miley cyrus lori welbourne jim hunt

When I first heard of a 13-year-old performer named Miley Cyrus, she was starring in Hannah Montana, a TV show my kids had just discovered on the Disney channel. My son was six-years-old, and my daughter was three.

Seven years later, they have now moved on. And so has Miley.

Her controversial and well-documented departure from that persona got us talking this week.

“I still like her songs,” my ten-year-old daughter told me. “But her new videos aren’t appropriate for me.”  When I asked my 13 year-old son what he thought, he just shrugged like he didn’t care.

Lots of other people care quite a bit, though. And some high profile celebrities have been sharing their opinions as well.

Many of them strongly disagree with Miley’s overtly sexual performances, scandalous publicity stunts, and frequent twerking and tongue displays that keep making the news. Perhaps she would have upset less people if she hadn’t started off as a squeaky-clean child star, but it seems the shock of her transformation from good girl to bad has started wearing off, and people are expecting her to be outrageous now.

“She’s an attention whore,” one of my friends said, rolling her eyes. “If she just went on stage in a classy dress and sang nice and normal like she used to, she’d be a lot more respected.” Maybe. But would she be constantly making headlines and leading the polls as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year? I doubt it.

Albert Einstein once said: “You have to learn the rules of the game and then you have to play better than anyone else.”

That’s what Miley seems to be doing quite brilliantly. She’s an entertainer, that’s her job. To say she’s an attention whore might sound like an insult, but it’s actually a compliment. To be accused of that in her line of work usually means she’s doing something right.

Attacking her, or any performer, for using their looks or sexuality to get attention is futile. So who should be targeted instead? The industry executives who often act as the puppeteers for some of these starlets? They’re just doing their jobs as well – it’s business.

And we certainly can’t criticize the media can we? They’re merely writing about people and topics they hope will get shared on social media to generate more advertising dollars. It’s a business for them as well.

In a recent essay in Glamour Magazine, actress Rashida Jones blames the current state of the music industry and the “pornification of everything” on all the wrong people in my opinion. If blame should be placed on any one, it should be on us – the public.

There’s nothing as effective as the published angry protests against someone to generate more interest in them.

It’s simply supply and demand. If readers don’t respond to a story, the media is less likely to run another one, and the performer is less likely to try similar antics if their sole objective was attention.

Personally, I’m not bothered with the way people wish to present themselves, whether they’re a celebrity or not. Yes, I have young impressionable kids who can be influenced by others – but that has always been the reality and there’s no changing that fact.

Variety and choice is another fact. Not everyone in show business is overtly sexual or into publicity stunts, and there are many other performers to choose from if that’s not our cup of tea.

As far as my children are concerned, I encourage them to appreciate the entertainers they enjoy, but refrain from putting them on a pedestal. We’re all just people after all, and we all have unique qualities that deserve celebrating. It’s up to us who we decide to give energy and pay attention to. The public holds the real power.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com

Mirrors reflect appearance, not true beauty

Daisy Lori welbourne mirror jim hunt

My 10-year-old daughter showed me a picture that was circulating on the internet of three gorgeous models, one in particular with an exceptionally tiny waist.

“She’s skinnier than me,” Daisy said about the model in the middle. “And she’s a grown up.”

For my sweet little girl, this was confirmation that she herself was “too curvy” and needed to lose weight.

I explained that her healthy body was perfect and beautiful exactly the way it was and she didn’t need to change a thing. I then showed her another version of the same picture – but one taken prior to the model’s waist being digitally manipulated to appear inches thinner.

Miranda Kerr, the model in question, just so happened to be on my radar since the very photo my daughter was showing me was being reported on by many online news sites. Apparently the famous model  had posted the 2012 image to Instagram and some detail-oriented people noticed that her waist was much smaller in her version, and started sharing the original picture beside it as a comparison.

“Why would she do that Mom?” Daisy asked, after seeing the difference between the two photos. “She was already skinny.”

I told her that we didn’t know who altered the picture, but that it was a very common practice. I also said that no matter how great we think someone looks, that person, or someone else, may think otherwise.

