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?

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Are teen girls at risk for depression linked to social media use?

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I find swimming helps me feel better in the day and sleep better at night.

A recent study in the United Kingdom of more than 10,000 14-year-olds showed that teen girls who spent more than five hours on social media were 50% more likely to have depression. The study called the Millennium Cohort Study can be found here.

Here are more details in an article titled “Teen girls at higher risk of social media-linked depression, study says” bFiza Pirani  in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Now new findings published in the journal The Lancet last week suggest social media use may indeed be associated with young people’s mental health — and the connection looks stronger for girls than boys.

United Kingdom researchers examined data on 10,904 14-year-olds born between 2000 and 2002 in the U.K. for the study, using a variety of regression and path models to find associations between social media use and depressive symptoms.

The data is part of the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study, which includes participant self-reported questionnaires. 

On average, research showed that girls had higher depressive symptom scores compared with boys and girls reported more social media use as well.

In fact, according to the study, teen girls who spent more than five hours on social media per day had a 50 percent increase in depressive symptoms and boys experienced a 35 percent increase in symptoms compared to those who used social media for only one to three hours per day.

“We were quite surprised when we saw the figures and we saw those raw percentages: the fact that the magnitude of association was so much larger for girls than for boys,” study author Yvonne Kelly of the University College London told CNN. This could be because girls are more likely to spend time on apps centered around “physical appearance, taking photographs and commenting on those photographs,” she said, and urged future researchers to delve deeper into the gender differences.

Depression is a debilitating disease that can last a lifetime — or end a life. Social media is the number one form of communication for our kids, yet it can be so harmful. Long gone are the days when teens spent hours on the phone, tying up the family’s telephone line. I remember having to wait for my big brother to get off the phone with his best friend, so I’d get my turn to talk and say nothing for an hour.

The researchers looked at areas that are affected by social media and show an increase in depression with poor sleep, online harassment, poor self esteem and body image. This study gives parents a strong reason to look closely at our teens’ social media accounts and be aware what’s going on in their online life. I’m not sure how to limit their time online, but it’s worth giving a try to save their mental health. I know I feel better when I put the phone down and get outdoors to walk, hike, or spend time with friends and family, rather than being online.

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The Wellness Park in Palm Springs.

What are your thoughts about this study that shows how vulnerable our teen girls are to depression from social media?

What happens to our kids raised with social media and selfies?

It’s so different today from when we grew up. Our kids have every moment of their lives documented in photos online. A swim coach talked to me about social media. He said his team has to deal with a whole set of issues that never arose before. Mainly, online bullying and kids suffering from depression. Think about it. These kids never get a moment to escape. They don’t come home from school or practice and unplug. They are constantly faced with the online presence.

I wrote this article with questions of my own about social media, selfies and our kids four years ago. I have a lot more to say about the subject but first, I’m doing some reading and research and will write more later. Stay tuned.

The first Halloween for my kids together.

The first Halloween for my kids together.

I have a question for you. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. What do you think the long term effects will be to our kids for us posting everything they do on Facebook?

I’m not pointing fingers, because yes, I’m guilty of this myself. Do you remember when once a year your relatives and close family friends would come over and the slide projector and screen would come out? Or, when you sat with a bowl of popcorn on the carpet with the cousins at your grandparents house, bored watching old slides of your parents?

I took a lot of photos of my kids when they were babies and toddlers. I took less and less as they got older until our phones got mixed up with cameras. Now, I’m guilty of taking photos whenever I get the chance. And posting them on FB.

First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl.

First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl. ‘Kat in the Hat.”

But, I didn’t have FB when my kids were young. We barely had internet. We had a modem that I used to send files of work to a printer. There was no way to share every minute detail and selfie of our day. Instead, I took my film downtown to the photo shop and got double prints made. Then I wrote a card or letter by hand to my mom or dad and inserted the photos and mailed them the old fashioned way. Here’s the result of that! A closet with shelves filled with photo albums.

A few of my photo albums, filled with real live pictures.

A few of my photo albums, filled with real live pictures.

My fear is that we are raising kids who think they are more self-important than they really are. Their every move is recorded and shared with the world. Maybe they’ll be confused and want to share as much about their lives as a Kardashian. As they grow older and have their own Instagram, Snapchat etc. will they try harder and harder to get noticed? Will the photos get more outrageous and provocative? Look at me????

