What happened when college students ditched their phones?

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Without my smart phone, I couldn’t take pictures like this without lugging my real camera.

In a course at Adelphi University called “Life Unplugged” students were challenged to check their addiction to smart phones by giving them up for one week. Adelphi is a private university located in Garden City, NY.

What an interesting challenge. I wonder, should I try this myself? My excuse is that I need to have my phone in case my kids call me. I’m still being “mom” even though they are grown and flown. But, seriously, what if they do need me? Would they think to call the land line? Probably. Yes. I haven’t found a good excuse yet to not try the experiment. Except, maybe I don’t want to!

At first, the kids reported that they felt shaky and went through withdrawal symptoms. Here’s an excerpt from reporting by a CBS2 in New York about the “Life Unplugged” challenge. To read the entire article or see the video click on the link here. I recommend watching it.

‘It’s Really Refreshing And Relaxing’: College Students Say Ditching Their Smartphones For A Week Changed Their Lives

ARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – They survived!

Nearly two dozen Adelphi University students made it a full week without their cell phones!

As CBS2 first told you last week, it was part of a college course intended to break the powerful addiction of smartphones.

CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff went back on Thursday as students were reunited with their beloved mobile devices.

It’s old school in Jacob Dannenberg’s dorm room – with an alarm clock to wake him.

Handwritten notes remind him an actual wristwatch to keep track of time.

No it wasn’t 1999, it was an Adelphi University course called “Life Unplugged.” where students did the unthinkable one week ago – handed over their smartphones.

“I’m freaking out, I could probably cry right now,” one student said.

It was a bold experiment to recognize today’s compulsive relationships with ever present devices.

Seven days later, “who’s excited they’re getting their phones back today?” Professor Donna Freitas asked.

Gone were the nerves and the shakes.

“Everything is perfect right now. I’m having a lot better relationships… it’s a stress free environment no pressure about social media,” Jacob Dannenberg said.

“I think it’s really refreshing and relaxing… I was able to fall asleep a lot easier,” student Adrianna Cigliano.

The results students experienced included better focus on homework, better sleep and living in the present. Although none of the kids is ditching their smart phones forever, they said they would cut down on screen time as a result of the class.

Below are pictures from our family cabin that has no running water, electricity or cell service! Maybe I should plan a stay there for a week!

What do you think about ditching smart phones? Will you give it a try?

Is It Wrong to Take So Many Pictures of Our Kids?

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Waffles stopping for a smile and pic.

What will happen to children whose parents snap pictures of every moment of their lives? And post them on social media? There seems to be a whole lot of mugging going on and kids know how to pose from a wee age. Even my daughter’s pug is quite the poser.

My own kids are grown and flown and they are so thankful that Facebook and Instagram weren’t around to document every momentous occasion. We didn’t have cell phones with cameras during their early years, either. So, to get pictures, I had to lug around a real camera and drop film off at the neighborhood photo store. Of course, I tried to make up for lost time when I did join FB and had my iPhone with built-in camera. I’ve written about this subject here and here.

On a recent trip to visit my kids, we did a lot of sight-seeing in the Bay Area. We went to Sutro Baths, Lake Merritt, Berkeley Marina, Coit Tower and walked around many neighborhoods. I tried to get pics of my kids, and my son refused to cooperate. My daughter said, “Just get it done! One and done!” or something like that. But he kept refusing and said he wanted to enjoy the moment, not pose for pictures. Here’s the one pic I got of the four of us at Coit Tower:

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In an “Ask NYT Parenting” article called Is It Bad to Take So Many Pictures of My Kid? a mom from Bangkok asked this question:

I take photos and videos of my kid all the time. She loves seeing herself on the screen. Will this affect her sense of self and make her too image-conscious in the future?

Here’s part of the answer by Christina Caron, parenting writer for the New York Times:

Parents, like most people in the digital age, are relentless photographers. We’re rarely without a camera, so we document nearly every moment, accumulating thousands of images of our children.

But sometimes there’s a nagging worry, much like the one Ms. Kirati described: Should we be taking so many pictures? How should we use them? Will our children become more self-conscious or, worse yet, start to value a photograph over an experience?

