Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer School

Something about this time of year always has me feeling a bit nostalgic. As a kid, I loved summer vacation, and it always proved to be just that: a vacation. It meant time away from school (a good thing), trips out of town (a necessary thing, particularly for my overworked father), and an opportunity to improve myself (even back then, I was a self-help nerd).

Although I made fairly good grades (provided I enjoyed the course), school was not necessarily ‘my thing’ (ironic that I devoted twelve years of my adult life as a school teacher, don’t you think?). Don’t get me wrong – I believe a great deal of merit exists in most of these academic and athletic camps that have become quite popular these days, but I fear too many of our children are overscheduled right now when they should be relaxing and recharging for the upcoming school year. My youngest client, a girl of eight, comes to me three afternoons a week absolutely exhausted. She attends two summer camps daily, and when she leaves me, she heads to her piano lesson. It’s too much!

Sometimes just living life, even a kid’s life, can provide concrete learning that will ultimately shape our adult selves. Allow me to share a few of my own childhood discoveries that I still fall back upon today:

-Motor skills can be improved upon when one’s teen-aged aunt forces you to cut pictures of Shaun Cassidy out of Tiger Beat magazine. It wasn’t always easy – sometimes his face was in the shape of a heart.

-The ability to coordinate outfits and dress for any occasion is quite important and can lead to a great career (at least in my world). I am forever indebted to Barbie for that one. She slept in a Kleenex box, but she always looked fabulous – that’s a great example of understanding your priorities and ‘making do’ (to quote my mother) with what you’ve got.

-Sharing equals caring. Always the gentleman, Han Solo (in the form of an action figure) consistently offered his blaster to Kate Jackson when she and the other plastic Angels fought crimes in the Miller family living room. That’s also a good example of chivalry, which I’ve always found to be an incredibly attractive trait.

-I learned quite early in life the importance of good grooming thanks to Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers and a boy who encouraged me to get in touch with my feminine side (he’d already found his, and I truly loved him for it) by applying Vaseline to my eyelashes in order to make them shine.

-I can’t solve an algebraic equation or play an instrument well, but I do know the finer points of overthrowing one’s father as the head of the family business, faking one’s death, and overcoming amnesia thanks to countless summer hours spent watching Guiding Light (man, do I miss that show!)

-Lessons in compromise and strategic planning tactics occur when you share a room with your sister, particularly when negotiating which walls Duran Duran posters should grace, and which walls Rick Springfield posters should grace.

-Reading comprehension skills are greatly improved upon when one devotes hours to Seventeen magazine. A girl can hone her critical thinking skills by taking each quiz in the magazine, and discover, too, what type of boy she will marry, the colors that look best on her, and which hairsprays are the best at keeping her bangs resembling those of a mutant rooster.

-My music lessons came from listening to Amarillo’s All Hit Z-93. I would grow up and become the ‘Mid-Day Girl’ for that station a decade later. That’s one of those Law of Attraction spiritual-type lessons, too: what you think about, you bring about.

And I thought an awful lot about having fun, enjoying myself, improving myself, acting silly, and diving into weirdly creative activities each summer. I still do…

Beth Newman
Image Consultant, Life Coach, Author
Newman Image
Look, feel, and LIVE your absolute best!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I had no intention of addressing the subject of loyalty today, but, for myriad reasons, I’m compelled to do so. Loyalty – a vitally important concept that simply isn’t put into practice enough these days.

Our society, I fear, can only be described as a disposable one. Many folks are far too concerned about ‘the next big thing’ without really taking a moment to appreciate what they already possess. It occurs in relationships and in businesses. It happens because we pretend to have some fantastic, pie-in-the-sky vision of how things should be, rather than nurturing those things that currently are. Oftentimes, ego gets in the way. Sometimes it’s due to boredom. Other times, it’s the quest for the almighty dollar. In the end, though, it simply boils down to the ‘what’s in it for me?’ mentality that is overly-acknowledged and seemingly celebrated in our culture.