Christmas photo shoot 1996.

Christmas photo shoot 1996.

I’ve been reading articles about this phenomenon. Here’s a related article I wrote on whether or not our kids get too much glory. Following are some excerpts and links from CNN and US News. Some report skyrocketing anxiety and depression as a result of too much social media.

“The 2014 National College Health Assessment, a survey of nearly 80,000 college students throughout the United States, found that 54% of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in the past 12 months and that 32.6% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” during the same period. The study also found that 6.4% had “intentionally, cut, burned, bruised or otherwise injured” themselves, that 8.1% had seriously considered suicide and that 1.3% had attempted suicide.

Ease up on the pressure. Do we really have to be noticed all the time? Does every second have to be a beauty contest? Our kids need to stop feeling that they have to outperform their peers every minute of every day. They need to know that they don’t have to market themselves constantly, and that social media can be a mechanism for fostering collaborative relationships — not a medium for fueling competition, aggression and irresponsible behavior that contributes to anxiety and depression.” More from CNN here.

Here’s another article with an interesting point of view on selfies and a teen’s self worth. Read more from US News here.

“Social media use can turn into a problem when a teen’s sense of self worth relies on peer approval, Proost says. Whether they’re posting from the football game bleachers or on a family vacation, teens can access social media anywhere and at all times. And because of the constant connection, it can be dangerous for young people overly concerned with others’ opinions. They may feel like they can never escape the social environment and are constantly faced with peer pressure.

“The mental health outcomes that we’re starting to look at now are things like body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety,” Proost says. “We are starting to see those things creep up and be related conditions to excessive [social media] use.”

If we know an overuse of social media can be fun, but also have consequences that negatively impact our children—why are we leading and feeding them down this road? 

Grandma on the swings with Robert.

Grandma on the swings with Robert.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Facebook and Instagram. I LOVE that I’ve reconnected with friends and family and get to share in their lives. But I do think we need to keep an eye out for when it gets out of hand.

A new toothy smile.

A new toothy smile.

What are your thoughts on a generation of kids whose every move has been recorded and shared? Do you think there might be negative consequences, too?

When does posting our kids’ pics online cross the line?

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The day we dropped my son off at his college. Yes, I posted this on Facebook.

Parents are a strange lot. In a recent survey, a majority of parents worry that their children may be victims of pedophilia, stalking, kidnapping and cyberbullying—yet they post their kids’ pictures online at least once a day. According to an article in Michigan’s Morning Sun called “Survey: Parents ignore concerns of sharing images of children online,” more than 58 percent of parents don’t consider if their children want their images posted online in the first place.

Since I joined Facebook at least 10 years ago, I’ve posted plenty of pictures of my kids. Like their first days of school, graduation, proms, swim meets, vacations, etc. I never once was concerned with what my kids thought of my FB posts. Isn’t that funny considering how I HATE IT when a friend posts a picture of me? So, why on earth did I think it was okay to post pics of my kids willy-nilly?

I spent the weekend with my daughter and told her about my idea for her first day of work. I wrote about that here. She laughed but said absolutely “NO” on posting a picture of her leaving on her first day of work. However, she was more open to a photo of her pupper Waffles on her first day of adulting. At that moment, a flash went through my brain. My kids are now adults. They are autonomous, no longer under my control, or mine to post pics of them whenever I fancy. Shouldn’t they have had some say so all along? My son and daughter have never been shy about telling me to take down a photo or complaining about my posts. I just never listened carefully before.

From the article I mentioned, McAfee surveyed parents about their kid pic posting habits:

Nearly half of parents are concerned about pedophilia, and yet almost a third of parents surveyed said in a recent poll that they post a video or picture of their child at least once a day on social media.

Cybersecurity company McAfee recently announced results of its latest survey, The Age of Consent, and found 30 percent of parents post a photo or video of their child at least once a day on their social media accounts with 12 percent posting four or more times per day — showing the extent of child exposure on the web.

Most parents identified the following concerns associated with sharing images online including pedophilia (49 percent), stalking (48 percent), kidnapping (45 percent) and cyberbullying (31 percent). But 58 percent don’t consider whether their child would consent to their image being posted online. In fact, 22 percent of parents think their child is too young to decide, and another 19 percent think it should always be left up to the parent to decide.

However, these concerns doesn’t translate into action, as many admit to still including children’s personal information and private details in online images.