According to developmental psychologists and other experts, taking thousands of pictures and videos of your children isn’t necessarily concerning. What matters is how parents go about recording or photographing their children and the context in which those images are shared.

With that in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind when documenting your child’s life.

Don’t obsess.

It’s natural for children to want to look at images of themselves, said Philippe Rochat, a professor of psychology at Emory University and director of the Emory Infant and Child Laboratory. “There’s nothing to worry about,” he said.

Yes, we all take a lot of pictures. And our children will take a lot of pictures, too, of themselves and others. That’s not going to change anytime soon.

“I think that we can slow down the trend, but it’s unstoppable,” Dr. Rochat said.

“My advice to parents is that you live with it,” he said — but don’t obsess over it. Do encourage your children to think about how and why we take pictures.

Instead of preventing children from taking selfies, for example, you can take selfies with them, Dr. Rochat said. As parents, you can use those moments to start a conversation about the kinds of photos your child is taking, the image your child is trying to self-manage and how that image can affect others.

When parents are the ones behind the lens, they also ought to reflect on what they’re projecting to the outside world and the impact their behavior has on others.

Constant documentation can translate as being “self-centered rather than kid-centered,” he said. “Parents need to be aware of that, of how much they promote themselves through their kid.”

Her answer addresses fostering a healthy self-image and respecting your child’s privacy. (If you want to read the rest of the article, click on this link.)

When my daughter went to college, she was no longer keen on me posting her pictures on Facebook. She told me more than once to not post anything of her — and if I did — only with her permission. She also told me not to accept any friend requests from her college friends, who were busy scouring FB accounts to find pics from the awkward tween years. Little did I know those photos would be used to tease my daughter online! That’s something to think about before posting any pics that we find adorable. Our kids have some rights on how their images are being used. That being said, I’ll post some really adorable pics of my kids at a couple months old and age three that will really embarrass them!

 What are your thoughts about taking tons of pictures of your kids? Do you think it has any lasting effect on their development?

How to survive in an uncivil world

I wrote this four years ago in November. I hate to say it, but things have not improved much. I hope and pray each day that we can leave our differences behind, get along, and not get so worked up over every little tiny thing! Here’s what I had to say about it before:

Olive in an uncivil mood.

Olive in an uncivil mood.

I’m trying very hard to not get caught up in all the over-reacting that’s floating around. Have you noticed a lot of intolerance and anger lately? People seem to get upset and outraged over the littlest things. Like Halloween costumes. Waiting in line. Political opinions. Slow drivers.

Read about how I got yelled at by a total stranger here

How we handle little things and disappointments in life in a positive way can help us become better role models for our kids. It can also change our outlook and make a frustrating day, a better one.

imgres-4I think email, texting, twitter and social media in general can lead to misunderstandings and hard feelings. First of all, by emailing rather than having a conversation, a person can unload in ways they wouldn’t in person. He or she isn’t picking up on verbal and non-verbal cues. The conversation is totally one-sided without any give or take. We don’t have to bother with a discussion or to hear another person’s side of the story.

Online, have you read comment sections on a news or political story? If people can leave comments anonymously, look out! A snarky comment looks like an attaboy compared to the filth and nastiness you’ll read. People don’t tolerate differences of opinions and resort to name calling rather than debate issues. The anonymity of hiding behind a computer rather than facing someone is unleashing hostility and words that quite frankly are better left unsaid

imgres-3Have you ever texted someone or sent an email you didn’t mean to? Or, it went to the wrong person? How about thinking you hung up the iPhone, and you didn’t or pocket dialed the person, and they can hear your subsequent conversation?

It’s hard enough when you’re the one committing the faux pas and even harder when you’re on the receiving end.  Yikes. If this happens to you, take a minute and breathe. Realize you have a choice—how to react. You could get upset. You could make a big deal out of it and be confrontational.  Or, make the choice that it was mistake and no ill will was intended. 