“You know how you were comparing your body to hers?” I asked. “You should never compare. You are you, and your body is yours. It’s your home for the rest of your life. Love it and nurture it – and never think it’s not good enough.”

She nodded and agreed. But then she said something I was hoping she hadn’t noticed.

“But you don’t think your body’s good enough,” she said. “I heard you tell Dad you’re fat.”

Ah, nuts. I had been using the “f” word recently and I clearly needed to stop, for my sake and the sake of our impressionable young children.

Not that our 13-year-old son has taken any notice. But when I was his age, I remember how unsatisfied my mother was with her own appearance and I couldn’t understand why she would ever criticize herself. I thought she was beautiful and I hoped to look exactly like her when I grew up.

I didn’t though.

After gaining weight during puberty I developed an eating disorder and continued to pack on the pounds well into my mid-20s. I ended up obese and miserable, promising myself that if I ever had kids, I’d teach them to love themselves from the inside out. I wanted them to be happy, confident and satisfied with how they looked no matter how their outer shell appeared. I now worry that I’m failing at least one of them, and will do my best to strengthen her self-worth immediately.

But here’s the thing that we all know: children are influenced by so much more than just their parents. They have friends, teachers, family members, famous folks, and many other people and things that affect who they become. There’s only so much we can do.

I’m hoping that as long as Sam and Daisy feel cherished and valued for who they are, rather than how they look, they will be light years ahead of me in the self acceptance department.

I don’t want them wasting precious time trying to attain some unachievable idea of aesthetic perfection that means nothing. What I want is for them to embrace their so-called flaws and treat their bodies, and themselves, with the love and respect we all deserve.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com

Time to change the channel

lori welbourne watching tv jim hunt cartoon

I was lazy last weekend.

I didn’t plan to be and I didn’t schedule for it. In fact, I had every intention of getting a bunch of things done and I also arranged to meet some friends at an anniversary party. But when the weekend arrived, I didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere.

“You’ve been working too hard,” my husband said. “You’ve burned yourself out.”

It’s true. I have. I’ve also been under a tremendous amount of pressure professionally and personally. All I wanted to do was lay low and recoup.

I watched television, read magazines, and ate too much junk food. I also slept. Much more than usual.

Aside from the bad eating, my reaction to the stress wasn’t typical and I felt like I should be doing things differently. Maybe talking things out, or writing things out, or at least sweating them out in the gym. But I didn’t do any of that.

Once the weekend ended, I woke up with the realization that I was right on deadline: I had to write this column immediately.

It wasn’t Monday morning like it seemed. Since it had been a long weekend, it was actually Tuesday. I felt like I’d lost a day in my negative haze.

There would be no more laying on the couch watching other people’s work or lying on the bed reading about other people’s lives. I would have to sit in an upright position at my desk and try to conjure up something interesting to write about in my completely uninterested state of being.

Yet again I was reminded of why having a back-up story or two is a great idea. I also recalled something that my former boss brought up when I first proposed this “On a Brighter Note” column almost five years ago.

“Won’t you run out of positive things to write about?” he had asked. I felt like calling him and answering: “Yes, yes I will.”

At the time, that seemed impossible. After his unconvinced response to my idea, I sat down with a coffee and easily came up with over one hundred future topic ideas just like that. But a funny thing happens when you’re living life and you go into a self-induced shut-down mode: your freedom to express yourself can all of a sudden feel less than free. And your eagerness to look for the silver lining in every experience can occasionally dissipate.

But that’s the ebb and flow of life. Some days we’re happy and we feel like we’re walking on air. Other days we’re glum and feel weighed down by stress and strain.

Yes, attitude can play a major part in us shaking off dark feelings when they arise, and usually I’ll do whatever it takes to cast them aside and get on with life. This time, though, I decided to stay stuck in the muck for a while. I surrendered to the blues while thinking of one of my favourite quotes from my mother-in-law: “This too shall pass.”

One of my best friends also sent me some words of wisdom in a text that simply said: “If ‘Plan A’ doesn’t work, don’t worry. The alphabet has 25 more letters.”

