Wayne State University Labor School

One of the best Labor Education programs in the country can be found at Wayne State University, and we are very fortunate they are so close to home. For the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters they are offering classes online instead of in person, which protects everyone from possible illness and also makes their classes more widely accessible for everyone. Not only that, but there are scholarships available that will reduce the cost per class by 90%, from $200 per class to $20 per class!

How this works is pretty simple… I just did it and it took me approximately a half hour for both the course registration and the scholarship application. Simply go to the online registration form, fill it out, and choose which courses you’d like to take. Send it in, and you’re told to check your email within 24 hours for your registration confirmation and course schedule. On the registration form there is a section with options for payment. If you want to pay yourself, I’m sure they won’t say no! But there is an option to ask for scholarship paperwork. If you’d like to apply for a scholarship without waiting for them to send you the information, go to the online application form and fill it out. Like anything else, you’ll want to fill it out as completely but succinctly as possible. My suggestion for the 250-word essay at the end is to write something in MS Word (or your favourite similar program) that keeps a word count for you and also offers a spelling/grammar check.

The course can be completed by taking two classes per week and finishing in one year, or taking one class per week and finishing in two years. This is a 10 non-credit 5-week program. Each Monday starting at noon a new session is posted and students have one week to finish. Classes are done at your own pace, at your convenience, and are available 24 hours a day for each week before a new session starts the next Monday. There is also a way to contact instructors and other students any time.

Classes offered:

Fall 2020 semester: US Labor History and Basic Grievance Handling from September 14 through October 18, and State of Labor and Your Rights in the Workplace from October 19 through November 22.

Winter 2021 semester: Economics for Workers and Collective Bargaining from January 11 through February 14, Power in Politics and Effective Leadership from February 15 through March 21, and Leading a Diverse Organization and Building the Union from March 22 through April 25. All classes have pros and cons, so decide for yourself which one you feel either most useful or most interesting.

If you’re lucky enough to have completed the basic Labor School program above, WSU is also offering Advanced Labor Leadership Academy courses online. These normally cost $250 per course, but they are also being offered for $20 each with scholarship. Choices for the Advanced classes are Strategic Planning from September 14 through October 18, and Union Women Leading Forward from October 19 through November 22 in the Fall 2020 semester; and Labor and Capital in a Global Economy from January 11 through February 14, Media Matters from February 15 through March 21, and Transformational Leadership from February 15 through April 25.

One thing you may find particularly helpful is their free 30-minute online training course explaining how these online classes will work. They are offering it at two different dates and times: Tuesday, August 18 from 10:00 AM to 10:30 AM and Wednesday, September 2 from 5:30 PM to 6:00 PM. There is a place on the class registration form to indicate which of these sessions (if any) you would like to attend, and they will send you more information as the date gets closer.

If  you think you can handle it, I highly recommend taking all ten classes offered (not counting the Advanced classes). Me, I know myself better than that and chose to take only one at a time, and that’s fine too. It’s just that right now you know you’re only paying $20 per class instead of $200 (making it a total of $200 instead of $2000!), and there is no indication they will continue that pricing for another term. From the few seminars and sessions I’ve attended at various events I can tell you WSU has incredible instructors, an interesting program, and presents things in a way that holds your attention… which if you were anything like me in school is a definite plus.

Stress, Mental Health, Harassment, & Bullying Hazard Awareness Resources

Recently, the IATSE offered a workshop titled “Stress, Mental Health, Harassment & Bullying Hazard Awareness”, which Jess Westra, the Local’s 1st Vice President and Chair of the Education and Safety Committee took. She said the workshop was a lot of statistics, and “made me feel like everywhere is better than America. We need to be better and stop being proud of our insane hours.” Now that we’re all experiencing involuntary down time, it seems like a good time to change our mindset and try to do better by ourselves.

One way to do that is to check out the incredible variety of resources available through the IA and other organizations specifically designed to help displaced workers get through any mental issues they may currently be experiencing and also ways to deal with problems that may occur when we (eventually) go back to work. The workshop provided a gigantic list of links to resources, which I will try to post a short explanation for each one (most will be quotes from their websites) so you have an idea if each one will help you or not.

