Become a Mentor

September 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm , by

Fall season’s in full swing and I can’t help but reminisce about high school. Senior year to be exact. Who can forget the whirlwind of emotions: Regents exams, acne, boyfriends, breakups. The list goes on. But perhaps the most stressful time of year was those painstaking few months before graduation, where all of life depended on whether or not I made it into the university of my choice.

This is where a good mentor comes in handy. She’s often your ally and your guide through every hurdle you’ll soon face before entering the grand halls of college: mounts of school applications, reference letters, nauseating financial aid forms, personal essays, etc. For the average 17-year-old from a working-class household, these are daunting tasks. 

Debi Lee (right) with co-mentor Ryan Breir and Indira Lopez Cruz

Debi Lee is one of many dedicated mentors at Minds Matter, a national non-profit organization that shepherds highly motivated, low-income high school students starting sophomore year. “An old roommate of mine asked me to co-mentor with her in 1996 and I’ve been doing it ever since, ” says Lee, a corporate bank executive in New York City. “My parents told my brother and I that the main reason they migrated to the U.S. from South Korea was for us to get a good education. They used to post rankings of Ivy League schools in the kitchen so we’d see it every day.” 

For many students with parents who work long hours, aspiring to top schools, even with a stellar grade point average, is a huge challenge. At Minds Matter, more than 1,400 new and experienced volunteers are dedicated to helping 500-plus young people reach their college dreams.

“It’s been an amazing process,” says Lee. “I look forward to the day when one of my mentees becomes a mentor through Minds Matter. It would accomplish the full circle I have in mind.”



What Do You Love Most About Thanksgiving Day?

November 20, 2012 at 11:00 am , by

To kick off the holiday season, we asked Journal staffers to share what they love most about Thanksgiving, that wonderful holiday that’s all about good food, friends, family and feeling grateful (with a little football thrown in). We know you’ll relate to these!

• My girls love to bake (that’s Lily and Sophia in action, right). Since I learned all my baking skills from my mom, they always like to whip up a sweet treat with their “Mimi.” This year they’ll be making my mom’s famous “spice cake” (don’t call it fruitcake!), which I was honored to write about for our December issue. The recipe is on page 106 if you’d like to try it too.
Sue Erneta, fashion editor

• Now that my sister, my cousins and I are in our twenties and living across the country, Thanksgiving is one of the few days of the year that we’re all together again, and my life feels about as simple as it did back when I was a kid.
Lauren Piro, assistant editor

• I love that I don’t have to travel on Thanksgiving. Family and friends come to us. It’s a great excuse to stay at home, eat and drink, and sit on the couch. What could be better?
Jeffrey Saks, creative director

• One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories happened last year. My family and I were sitting at the dining table. My mother was in the kitchen, and I heard her in say in a calm voice, “Gab, can you come in here?” I walked in and there was the turkey on the kitchen floor with its juices and grease splattered everywhere. My mom gave me a look that conveyed, “Help but don’t say a word!” (I was called in instead of my sisters because one of them would have fallen to the floor the laughing and the other would’ve shrieked; I’m the least dramatic of the three.) We picked up the turkey, quietly holding in our laughter, and scrubbed the grease off the floor. My mom fixed it up, carved it and served it. It was delicious. We didn’t tell anyone until later. Please note: My mother keeps her floors so clean you can literally eat off them!
Gabrielle Porcaro, associate fashion editor Read more

Yep, Your Marriage Can Be Saved

June 1, 2012 at 11:52 am , by

The Journal has a long history of helping women save their marriages. That’s why we’re excited to announce that we’ve teamed up with therapist, author, and Can This Marriage Be Saved? contributor Dr. Susan Heitler to bring you the Power of Two, a cool new online coaching tool that helps teach couples how to communicate and resolve conflicts. So many couples enter marriage in love, but lack some of the important communication skills that will help keep their bond strong after years — and the inevitable strains that come with kids, work, health issues, you name it. Dr. Heitler focuses on helping couples learn these crucial marriage skills to turn bickering couples into loving teams.

For instance, she recently worked with a couple who had been in traditional therapy for eight months and were on the brink of divorce. It might sound too good to be true, but by the end of the second session using Dr. Heitler’s techniques for tactful talking, attentive listening, and collaborative conflict resolution, they were recommitted to staying together—and making romantic gestures that would never have happened just months before. “They still have more learning to do,” says Dr. Heitler. “But their love returned because they can both recognize when they’re falling back into old, counter-productive habits now.”

