHer 2012  photo credit: BlogHer
Martha Stewart at BlogHer 2012
photo credit: BlogHer

Yesterday a Bloomberg News video with Martha Stewart made the rounds on Facebook and ignited a frenzy of indignation from the women’s blogging world.   In the interview, Martha disparages bloggers by saying they are “not experts,” that they don’t fully test recipes, that many just repost other people’s work.  Here’s a sample of the conversation that exploded on Facebook yesterday. (Shown with permission from an expert in many things, Amy Oztan)

So, here’s the deal.

Martha is totally right.

And she didn’t say anything that bloggers haven’t said amongst ourselves every time we get together.  I had this conversation over and over again at BlogHer this year.

Are there amazing bloggers who are absolutely experts in their fields?  YES.

Are there bloggers that are full of it, steal other people’s work, put up anything any PR person sends them, are completely based on smoke and mirrors and everyone wonders why any brands work with them?  HELL YES.

Now aside from the fact that you can tell the Martha Stewart interview was edited down to just these perfect controversial sound bites – I’d love to see the context of Martha’s discussion of bloggers – there also has to be a reality check in the blogging world.  Not everything is cause for outrage.   And sometimes the very media outlet that puts out the video and calls it

Martha Stewart Speaks Out: Bloggers Are Not Experts

needs to be called out for playing this game in the first place.  This is 30 seconds out of who knows how many minutes of footage.  I’m guessing at least a half an hour.  And they got exactly the reaction they wanted – all of the bloggers making this video go viral.

Martha Stewart should know better than to ever say what she said, even just from a savvy PR point of view.  But, she is someone who truly knows the media landscape.  She knows that blogging and the content machine have changed the way people get and want their information.  As Cecily Kellogg points out over at Babble, Martha Stewart’s company has taken a major hit, as have all large publishing companies, as they try to evolve in the changing digital media world. But that doesn’t mean she’s wrong about how many bloggers operate – or large online platforms – Babble, Baby Center and even the New York Times have certainly had their share of plagiarism scandals.

So let’s take a step back and get real.  Martha Stewart certainly doesn’t need me to defend her, but we also don’t need to be piling on one of the most successful female entrepreneurs – someone who elevated the crafting, food, and style niches to begin with, and proved there was a business model there – just to make bloggers feel justified about what they do.

If you’re an expert, prove it by turning out great, original content, and hopefully you will be able to make a living doing what you love.  And I bet if Martha asked you to contribute to her Pinterest Boards you’d do it in a heartbeat – because nothing proves you’re an expert more than the seal of approval from an indisputable expert in your field.

Star Wars is for Girls

I saw Star Wars about 22 times the summer it came out when I was 5.  I wore my hair like Princess Leia before there was anything called Cosplay.   I’ve written about all of this before.  But last weekend I went with a young KidzVuz reporter (and her mom!) to New York Comic Con where she interviewed Ashley Eckstein of Her Universe.

Ashley is best known in the Sci-Fi world as the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series.   But she is also an awesome fangirl promoter and supporter who saw the need for girl fan merchandise and so she built Her Universe.

I first met Ashley at Disney Social Media Moms Conference – and immediately loved everything she was about.

I will let her tell you why she started Her Universe, and you can see some of the cool merchandise yourself!  But, if you have a fangirl in your life (or if you are one, since she’s got loads of grown up merch too) be sure to head over to HerUniverse.com and pick up something great.  Don’t be afraid to let that geek flag fly.

Find Your Tribe Wordless Wednesday

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This came through my Facebook feed today via the fab Lyss Stern. Seemed to fit perfectly with Monday’s post about friendship.

Bake it Happen for Breast Cancer Research

bananas for boobies logo

I recently had a discussion with my daughters about friendship.  It’s hard to explain to an 11 year-old that friendships ebb and flow, and more importantly, that if you keep your heart open you will continue to make new friends throughout your life.

Some of your friends will stick.  Some won’t.  And that’s okay.  It doesn’t diminish the power of the friendship you had in that time of your life.

If you’re lucky you will have one or two great friends.  If you’re really lucky you will continue to stumble upon those rare people with whom you immediately click – the ones that maybe make you believe in past lives – in all phases of your life.  The ones that feel like family.

I have been that lucky, and I know how special and rare it is.

When my daughters were born I was the only one of my friends to have a baby (babies!).  My cousin, with whom I am extremely close, also had a baby, just a few week before me, but she lived in Michigan.  So aside from talking on the phone all the time, I didn’t have “mom” friends.  And, because I had twins, the thought of schlepping to baby groups between pumping, and feeding, and changing, and wrapping them up to take naps – while also being social in some carpeted basement of the Y, was really more than I could bear.