For example, half of the parents surveyed admit that they have or would share a photo of their child in their school uniform despite the risk of giving away personal information. Yet, it’s comforting to see the majority (70 percent) of parents are only sharing photos of children on private social media accounts. This is certainly a good first step, but there is much more needed to be done to ensure parents are protecting their children’s identity.

“Posting photos and videos on social media is a great way for parents to share what’s going on in their lives with loved ones,” said Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee. “However, the survey reveals parents are not giving enough consideration to what they post online and how it could harm their children. If shared images get into the wrong hands, they can be used to gather information like birth dates, home address, school, or even the child’s full name which could lead to cyberbullying or even identity theft.”

I think the survey has some good ideas for us parents to think about—before we post. Also, take into consideration what our kids would like us to do with THEIR images. I remember my daughter’s freshman year of college. Her so-called friends stalked my FB page and downloaded embarrassing pictures of my daughter—Snap Chatting and Instagramming them. I feel bad about how I unknowingly contributed to online bullying. It was all in good fun and I’m sure and not meant to be bullying—but what would you call it when friends post pre-pubescent “ugly” photos of you—without your permission?

Here are four tips for parents sharing children’s photos online from the Morning Sun article:

Parental Tips for Safe Sharing

Watch out for geo-tagging. Many social networks will tag a user’s location when a photo is uploaded. Parents should ensure this feature is turned off to avoid disclosing their location. This is especially important when posting photos away from home.

Lock down privacy settings. Parents should only share photos and other social media posts with their intended audience. Services like Facebook and Instagram have features that allow posts to be shared only with confirmed connections, but everything posted on a social network should be treated as if it’s public.

Set ground rules with friends, family and children. Be clear with friends and family about guidelines when posting images. These rules can help avoid unwanted situations where a family member has shared photos without explicit permission. Don’t forget that these ground rules should also apply to parents to protect the children in the images from embarrassment, anxiety or even cyberbullying.

Take control of your personal information. As the number of reported data breaches continue to rise, so too does the possibility of identity theft. For children who are too young for a credit card, parents should freeze their credit to avoid any unauthorized use. An identity theft protection solution like McAfee Identity Theft Protection can help consumers proactively protect their identity and keep their personal information secured from misuse.

 

Maybe I’ll stick to posting pictures of Waffles and Olive from now on. I don’t think the dog and cat will mind too much.

What do you think about your children’s safety or their opinions when you post their pictures online? 

What I’m Dying to Do on My Daughter’s First Day of Work

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My kids four years ago.

She starts work on Monday. This is her first post-college “real job.” I’ve been looking at all the pics on Facebook with the first day of school photos. Something that parents of younger kids do today that we did not for the photo of that momentous day each year—they pose their children with signs. Some are simple cardboard with black sharpie touting “First Day of Kindergarten” and some are elaborate and framed.

I never did that. In fact, I don’t know a single person who did that during our day and age of being parents of young kiddos. We did snap a picture — and back then it wasn’t digital— of our kids glowering at us in their carefully chosen first-day outfits. I guess, looking back, it would be helpful to have the grade and year staring back from the photo, but I can mostly tell which year it was. I’m only off by one or two years.

So, my daughter’s first day of work is coming up. I’m on my way to spend a few days with her in her new home. I’m planning on helping her build a few pieces of furniture from Ikea, unpack boxes and organize so she doesn’t feel like she’s drowning in clutter and chaos. On her first day of work, I’d love to go with her. I’d like to pretend that it’s back in the old days when I could walk into her classroom with her and see where her desk was. Where her cubby was for her lunchbox. But, of course, I won’t do that.

But, what are the odds that she’ll pose for me holding a sign? Slim to none? Well, I think it would be cute. Fun. And of course, I’m kidding about going to work with her. And taking the picture. Sort of. But if I can’t get her to take the “First Day of Work” pic, I can always try one with Waffles. “First Day Home Alone.” Or, “First Day in Doggie Daycare!” He’s a known poser for sure.

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Waffles Utah Grad Pic, Class of 2018.

What’s your opinion of the first day of school pictures? Do you have a family tradition that you follow?

How a college kid made a career out of tweeting

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Our very own Waffles!

I’m a big “WeRateDogs” fan. Whenever I check out the Instagram or Twitter account, I always laugh. It’s a great break from 24/7 news and politics. It gives me a chance to relax and smile–and it’s an easy way to be entertained.