Dr. Heitler has worked with hundreds of couples over the years, and she created Power of Two to share that expertise with all of us who can’t see her in person. Maybe you’re wary of professional counseling—of the time or money required, or of what people might think. Or maybe your relationship is just starting to show signs of strain and you want to prevent future problems. Check out Power of Two. It’s not traditional couples’ therapy: The whole process takes place online and on your own time—it’s accessible, affordable, and private.

“When couples don’t resolve their conflicts the right way, it creates anger, depression, and anxiety — but we can prevent that,” says Dr. Heitler. “These learning materials mean that more couples can have a great relationship and marriage.”

If your marriage is in need of a little TLC, check out Power of Two. And come back soon to read Dr. Heitler’s 5 favorite ways to keep your marriage strong.

Kids and Fashion: How Much is Too Much?

May 1, 2012 at 10:56 am , by

Last weekend, my parents stopped by for a visit. Somehow that always means that Sophia has a few crisp singles in her pocket so she asked if we could stop by The Children’s Place. She was ready to spend. Well, when we walked into the store, I wanted to open my wallet too. Cute fruit shaped purses! Neon hair clips! Flower-adorned headbands! Pink neon rimmed aviators! Ribbon-trimmed fedoras! Sophia and I were scurrying around the store like teenagers grabbing everything in sight. And when Lily asked her “Mimi” to buy her a sequin skirt like the one her sister had, I knew I had created not one monster, but two.
Of course, we had a fashion show back at the house to display our haul. But when Pablo got home, he was not as pleased. (It had nothing to do with what I spent. I mean, you can fill a bag with accessories at TCP, use a coupon, and barely need more than a 20 spot.)

For him, it was all just too much.

Granted, they did look a little crazy. But they had piled it on just for fun. You see, I’m working on teaching the girls that these fun pieces should be styled into their wardrobes of basics. It’s not about neon head-to-toe; it’s about a hint of it. (But try telling that to a 3 year old who wants to look like her big sister who wants to look like a Selena Gomez.)

He really shouldn’t be concerned though. On most days, they’re both heading to school in tunics, leggings and Vans. So, what’s the harm in owning a cute sequin skirt or hot pink sunglasses?

Yesterday he described Sophia’s going-to-the-supermarket look as “a 15 year old celebrity heading to a nightclub”. And this morning I swear he was doing an impression of my father when he said, “She’s NOT wearing that hat to school.”
(My dad used to disagree with my outfits back in my teenager years. He’d ask my mom if she had seen what I was wearing and mom would roll her eyes and say “Yes. I just bought that for her.”)

Well, thanks for backing me up, Mom. Someday my daughters will thank me too.

Categories: Family, Ladies' Lounge | Tags: | 1 Comment

Kids TV shows: The kind that won’t make you cringe

April 13, 2012 at 11:20 am , by

D-D-D-D-D-DORA! DORA DORA DORA THE EXPLORER!!!!!! If you’re a parent, there’s no doubt that you just shuddered from reading that. Listen, I know I should love her. My kids have learned more Spanish from Dora than from their Spanish-speaking father. And they love her. But, she’s just so annoying. I mean, I love a good exclamation point but why does every sentence need to be said with that much enthusiasm? Thankfully, we’re beginning to phase her out of our house. (Lily’s almost 4. I think it’s time.) And lucky for us, there are plenty of other cute, educational shows that have lovable characters – and even have good music. Here’s the Erneta-family approved list of fun kid’s shows:

Bubble Guppies (pictured) – In each episode, little mermaid/fish-type characters delve into one specific subject like flying in an airplane in Gup, Gup and Away or going to the hospital in Call Me A Clambulance. It’s fast paced and funny, with really cute songs. Don’t ask me how guppies have airplanes or hospitals but just trust me and go with it.

Team Umizoomi  – This is Lily’s current favorite. Cute little characters solve problems in Umi City using math skills. And there is nothing wrong with that.

The Backyardigans – We always love the music, dancing and most importantly, the creative storylines. It really shows kids that you can go anywhere right from your backyard just by using your imagination.

Olivia – I must say I was worried when I heard that the beloved character from Ian Falconer’s books was going to be made into a TV show but it really does work. That Olivia sure has a mind of her own – and we love her for it.

