Don’t you want your kid to be famous?

3 Feb
@JustinBieber via Instagram

@JustinBieber via Instagram

Does your child want to be famous?

How many kids fantasize about starring in a Disney Channel show, appearing in the pages of fashion magazines or singing onstage in front of thousands of screaming fans?

Think about it Mom and Dad. Your immensely talented kid could be adored and idolized for her artistic gifts.  He could be raking in big money that can help support the rest of the family. All of you can rub elbows with the rich and famous.

Don’t you want your kid to be famous?

Thousands of those kids are pursuing those dreams right now. Well, let’s rephrase that. Mom and Dad are pursuing those dreams right now by uploading their kids’ videos on YouTube, shelling out thousands of dollars for the right headshots, moving to California so their child can be closer to the action, and spending hours in acting, singing and dance lessons.

All in hopes that their child will be the next Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber.

Lord have mercy! Why on Earth would you want that for your kid?

BBC radio recently ran a segment on “Would you want your child to be famous” * and invited a children’s talent agent, mother of an aspiring teen rocker and an American culture and parenting blogger to discuss the issue.  (Spoiler alert: I was the blogger.) Despite the recent headlines, many parents still pursue this for their children and swear/hope/pray their child will never let fame go to their head or act out in infamous ways. The other radio guests talked about “supporting their dreams” and being the voice of reason for them. I applaud these parents for wanting to help their kids attain these goals, but I could never do it. My children, who are entering their teens, are too immature to grasp the ramifications of some dreams, and as their mother, I sometimes have to protect them from themselves. I also have serious doubts  any parent can be a “voice of reason” when their talented child is surrounded by entourages made up of agents, photographers, directors, producers and others in the entertainment industry.

As history has shown us, the child entertainers who make the successful transition to well-balanced adult are few and far between. For every Justin Timberlake and Natalie Portman, there are dozens of others who fall victim to drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, brushes with the law, outrageous behavior or diva-mentality – and it often starts while they are still in their teens. Even under the so-called “watchful eyes” of their parents and handlers, Drew Barrymore was snorting cocaine at 13, Demi Lovato developed an eating disorder at 8-years-old, and Joe Jonas smoked pot with Lovato and Miley Cyrus at 17.

Well-intended parents are encouraging their children to join a brutal business without understanding how it really works. I’m a veteran stage actor and video talent, and I can attest all is not bright in the spotlight. Auditions are grueling and time-consuming, and very few of them actually lead to anything; however, you keep trying in hopes that you’ll be the perfect fit for another project. If you’re not the perfect fit, you have to endure a producer or director ripping you to shreds over personal traits such as your voice, body, skin, height or weight. People in the business understand actors, models, singers and dancers are commodities that are bought, sold and packaged to meet a particular need, and those needs constantly change.

Performers tend to be highly creative and sensitive people, and it takes a lot of emotional strength to maintain the thick skin that is needed to survive the constant rejection and critiques. Most adults don’t have that kind of inner strength and stability, and yet stage parents expect an emotionally developing child or teen to have it. Without those traits, both child and adult performers can easily develop problems with insecurity, depression or narcissism.

For the rare performer that does “make it,” fame can be a fickle beast. Adored one moment and forgotten the next. It can be tough on adults, but even worse on a young person who isn’t mature enough to understand or deal with the changes. How will he react when no one is there to cater to their every need and offer endless praise, when the entourage leaves because the money runs out, or when good feelings can only be found in drugs or alcohol? How will his parents react?

For those parents who are encouraging their children’s fame dreams, I have no doubt your child is immensely talented, but I beg you to consider the real costs of fame – pressure, criticism, strained families and growing up way too fast.

They’re children for only a little while. Hollywood can wait.

 

What do YOU think?
Would you let your child pursue an entertainment career? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

*You can download the BBC’s “World Have Your Say Segment” at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/whys. Look for the Thursday, Jan. 30 WHYS link. The fame discussion is in the middle of the program. You can also get their podcasts off iTunes.

A letter to Uintah Elementary School

2 Feb

A daddy’s open letter to an elementary school that humiliated kids who couldn’t afford lunch. Good stuff.