So, I was nervous when my girls finally started preschool and there were all of these other MOMs.  And, most of the time, it was just me and the nannies.  I seemed to be the only stay at home mom on the Upper West Side – but really it was just the blur of drop off and separation that made it seem so.  Eventually, I met the other moms – at the school auction, at the endless school parties, at playdates.  And I don’t know how it happened, but I met some of the best women I will ever know.  I am still amazed that we were all randomly put into this 2 morning a week class together.

One of these women was Shari Brooks.  And while there are a lot of things I could list about Shari that make her, well, her – there is one that tops the list – Shari is a Do-er, not because she wants recognition, and not because she’s keeping a mental tab in her mind of what someone now owes her, but because she really, really has a heart and mind that just go there.  She is continually thinking about what is the right thing to do, the best way to do it, and then just doing it.  It’s not Type A, it’s Type A to Z.  She’s got it covered.

Knowing Shari like I do, it was not surprising to me that she turned her energy towards creating something positive out of the loss of her mom Judy from metastatic breast cancer five years ago.  I feel incredibly lucky that Shari entered my life at a time when I could get to know her mom, even though her mom was sick from almost the moment I met her.  I have never wondered where Shari gets her energy and love of life from because I saw it firsthand in her mom.  Even at her frailest, after years of ongoing chemo and radiation, Judy would come up on the train from Baltimore – by herself! – to spend time with her grandkids, just be with her family and share more experiences.

A while after Judy passed, Shari started an amazing blog called My Judy the Foodie, where she has kept her mom’s memory alive through her mom’s recipes and special meals.  When I met Shari she literally couldn’t boil water.  I once watched her throw pasta into a pot of cold water and then turn it on.  No joke.  So to watch Shari teach herself to cook through doing, and then through sharing, all the while keeping her mom’s memory alive for her kids, and really everyone, has been a real revelation.

Now Shari has teamed up with her equally awesome sister to create another endeavor that will honor Judy and advance the cause of breast cancer research, Bake it Happen (aka Bananas for Boobies, which if you know Shari makes perfect sense, but Facebook doesn’t know Shari that well so they didn’t like it).

This is no 26 mile marathon where you must exhaust yourself to prove you care.  This is not pinkwashing to make companies look like they care.  This is a very basic way to share purpose and care.

  1. Bake a loaf, or two or three, of Judy’s amazing banana chocolate chip loaf.
  2. Take a pic of your fabulous creation.
  3. Then share it on Facebook or email it to bananasforboobies@gmail.com
  4. Then share a loaf in real life.   Take a pic of that too!
  5. You could win an iPad!

Every time a photo is shared a dollar is donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Here’s how we baked it happen last weekend:

See?  Simple, delicious, and meaningful.   Just like good friends.

Head on over now to Bananas For Boobies and Bake it Happen!!!

The New Drug Talk You Need to Have With Your Child

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Disclosure:  I received compensation for my participation in the Stop Medicine Abuse awareness month program.  However, the opinions in this post are my own, as always!

We all know that we’re supposed to talk to our kids about sex, about drugs, and about personal safety (and tech, of course.)  One thing I’ve realized about these “talks” is that they are rarely a sit-down-in-a-quiet-room-and-discuss-things kind of situation .  Questions come up all time.  While one broad discussion might be a good way to lay a foundation, you really have to be on your game and ready to answer more complex questions or confront more complicated situations as they come up.

And, you can’t have “the talk” just once.  The relevance and depth of these issues change as your kid get older.  The first sex talk is more about the birds and bees, and your body being your own, as they get older it becomes about about boundaries, safe sex, emotional and physical realities, and even internet porn.

The same is true for a talk about drugs.

When I think about drugs I think about pot and alcohol.  I know those are the two substances my kids are most likely to encounter.  Ecstasy, probably.   Cocaine, maybe.  Heroin, I doubt, but it’s possible. So, I would cover those bases, and try to be honest with my kids about my own experiences, within reason.

But what I never really thought about was abuse of over the counter medication, other than my kids accidentally getting into them when they were little.  But it turns out that OTC cough syrup is a major source of drug abuse because it contains Dextromethorphan (DXM), which basically makes you high in high enough dosages.  It’s relatively cheap, it’s legal and it’s easy to obtain – 3 things that make it an easy target for abuse.  And, teens take up to TWENTY-FIVE times the recommended dose to get high.

Stop Medicine Abuse Infographic

Since October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association has launched the Stop Medicine Abuse campaign to alert parents and community members of the dangers of teens abusing OTC cough medicines.

But, as a parent you can be proactive!  Studies show that what parents say does matter. In fact, teens who learn about the risk of drugs from their parents are 50% less likely to use drugs. 

So have that talk!  Have many talks!

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Talk with your teen about the dangers of OTC cough medicine abuse and monitor your medicine cabinets.
  • Listen to the language your kids use. DXM is often referred to as skittling, tussin, robo-tripping, CCC, triple Cs, and dexing. Check out the Stop Med Abuse site for a list of slang terms and conversation starters for parents.