Sid The Science Kid – A cool kid that learns about science at home and in school. Bonus: fantastic music and dancing. (I have been know to bust out Gabriella’s playground dance moves in my living room. True story.)

Super Why? – Superheroes go into books to solve problems. The characters are adorable and seeing Lily put words together is a treat too.

Doc McStuffins – We’re loving this sweet new show on Disney Junior. It combines the toys-come-to-life concept of Toy Story with a kid vet – something my little girls are obsessed with right now.

Little Einsteins – Lily loves this one and I certainly have no problem with her learning about fine art and classical music.

I hope this list will give you something new to introduce your kids to. Because, let’s face it, you have to listen to it too! And life is too short for Dora, The Wiggles and Barney.

Happy watching!


Categories: Family, Ladies' Lounge | Tags: | 5 Comments

Who’s the Boss in Your House?

March 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm , by

I remember the night like it was yesterday. Sophia was nearly 3 years old, I was six months pregnant and all the impending baby excitement had turned our little angel into a terror. Then I said it, “Sophia, if you don’t get into your bed now, then you won’t get your binkie tonight”. Pablo — knowing that I never make empty threats — glared at me as if to say, “Really? Are we really doing this tonight?”
Sophia had never been the kid that walked around all day with a pacifier in her mouth but it was a sleeping crutch. She used it at nighttime, during naps, even for a little shut-eye in the car. We knew that it needed to go. But how?
I think we dreaded losing it more than she did. Anything that gets a kid to sleep is a blessing, no?

As you can guess, she didn’t get into her bed that night and I did take her pacifier away. She cried for 15 minutes, then went to sleep. The next night she asked for it and I told her she was a big girl and she didn’t need a pacifier anymore and pacifiers are for babies. This time she cried for 5 minutes, then went to sleep. The next night, she didn’t ask for it and she didn’t cry. We were shocked. Taking away the binkie — an act we had dreaded more than she did because, let’s face it, it was more of a crutch for us — was done in 2 nights. And Sophia felt great too. Realizing she didn’t need the binkie made her feel like a big girl and we gave her lots of positive reinforcement and love to support it.

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Book News: Playdate … for Adults Only

March 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm , by

Entertainment journalist Thelma Adams’s novel Playdate, just out in paperback, explores the minefields of modern marriage with humor and sass. But Playdate is no empty romp. In addition to parenting precocious pre-teens, the protagonists—couples Lance and Darlene and Alec and Wren—are dealing with complex issues. Lance, an unemployed weatherman, is married to Darlene, a restaurateur, who maintains an inappropriate flirtation with her restaurant’s financier, Alec, who is married to Wren, a yogi, who is having an affair with Lance. Got that? If that love quadrangle weren’t dizzying enough, a fierce forest fire is menacing their comfortable upper-middle-class California enclave. We asked Adams to talk about the game plan behind Playdate.

You’ve been a film critic and entertainment writer for almost 30 years. How did that experience inform your first novel, which is about marriage and relationships?

I am a married film critic and entertainment writer with relationships. Some of which, I confess, are a little convoluted. This novel began as an idea for a screenplay: What if we melded Warren Beatty’s handsome rootless philanderer in Shampoo with Michael Keaton’s overwhelmed dad in Mr. Mom? It seemed like a funny concept. However, as it turned out, I’m a prose girl. The movie idea morphed into a novel.

With his sensitive nature and commitment to parenting, Lance is the heart and soul of the book. But he’s also having an affair. Was it hard to construct a sympathetic cheater?

Making Lance sympathetic without demonizing his wife Darlene was one of the great challenges of the book. Personally, I am the daughter of a relatively sympathetic cheater. My dad was no saint, but he was no demon either. I was a daddy’s little girl who adored her father, and growing up we had this kind of very easy, affectionate, unconditional love. And then, when I was in my early twenties, I discovered that I’d lived in a house where a pattern of infidelity on my father’s side gutted my mother. Being daddy’s little girl was suddenly a difficult position to have within the family politics. And, on top of that, when I found out about my father, I was still crying over a post-college live-in relationship with a serial cheater with whom I was crazy in love. That’s a long time ago, but fidelity, and understanding how infidelity molds a family, and a relationship, has been central to a lot of my writing. In the end, I came to understand my father, which is not exactly the same as forgiving, through my love for Lance and [his daughter] Belle. Read more