The note came out of the blue, unsolicited and without her knowing anything about what I was going through or thinking about.

Reading it was a gift. I typed it out and hung it at my desk. And now that I’ve written this column, I’ll get working on ‘Plan B.’ Or whatever letter I happen to be on now.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com

Ghouls just want to have fun

mummy mommy lori welbourne jim hunt

As kids we dressed up for Halloween with whatever we could find from around the house. We’d raid the closets, drawers and even the attic to gather materials to transform us into gypsies, witches, cowboys and ghosts.

Never did it occur to my little brother and me to ask our parents for costumes from a store. If people were buying them back then, Jeremie and I had no idea, and none of our friends seemed to know that either. We were all do-it-yourselfers and we had a blast. Things seemed so much simpler, and it was a far less profitable industry than it is today.

Halloween has become the second-most commercially successful day of the year – after Christmas – expected to reach 6.9 billion dollars this year in the U.S. alone.

What’s caused such a huge spike in sales? People like me are part of the reason.

After many great years of celebrating October 31st, trick or treating in my homemade outfits as a child, I decided to complicate things when I got older. I started engaging in the buying of décor and creating unique costumes on my own with the money I earned myself. It became an artistic expression. And although I wasn’t out buying a costume off the rack exactly, I was still spending a bunch of money and time creating an awesome outfit I’d only ever wear once.

 

As the years went by and I got more and more interested in dressing up, I noticed I wasn’t alone. Tons of people were doing what I was doing, and at parties people were going all out with their creations, trying to outdo what they’d done the year before.

I participated in this activity for more than a decade, and it was a lot of fun. But once I became a mother to our second child, I stopped putting pressure on myself to dress up, and just made it about the kids. It’s all I could handle, or it’s all I wanted to handle. And I was grateful for the vast selection of affordable kid costumes so readily available in the stores. It was much easier to just select something off a hanger instead of having to hunt and peck around the house and create something unique. And it was far preferable to sewing on outfit from scratch, which I’d done so many times in the past.

But now that my children are 10 and 13, they suddenly want to create their own simple costumes out of stuff we already have. I’m not sure where they got that idea from, and I know it might end up being more work than just picking up something ready made, but I’m excited. Maybe because it brings back memories from my own childhood.

It also brings back memories of their younger years. When they were three and six, and sad because I didn’t have a costume, they decided to dress me up. They instructed me to sit on a stool as they gleefully ran circles around me with a roll of toilet paper each and made me into a “mummy mommy.” It was the funniest thing in the world to them and we all ended up laughing so hard we were crying.

Out of all the awesome costumes I’ve loved wearing over the years, the “mummy mommy” remains my favourite. And the price wasn’t scary at all.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com

Creativity feeds the mind

daisys diner lori welbourne

My daughter is 10 and she’s wearing my shoes. Not just the high heels that she’s been clomping around the house in since she was a toddler either, but the flats, the sneakers and the boots too. Why? Because they practically fit her – which is shocking to me.

How my little girl’s feet are a mere two sizes smaller than my size eight is beyond me, but they are. And she’s in a hurry to grow up, just like I was at her age.

There are three things she likes to do most these days: apply makeup, wear my clothes and play “restaurant.” All are expressive and creative, and when combined, I feel like I’m getting a glimpse of her in the future, as a responsible teenager with a job.

“Good afternoon,” she said, coming into my home office wearing bright red lipstick, a pair of high heels and a floral apron. “Welcome to Daisy’s Diner. What can I get you, Miss?”

Thrilled to have someone calling me Miss instead of Ma’am, and also waiting on me for the sixth day in a row, I ordered some veggies and dip and a tall ice water. She wrote it down on her pad of paper, went into the kitchen and taped the order up above the stove like she was presenting it to a short order cook. She then went about preparing my platter, having no idea I had snuck down the hall to spy on her in action.

With a tip jar, open and closed signs, and menus written out, she had spent a fair amount of time on the creation and set-up of her business, even decorating the “restaurant” with her own artwork that was also for sale.

What a difference in the way she amuses herself in comparison to my son.