Case in Point 1: A woman was recently fired from her job of 10 years due to ‘restructuring of her department’. Truth be told, a friend of the boss wanted a gig within the company, and the only way to make this happen was to squeeze this woman out. Where’s the loyalty for those years of service? Had there been an issue with the woman’s job performance, should it not have been addressed? (And her performance reviews indicated that no such issue existed, by the way.) Isn’t it the boss’s job to nurture those whom he feels may not be up for the task, rather than merely cutting that someone off so abruptly?

Case in Point 2: A young wife discovers that marriage to a man who adores her isn’t quite how she envisioned it. Following the fairy-tale wedding, reality set in. She took up with someone new, devastating her husband. She made a commitment, yet felt no obligation to fulfill it. You may call it flight-of-fancy if you’d like, but it’s purely an act of disloyalty to make a promise to someone and not see it through. It’s unfair not to express any concerns or misgivings one may have and to simply abandon ship just because one feels like it. You made a vow to your significant other, and you owe him or her the opportunity to hash out any problems before leaving.

Case in Point 3: The higher-ups at one office encouraged its employees to stick it out in spite of air-conditioning gone kaput - for several days at once. In triple digit heat, the bosses expected the staff to stay and remain productive. Working from home was simply not an option. Not only does this make poor business sense to me, but I feel it’s a right-out health risk to the employees, and certainly not a morale-booster by any stretch of the imagination. Where’s the concern for their well-being? Where’s the loyalty and commitment to insuring that these workers remain happy, thus leading them to greater productivity in the long run?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe anyone or any business should subject themselves to misery and unproductive practices. I do feel, however, that we owe it to ourselves and to one another to at least try to work toward a positive solution. We must remain mindful of the big picture and ask ourselves the following questions: have the people we’re dealing with regularly proven themselves to be loyal and committed to our particular cause? Have we taken the time to help them when they may fall short of our expectations? Are our motives for doing what we do honest and of the highest standards? Do we practice the loyalty we seek?

Loyalty, ultimately, shall reap rewards. Perhaps not anytime soon, but that is why we must practice patience and faith. As a true believer in karma, I know all good deeds, including loyalty, result in multiplied blessings. Lack of loyalty, too, shall be recognized….but not quite so positively. Keep this in mind when you begin to experience disloyal leanings…..

Beth Newman
Image Consultant/Life Coach/Author
Newman Image
Look, feel, and LIVE your absolute best!

If you feel lead to do so, I cordially invite you to check out the Elegant Fund. Proceeds benefit Girls, Inc., an organization that encourages girls to be strong, smart, and bold!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nice Girls WILL Finish First!

Over the course of the last few days, I’ve had the same conversation with parents regarding this mean girl epidemic that, evidently, isn’t going away anytime soon. One parent expressed his concerns, asking if he should encourage his daughter to blaze a mean girl path for herself because, ‘she’s just not making as many strides academically or socially as the girls who are more aggressive.’ One mom told me she’s all but given up, and has expressed to her daughter the old ‘if you can’t beat them, join’ them cliché.

Quite disheartened, I pondered this for a good long while. It seems as if our society is constantly inundated with reports and examples of bad behavior that are not only rewarded, but encouraged. All is not lost, though, I’m sure of it – as long as we adults continue to fight for what’s right and shield our children (and ourselves) from those negative, mean forces out there.

Set the Example
When you sneak into that coveted parking space at the mall (the one that the driver of the Camry had been waiting patiently for, complete with flashing blinker), you’re sending the message to your child that cutting in front of someone is a perfectly acceptable act. When you mention that the clerk behind the counter gave you too much change – change that you kept – you’re telling your child that it’s okay to essentially steal (which is what you’re doing when you don’t return the money). We must show our children that we are aware, compassionate, and concerned with being good citizens. Anything less than this could very well plant a few mean girl seeds.