I believe it’s a choice we can make on a daily basis. Take a deep breath when you’re behind a slow driver. When you’re waiting behind an elderly person trying to work the ATM or checking out at the grocery store. Don’t automatically jump on the uber outrage. We don’t have a choice on what is happening, but we do have a choice on how we react.

Baby Olive.

Baby Olive.

I think the best choice is to be “merciful.” This word popped up on my iPad yesterday. It’s not a word we hear spoken out loud these days—unless we’re sitting in a pew. In the everyday world it’s sounds old fashioned and is not practiced much.

I wasn’t quite sure of the exact meaning so I looked it up online at Merriam Webster:

treating people with kindness and forgiveness : not cruel or harsh : having or showing mercy: giving relief from suffering

I’m going to incorporate it in my everyday life when I feel the adrenalin or upset feelings start. I think if a lot more of us practiced mercy, our world would be a whole lot better.

We also need to keep in mind that our kids learn from our behavior. How we react to stress is most likely how they will deal with situations as they grow up.

Here’s a song to listen to: Bobby McFerrin — Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Relax and smile.

How do you deal with unhappy or rude people you see in person or online?

 

The Struggle Is Real — Insta-Parenting

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With my great-grandmother way before FB.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I am sooooooo happy that Instagram and Facebook did not exist when my kids were babies. Not only do moms struggle today with their choices of staying home or having a career — they need to have perfect Instagram pics to show off their children — on birthdays, first day of school, lost tooth, ice cream cones — you name it.

I looked back on my FB history and I joined 11 years ago. My kids would have been 12 and 15. I missed the annual first day of school pics for quite a few years. My big struggle was the annual Christmas card photo and the birthday blowing out the candle picks. Yes, I have them in print. But, I put them in albums and they were for me — not the entire world to view.

Moms today have pressure to look good on Instagram, have their kids be clean and adorable, and often worry about if their best friends didn’t “like” a photo. Too much pressure and no thank you! I read about his new phenomenon at Refinerty29 in Insta-Parenting: Why We Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Sharing Pics Of Our Kids by Kathleen Newman-Bremang. What I found interesting about this article was the numbers. They did a survey and it’s amazing how many moms get caught in this web.

According to a Refinery29 survey, Canadian moms are doing it for the ’gram. But what happens when being a parent becomes wrapped up in likes and follows?

It’s the first day of Grade 5 for Samantha Kemp-Jackson’s 10-year-old twin boys and there’s a lot going on in her house — the rush of the early-morning wakeup, the re-acquaintance with packing lunches, the boys’ nervous energy and the inevitable back-to-school blues. But all Kemp-Jackson is thinking about is getting a good photo of her sons. “Every year I’ve had to bribe and cajole my boys into some semblance of a smile because I know I need those pictures,” says the mother of four. “I’m trying to get the shot, not only for myself, but for all of my friends and family who have come to expect the requisite ‘first day of school’ posts.”

It’s no longer enough to get your kid off to school with two shoes on minimal tears, today’s parents face the pressure of immortalizing the first-day-of-school rite-of-passage (and countless others like it) online — and with the perfect filter. According to a Refinery29 survey of 500 Canadian women, 95% of mothers post photos of their children on social media, and one in four upload new images of their kids every single day. Find a social-media feed of a woman in her late 20s, 30s, and 40s, and chances are, her timeline will be dominated by pictures of birthdays and lost first teeth and trips to the zoo. Our bios shout out proudly that we’re “Aidan’s mama” or “a mom of three” of “wife, mother, lawyer” — 80% of moms we surveyed identified themselves as moms in their profiles online, and 41% of moms said they share pics of their kids because “it’s an important part of their identity.” In 2019, if you don’t Instagram photos of your babies, are you even a mom?

University of Waterloo professor of women’s health Diana Parry sees this desire to share these images on social as a new way of self-branding. “We put a social value on motherhood that’s connected to identity for women that is not there for men,” she says. Social media has exacerbated that relationship. “Motherhood has ‘come out of the closet’ so to speak,” says Kemp-Jackson, a parenting expert, podcast host, and creator of the blog Multiple Mayhem Mamma. “Before the digital age, mothers and their work were not as appreciated or recognized by larger society.” Women, adds Natasha Sharma, a Toronto-based relationship and parenting expert and creator of The Kindness Journal, are now choosing motherhood to be a part of their identity as much as they would their job or hobbies. “It’s a huge lifestyle choice just like your career is,” Sharma says. “If you’re going to put in your profile what you do for a living, it makes sense to also say, ‘I take a lot of pride in being a mom,’ too.” 