I read an article today on COISKI, which I’m figuring out is short for “Content Is King” about Matt Nelson, who was a college kid when he created the “WeRateDogs” brand. Not only does he have more than 6 million followers, he has published a book and other merchandise like mugs and caps. He’s releasing a calendar for 2019 and a 2020 one will be published, too. His merchandise can be found on his website or Amazon.

Here’s an excerpt from the article by John Zmikly:

How the Creator of “WeRateDogs” Built a 6+ Million Twitter Following

Matt Nelson’s love for comedy – not just doggos and puppers – motivated him to create the account and company

Three years ago in a North Carolina Applebee’s, former Campbell University student, Matt Nelson, tweeted about the “petability” of a Japanese Irish Setter who supposedly lost an eye in Vietnam.

Literally overnight – and several hilarious tweets later – Nelson’s @dog_rates Twitter account garnered about 500 followers. By the end of the month, that number grew to over 100,000. Little did Nelson know, his “WeRateDogs” Twitter account would change the direction of his life – and digital doggo culture – forever.

With over 6.9 million followers on Twitter today, @dog_rates has become one of the most successful pet-rating accounts on social media. But the brand reaches far beyond Twitter. Since his fateful Applebee’s tweet in 2015, We Rate Dogs has become a full-on brand, adding a merch line, publishing a recent Amazon best-selling calendar, and Nelson leverages speaking engagements and has even partnered with established brands, like Disney, to continue growing the brand’s powerfully loyal following.

I have sent in several pictures of my daughter’s pug Waffles and our RIP lab Angus. WeRateDogs posted the picture of Waffles above. I’d never seen so much action on my social media. Ever. When he liked my Angus pics on a Saturday when he features senior doggos, I received so many comments about our beloved Angus.

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This is a post from today.

I found it interesting that Nelson dropped out of school to pursue a career based on tweeting. I wonder what I would have said if my son or daughter did that? It has worked out well for him:

From Part-Time Hobby to Full-Time Career

A freshman at Campbell University at the time, Nelson had been going to school for professional golf management. But school soon took a back seat to his greater passion – digital media.

“I soon became obsessed with social and digital media and the creative outlet they offered,” said Nelson.

Not wanting to be “that guy” who created multiple parody accounts and stole other peoples’ content, Nelson said he truly became invested in the writing and humor aspects of content development.

“There are plenty of cute animal accounts out there, but from the beginning, I went out of my way to make my posts humorous, and to try to give the account a real personality. I think that’s what made We Rate Dogs so refreshing. I can’t argue that the pictures don’t drive the audience — they do. But I have developed a style that allows the image and the caption to lean on each other in a creative way,” he said.

Nelson has now made a career out of digital content creation, sometimes spending hours writing and reading tweets before they’re posted.

“I often laugh that I’m basically telling the same joke over and over again because every post has a caption, rating, and a comment. That’s it. But every word has intent behind it, and the picture and caption have to go hand-in-hand,” he said.

Community, humor and original content are just a few reasons the @dog_rates earns roughly 8,000-12,000 new followers each day. And they’re also why Nelson’s other endeavors, like his recent Amazon Best-Selling calendar – have been so successful.

But along with hard work, Nelson attributes much of his puppo prosperity to good fortune.

“My initial success has been just pure luck. The biggest thing for me lately has been the commitment to drop out of school and make the side hustle, the real hustle. It’s definitely new territory, but going “all in” has given me the chance to chase my passion. It was the right call for me.”

Nelson highlighted the importance of following a dream, though sometimes working a regular job or going to school may be required to see it through.

“The traditional path is not the only path. College isn’t always the next stop, and it’s definitely not the only path to success anymore. There are so many different roads. The field is truly even if everyone has internet access, and a little bit of creativity goes a long way as long as you don’t ignore that passion.”

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This is one of my favorite ones–and obviously other people liked it too.

Nelson has created his own vocabulary for dogs such as “puppers” and “doggos,” and his curse word “h*ck.” After I read WeRateDogs religiously, the doggo slang slipped into my vocabulary, too.

Another amazing thing about WeRateDogs is the sense of community. When someone’s pupper is sick or needs surgery, Nelson tweets and money and love pour in.

Does WeRateDogs brighten your day, too? Are there any Twitter or Instagram accounts that you love?