Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day! On April 22nd, 1990 Earth day was declared an international day of importance. Each year, 192 countries around the world help raise awareness about our planet and educate others on the strain we as humans put on our environment.

Everyone has heard the saying "Go Green" but have you thought about the small changes that you can make in your day to day life that could help this national movement? 

Communities around the United States have been making changes to help transition people into become more environmentally green. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and markets are replacing plastic bags with brown recycled bags, as well as strongly advising customers to purchase a reusable grocery bag, made from recycled material to bring and reuse every time they shop. Also, after making a purchase, retailers and ATMs have now added an email receipt option to your list of choices when completing a transaction. Not only is this saving trees, but you won’t have to worry about losing your receipts anymore! If everyone started to make these changes to their daily routine, we could start to see a drastic improvement in cutting down waste and lessening environmental pollution. Here are some interesting facts that opened my eyes to "Going Green": 
  • 84 percent of all household waste can be recycled. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to watch 3 hours of TV. It takes less energy (90% less) to recycle aluminum cans than to manufacture new ones.
  • Only 27% of newspapers in the U.S. are recycled. If they were all recycled it would save one quarter of a billion trees EVERY YEAR. 
  • Every year there are 14,000,000,000 pounds of garbage thrown into the oceans and The plastic garbage kills at least 1 million creatures in the ocean each year! 
  • Each person throws away approximately four pounds of garbage every day, that garbage will stay in a landfill for about 30 years and approximately only 10 percent of every landfill can be cleaned up.
    • Here is an example of how long it takes some things take to break down:
      • plastics take 500 years,
      • aluminum cans take 500 years,
      • organic materials, take 6 months,
      • cotton, rags, paper take 6 months.
One of the biggest and newest problems that has emerged over the past two decades is the rapid growth in technology and how to dispose of it. According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Americans now own approximately 24 electronic products per household. With new and upgraded cell phones and other electronic devices coming out every year, electronic wastes or E-waste as they call it is becoming a new issue that needs to be resolved. People don't realize that discarded electronics such as cell phones, batteries, TVs and computers, contain hazardous materials that can pollute our atmosphere. E-Waste accounts for 40 percent of the lead and 75 percent of the heavy metals found in landfills around the country. If a landfill's liner fails, the groundwater supply may become contaminated with these harmful substances like lead and other acidic conditions that would then become hazardous to our health. Here is how to "eCycle" your electronics:
  • Return to buyer. Many battery, computer, TV, and cell phone manufacturers, as well as electronics retailers offer some kind of take back program or sponsor recycling events. 
  • Call2recycle: Donate used electronics for reuse. Recycling electronics prevents valuable materials from going into the waste stream. Learn more at call2recycle.org or call 877-646-4025.
Other than the problem of recycling electronics, technology has actually had a great impact in helping our environment change for the better. Technology now allows us to pay our bills online, eliminating hundreds of paper filled envelopes that arrive by snail mail every day. With so many companies offering E-Bills we barely ever have to open our mailbox anymore! With the introduction of E-bills, every household can save 6 pounds of paper, 23 pounds of wood, and avoid producing 29 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every year. Here are some more ways technology is saving the earth and saving us money:
  • Using compact fluorescent light bulbs saves energy and is more affordable.These earth friendly bulbs last 10 times longer than regular bulbs, use ¼ the energy, and produce 90% less heat. To top it off, they produce more light per watt compared to yesterday’s traditional bulbs.
  • Big LCD screen TVs can use as much energy as a refrigerator! Now they have LCD TVs that are LED lit and save a ton of energy. ConEdison even recommends them to help you lower your energy bill
  • Solar powered products are on the rise, and not only are they better for the earth they look pretty cool too. There are solar laptop bags that charge your laptop, and solar iphone cases that charge your phone.

Our future planet lies in the hands of our children so educating them on ways to help keep our environment clean is very important. Earth day is celebrated in schools all around the country but you can also celebrate with them at home. Here are some fun activities for our kids on Earth day:

  • Plant a tree - Over a 50-year lifetime, a tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion. It also provides shade that will keep children cool when they are playing outside during hot summer days. 
  • Watch a DisneyNature Film - For the past few years on Earth Day Disney has released fantastic, fascinating documentary films about our earth and the coexisting species that we share it with. This year the film is called Bears and I can not wait to show my kids. 
  • Make Earth Day Cupcakes - With just a little blue and green food coloring, you and your children can create yummy Earth Day treats which can start a conversation in your kitchen. 
  • Explore Google's Global Forest Watch - Google has a new online tool called Global Forest Watch that is creating a community of forest protectors. Anyone can go online and monitor deforestation, including companies like Nestle and Walmart who have pledged to obtain their ra-materials without contributing to deforestation. See what they are all about in the video below.