While it’s well and good to post because “it’s an easy way to keep friends and family updated” (according to 59% of our survey respondents) and “because my kids are so damn cute” (41%), there’s an inevitable downside to all this content. Most women seem to be happy sharing the lives of their children online while simultaneously struggling with unhealthy comparisons and shame on the very same medium: 82% of women in our poll say they compare themselves to other moms on social media and 35% admit they always or often have any insecurities around being a mom that stem from social media. Some of the reasons social media makes mom feel bad, according to our survey results: feeling like other families have more fun (38%), that their bodies aren’t as good as other moms’ (39%), that the meals they eat as a family aren’t as “healthy and yummy looking” (30%), and that they don’t feel as happy as other parents seem to be (24%). Online, there’s always someone doing it better than you.

It doesn’t help that there’s an overflow of moms with public profiles — it used to be you’d only compare yourself the moms on the playground, now there are millions to stack yourself up to. “I had a friend who posted, ‘Up at 3 a.m. with my kid and we made muffins!'” recalls Parry, who in addition to being a professor, is a mom of two. “When I’m up at 3 a.m., the last thing I’m doing is making muffins with my kid. I’m thinking, ‘How am I getting my kid back to sleep?’ When you’re exhausted, it’s easy to think: ‘I’m not making muffins so I’m a bad mom, or I’m a bad woman, or I’m failing at this.'”

Parry may not have liked the way her friend’s post made her feel about her own parenting, but she still hit the like button. Liking parents’ posts on social media may now be a friendship necessity. In fact, our survey found that most women under 35 notice when their BFFs don’t like their pics of their children. The problem with this, according to our experts, is many women — you guessed it — internalize this as criticism and feel bad about themselves. “We post to garner a lot of likes and comments. And when we don’t get it, when there is radio silence, we wonder, ‘What’s wrong with us? Are we doing it wrong? Is there something wrong with my kids? Are they not cute enough?'” says Kemp-Jackson.

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Before digital cameras and Facebook when the pics went in a photo album.

I’ve questioned what good will come of posting every moment of your child’s life. You can read a post about it here.

How to embarrass your kids without trying

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Desolation Sound. photo credit: Pinterest

Do you remember being embarrassed by your parents? I do.

The summer before I was in 8th grade, we docked our boat across the street from The Empress Hotel after a few weeks of roughing it in Desolation Sound. Mom, dad, my brother and I badly needed showers and clean clothes. (If you haven’t been to The Empress, it’s a gorgeous Edwardian hotel built in 1908 and a landmark in the heart of Victoria B.C.)

Dozens of civilized people dressed in their finest, sipped their afternoon tea and munched finger sandwiches and crumpets. My dad wore denim bell bottoms, thick soled canvas boat shoes — and dragged a giant black plastic trash bag filled with dirty laundry across the fancy lobby — while I looked for a potted palm to curl up behind and die.

Why couldn’t we have walked around the hotel? Why was he making a scene? It was to embarrass me! I was a 13-year-old who cringed at whatever my parents did, so my dad loved to make sure I was cringing over something worthwhile.

All I can say is thank goodness there were no iPhones, Facebook or Instagram back then! I can’t imagine!

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The Empress Hotel and harbor where we docked. photo: TripAdvisor

Why am I sharing this moment of embarrassment? Because I read an article in The Daily Pilot by Patrice Apodaca called Stop ‘sharenting’ and start parenting. She explains that the one thing all parents have in common is embarrassing their kids. Then she goes on to talk about a new phenomenon called “sharenting” where we share too much online.

Read more here:

Parents share one universal trait. They’re very good at embarrassing their children.

They loudly and publicly boast, complain and share mortifying and intimate details about them. Then those kids grow up, procreate and proceed to engage in the same oversharing behavior regarding their own offspring.