IATSE Cares: “IATSE C.A.R.E.S. (Coronavirus Active Response and Engagement Service) is a new initiative designed to provide support to our most at-risk, elderly, and/or disabled members during the COVID-19 crisis. This website will also be used to provide information about future Mutual Aid efforts from the IATSE.”

Behind the Scenes Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Initiative: “Many people have become increasingly concerned about the rising number of suicides and the prevalence of alcohol/substance misuse within the entertainment industry. By its very nature our industry can impact your physical and emotional health due to long hours, pressure to push your body, and high workplace stress. In response, Behind the Scenes and other individuals and organizations have come together to create this initiative.”

HelpPro: Has created a searchable list of mental health professionals who either work (or have worked) in the entertainment industry themselves, or who have experience in counselling those who work in the industry.

iRel8 and Behind the Scenes: Partnership that produced “a mobile application that gives users an open and anonymous platform to receive mental health help, provide relevant advice to others, and relate to a larger community – all in a safe and non-identifiable way so a user’s reputation is not compromised in any way with friends, family members, or work colleagues.”

The Actors Fund: “Founded in 1882, The Actors Fund is a national human services organization here to meet the needs of our entertainment community with a unique understanding of the challenges involved in a life in the arts. Services include emergency financial assistance, affordable housing, health care and insurance counseling, senior care, secondary career development and more.”

Behind the Scenes Foundation: “Behind the Scenes was founded to provide assistance to entertainment technology professionals in need, no matter what color their skin, the language they speak, the religion they follow, or gender or sexuality they identify as. Our motto is, “Don’t leave your colleagues in the dark.” We want to shine a light into the dark corners of violence, hatred and injustice. We want to shine a light on this moment and the opportunity it represents; to become a better world that respects and protects the rights of every individual. A world that provides equal access to justice, economic opportunity, health care, and all-embracing social freedom.”

MusiCares: “MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares’ services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly influence the health and welfare of the music community.”

Music Health Alliance: “Music Health Alliance serves all persons in the entertainment business nationwide in all genres of music who need assistance with medical bills or health guidance that includes finding doctors or prescription medicine, finding financial grants while recovering from a serious health issue, affordable health insurance, or answers to Medicare questions.”

American Psychological Association: Offers an extensive list of “COVID-19 resources for psychologists, health-care workers and the public.”

American Psychiatric Association : Provides resources for Patients and Families to “Learn about common mental disorders, including symptoms, risk factors and treatment options. Find answers to your questions written by leading psychiatrists, stories from people living with mental illness and links to additional resources.”

MentalHelp.net: “We’ve here collected resources concerned with helping people to manage disabilities. Given our psychological bent, where we’ve generated resources ourselves, they will focus on mental health in disability, although we’ve been much broader in selecting outside resources. We hope you’ll find this resource useful.”

Therapy for Black Girls: “The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly chat about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.”

LGBTQ Psychotherapists of Color (QTOC): “QTOC is a San Francisco/Bay Area grassroots, volunteer-led group providing support, networking, leadership development, and community building opportunities for LGBTQs of Color in Psychology, Social Work, and Counseling.” While they are in the SF/Bay Area, they do offer virtual services.

Mental Health America: “As the number of cases of COVID-19 increases, so does the associated anxiety. For the general public, the mental health effects of COVID-19 are as essential to address as are the physical health effects. And for the one in five who already have mental health conditions – or the one in two who are at risk of developing them – we need to take personal, professional, and policy measures now to address them. To aid individuals and communities during this time, MHA has compiled a range of resources and information.” They have resources for different segments of the population to concentrate on their specific individual needs.

Drugwatch has published a guide on anxiety that covers: causes, common types, symptoms and tips for management/prevention titled “How to Deal with Anxiety”. It covers many reasons a person could feel anxiety, of course due to COVID-19, but also in general.