Daddy's Days & Daze

January 31, 2014

Uintah Elementary School
1571 E 1300 S
Salt Lake City, UT 84105

To the administration of Uintah Elementary School:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am neither a resident of your school district not a relation to any student who attends your facility. What I am is a parent who, like many others across this country and any other nation who learned of your school’s recent actions, can feel nothing short of outrage.

I must ask: What in the name of all that is humane and good in this world were you people thinking?

How could you dare take food away from children in your supposed care during the school day? Simply because their lunch accounts registered as delinquent? This is justification to go from table to table and remove trays from in front of exactly how many students?

Every news article so far read only reports 30-40 students:…

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Show some love for teachers this February

31 Jan

Learn more about this campaign via its YouTube promo video.

Show some love

Who says college is the only way to ensure future success?

30 Jan
Image courtesy of Mike Rowe Works

Image credit: Mike Rowe Works and ProfoundlyDisconnected.com.

My family has experienced two firsts with my generation: we have the first college graduate and the first successful business owner.

They are two entirely different people.

I am the college graduate with undergraduate and graduate degrees in journalism; I now work as a public relations professional and teach a few college classes.  I rely on other people for my income. My cousin Jason, a high school graduate, runs a very successful heating and air conditioning business in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He provides jobs for 20 people.

I have tremendous admiration for Jason. Not only is he a savvy business owner, he’s also a great husband, father and all-around nice guy. He is a living testimony of the success that can be attained by someone who pursues a skilled trade. He’s spent his entire life working hard and smart, and he uses these skills to help others provide for their families.

That admiration doesn’t diminish the hard work that went into building my college-based career; I paid my dues to get here through years of studying and course work, professional certifications, grueling hours at the office and a lot of personal sacrifices of self, time and energy.

I also struggled financially and incurred debt.

I was fortunate to have an academic scholarship for my undergraduate degree during the late 80s, but I still had to work to cover my living expenses. I received a great education and decided I wanted to return for my graduate degree a few years later. There were no scholarships for graduate students, and my full-time salary was barely enough to cover my rent, so I financed roughly $7,000 to cover my tuition and books. (That graduate degree would cost roughly $20,000 today.)  Did all that education pay off? Yes and no. My current earnings are modest, but I love what I do.

Jason’s career cost?  Nada. Zip. Nothing.  He got his start working for an HVAC company as an apprentice and worked his way up the ladder.  His earnings? Way more than mine, and he loves what he does, too.

College is not the only option
Today, skilled trades are in demand. The demand for workers with art, history or literature degrees has always been small, and it’s nearly microscopic today.  In fact, there are 3 million jobs out there that companies are having a hard time filling – and you don’t have to give up $70,000 in tuition money or postpone a real paycheck for four years to get them.   Apprenticeships and vocational training can open the doors.

My experience and the nation’s economic slump have taught me college may not be the best option for everyone, and consequently, it’s not on my list of “Thou Shalts” for my children.

My teenage daughter loves school and has her heart set on being a teacher, which means tuition bills will likely hit our family in just a few years. I don’t mind because this is what she WANTS to do, not what we’re forcing her to do. She also understands that college is not a four-year party financed by mom and dad; she has to contribute as well.

My 10-year-old son has different goals. He’s always been on hands-on learner with a mantra of “I can do it.” He’s not a big fan of the classroom, but he’s a frightening good strategist and has a heart for protecting others. His life goal? He hasn’t narrowed it down, but military service, law enforcement and restaurant owner have been mentioned.

Just as my grandmother is proud of the firsts Jason and I attained, I will be proud of my children and the firsts they attain for the family. My daughter could join a long line of teachers, or my son could be the first Navy SEAL or restaurateur in the family. Regardless of what future paths they choose, I look forward to cheering them on as they pick up skills that will enable them to support themselves and their future families – and I pray they do it without debt.

Learn more about college alternatives at MikeRoweWorks.com.
The former “Dirty Jobs” host launched an initiative last year to encourage more students and young adults to pursue in-demand skilled trades rather than incur debt and face uncertain job prospects. His site has great information on job profiles, trade news, financial aid and much more.

Hear no evil, see no evil, stop no evil: A follow up on the Grammys

28 Jan

So you didn’t watch the Grammy Awards? Good for you.