Sam is 13 now, and also eager to grow up, but right now he would rather do just about anything than prepare food for anyone and serve them. It also wouldn’t occur to him to dress up in his dad’s clothes or apply cosmetics. Unless, of course, it’s to rip up an old t-shirt, give himself a black eye and make it look like there’s blood oozing out of some wound on his face or body.

They both love making videos though, and do that often with their iPads and iPods. And that’s when I love modern technology the most. As a child I would have given anything to be able to make my own music videos, and now kids are learning how to make them on their own, creating funny and interesting works of art.

I’m always happy when my children are expressive through their creations. It wouldn’t matter if they were painting rocks, writing stories, making music or designing their own digital animations, as long as they were producing something from within.

As a child, I don’t recall ever feeling like I had any talents in that regard, and because I felt that way, I didn’t think anything I made with my imagination had any value. But now, I think we all have creative talents, and whatever is of interest to us should be developed, nurtured and appreciated.

Pablo Picasso once said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up.”

As much as my children are anxious to be adults, I hope they’re always able to stay young-at-heart artistically. And I’m also hoping Daisy’s feet stop growing once they reach size eight. It would be nice to clomp around in her fancy shoes for a change.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com

 

Homeless to happy

mike harvey homeless lori welbourne

The first time I met my friend Mike Harvey, he was homeless. He wasn’t living out of his car, or so sick that he wanted to die anymore, but he was still very much what society would consider ‘on the skids.’

It was at a local soup kitchen where we first spoke a year and a half ago. I was on location at the Kelowna Gospel Mission covering a fundraising competition between local chefs for Shaw TV, and he was working as the dishwasher and living there as well. I saw him, and many of the mission’s residents that week, as well as the hungry people who came in for a hot, healthy meal. It was both heartbreaking to see people needing the help, and heartwarming to witness them getting it. In so many countries around the world, this wouldn’t happen.

Once my week of covering that story was over, Mike and I exchanged email addresses and vowed to stay in touch. I went back to my life with a newfound gratitude for the roof over my head and the love of my family, and he continued his journey of self-healing and the rebuilding of his life.

As depressed as he was when he first arrived at the mission, he wasn’t content doing nothing, and accepted a volunteer position working as their dishwasher. For about nine months he worked in the kitchen all day, seven days a week, while starting up a “Law of Attraction” support group that promotes emitting positive energy to attract more of the same.

“Mental attitude controls our thought patterns,” he said. “And I needed to change mine.”

He also needed to change his eating habits and had accomplished that.

Years prior Mike had contracted Lyme disease, which damaged his brain and left him feeling crazy. Unable to work for a long period of time, and living alone in his car in the U.S., his daughter eventually kidnapped him and brought him back home to Canada.

“I’m lucky she did that,” he said. “At that point I wanted to die.”

Extremely sick, and initially not knowing the reason, Mike had also developed an extreme sensitivity to MSG, which he found to be in almost everything. “It wasn’t until I started making juice with organic produce that I started to feel better,” he said.

He also discovered he had lead poisoning which he believes he got from the drinking water where he grew up. Ridding himself of that allowed him to improve his physical state, and the work he was doing on his mental health increased his possibilities.

He was offered a job at Rose’s Waterfront Pub, affording him the ability to move out of the shelter. He later applied his skills working at Home Depot and then started up his own handyman and contracting business in Calgary, where he had moved.

I had coffee with Mike this week while he was in town for his daughter’s wedding. He had just come from a volunteer shift at the Kelowna Gospel Mission where he visited some of his old “inmates” as he jokingly calls them.

“I think all these shelters should offer some kind of ‘Law of Attraction’ program,” he said. “And educate people on the chemicals they’re probably consuming. It could change their lives like it did for me.”

People become homeless for a variety of reasons, and they all have a story to tell. Thank goodness for places like Kelowna’s Gospel Mission and the Food Bank and all the wonderful people in the community who donate time, money or food. And thank goodness for someone like Mike Harvey, brave to share his experience. He’s a good reminder of how easy it can be to lose everything, and how important it is for us to help each other when needed.