This has probably been going on since the dawn of humankind.

There’s a new wrinkle, however, and it’s eliciting growing concern that it’s not a healthy one. It’s known by the portmanteau, “sharenting,” and it comes to us courtesy of social media.

Sharenting, the overuse of social media by parents to broadcast content about their kids, is increasingly one of the most hotly discussed and debated cultural trends revolving around the internet. In short, worries are escalating that parents who continually post photos, videos and stories about their children are unwittingly creating a host of potential problems.

To be sure, social media such as Facebook and Instagram have positive attributes. They allow parents to engage with like-minded communities, and to quickly and easily update friends and family members, some of whom might live far away, about the progress of their little ones. This can be a blessing for out-of-state grandparents, for instance, who appreciate the ability to regularly access information about their beloved grandkids.

But experts are increasingly warning about the dark side to all this sharing.

One cause for concern is that parents generally post this information without their children’s consent.

Of course, parents make decisions all the time that affect their kids without consulting them. That is the prerogative of being a parent. As children mature, though, they might come to resent their parents’ constant disclosures about their lives and grow uneasy about exactly how much they are sharing and who has access to that information in the online universe.

By age 2, one study found, 92% of American children have unique digital identities, which grow and follow them as they age.

One could imagine, for example, a child being bullied by her peers over a photo or story about her that was posted online by clueless parents, who considered such posts to be only a harmless sharing of cute or humorous content, or a display of pride intended for a friendly audience. The trouble is, once information is posted, it’s hard to control where it goes.

You can read the rest of the article here. There’s a lot more valuable info.

I used to post on FB all about my kids swim meets, awards, piano recitals, graduation pics, etc. I’m so proud of them and love sharing each and every special moment. However, I was fortunate that FB didn’t exist when they were born! Instead, it began in their awkward ‘tween years! At one point, my daughter told me I had to ask her permission to post anything about her. She was being teased by her peers. She also told me not to “friend” any of her friends. I respected her wishes.

I think it’s a good idea to let our kids know when and what we post about them. The exception is my blog 🙂  Actually, neither of my kids follow me or read it. They said they’ve lived it! Why bother? So, they don’t mind the old pics I post, or the stories. Or, I’m sure they’d let me know!

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Photos that could embarrass!

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Christmas Parade in the Nutcracker float.

What are your thoughts about the tendency for parents to share too much info and post pictures online about their kids? Also, please share any stories where your parents embarrassed you!

 

 

How Social Media Is Changing Parenting

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Free play at the beach.

Parenting has changed through the years. We all know that our childhoods were a lot freer that our kids’ schedules. Well, except for that dang list my mom would leave us. My brother and I were latch-key kids and Mom would write a list of chores on a yellow legal pad. She’d fill up the entire thing, sometimes both sides. Her handwriting was atrocious and it was a chore just to read the list! It was her method of keeping us busy while she was taking classes at the University of Washington. Better than a babysitter, because she’d come home and the house was clean and dinner would be ready!

According to a study from the University of Alberta, social media is partially the reason why there’s a big change in parenting today.  In an article called How social media altered the good parenting ideal by Michael Brown, University of Alberta, he explains why. Here’s an excerpt:

Social media has altered perceptions of what good parenting is and may play a role in the reduction in the amount of time kids spend just playing, according to a University of Alberta study.

“It has long been known that children today aren’t playing outside as much as they used to, nor are they playing as freely and without supervision as they used to do,” said U of A Ph.D. student Shannon Pynn, who led the study. “We were looking at why this has happened when we realized this idea of free play kept coming up in terms of good parenting.”

Pynn said this “good parenting ideal” refers to how parents understand what’s expected of them from their social network, people in their community and the broader society.

“It’s basically what parents think other parents think is good parenting,” she said.

What she wanted to know was how the good parenting ideal changed in relation to active free play and why.

Pynn and her colleagues interviewed 14 sets of parents and grandparents to get a feel for what free play looked like when they were children and parents.

One theme emerging from the interviews was that some parents today parent differently from how they were parented because they are expected to have their kids in structured activities, said Pynn.