I don’t mean to sound crass, but you’re not doing anyone any favors by proudly proclaiming you won’t watch such filth nor are you helping anyone by labeling the show and other media programs as “evil.”

If you really want to make a difference in America’s media landscape, DO SOMETHING about it. Don’t pat yourself on the back for avoiding it.  Believe me, these folks are not crying because they lost you as a viewer. They actually love when conservatives loudly complain about programs, music or movies.  As a matter of fact, our complaints help them. Why? Because it makes others think, “Well, if they hate it, it must be AWESOME!”

My in-box has been burning up with notes from people who are proudly declaring their abstinence and summoning the wrath of God on people they declare to be evil, vile and other not-so-nice words. I agree many in media and entertainment do behave despicably and produce content that hurts society; however, I haven’t posted the abstainers’ or judges’ comments because they would do more harm than good. The indignation, as righteous as it may be, won’t change the situation. The condemnation won’t change the people responsible. None of it will bring anyone closer to God.  There are more effective ways to express disapproval and spur real change.

Look, I’m not saying you have to watch or listen to this stuff. I agree a lot of it is crap, and there have been many times I needed to pour bleach into my eyes and ears because of things I’ve caught on television or radio.  However, I am saying you have to get out of your bubble, acknowledge this stuff is out there, and work to change it. Complaining to the networks won’t work, nor will boycotting their shows. These tactics actually boost the offending items’ popularity. However, there are two tactics that do work. Go after their advertisers and tell your government representatives to hold the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) accountable.

No advertiser will run commercials, which finance these shows, if they fear they’ll lose a huge portion of their consumer base. Just a few years ago, parent groups were able to get “Skins,” an MTV series with a whole lot of underage sex, pulled off the air because they targeted the show’s advertisers.  The FCC has regulations that prohibit the airing of “obscene” material before 10 p.m., and they can levy some pretty hefty fines for public stations that do it. (CBS, the host of the Grammys, is considered public. MTV and other cable outlets are not.) Granted, the FCC has been pretty lax about enforcement in recent years, but that’s why it’s so important for you to be persistent. Contact your federal representatives and demand action.

You can also have dialogues about these issues. I use Roadkill Goldfish to start those dialogues, but I also spend a lot of time personally talking with other people and listening to their thoughts and ideas. I encourage you to take the time to talk to people who may have a different opinion. Find out WHY they think the way they do. Use hard facts to point out flaws in their arguments.  Show alternatives.

I believe we can change today’s culture, but we can’t do it if we’re patting ourselves on the back with our sanitized hands.

It’s time to roll up the sleeves and get our hands dirty as we help others out of the muck.

Grammy Awards, we appreciate the Sunday night grinding lesson

27 Jan
Image: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Image: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Maybe it was wrong to teach my daughter to cross her legs when sitting in a chair.

Thank you, CBS and the Grammy Awards. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways at 8 p.m. on a Sunday evening.

I sincerely appreciate you starting the show with Beyoncé demonstrating the proper way to sit and writhe in a chair. Wear a thong and spread your legs. Got it. It truly was an amazing and child-friendly tutorial on how to use household furnishings as erotic props, and I thank you.

The bonus lesson from Jay Z was pretty awesome as well. He showed that men really don’t “exploit” women in the music industry. Come on, folks. Beyoncé is his wife, and he’s got a baby girl at home. Did you miss hearing him dedicate his Grammy to them? The haters are just jealous they don’t have the courage to publicly embrace their sensuality, and they’re really thinking, “She is a beautiful singer/dancer, AND I’d like to talk to her about her recent paper on advancements in neuropsychiatry.”

I was a bit disappointed about the use of the  seven-second delay on some of the lyrics. Thankfully, some of the good stuff got through, and I was able to read lips for the other things. A few folks may consider it censorship because you bleeped lyrics that showcased the beautiful intimacy of love between a man and woman. Where would our world be without a couple singing loving affirmations such as, “I’m rubbing on it, rub-rubbing” and “Slid the panties right to the side; ain’t got the time to take drawers off?”

The performance reminded me of a speech the late curmudgeon Fred Rogers shared when he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame:

Fame is a four-letter word; and like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it. I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job, we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen–day and night! …We all have only one life to live on earth. And through television, we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways. (From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 540-558).)