For information on the homeless shelter visit: KelownaGospelMission.ca. To contact Mike visit: Call4Mike.ca

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com 

Everyone deserves respect

mentally disabled lori welbourne jim hunt

Last month an Ontario grandmother received an anonymous letter in the mail from an apparent mother in the neighborhood, who was furious over the “noise polluting whaling” of the woman’s 13-year-old autistic grandson. The writer suggested she “go live in a trailer in the woods with her wild animal kid” and even recommended euthanizing him so they’d all be better off.

The hateful letter went viral on the internet and people were appalled by its cruel and heinous content. My friend Chris Smith said she was outraged as well, but not surprised in the least.

“Nine out of ten medical professionals don’t know how to deal with mental disabilities,” she said. “How can we expect the general public to understand? Ignorance can sometimes breed extreme cruelty.”

She should know. Her 33-year-old mentally disabled daughter has been ostracized and discriminated against her entire life. Last fall she was assaulted, unprovoked, by a couple of teenagers who thought it would be a good idea to call her disgusting names and spray bear repellent directly into the eyes of her and her caretaker while they sat on a park bench eating a snack.

“Because of her mental ability she still thinks she did something wrong and deserved to be attacked,” Chris said. “She’s been self mutilating by digging into her own skin ever since.”

And it’s not just young thugs who have been awful. Chris said it’s not unusual for grown adults to stare at her daughter rudely, or completely ignore her like she doesn’t exist.

“I even had a doctor suggest that I stop putting so much effort into her and just allow her to die during one of her seizures,” she said.

It’s hard to imagine that such a complete lack of compassion for our fellow humans still exists during these modern times, but, heartbreakingly, it does.

Back in the day when institutionalizing people with disabilities was the norm, my grandmother’s friends Donna and Ed rejected the advice of everyone and raised their severely mentally and physically handicapped son in their own home. Growing up surrounded by the love and attention of his parents, Donny was light years ahead of the men that I took care of in a group home while I was in my early twenties.

The four men, aged 30-40, living in the home where I worked were all abandoned at birth because of the disabilities they were born with. None of them could speak or go to the washroom themselves, or do many of the things that Donny was able to do. It seemed clear to me that they were in far worse condition because they had been hidden away like monsters in an institution for most of their lives.

“Things are much better than they used to be,” Chris said in regard to the way our society treats the disabled now. “But for the people out there who are still mean and intolerant, they need to know that this could happen to anyone, anytime. One day they could be perfectly fine, but the next they could have an accident and be severely handicapped for the rest of their lives too.”

Another one of my close friends explained how his disabled son had become his teacher and motivator, humanizing and humbling him in ways he never imagined. He also pointed out that some people are afraid of these special individuals, but shouldn’t be.

“Mentally handicapped people are rarely criminals, bigots, deadbeats or any other character type that plague the general population,” he said. “They can be childlike, frustrated, difficult and obsessive-compulsive, but it’s almost always an honest expression of their true self.”

If we keep that in mind when dealing with a mentally disabled person, it should be much easier to connect with them. Vulnerable and innocent, they are worthy of our best.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com

Don’t take anything personally

proceed-with-caution

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my positive experience with Facebook and encouraged people – my father, grandmother and in-laws in particular – to join. Later I received a lengthy email from a Facebook friend that called the article “crappy and mindless” and me “ignorant and flaky” for writing it.

Typically I’m not bothered when people give me negative feedback. It’s just part and parcel of the gig whenever you put yourself out there. It doesn’t matter if you’re a highly paid superstar or a starving artist, if you’re releasing your work for public consumption, you have to be prepared for harsh, impolite criticism. But for some reason, on this occasion, it stung for  a few minutes.

I tried to figure out why this particular critique would affect me when most others were easily brushed aside. Perhaps, I thought, it was because it was coming from a fellow artist who I’d perceived as supportive of other artists and their freedom of expression.

But after scolding me for promoting Facebook during “the recent spy revelations,” I could see he wasn’t willing to accept that I had a different perception of it than he did. He blamed the social media tyrant, and people like me who post our work on it for free, as the reason people’s attitudes toward media and art had been negatively influenced.

