Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Turn off the TV week 2009

National Turn Off the TV Week is right around the corner- this year the program, which encourages a bi-annual TV-free week, will run from April 20th through April 26th.

Last year, I documented my participation in National Turn Off the TV Week (see “What Hath God Wrought?”). I work from home, so my television is on all the time. I never really realized that until I participated in the experiment. The week was hard, I mostly listened to NPR and if the Blazers are playing during this year’s hell week, I don’t know if I’ll be able to stick to my guns. But I’m game.

Turn Off the TV Week is meant to help people take control of the information they receive, instead of letting the information control them. Television has long been lampooned as an unhealthy intrusion into our lives. Everyone knows, you should try to limit your TV time and kids should be forced to play outside instead of slacking around, watching NICK.

But I’d argue that there are some good children’s programs on TV. Sesame Street stands out. PBS offers a number of programs to help kids learn and many of them have study guides available for teachers who plan to screen shows in the classroom.

But lately, I can’t help but notice that the TV shows on Nickelodeon look more and more like tween soap operas. DeGrassi was the first, and undoubtedly the best, soap opera for kids. Since then, the market has exploded and much of the programming for kids has gone downhill. When I run across new schlock marketed towards kids, I have to wonder: what happened to all of the good guys?

The good guys. You know, the ones we idolized around the time that we still thought twinkies were good, trees were for climbing and windowsills were for dreaming. The men and women on TV, yes, television, who made us feel comforted. Special. They taught us stuff, and we, enraptured, pulled up a chair to listen- and learn.

PBS’ Mr. Rogers focused on the basic skills needed to grow up: cooperation, persistence, patience, sharing, the ability to pay attention and to manage frustration. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a values-based program, and the values the show preached still ring true today:

· Children are precious, and their earliest years are exceedingly important in laying the foundation for who and what they become.
· Children grow best when raised in responsible and caring ways.
· The ability to love and be loved is supremely important in every person's life, and that ability is best nurtured in the early years.
· Discipline and control are essential to healthy living -- and the best discipline and control come from within.
· It is important to recognize the worth and the unique abilities of each individual child. Children can -- and do -- contribute in many ways to the life of a family. (PBS Kids)

And for almost 30 years, Captain Kangaroo charmed small viewers. The venerable host of children’s television had firm ideas about what he wanted his show to do:

“It is my contention that most people are not mugged every day, that most people in this world do not encounter violence every day. I think we prepare people for violence, and I think it just as important that we prepare people for the definition of being gentle. ... for so many years gentle has been equated with weakness but it requires more strength to be gentle. So it's the every day encounters of life that I think we prepare children for and prepare them to be good to other people and to consider other people.” (NPR)

I'm not going to sit here, TV blaring, and tell you that I think television is an unnecessary evil. There are plenty of people in my family who watch only PBS. That isn't me. I did turn off my cable several years ago, when I thought I was watching too much television. Then I heard Monday Night Football was moving to ESPN. Which I think is kind of criminal and unfair, but that's another blog.

Every time I hear Morgan Freeman’s voice, I think of the Easy Reader.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

the success story

One of my favorite success stories of all time came from a couple I met while vacationing on Lake Erie. They lived in a beautiful home on charming Ruggles Beach, a private beach that rests midway between Huron and Vermillion, Ohio.

Their home wasn’t brand-new; it wasn’t an oversized McMansion with a triple car garage or a multi-layer stucco wonder. It was an older, white home with glossy black shutters, a creaking wrap-around porch and it rested high up on a perch, with one of the best views of the lake. I couldn’t resist telling the owners, as we shuffled around during one particularly lazy happy hour, how much I loved their home.

“We love it too, Lisa,” said John, the homeowner. “It was our dream to move here.”

“You’re lucky,” I told him, green with envy. “It’s amazing.” But it wasn’t luck, explained John.

“We always loved this house, and it went it came on the market, we couldn’t afford it. So we made some changes.”

John and his wife Lois had already got the kids off to college. So they moved, lock, stock and barrel, from their mid-century rambler in Cleveland into a trailer- and bought their dream home.