“That’s one reason free play isn’t so much of a thing anymore—kids are playing a lot more sports and participating in many more structured activities, so they don’t really have the time to go outside to play anymore.”

Pynn said structure crept into free play because of heightened safety concerns propagated by social media. Because news is so readily accessible, events like child abductions, for instance, are affecting the behavior of parents a world away.

“Social media makes it all feel a little closer to home, when in reality statistics show that kids are actually safer today than they were in the past,” Pynn said. “The safety concerns are not really founded, but they’re heightened because of social media. That didn’t happen in their grandparents’ days.”

As well, Pynn said parents are concerned about being judged on social media platforms or on any number of parenting sites.

There’s a lot more to the article and it’s well worth reading the entire thing.

Looking back, I did most of my parenting without social media. It wasn’t a thing yet. But there still was pressure from our school community to sign our kids up for certain activities. We chose swimming after trying tennis, ballet, golf, tee ball and karate. Both kids like liked swimming and we found a second home at the pool and a whole new set of parents to hang out with.

Swimming does take a lot of time and our days were structured. Before swimming there was more free play time. We have a park nearby and they used to have really awesome equipment, like a stagecoach for the kids to climb on. I’ll never forget the tall scary slide that freaked me out whenever my toddler son would climb to the top. I’m glad my kids got to play in the park before the city replaced the “unsafe” equipment with rubber padded ground and non-slippery slides.

There was also lots of beach time in the summer. The kids would use their imaginations creating kitchens or castles out of sand. Of course, they also fought over sand. Because there’s nothing like your siblings sandpile, right?

Once they were swimmers, we’d have their swim friends over to the house and they’d play like crazy. I remember a game called sardines which is like a reverse hide-and-seek. I loved  the laughter and sorely miss that sound in my empty nest.

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Celebrating Natasha’s birthday. Probably my son’s idea!

What are your favorite things your kids did in free play before social media told us how to act?

Tips to Rekindle Your Creative Spirit

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Inspiring view along my morning walks.

I’m reading a few pages a week from Julia Cameron’s books. Who is Julia Cameron you ask? She’s a writer, musician and artist who encourages creativity for the rest of us struggling along our jumbled paths. I read something in the book Walking in This World  that helped me out and wanted to share it.

What’s ironic is that it’s the same thing I write about in my parenting tips for SwimSwam. Why don’t I take the advice I shout out to the rest of the world? Who knows?

It’s all about performance pressure and focusing on results rather than the process. When our kids focus on times, or we add performance pressure on them, they will struggle to improve. Likewise, if we are too focused on the number of “likes” and “clicks” on our writing, we lose sight of our creative spirit. We’re more worried about what people think of our work–rather than losing ourselves in the process and creating art.

This results in writer’s block, frustration, second-guessing our work and losing passion for what we’re doing.

What is Cameron’s solution to this? In her books, she has a number of suggestions that include writing morning pages, walking and making time for an artist’s date with yourself. Also, she suggests trying something artistic outside your chosen field. For me it’s getting out a sketch book and drawing from time to time. When I was a little kid, I wasn’t worried about what people thought about my artwork. I drew for hours on end. I found it scary at first to try and sketch again, but I reminded myself that nobody is looking at it. I won’t be looking at the number of “likes” and “retweets.” It’s a creative outlet just for me.

Another suggestion of Cameron’s to rekindle the spirit of creativity, is to use your talents to help someone else. Make a gift for someone, teach, volunteer, or do something for your community. It does make you feel enthusiastic after helping someone else and getting the focus off yourself and your end product. 

Thank you to my BFF Cindy for giving me The Artist’s Way five years ago and encouraging me on my current path.

Julia Cameron has been an active artist for more than thirty years. She is the author of forty books, fiction and nonfiction, including her bestselling works on the creative process: The Artist’s Way, Walking in This World and Finding Water. Her work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages and has sold more than four million copies worldwide. Also a novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet, she has multiple credits in theater, film and television.

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I find inspiration from my view.

How do you rekindle your creativity if you’re discouraged or reached a block? Do you have any tips to share with us?