Was it because I didn’t completely disagree with him that his message affected me? I started to doubt myself, wondering if maybe he was right and I was just a floozy writing drivel and hurting artists with my careless recommendation.

I would have re-read my article about Facebook if I didn’t have such an aversion to revisiting my work. Instead I sent him an email explaining that I agreed the Internet has been a devastating blow for artists and writers in many ways, but since it wasn’t going anywhere, we, like everyone else, would have to learn to work within our changing world.

And since I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience with Facebook, I strongly stood by my promotion of it, pointing out that it could be a terrific tool for several reasons. Connecting with fellow artists like him for example.

Unfortunately, he had already de-friended me.

In a moment of weakness, and without naming him, I posted my feelings on Facebook and received an immediate and tremendous amount of support from friends I know personally, as well as friends I only know online.

For me this confirmed a few things. Number one: my skin isn’t as thick as I thought it was. Number two: I’m only human, so it’s okay to get affected sometimes. And number three: my Facebook friends are wonderful.

I don’t always agree with the opinions they post, and I love that, but what a privilege to have such a cool community of friends to laugh with and learn from.

So much wisdom, advice and encouragement was posted by so many of them when I needed it last Saturday morning.

My author friend James C. Tanner said: “A writer writes because it is a natural voice for them, the same way a bird sings. There are those who will enjoy the sound of a bird while others will look for a stone to try and strike it down.”

And my cartoonist friend Bob D’Amico wrote: “The way people freely fling around their opinions is equal to being a dog walking down the block, peeing on everything it passes.”

See, Dad? It’s not just pictures of the grand kids you’re missing out on by not being on Facebook. If you join, just remember to keep your social insurance number to yourself and prepare for a few messy mutts.

(To read our interaction CLICK HERE and scroll down to the comments field under the column)

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com

Family, friends and Facebook

facebook bag of chips lori welbourne

My cartoonist Jim Hunt says that trying to log off Facebook is like trying to put down a bag of chips. “Okay, just one more post…”

If you’re not on Facebook you won’t be able to relate. And if you’re just a passive user, his sentiment will also have little meaning to you. But for someone like me, who uses it quite frequently, Jim’s words ring true.

Nevertheless, I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from signing on to the social media site. Least of all my father, grandmother and in-laws.  I’ve been trying to get them to join for years now, and their response has always been the same: no thank you.

“Why not?” I’ll ask. “It’s a great way to stay connected with your friends and family.” But they would rather reach out the old-fashioned way, by telephone or email.

Selfishly, I want them on Facebook so they’ll be able to communicate with their grandchildren more regularly, and exchange pictures and notes. I’ve explained how simple it is to use, and that you can easily choose your degree of privacy based on your individual settings. But so far I’ve been completely unsuccessful at convincing them to try it.

My art of persuasion isn’t completely hopeless though. I have managed to encourage some die-hard Facebook opposers to give it a whirl, and most have enjoyed the benefits and stuck with it.

One of those people was my good friend Steve, who’s been a radio personality for decades, and should have opened an account years ago, but never did.

“Everyone bugs me to join,” he groaned when I mentioned it. “I just can’t. I know I should, but I’m not into it at all.”

Understanding his aversion, since I initially felt the same, I did what one of my friends did for me years ago and refused to take no for an answer. I set him up with a profile picture, and made some friend suggestions to get him started. After that he was off like a little kid on his first bike, zooming down the street with a scared but excited look on his face.

Steve traveled to Vancouver with his family immediately after joining, and soon experienced firsthand the advantages of signing up when he sat down at a restaurant called Smoke’s Poutine, and posted a picture of himself with the restaurant’s name behind him.

“Within a minute of me posting that I got a call from my former boss telling me I was only a block away from his station and to pop by for a visit,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for Facebook, that wouldn’t have happened and I wouldn’t have seen my buddy Drex at his new station.”