Let's all try to make small changes in our everyday lives so that we can protect this planet that we live on for us, for our children, and for our children's children. 

Happy Earth Day! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to Help an Elderly Loved One with Spring Cleaning

Spring is in the air and that means that it's time for some Spring Cleaning! Spring is the perfect time to swap out your winter wardrobe, get rid of piles and boxes from your home or garage and clean up the house; but caring for your home takes a great deal of time and elbow grease, which can become unmanageable for our aging loved ones. 

As a caregiver, this is a great time to take notice of your loved ones living conditions. Are they living in a clean and safe environment? Is there excess clutter that could be hazardous to their mobility? Or maybe you're just trying to help them let go of old things because there's simply too much stuff! Many of our older family members have boxes or even rooms filled with memories they simply cannot let go of but urging them to tackle this process little by little, perhaps a box here or there, is a great way to eventually make sense of it all. 

Here are some spring cleaning tips that will help you get the job done:

Make a checklist:
First things first! Write down everything you and the loved one you care for would like to get done. Weather it be washing the windows, cleaning out the refrigerator, sorting out summer clothes, or going through the garage - a list will help you organize and plan. Discuss with your loved one what task is most important and make that first on your to-do list... then, get started! 

Organization is key. Having things within arms reach cuts down the rick of injury. Take a step back and look at how things are placed around the house, as someone gets older you might need to re-think the way their kitchen or the closet is set up. Make sure  important paperwork, kitchen utensils, food in the refrigerator, their bedroom and bathrooms are set up for easy access, that way seniors are less likely to have trouble with the things they use most. Having things effortlessly at-hand makes daily tasks much easier. 

Cleanliness & Hygiene
The first sign of a senior not being able to live on their own is the way they take care of themselves and their living space. If you walk into a loved ones home and their space seems to be poorly maintained, it might be a sign of self-neglect and social withdrawal. A clean living environment as well as good personal hygiene is crucial to a seniors health. Make sure your loved one is bathing regularly, wearing clean clothes, and generally maintaining themselves properly. If you find signs that they are no longer capable of performing these daily tasks, it might be time to look into getting them an assisted nurse or placing them into an assisted living physicality. (If your loved one lives alone and could use some extra care, consider hiring a professional caregiving assistant to help around the house. If you need help finding someone, A Place For Mom has more information. Click here)

Recruit a team: 
The more the merrier. A day of spring cleaning doesn't have to be boring, make it a social event! If there are grandchildren, siblings, or even active friends, ask a few of them to come by and spend some time helping out. Socializing with friends and family is extremely important for seniors. 

Clear the clutter - keep the best and throw out the rest! 
Getting rid of life-long possessions isn't easy for anyone, but when too much "stuff" accumulates in a home it creates clutter, and clutter creates an unsafe, unsanitary, possibly hazardous, living space for our elderly loved one. For many seniors, it isn't easy to convince them to go through their collections. A lot of items found in their homes act as a trigger to a certain memory or special someone they might have lost. So help them understand that you're not trying to throw away their memories. Help come up with good reasoning to keep the best and throw out the rest. A good tip - remind them that they need to create space for their grandchildren's school portraits and artwork! Use A Senior Home's Clutter Zones to help spot clutter creep! 

Keep your elderly loved one involved: 
No one likes feeling useless, so keep your loved one engaged no matter what their limitations are. If your senior family member has trouble getting around, have them sit and go through paperwork or polish silverware while your family takes care of the heavy lifting.

Make sure your loved ones home is a safe place for them to live. Check all emergency devices and make sure fire/carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries. Make sure their emergency response system is easily accessible as well as a telephone with programmed numbers incase they need to call for help. Check medications. Make sure no pills are expired and that they are taking them regularly. A company called PillPack is a GREAT and easy way for seniors to keep track of their daily medication. 

