Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Out of the mouths of babes

On the Parent Diaries blog, I try to provide information that will help parents better help their children succeed in school — without going insane.

To that end, I recently came across this fabulous poem posted on the MySpace page of my daughter's friend, Olivia. It's a poem that has been traveling around the Internet, written by an unknown source, it seems.

I found it wonderful and poignant that Olivia chose to post it because despite the antics of middle school (don't get me started), it's refreshing to see that this gorgeous 8th grader and her "best friends" in the photo realize that they are growing up too fast.

So here's to you, Olivia! Keep swinging at the playground, opt for licorice cigs, and fearlessly wear skirts (just pick ones that aren't too short). All the mommies and daddies out there are rooting for you and your BFFs to hold on to the joy and innocence of childhood for as long as possible. With love.

I remember when getting high meant swinging at the playgrounds.
The worst thing your could get from boys were cooties.
Your worst enemies were your siblings.
The only drug you knew of was cough medicine.
Wearing a skirt didn’t mean you were a slut.
The only thing you smoked was licorice.
The only thing that could hurt was skinned knees.
The only things that could break were your toys.
Life was so simple and carefree.
But what I remember the most was wanting to grow up.
And now that I think about it,
All I really want to do is go back.

Entry by Hope Katz Gibbs, Inkandescent Public Relations.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Do Your Giving While You Are Still Living: Edie Fraser and Robyn Spizman Reach Out

I love the title of this new book by Washington, DC activist / philanthropist Edie Fraser and TV journalist Robyn Spizman. Not only is it a great message to send our kids, it’s a message that parents need to hear — especially in this time of economic uncertainty when more people are hoarding what they have, out of fear for the future.

“We believe the most important word in our vocabulary is love,” the authors write in the introduction. “We’re talking about the kind of love that opens our hearts to others and expects nothing in return. It inspires us to do kind and caring things even when no one is watching.”

It is that belief that inspired these two truly amazing women to give 66 leaders of some of the country’s most influential nonprofit organizations the opportunity to talk about the benefits of giving.

They include some well-known personalities such as the executive director of the Oprah Winfrey Foundations Caren Yanis, renowned musician and philanthropist Dionne Warwick, and chairman of the National Council of Negro Women Dr. Dorothy Height.

Other chapters are written by the heads of some lesser-known nonprofit organizations, such as the Gail Heyman of the National Fragile X Foundation and Terry Baugh of the DC-based organization Kidsave.

On page 204 Baugh’s partner and co-founder Randi Thompson writes: “When you ask someone if they can help the 33 million kids in the world living without families, they can’t imagine what they can do. But when you talk about the possibility of reaching out to one orphan or foster child, it’s a very different story.”

That idea captures the essence of this 289-page book, which strives to teach and encourage everyone to open their hearts and give what they can.

In fact, the book’s publisher David Hancock of Morgan James Publishing has made a commitment to donate a percentage of book sales each month to one of his favorite organizations, Habitat for Humanity.

“Habitat for Humanity is changing lives,” Hancock writes in the book. “Working in partnership with low-income families to build decent homes they can afford to buy, Habitat helps to break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness. So we place its logo on the back and inside of our books and give a small library of books to the new homeowners. In addition to generating funds, we are raising awareness of Habitat’s critically important work.”

The authors hope more companies reach out in similarly profound ways.

“Whether in your community or around the world, choose one or more actions that make a difference,” says co-author Spizman, one of the country’s leading gift experts who is often featured on NBCs The Today Show, CNN, MSNBC, and The Discovery Channel, among others. “Continue to search for meaningful ways to connect to causes that matter. Consider what you can do and inspire yourself and others as giving of our time, talents and treasures has never been more critical."

To buy the book, visit: www.doyourgiving.com.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Best of Both Worlds: Making the holidays happy in a house with two religions

When it comes to celebrating the holidays, my husband Michael and I have always said the more the merrier. He grew up Catholic. I grew up Jewish. And neither of us is willing to forego the teachings of our past. So we celebrate Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Easter, Passover, Channukah and Christmas!

And when I saw a query from reporter Lynn Martin looking for families that celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas, I had to respond. Lynn and I hit it off, spent some time talking, and did a photo shoot with DC photographer Steve Barrett for the magazine where the article was to run. (See image, right. Yes, we put up a Christmas tree in October. Thank you Kevin and Karen Carroll for lending us your faux evergreen!)

Alas, as it happens sometimes in big-time publications, our segment was cut from the article. But Lynn was kind enough to share what she wrote so I could post it on The Parent Diaries. (I'll admit my kids were really disappointed — me, too — but this is stuff of the real world and I figure it's good to learn the power of resiliency sooner than later!)

Following is what Lynn wrote about our attempt to "Make the best of both worlds."

Journalist Hope Katz Gibbs, 44, a veteran of Hebrew school and her husband Michael Gibbs, 54, an illustrator and former Catholic school altar boy, make sure that their shared traditions provide plenty of glow—from the candles on the menorah to the Christmas lights that bedeck their suburban Virginia home. If you want to know how well they’ve meshed their two cultures, look no further than their tree—adorned with popsicle-stick ornaments in the shape of Jewish stars.

“We’re trying to teach our children to be good, moral people,” says Hope Katz Gibbs, explaining that Anna 13, and Dylan, 9, are learning about both religions and reap the benefits of two celebrations. On Chanukah, the family lights candles, says prayers in Hebrew and enjoys a dinner that includes matzoh ball soup made from Hope’s grandmother’s recipe (the secret’s in the fresh dill and parsley seasoning.)

On Christmas, “We do the tree, the lights, and the whole Santa routine,” says husband Mike, adding that it’s one of his favorite times of year. On each occasion, they take a few, important minutes, to re-tell the story of the holiday. Hope’s mom Bobbi Katz often comes to Christmas dinner, Mike’s parents, to Chanukah. “It’s all about sharing,” says Hope. Still there are parts of the other’s celebration that neither partakes of. “I still don’t eat the Christmas ham and Mike doesn’t like gefitle fish,” she laughs.

Chanukah lasts for eight nights, and when Hope was a girl, she got small presents— a book, maybe a fuzzy pair of socks. “Mike likes to have a Christmas bonanza, and for a little while there, I felt competitive, I didn’t want the kids to think that Chanukah was a lesser holiday because they got a DVD instead of a bike.”

In the last few years they’ve cut back on presents and this year the clan is creating a new tradition: They’re going to volunteer to serve a meal at a soup kitchen or make sandwiches for the homeless. Like so many other Americans, the Gibbs’ are getting back to basics. “It’s important to remember,” says Hope, “what the holidays are really about.”

One last thing: The night before Thanksgiving, Mike and I found a spot to make food for the homeless at the DC Jewish Community Center's "Everything but the turkey" fundraiser. Along with more than 200 other families we helped prepare a holiday feast. Our job: Make pounds and pounds of what they called "kicking coleslaw," and they weren't kidding! We made 100 pounds in 2 hours — and boy was it a blast. We'll be volunteering to prepare food again at Christmas time.

The other charity we're volunteering for in 2009 is Habitat for Humanities' Women Who Build. We're looking for donations of only $5000 by March 15 and volunteers to help us do a one-day build. If you'd like to join, sign up on the website!