Thank you for meeting America’s deeper needs, CBS.

The Keller dogs’ story about their bad human and horrifying vet visit

23 Jan
The moment of panic when Macy and Charlotte realized their pet human was up to no good.

The moment of panic when Macy and Charlotte realized their pet human was up to no good.

 

Macy and Charlotte loved being human-owners. Their humans fed them yummy meals and played with them, and as a reward, Macy and Charlotte would let their pets sleep beside them at night.

All that ended yesterday thanks to the alpha female human.

The dogs knew she had taken those little pink and white pills, and the drugs make her do the unconscionable. When the female is under the influence of what she calls “allergy medicine,” she likes to load Macy and Charlotte into the giant wheeled box that has crushed crackers, stray Skittles and empty juice boxes on the floor. That in and of itself is actually quite delightful because it gives the two a gourmet buffet of snacking opportunities. However, the drugged female used the box to take them to a place of horrors. A place where dogs are subjected to the most unspeakable indignities. A place where cats are allowed to roam freely. A place where you think they are politely trying to sniff your butt only to discover they have inserted a cold plastic thermometer or a highly uncomfortable scooper.

As Macy and Charlotte sat in the waiting room, their human seemed at peace. She didn’t sneeze or wheeze when a – cat walked by. Macy, the older dog, tried to wiggle away.

“Ooh, do we get to chase the cat? Is it time to play?” the younger Charlotte excitedly asked. “Is it time to play? I really wanna play. Let’s play!”

“Noooo!” Macy whined as she pulled harder. “I’m trying to get away before they take us back to The Room. Don’t you remember The Room?”

“Nope, I don’t remember this place,” said Charlotte as she glanced out the window. “Ooh, squirrel!” The alpha female always said it was good that God made Charlotte pretty.

Alas, it was too late. Another human emerged from The Room and called for Macy and Charlotte. Macy took the time to show her displeasure by peeing on her human’s lap. Charlotte, who firmly believes no one should pee alone, did the same.

They were taken to The Room, and the other human began to say sweet things to Charlotte.

“Oh, I like her! I like her very much,” Charlotte said as the other human picked her up. She enthusiastically licked the other human’s face and tasted waffles. Very nice. However, the human began heading out a back door, and Charlotte became afraid. The pee came naturally this time. Macy grunted at her ward’s ignorance.

The male human they called “The Vet” entered the room for Macy. Alpha female placed Macy up on the examining table, and Macy felt his cold hands all over her body. He looked at her eyes and her teeth, stuck a cold cone into her ears, pulled at her hips and then felt him press on her internal organs. More pee.

Macy desperately tried to use the alpha female as a shield, but she could not escape. She whimpered her distress, but her female would not make eye contact with her. The other human walked back into the room with a visibly shaken Charlotte in one hand and the pointy cylinders of doom in another.

“RUN!” Charlotte cried out. “She’s going to put something in your rear end! She’s going to steal your poo! RUN!”

Too late again. The other human scooped Macy into her arms and took her out of the room. Charlotte put on her best brave face and tried to lick The Vet so he would let her go. No such luck. He examined her just as he had done with Macy, and then he grabbed a few of the pointy things and plunged them into Charlotte’s skin. Charlotte yelped and whimpered. The alpha female picked her up and held her close.

“What is wrong with you?” she asked her human. “Why did you let them do that to me?”

Macy re-emerged a few moments later with an obvious change in her walk. The Vet plunged the remaining pointy things into her skin and then left the room. In disgust, Macy rolled her eyes at both Charlotte and the alpha female.

The alpha female reattached Macy’s leash to her collar and placed Charlotte back in the kennel. Another human brought them dog treats, which were quickly gobbled up. The dogs liked her better than the other humans.  The people made small talk, passed a plastic card back and forth, and then the alpha female took Macy and Charlotte back to the wheeled box.

No one said a word on the way home, but Macy and Charlotte were secretly thinking about their revenge. As fate would have it, their opportunity came quickly. The plastic scooper and its lubricant apparently did much more than the silly humans expected, and both dogs freely allowed their bowels to explode inside the wheeled box. The alpha female shrieked in horror.

“Bwa ha ha,” Macy sinisterly laughed. “Bad human.”

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