There are also several phone numbers (and some you can text) for help dealing with whatever is bothering you. Sometimes it’s easier to reach out to someone anonymously over the phone or by text than to talk to someone you know or with whom you are face to face. However you feel comfortable talking to someone, please do so.

  • The Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
  • National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1- 800-799-7233.
  • Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)
  • Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228
  • Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741
  • National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255
  • GLBT Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
  • The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678 (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)
  • Mental Health America Hotline: Text MHA to 741741
  • The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: (800) 422-4453
  • Rape, Sexual Assault, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN): (800) 656-HOPE
  • Crisis Text Line From US & Canada: text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor

We are all in this together, but we are all at different places mentally, financially, and physically. Please don’t feel you are alone, and please don’t feel you just need to “tough it out”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… THERE IS NO SHAME IN NEEDING HELP. Reach out. There is help available, a lot of it for free. Don’t try to go it alone; there’s no need. Self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Even if you don’t currently experience issues with depression, anxiety, or thoughts of self-harm, talking to someone can make you feel less disconnected from the world while we are out of work. A friend has called me a couple of times just to chat and see how I’m doing, and it’s made a huge difference in how I feel. And a lot of these resources will be helpful when we do get back to work, whenever that may be.

Now, what do we say?

Be safe. Be well. STAY HOME OR MASK UP. And as always… WASH YOUR HANDS!

Heroes Act Now! Rally

Start: Wednesday, July 15, 2020•10:00 AM

End: Wednesday, July 15, 2020• 1:00 PM

Location: Lansing State Capitol Building, East Staircase•100 N Capitol Ave, Lansing, MI 48933

The IATSE Local 26 West Michigan Stagehands are organizing a rally at the Michigan State Capitol to demand the immediate passage of the HEROES Act by the U.S. Senate. Unemployment is running out for most workers by July 25. It has been a lifeline for stagehands and other workers in the events and entertainment industry. Not extending unemployment benefits will devastate working families. The rally brings together IATSE Locals of Michigan, the Michigan AFL-CIO, other unions throughout Michigan, and non-union workers.

The Heroes Act:

  • Extends pandemic unemployment benefits until 2021
  • Protects medical coverage with a 100% COBRA Subsidy
  • Keeps people in their homes by extending the moratorium on evictions and provides $100 billion in emergency rental assistance

RSVP for the Rally Here:

https://actionnetwork.org/events/rally-for-heroes-act-now/

Or on the Facebook event page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/268402340915897

IATSE Local 26 PAF(Political Action Forum) group on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/312091239802167

Father’s Day Colouring Fun!

Family is Important

Traditionally, a family consisted of a mother, father, and children. Many families still do! But the definition of “family” has expanded to include all sorts of combinations, traditional or not. You may have noticed the IA has started addressing the membership (one type of family) as “Brothers, Sisters, Kin”. That’s because our leadership is aware of and in support of the changing societal landscape of families. Love is love is love. And since it’s not only Father’s Day but Pride Month, embracing all types of family structure is even more important.

With that in mind, and as a means of promoting a little fun and creativity, Local 26 is pleased to present to you Father’s Day colouring pages! There are biological fathers, fathers who have adopted, fostered, made a difference in someone’s life, and/or served as a role model. They come in all shapes, sizes, colours, religions, genders, gender preferences, and nationalities. They may not even know you feel about them the way you do. What a perfect time to let them know, and without having to head out to a store or add yet another tie to their collection!

 

Fun and a Way to Relieve Stress

Thanks to Jess Westra (First Vice-President and Chair of the Education and Safety Committee as well as wearing a whole host of other hats at various times), here you’ll find printable PDF colouring pages, ranging from toddler easy to grownup difficult, all with the same basic message: Thank you for who you are, what you do, and everything you mean to me. Make one for whoever in your life has filled the role of “Dad” for you, and have fun doing it. Something handmade means more than buying something because you have to. It means you care enough to spend a bit of time creating something just for them.

Couldn’t we all use a bit of happy about now? Check out the black and white images below, print your favourites (or all of them, why not?), and grab your crayons, coloured pencils, markers… whatever you prefer. Create something for a special person and share the happy. You won’t regret it, and you’ll end up making someone’s day!