They had to use it as a rental property for years in order to make the hefty mortgage payments. Something they weren’t prepared to do and hadn’t done before, and it was terrifying. Worries about what was happening when they weren’t there, whether their precious dream home would still be in one piece after the spring-breakers left and how they would be able to pay for the inevitable, persistent home repairs, kept them up night after night.

But they did it.

In a world where so many people seem to focus on acquisition, and others can’t seem to decide what they want, I think John and Lois’ story is pretty impressive.

It shows determination, sacrifice and most of all, wisdom- they identified their dream, they made concessions to make their dream happen and ultimately, they got exactly what they wanted. It might not be your dream, or even mine, but it worked for them. And they’re more than happy- they’re content.

And isn’t that the true measure of success?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Walk MS 2009 Events in Oregon

Rain, snow or sunshine, the Oregon Chapter, National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society will celebrate Walk MS 2009 in 10 communities across Oregon and Vancouver, WA. Join Us—on our fully accessible, 5k routes and help raise more than $600,000 to support direct services for nearly 7,000 people with MS and their families in Oregon and Clark County, WA; and national MS research to find a cure for this chronic disease of the central nervous system. Register online for Oregon Walk MS 2009 events.

Walk MS Portland - Saturday, April 4 - Pioneer Courthouse Square - 715 SW Morrison St, Portland, OR 97205. Walk starts at 10:00 am; Registration opens at 8:00 am.

Saturday, April 18 - Walk starts at 10:00 am; Registration opens at 8:00 am for Bend, Eugene, Heppner, Medford, Pendleton and Vancouver, WA:
Walk MS Bend - Les Schwab Amphitheater - Old Mill District, 520 SW Powerhouse Dr. #626, Bend, OR 97702
Walk MS Eugene - Alton Baker Park - 100 Day Island Rd, Eugene, OR 97403
*Walk MS Heppner - All Saints Episcopal Church - West Church, Heppner, OR 97836
Walk MS Heppner starts at 9:00am, Registration opens at 8:00am
Walk MS Medford - TBD
Walk MS Pendleton - Roy Raley Park - SW 10th Street, Pendleton, OR 97801
Walk MS Vancouver, WA - Red Lion Inn at the Quay - 100 Columbia St, Vancouver, WA 98660

Saturday, April 25 - Walk starts at 10:00 am; Registration opens at 8:00 am for Corvallis, Merrill and Salem:
Walk MS Corvallis - Oregon State University - MUP C Quad, 112 Memorial Union OSU, Corvallis, OR 97331
Walk MS Merrill - Merrill Presbyterian Church - 210 W 2nd St, Merrill, OR 97633
Walk MS Salem - Riverfront Park Pavilion - 116 Marion St. NE , Salem, OR 97301

Fee: Registration is Free; Prize levels start with a minimum donation of $75.

For more information, visit Walk MS Oregon or call 800-344-4867.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

the good fight

I believe that integrity is a critical character trait that I can’t live without. I was raised to stick up for what’s right, stand up for the little guy and to fight the battles that are worth fighting.

And it’s a challenge, as a freelancer, to keep it up. I mean, I’ve turned down work for companies that I can’t get on board with. But with the ever-changing corporate environment of they-bought-them, they-were-bought-out-by-them and they-work-with-that-company-that-does-bad-things, it’s hard to keep up with it all. I try, but it isn’t always easy.

And when it comes to relationships, I often feel like the men I date have a little… too much integrity.

I love passionate people. I’m a passionate person. I’ve yelled so loud and so long at professional baseball games, I was often threatened with being 86’d. (I really had no idea that the umpires could hear what the fans are saying. Did you know that?) And I’ve been known to file complaints with the Attorney General, jump on companies that I feel have wronged me in some way and generally to express my displeasure when I see someone getting treated badly. All good things.

But what do you do when the one you love has so much veracity that it makes you question your own sincerity? And how do you convince them that it’s okay to compromise?

And if they capitulated, and you were able to find a middle ground, would they still be the person you fell in love with?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

does an NDA cover happy hour?

I have some really funny stories about drinking with clients. I also have some really embarrassing stories about drinking with past co-workers. Not wanting to embarrass anyone else, I won't give you the juicy details here.

I will tell you that I just wrote an article for an online magazine about the subject, "Business Trips and Alcohol: Why Getting Hammered with Clients May Not Be Your Best Bet." And still, I am learning.