Spring cleaning can actually be fun and more importantly, it leaves people feeling like they have a fresh start and a safe home.  Don't let seniors do it alone. Cleaning, climbing and trying to lift heavy objects, such as furniture can be a turn safety hazard. Here is a Home Safety Checklist to go through before leaving your loved ones home. Happy Cleaning! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Back to School... My Day at Stanford University

Yesterday I had a unique opportunity to be a part of an MBA graduate course
at Stanford University. I was invited by a friend who worked with me at Good Morning America for years, Allison Kluger. Allison along with JD Schramm invited me to be a part of two special series at Stanford Graduate Business School, one called Women in Leadership; View From the Top, and the other one called Reputation Management. 

Joan speaking to an MBA class
When arriving at Stanford, the first thing I was taken with was the breathtaking campus. I loved experiencing the youthful collegiate feel while walking through campus, however upon entering the classroom, you immediately remember that you are among the elite in education. 

Allison and JD offer their students a unique opportunity to hear from successful people in various areas of business including presidents of big corporations and founders of important modern companies like Google, Disney, and Jetblue. These students get an unprecedented opportunity to hear from real life experience about success, leadership, and in this case, reputation management. Part of what I always say is “surround yourself with good mentors to learn from,” and that is exactly what this course is doing!

In Reputation Management they teach the students that you have to conceive what you want your reputation to be, then offer it or make it happen, and then of course, sustain it. At times, you also must defend and protect it or even rebuild it. There are moments of pivot and I have had a lot of those in my life so I had a lot to talk about! You have to come up with how you want people to perceive you and simply deciding on that and constructing the perception is not enough, you then have to live it and sustain it. I explained that when I position myself as a health & wellness advocate, or an expert in a field, I can’t just say that it is so – I go out and walk the walk. If you are a leader in technology, you better get yourself to the leading conferences, forums, and events int that field. Make it your mission to meet higher-ups who have already succeeded in that business. I sometimes accept a job that pays less than I’m used to simply because I want to BE a part of it. You have to build your brand and decide how you want people to view you so that you can continue to succeed in whatever field you choose.
I think that for those going through a masters business program it is just as important to learn about the importance of establishing and maintaining a reputation as it is to learn the techniques for building a strong business model. This is especially true in this age of social media where your reputation can turn in a heartbeat. It is important to learn that sometimes it is necessary to say no to an opportunity that might seem inviting and profitable, if it means putting your reputation and credibility at risk. I've probably said no to almost as many things as I've said yes to in my life.
Allison Kluger who I worked with at GMA
invited me to be a part of the MBA course

I really enjoyed the day and the entire experience. What the opportunity actually required of me was to take a step back and take a look at my life and my career with a completely different viewpoint so that I could come up with what my message was to these students. I think that it is interesting and refreshing at some points in your life to step aside and look at your life with fresh eyes. Often, we go through the motions and put one foot in front of the other, but taking the time to reflect on your decisions and your accomplishments is a really great exercise to go through.

What else did I walk away with from my experience? I learned that getting an MBA is really hard! The students work their tails off, these programs are no little thing! I applaud the students for being a part of such an interesting and dynamic educational series and I thank Allison and JD for allowing me to be a part of it… I could get used to this guest teaching thing!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Today is International Children's Book Day

April 2nd is Hans Christian Andersen's birthday and every year since 1967 International Children's Book Day has been celebrated in honor of Hans and to inspire a love for reading within our children. 

Hans Christian Andersen was a Dutch author and poet who lived from 1805-1875 and was best known for his children's literature or "fairy tales". Some of his most famous fairy tales include, The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina, and many more. His stories have inspired plays, ballets, animated films and have been made into children's storybooks that have become legendary. 

It’s so important for us as parents to begin reading to our children even as infants. It is up to us to develop in them, a love of reading. I remember hearing once that “book lovers will never go to bed alone” and I think that is so true. Of course I will admit that good books constantly keep me up late at night!

When I recently took my nine year old daughter Kimberly to a book fair and she had trouble picking one out, a nice lady in charge of the sale recommended All-Of-A-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor. It is a book about five sisters - - Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie -- who live with their parents in New York City at the turn of the century. Together they share many adventures.

When we first picked up the book and looked through it, I was concerned that it was above Kimberly’s reading level. However the woman strongly encouraged me to let Kimberly at least give it a try. The woman said that she had read it herself back when it was originally published decades ago when she was a little girl. She said it was such a great book that it has continued to be reprinted over the years and enjoyed by many generations. 

Thank goodness I listened to the woman and let Kimberly take a stab at it because she absolutely loves the book. Yes it was a bit above her reading level, however she is so enthralled with the story that she is working her way through it and loving every page. That taught me a very important lesson as a parent. Rather than limiting our children to only those books (and games and toys and sports) that we are sure they can master, we should allow them to challenge themselves, for quite often they will surprise us with their achievements.