Keep Them Busy (But Not Too Busy)
As one mom and I planned for her daughter’s summer consultations with me, I grew shocked as I discovered that the giant, color-coded calendar on the kitchen wall belonged solely to the girl (who is twelve-years-old). Mom has registered Daughter in every camp, club, and private tutorial session available in our community. ‘What about down time?’ I inquired. ‘Oh, we don’t believe in down time. It’s best if she’s busy. She’ll stay out of trouble that way.’ I politely disagreed, for I’ve seen too many overscheduled students in my fifteen years of education to know that when a child has too much on her plate, she grows weary, frustrated, and tends to rebel a bit more than her less active counterparts. Down-time is good; please trust me on this.

Limit the Media
Unfortunately, we live in a dumbed-downed era in which just about anything passes for entertainment. Many shows geared toward teens and pre-teens are highly sexualized, and often celebrate mean girl behavior. A good portion of the music aimed toward the same audience is guilty of this, too. I encourage you to know what your child is watching, listening to, and reading.

Get Involved
As a parent, it’s okay to make a nuisance of yourself: know who your child spends time with, get to know her friends’ parents. If you don’t feel comfortable about someone within her circle of friends, tell her so. Limit her time with them. You are the parent – you’re not her best friend – so take charge. Ask questions. Speak to her – not at her. Remain calm, knowing that any tantrums she throws willpass.

Nice Girls Do Win Out…In the End
It’s important to express to your daughter that good behavior will always be rewarded in some fashion. Karma is a very real thing, I believe. We must teach our children patience while practicing it ourselves. We must always take the high road in all that we do and say, and encourage our children to do the same. We must realize that a little lazy time is good for the soul. We must band together, do what’s right, teach what’s right, and remain vigilant in our fight against the mean girl syndrome.

If you've enjoyed today's musing, I encourage you to contribute to the Elegant Fund. Proceeds benefit Girls, Inc., an organization that encourages girls to be strong, smart, and bold. Details at Together, we can make a difference!

Beth Newman
Image Consultant/Life Coach/Author
Newman Image
'Look, feel, and LIVE your absolute best!'

Friday, June 10, 2011

Life Lessons from Judy

I’m compelled today to pay a little tribute to someone who I feel epitomizes elegance: Miss Judy Garland, who would have turned 89-years-old today. We hear an awful lot, still, about Judy’s tragedies, but I’d like to focus on the good things about her, and how we might take a few ‘Judy-isms’and apply them to our own lives:

There’s No Denying Talent - we live in age in which lip-synching and pitch correction are the norm. In Judy’s day, an artist was expected to be just that: an artist - someone who could actually rise to the occasion and offer something substantial to her audience. Judy sang with such tremendous emotion, and even her few ‘off performances’ still outshine most of today’s musical offerings. As far as her acting goes, sit down and view A Star is Born. Enough said.

The lesson: When we are passionate about our craft, we shall overcome adversities and contribute something positive for the good of all.

Beloved Mother – Yes, Judy’s children speak of her later years, recalling how her prescription drug abuse affected the family dynamic. Yet they do so lovingly, defending her, and are quick to point out that she did the absolute best with what she had. Take a look at Liza and Lorna: A Tale of Two Sisters That’s the true meaning of family, if you ask me.

The lesson: We must remain mindful of the powerful influence we hold over children. We must support them, have fun with them, and encourage them to strive to be the people they want to be (not who we want them to be).

Surround Yourself With Cool Cats:

Need I say more?

The lesson: We’re known by the company we keep. Our circle of friends determines others’ perceptions about us. Choose wisely.

Look Fabulous Without Being a Cookie-Cutter Replica of Others – Early in her career, the powers-that-be at MGM took Judy to task about her weight, her nose, and other things. One of the things I love most about Judy is that she didn’t look like all the other Hollywood starlets of her time. I think she was most beautiful during the run of The Judy Garland Show. Her to-die-for wardrobe and simple hair and makeup screamed Sheer Elegance.

The lesson: We must find our true style, and never let those who think they know best influence us about our face, figure, or fashion. If we can retain the great Bob Mackie to design for us, all the better!

So there you have it: my little musing about an icon whose talent has withstood the test of time. Fifty years from now, will we reflect as such on the Taylor Swifts and Beyonces of our time? No offense intended, but I think not.