TV or No TV (Or Just Less TV?)

(This post originally ran on the Framingham Patch.)

I love good TV and when I find a show that I love, I’m all-in. Over the decades, there have been many shows I’ve truly loved: Friends, The West Wing, Ally McBeal, ER and, more recently, 24, Law & Order, Greys Anatomy, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Downton Abbey. And many more in between. In fact, I’ve loved many of these shows and their characters so much so that I follow and often tweet with them on Twitter, which makes me feel ridiculously happy. (Yes, I know these are not real people but, please, indulge me.)

Here's me chatting with the West Wing's  much revered CJ Cregg

Here’s me chatting with the West Wing’s much revered CJ Cregg

Back when I was a kid, I watched a lot of TV, like most kids do today. Saturdays, in particular, you’d find my brother, sister and I lounging around watching Noel Edmands’ Swap Shop in the morning and Doctor Who in the afternoon. And much more. Until the day that my Dad decided we watched too much and it was, in his opinion, harming our grey matter and ruining our chances of future brilliance.

He took away the TV for a whole year; locked it up in a cupboard. Twelve months later, we kids were social outcasts, unable to join in the conversations at school about whatever were the latest goings-on on the popular shows. It stunk, big time.

When Dad eventually returned the TV, much to our jubilation, watching it came with terms and conditions. Dad and demanded we sign a “TV Charter”, which listed the rules that were to govern our TV watching. I remember, in particular, one clause relating to when we were allowed to watch TV mid-week during the day. “Only if genuinely ill and in bed,” the charter stated.

Did Dad’s extreme measures make an iota of difference to the amount of TV I watch? Not one teeny bit! I’m still a TV fiend.

Fast-forward to present day. I read in emarketer that, according to Nielsen, 2- to 11- year olds average 23 hours 34 minutes per week watching “traditional” TV. That’s almost one whole day per week spent in front of the tube. (By comparison, the time kids spent online was just shy of 2 hours per week.)

Even before reading this, I was feeling concerned by the amount of TV my kids were watching, even though we were limiting it to 30 mins each evening mid-week and longer on weekend mornings. The problem wasn’t so much what they were watching but their stroppy behavior when asked to stop watching and the spiraling moods as bedtime closed in.

Three weeks ago, after displaying some particularly bad behavior, we banned the TV in the evenings for a week as punishment. The first night the kids complained vigorously. “We’re so bored,” they moaned. “There’s nothing to do.”

The second night, we discussed their options for evening entertainment before they had a chance to start complaining (they built forts.) By the third evening, there was no discussion, they headed straight for their books, crayons, and toys and played. And guess what? Bath time and bedtime were less highly-strung, more relaxed and everyone went to sleep calmer and happier.

We’ve so enjoyed the transformation that we’ve decided to make it half-permanent. No TV in the evenings Monday to Wednesday. Honestly, I don’t think the kids have even noticed. My son heads straight to his books, my daughter to her Transformers. It’s a beautiful thing.

And, best of all, I can catch up on emails, blogging—and tweeting with my imaginary TV friends!

A Bucket List of People I’d Like to Meet

I’ve never really met anyone famous. But, thanks to someone I briefly dated decades ago, my aunt and a neighbor, I am actually remarkably well-connected. (In fact, I am less than six degrees from Kevin Bacon – for real, just ask me.) Being connected is not however the same as actually meeting someone you admire or respect in-person. Someone whose voice, words or acts have made an indelible impression on your life.

These are the people whose hands I’d like to shake. Sit down with over a nice cup of tea and have a chat. Say thank you for their talent, vision, writing, actions. Or maybe just have my photo taken with them, for souvenir’s sake. In any case, I’ve kept this list to people who are actually real (i.e. not TV characters who I believe/wish were real, like Jack Bauer, Don Draper and CJ Cregg.) And I’ve excluded my list of hotties (after all, I have a Pinterest board for them!)

Without further ado, here’s my bucket list of people I’d love to meet, in no particular order:

  • Paulo Coelho (@paulocoelho) – a truly inspirational author. His books “The Alchemist” and “By the River Piedra, I Lay Down and Wept” meant the world to me.
  • Beata Klarsfeld – together with her husband Serge, they dedicated their lives to tracking down and bringing Nazis to justice, mostly notably Klaus Barbie. I had the good fortunate to listen to a presentation she gave several years ago and was humbled by her selflessness and determination.
  • Andy Carvin (@acarvin) – the Arab Spring changed history and, in the process, Andy’s role altered the landscape of journalism. He made social media reporting visceral and important, communicating in 140 characters the often-graphic reality of the revolutions in the streets as they unravelled, minute by minute, story by story.
  • Stevie Wonder – the man, the legend. His music is like the best-day-ever. Seeing him play live was one of the best nights of my life.
  • Barack Obama – Say what you will about the economy, liberalism, healthcare, taxes. I was riveted by his inauguration speech back in 2008 and, particularly, the line: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
  • Clint & Stacey of “What Not to Wear” – they have given me the rules and I shall abide. I’d love them to come shop with me for a day. Shut the front door.
  • Ellen Degeneres – Few people make me laugh like Ellen can. She’s generous, beautiful, human, real. And have you seen her read from Fifty Shades of Grey? Hilarious.
  • Elie Wiesel – Holocaust survivor, writer, activist. Nobel Peace Prize winner. My respect for him is profound.
  • Francis Cabrel – his music was the soundtrack of my three wonderful years living in France. I was and still am bewitched by his lyrics, melody and soulfulness. Seeing him play live was an honor that I shan’t forget.
  • Bill Bryson – a combination of laugh-out-loud funny, erudite and educational all wrapped into one man’s great writing. I’ve read and re-read his books about his travels through England, Europe, America, Australia over and over again, and never tire of them. Check out some of his best quotes here.

Who’s on your bucket list of people you admire and would like to meet?

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