I have no doubt that Kimberly’s reading level will skyrocket now because she is so enchanted with her very first real novel. We also learned that it is just the first of a series of books by the author, Sydney Taylor and Kimberly has already asked us to order others in the series. I’ve always found it best to take my children to the bookstore with me and let them explore and find a book that will excite them -- it sure worked for my Kimberly.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Women in History Month - Betty Friedan

Life has changed quite dramatically over the past five decades. Some of you will remember when the crusade to change women’s roles in this country got started 50 years ago, in 1963 when Betty Friedan wrote a book called “The Feminine Mystique,” which called in to question the notion that women could only be fulfilled by motherhood and homemaking.

The book depicted widespread unhappiness among American women and sparked a national debate about women's roles in this country, a debate that is still going on today. Friedan said that women were unhappy, unfulfilled and dissatisfied with their lives. She went on to found NOW & thus the Women's Liberation Movement began, calling for “meaningful work, equal pay, and for all women to be freed from the role of only servicing men and their children." And if we could make this happen, women would be happier. 

Friedan came to write this book after she circulated a questionnaire in her 1942 Smith College graduating class. What she learned by doing this was that most of the women in her class had a general unease with their lives. Through these findings, Friedan hypothesized that women were the victims of a common belief that they had to find the meaning in their lives through the happiness of their husbands and children. She concluded that this would eventually lead women to completely lose their identity.

Friedan specifically pinpointed this problem among the post-World War II middle-class suburban communities. She saw that men came home from the war to their wives (who had been working in their absences) and looked to them to be mothered. Women had to leave their jobs to let the men back in and at the same time technology was making housework easier and therefore less meaningful and valuable to the women coming back into the homes to work. 

When Friedan died in 2006, her  New York Times obituary said that her book “ignited the contemporary women's movement in 1963 and as a result permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States and countries around the world” and “is widely regarded as one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century.” 

So let’s fast-forward 50 years… Thanks to women like Betty Friedan, women’s lives all around the world have certainly changed! Let’s take a look: 
  • Today, women are running the governments of 19 countries around the world; countries such as Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Thailand and Bangladesh to mention a few. 
  • Today, more women are earning college degrees in every category, associate, bachelor, masters, doctoral –it’s very different than 50 years ago when a lot of women went to college to find a husband and get an MRS degree. 
  • Today four out of the eight Ivy League universities--Harvard, Brown, Penn and Princeton, have had female presidents. 
  • In 2010 women in America hit a major milestone – for the first time women outnumbered men in the U.S. workforce and in 2011 it went up to 53%, a threshold never reached before in the history of our nation. Today women account for just under half. 
  • A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 have mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to the Census Bureau. In 1960, it was only 11%.   
Now, I don’t know if Betty Friedan and the feminists of the 1960’s would have predicted all of this!! But it is our reality of today. 

So given all the evidence of women running corporations and universities, media empires, branches of government, and countries, one would think that women would be happier today, right?  

Well, as it turns out, “having it all” has really led to more stress for women. We’re getting better jobs, but we’re still expected to raise the kids, get dinner on the table, and hey, even try and stay fit and take time for ourselves!? The question becomes: How do we do it all and still be happy?? 

I’m hoping that in the same way Betty Friedan started a movement that launched women into the workplace and into a role of demanding more respect and equal opportunities - that we have another movement going on today… one where women and men begin to share more household responsibilities when both are working outside of the home. Women’s roles changed rather quickly and now that we’ve “made it here,” the men have to catch up to meet us at an even, equitable role within the family unit.

For a lot of families it’s an economic necessity that wives work outside the home and bring in a second check. However for many, it’s not just about the economic contribution women make. Today women work because it has become part of our definition of self. We work to obtain status and yes even power, to be independent, to be stimulated and to have an opportunity to make a difference in this world of ours. 

If it weren’t for what Betty Friedan did in 1963, I would not have been knocking at the door of KCRA in 1973. And because of those opportunities that I had, I feel that I have been able to make a difference in the world just a little bit, through my career. I feel that my career has helped enhance my life and contributed greatly to defining my sense of self. And I am very thankful for that. 

Its so important for all women, especially young women today to remember the great women like Betty Friedan and to think about the impact that she has had on the world that we live in today. I think that many young girls don’t even realize that people like Betty made it possible for all of us to pursue our dreams, try to make a difference in the world, and define what our life balance means to us.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Today is Greek Independence Day!