Look out for these warning signs identified by Stop Medicine Abuse:

  • Empty cough medicine bottles/boxes in the trash of your child’s room, backpack, or school locker
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or favorite activities
  • Changes in friends, physical appearance, sleeping, or eating patterns
  • Declining grades
  • The first step in preventing this abuse is to EDUCATE yourself and your family. For more information and useful resources for parents, log onto www.stopmedicineabuse.org

And you can follow @StopMedAbuse on Twitter and use #NotMyTeen for tips and advice on how to empower yourself and your teen.

 

Marcus Samuelsson and Uncle Ben’s (Beginners) Get Kids Cooking!

at red roosterLast month I had the pleasure of dining at one of the best restaurants in NYC: Red Rooster Harlem.  Yes, the food is wonderful, but really it’s not just about the food – it’s about the incredible sense of community and care that fills the space that makes it so special.  After meeting Marcus Samuelsson, and having him give us a tour where he pointed out all of the thoughtful features that went into building Red Rooster it was easy to see why the restaurant exudes warmth and an authentic identity.  From the art that features local customers, to the books that reflect the history of Harlem, food, music and culture, to the artists they feature in the space – you know that there are conscious, purposeful choices put into the restaurant.

That thoughtfulness extends to the food and work of Marcus Samuelsson, who has teamed up with Uncle Ben’s Rice to get kids and families cooking together.

The campaign, Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest asks families to create a cooking video together and show how cooking can bring you together – and teach kids better food habits.  You could win $15,000 for your family – and $30,000 for a cafeteria makeover for your school!

When you talk to chefs they usually point to a family member as the reason they got into cooking – a grandmother, an uncle or aunt, their mom.  Cooking in the home is one of the most fundamental experiences we can share with our kids – it doesn’t have to be a big deal – it’s actually better if it isn’t.  Unfortunately, I think we spend more time watching impossibly hard cooking shows that have nothing to do with real life cooking – and less time actually chopping, peeling, and turning on a stove to make a simple dinner with our kids.

Marcus spent a lot of time with my daughters and niece at the lunch – asking them all about their school lunch program, what they’d like to see in school lunch, what the kids actually eat – and about the conditions of the lunch room and the experience of lunch time at school (hot, rushed, and overcrowded – all while being yelled at by cafeteria aides).

Marcus Samuelson

It was really interesting to me that he partnered with Uncle Ben’s, but I totally understood it when you looked at this program that was trying to get families to not just cook together, but celebrate it too.  And if using quick rice can make it easier to create that dinner, and get it on the table faster, then I’m all for it.

At Red Rooster they started with the brown Uncle Ben’s Rice, added lobster stock, herbs and spices and created their dirty rice:

It was delish.  Along with the rest of the meal of shrimp, jerk chicken, kale salad and cornbread.  Plus they made Shirley Temples for my girls.  They felt very swanky.

If you’re in NYC be sure to go to Red Rooster for a really special meal.  (We also picked up cupcakes for our Rosh Hashanah dinner that night.  And they were amazing)

So, grab your kids, and get cooking together today.  You can shoot the video on your smartphone – nothing fancy.  Just like you can make some simple pasta, nothing fancy, but at least you’re doing it together, and showing your kids that cooking is not a big deal – it’s something you do to take care of yourself and the people you love, in the most basic way.  And then enter the Uncle Ben’s Beginners Contest – you could even end up on Rachel Ray!  But hurry!  The contest ends October 6th!

 

What’s a #Hashtag?

The pound/number sign (#) has become a celebrity symbol now that it has been reborn as “hashtag.”

What started out simple has of course become out of control – especially on Instagram.

It’s used as an aside, a note of sarcasm, a way to track interests or participate in twitter chats, run contests, aggregate content, and sometimes just be goofy.

Still don’t understand?

Watch this:

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:

Don’t Blame the (KiK) Messenger – What the REAL conversation needs to be about Cyber Bullying

There was an extremely sad story in the New York Times about a 12 year-old girl in Florida who committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied both on and off-line.  It’s unfortunately an all too familiar heartbreaking story involving mean girls, cyberbullying, school officials who didn’t really know how to intervene, and a parent who did every thing she could to prevent this from happening.  And unfortunately the reporter took an equally well-tread path in blaming the use of apps as a catalyst for the suicide.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think social media and mobile tech can amplify the effects of cyberbullying, and make it harder and harder for kids to escape bullying.  Whereas kids used to be able to come home, or go to an after school activity, and leave the school bullies behind, social media photos and texts follow a kid from place to place.  Even changing schools has less positive impact since so much bullying can live right in the palm of a kid’s hand via their smart phone or iPod Touch.   BUT there are key points missing from the reporting of this story, and in my opinion blaming the apps, specifically KiK Messenger and ask.fm, and the technology is diverting us from the real issues.