Like me, Steve’s going to use this particular social media site in an open all-inclusive kind of way, as it will be helpful to him and his career. And, like me, all sorts of opportunities will present themselves to him in the future that otherwise wouldn’t.

Not wanting to dissuade the more private people like some of my family members, who would be more comfortable keeping their privacy settings tight and their friendship lists exclusive, I will reiterate that both private and public accounts can have tremendous benefits.

“I only like to include my inner circle,” my friend Kari said, explaining why she wouldn’t accept friend requests from anyone outside of that. “I want to connect with the people I’m close to, but not the rest of the world.”

And that’s exactly how I picture my father, grandmother and in-laws enjoying it. I can’t imagine them becoming addicted, but I can see them ultimately being happy they joined. I know I sure am.

If you want to friendship request Steve and welcome him to Facebook, his name on there is Stuntman Stuntman. Not that he’s hiding, but it proves you can if you want to.

Lori Welbourne in a syndicated columnist. She can be reached atLoriWelbourne.com

Would you like a rainbow with that?

hannah robertson mcdonalds lori welbourne

A few years ago I saw a video featuring a woman and her daughter preparing fresh fruits and vegetables while demonstrating their “Today I Ate a Rainbow” charts. I immediately took notice because they were promoting health and nutrition to children in a fun, creative way, and I knew my kids – like most – would respond to their strategy.

Fast forward to last week, and it’s not just children responding to Kia and Hannah Robertson from Kelowna, BC, but media from all over the world.

It wasn’t their Rainbow business that got them noticed though, it was the speech nine-year old Hannah delivered in person to Don Thompson, CEO of McDonalds at their AGM in Chicago. She told Don that she didn’t think it was fair when “Big companies try to trick kids into eating foods that aren’t good for them by using toys and cartoon characters,” and asked “Don’t you want kids to be healthy so they can live a long and happy life?”

Their three-and-a-half minute exchange is available on YouTube and I’d recommend viewing it if you haven’t heard already. Not because you’re guaranteed to agree, but because it’s not every day someone that young bravely takes on the CEO of the most powerful and influential fast food restaurant chain in the world.

Like many parents of today, Kia taught her daughter that kids have a say, and that their opinions matter. The “children are better left seen and not heard” way of thinking has thankfully passed.

“We helped her write the letter,” Kia said. “But Hannah is passionate about health and nutrition for kids, and she meant every word she said.”

Reaction to her confrontation brought on a media frenzy and attention from people all over the globe, and it’s been an unexpected surprise to the duo, as well as to the “Mom’s Not Lovin’ It” group they accompanied to Chicago. But not everyone has been kind.

“Online reaction has been about 60/40 in support,” Kia said. “And some of that 40 per cent has been downright vicious.”

Having to grow a thick skin in a hurry, she said people can say whatever they want about her and her parenting, but her daughter’s off limits.

“We’re not telling people not to eat at McDonald’s,” she said. “We just wanted to plant the seed in the minds of the CEO and shareholders that marketing junk food directly to children through cartoons and toys is irresponsible and encourages kids to pester their parents for something they might not realize isn’t good for them.”

Of course some people agree with Don Thompson and point to their apple slices, fat free milk, salads and McNugget happy meals as being healthy. And some even argue that the burgers and fries aren’t bad either. But my teenage employment and subsequent 85-pound weight gain while working there tells me otherwise.

I love what Hannah said and I love that she’s getting so much attention for it, even if the sheer magnitude of it has been lost on her.

“She wasn’t fazed when she was on Good Morning America,” Kia said. “But when the Daily Courier came by to interview her, she thought ‘wow!’ because she was going to be in the local newspaper.”

Excited to continue with her “Today I Ate a Rainbow” business and the additional interest it’s recieved after four years of slogging away, Kia holds out hope that McDonald’s will stop marketing directly to children and will continue to add healthy choices to their menu.

But she also knows that ultimately it’s up to the consumer to make their own decisions. If McDonald’s adds healthy items to their menu and w don’t buy them, they’re not going to continue.

To watch Kia and Hannah’s fun videos, order a chart or see what they’re all about visit todayiatearainbow.com

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com