Today is Greek Independence Day so I wanted to share one of my favorite Greek recipes... 

This is an old Greek recipe, passed down from generation to generation — but not in my family. It's a favorite of Irene Katris, who was my bookkeeper for years and became a good friend. Irene shared it in my book “Joan Lunden’s Healthy Cooking”. This slow-cooked, fall - off - the - bone leg of lamb is well worth the time and tender loving care that it takes to produce. I like to serve the usual mint jelly with this mouth-watering Greek favorite. A 6-pound leg of lamb is enough for sixteen servings, so this is an ideal recipe for a small dinner party.

Serves 16

  • 6 pound leg of lamb, trimmed of all visible fat
  • 4 to 8 garlic cloves or to taste, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano Salt and pepper to taste Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 onions, chopped coarse
  • 3 carrots, chopped coarse
  • 21/2 pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed
  • 2 zucchini, chopped coarse Paprika to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 500°F  
  2. Using the tip of a knife, cut small slits all over the lamb. 
  3. Wedge the garlic slices into the slits (using as much of the garlic as you like).
  4. Rub the lamb all over with the olive oil, the oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Put the lamb in a large roasting pan, and squeeze the lemons over it. 
  5. Arrange all the vegetables around the lamb and season them to taste with the paprika. 
  6. Add 'A inch of water to the pan, and roast the lamb and vegetables in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. 
  7. Turn the oven down to 300°F., and roast the lamb for 21/2 to 3 more hours (or until a meat thermometer registers 160°F.), basting it with the juices from time to time and adding additional water if necessary. (The lamb must be well cooked to develop the right flavor.)
  8. Let the lamb rest for 20 minutes before carving.
  9. Serve each portion with some of the vegetables.
Nutritional Analysis per serving: 300 calories; 28% calories from fat; 9 grams of fat; 78 milligrams of sodium

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Real-Life 'Rosie the Riveter' Elinor Otto, National Women's History Month Spotlight

Last week at the Aging in America Conference in San Diego, CA I got the privilege of meeting an inspiring woman. Her name is Elinor Otto and she is a real-life 'Rosie the Riveter.'

Elinor was one of several Veterans that were honored at the conference and she was astonishingly vibrant at age 94. She worked the crowd and met with grade school kids who were studying World War II to talk to them about her experience...  

In late 1941 when WWII took many men away from jobs on production lines, our government called on women to fill many of those jobs. About 6 million women answered that call and reported for duty. These women got placed into jobs making aircrafts and other items needed for the war. Through pop culture, namely a song by Redd Evans and pictures by Normal Rockwell and J. Howard Miller, these working ladies became known as "Rosie the Riveters." 

Between 1940 and 1945 the female percentage of the U.S. Workforce increased from 27% to 37% and by 1945 nearly 1 out of 4 married women worked outside the home. This was considered a real beginning of the "women's movement" in America.

While women felt good about their contribution to the war effort building planes and parachutes needed in the fighting, when the war ended and the men came home as heroes, the women got sent back to their homes.

President Eisenhower actually urged Washington to keep the women in the workplace but others in Washington disagreed and ultimately a nation of trained women put down their tools of trade and returned to their household duties. What would the world be like today if Eisenhower had gotten his way and tens of thousands of talented trained women had remained in their jobs?
At age 94 - This Rosie
is still Riveting...

Elinor Otto was one of those women who thrived as a Riveter in 1942. Today at 94 she drives her car to work every morning where she still inserts rivets into the wing sections of C-17 Cargo planes at the Boeing factory in Southern California.

Elinor was honored last week in San Diego along with other veterans at the Aging in America Conference. Elinor says her biggest concern today is for the other elderly women who also sacrificed during World War II, leaving their homes to assist in the war effort and who today are alone and vulnerable without eldercare.

This is actually a growing problem today since most women spend far fewer years than men in the paid workforce, leaving to have children and yet they live longer than men, all too often in poverty.

I love this "Woman in history," she should be a role model to many. She is engaged in life and carries on her legacy of work, sharing her story with all of us. One thing I learned here at the ASA convention is that when you stay in the workforce, as Elinor has done, it keeps you socially engaged and is better for your long-term brain health and longevity. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Here is a clip of Elinor on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. I love when Ellen asks what Elinor wants to do when she retires, Elinor replies "I want to take care of old people "