First of all, there was no mention in this article that at 12 years-old it was not legal for this girl to have a KiK messenger and ask.fm account.  That is because of COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) which prohibits companies from collecting personal information about kids under 13 without express verifiable parental consent.  Most companies don’t want to deal with that legal headache – and they want to collect as much info as possible about their users – so they are NOT COPPA-compliant.  But of course kids know how to easily lie to get on these social media apps.  All you have to do is scroll down and select the right birth year.  Most parents don’t even know that Instagram and these other social media apps aren’t allowed for kids under 13.  They’ve been so focused on Facebook as some boogeyman of the web that they haven’t noticed that kids are on apps – and Facebook is just not one of them. Though this young girl also had a Facebook page that was shut down.  So she was very immersed in social media – and that is very common.

Parents who think that shutting down a Facebook page is going to be enough, or commenters who said that kids just shouldn’t have smart phones and that would solve the problem,  are massively missing the point.  THIS is our kids’ world.  They are online.  They might not have a smart phone, but they may have an iPod Touch or a tablet.  Being connected is not just about a phone.  And in the end what we are left with is a generation that needs to have the tools to manage social media responsibly and safely.

And that takes me to the next big omission – where are the parents of the girls using these apps and social media as weapons?

At the core of this issue is the freedom that kids (and adults) feel to be outrageously cruel online because hiding behind the screen has a way of emboldening people to bring out their worst.  And tweens and teens who are already in a narcissistic haze of hormones and myopia are particularly susceptible to pushing these boundaries via social media (and in real life too.)  That doesn’t mean we should ban social media, it means there has to be real discussion about how to use it. There needs to be consequences for the bad behavior online – and not arrests after something horrible happens – but parents who are monitoring their children’s online behavior not just for being bullied but for being the bully too.

I’ve written extensively about how parents can and should monitor their kids’ online and social media use, and as the co-founder of KidzVuz – a site made expressly for kids under 13 – I see every day the kind of behavior that kids try to get away with and the information they try to put out there.  They desperately want to connect and share.  We give them a safe space to do that, but the truth is they see the huge popularity of Instagram and YouTube and it’s beyond exciting to them.  They don’t get that those sites aren’t going to moderate for inappropriate content or bullying, they are on their own.

There are so many emotional and maturity level reasons they shouldn’t be on these apps and sites in the first place, but they are – and at 13 they are allowed to be legally.  A 13 year-old isn’t exactly the epitome of a careful, thoughtful person.  So even if you are shutting your kids out of social media until they are “legally” allowed to be there, they will have NO idea of what to do or what the ramifications of their behavior will be when they turn 13, unless you teach them.

The most important take-away parents must learn is not to just monitor but to participate.  Have the same social media apps as your kid, connect your iTunes account, friend them on everything, and most of all if your kid is the bully shut THEIR account down.  Take away THEIR phone!  Most of all, don’t be afraid to parent.  You would never say you don’t want to know the friends your child hangs out with everyday or going to parties with, but parents turn a blind eye to the “friends” online all the time.  There is no distinction between the online and offline world for kids – and parents need to respect and understand that in order to parent Generation Z.

NYC Primary Day!! Get Out and Vote!

Bill de Blasio and Cynthia Nixon and women for de Blasio
Photo by Jennifer Lee Photography

Way back in January the Women’s Committee for Bill de Blasio kicked off officially with an event on the Upper West Side.  Bill de Blasio seemed like a long shot – but that was okay because the more people learned about him the more they like him.  

As a public school parent and advocate the possibility of having a fellow public school parent as mayor opens up a totally different discussion around testing, evaluations, and schools as communities.  As a girl who grew up in Park Slope, I’m also happy to have someone who raised their kids and chose to make Park Slope home 20 years ago.  There’s a sensibility there that speaks to a different kind of vision for NYC. 

So, I was seriously thrilled to step in the voting booth today and vote for Bill de Blasio.

And I was also happy to vote for Gale Brewer as Manhattan Borough President.  I’ve seen her first hand over the years tirelessly working for our schools and the whole community as our City Council Member.

And Scott Stringer got my vote for Comptroller.  Scott has also been an incredibly strong advocate for our schools, a stand up guy who literally always stood up for the schools when we needed him to, and always came through when we needed as well.

I’m not writing this post to persuade anyone to vote one way or another, but really because I am so looking forward to the changes that are ahead in NYC.  I happen to think these are the best people to create positive change. And, more importantly, in my first hand experience these candidates are DOERS.

It’s easy to talk.  It’s easy to have ideas.

But really putting in the effort and hard work to get things done – and do it without being dismissive and arrogant – is not easy.  There’s a reason the Mayor of NYC is considered the second hardest elected position in the country.   And I believe Bill de Blasio is up to the challenge.

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