We’d love to see your creations! Upload to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and use #IA26FathersDay to spread the love even further.

What are you waiting for? Get Colouring!

Also, and you knew I was going to say it… Be safe. Be well. Stay home or cover your mouth and nose when you go out. And as always… WASH YOUR HANDS!

Add Some Colour to Your Mother’s Day

Family is Important

Traditionally, a family consisted of a mother, father, and children. Many families still do! But the definition of “family” has expanded to include all sorts of combinations, traditional or not. You may have noticed the IA has started addressing the membership (one type of family) as “Brothers, Sisters, Kin”. That’s because our leadership is aware of and in support of the changing societal landscape of families. Love is love is love.

With that in mind, and as a means of promoting a little fun and creativity, Local 26 is pleased to present to you Mother’s Day colouring pages! There are mothers who gave birth, adopted, fostered, made a difference in someone’s life, and/or served as a role model. They come in all shapes, sizes, colours, religions, genders, and nationalities. They may not even know you feel about them the way you do. What a perfect time to let them know, and without having to head out to a store or buy overpriced flowers!

 

Fun and a Way to Relieve Stress

Thanks to Jess Westra (First Vice-President and Chair of the Education and Safety Committee as well as wearing a whole host of other hats at various times), here you’ll find printable PDF colouring pages, ranging from toddler easy to grownup difficult, all with the same basic message: Thank you for who you are, what you do, and everything you mean to me. Make one for whoever in your life has filled the role of “Mom” for you, and have fun doing it. Something handmade means more than buying something because you have to. It means you care enough to spend a bit of time creating something just for them.

Couldn’t we all use a bit of happy about now? Check out the black and white images below, print your favourites (or all of them, why not?), and grab your crayons, coloured pencils, markers… whatever you prefer. Create something for a special person and share the happy. You won’t regret it, and you’ll end up making someone’s day!

We’d love to see your creations! Upload to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and use #IA26MothersDay to spread the love even further.

What are you waiting for? Get Colouring!

Also, and you knew I was going to say it… Be safe. Be well. STAY HOME. And as always… WASH YOUR HANDS!

Need Some Help Managing Your Stress and/or Depression?

One of the most important things to monitor during times of uncertainty and stress is your mental health. I know I’ve talked about this repeatedly, but it really is so very important. Your mental health can directly affect your physical health, and from there it’s a quick slide down a greased chute to some pretty serious problems.

Many people who never before suffered from depression or anxiety are exhibiting symptoms since COVID-19 became widespread. There is no precedent, there is no certainty, there are no good answers, no one knows what will come next or how long it will last, and it’s anybody’s guess when someone might develop a vaccine so we can maybe return to normal life. Those who already suffered from depression or anxiety or both are often even worse off since the current situation exacerbates their existing condition. Add to that most of us can’t see our doctors and are worried about keeping health insurance so we can when we’re allowed, and it’s a recipe for what seems to be certain disaster.

That can be true, but it does NOT have to be. The insurance worry has been alleviated for those covered under the IATSE Heath and Welfare plans, at least for the second and third quarters, and possibly for the fourth as well once we get closer. Unemployment, while it doesn’t cover everyone, eases a bit of the financial pressure for a while. And say what you will about the federal stimulus checks, they certainly came in handy for a great number of people.

For me personally, my therapist has been holding video sessions through a secure app, so we can continue as normal. But until unemployment got sorted out, I was afraid to go deeper in debt and I missed an entire month of weekly sessions, which made my already existing depression and anxiety exponentially worse. So I get it. I know where you’re coming from, and I understand how debilitating it can be. There were days I didn’t move off my couch even to eat. There are still frequently days when I sleep for upwards of 15 hours at a stretch. Mental illness, whether temporary or not, is no joke.

It’s not hopeless!

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is NOT a train! There are multiple things you can do even without a therapist to get yourself out of a depressive cycle that are surprisingly easy. Not everything works for everyone, so I’m going to get into a few different things in hopes all of you will find something that appeals to you.

The food you eat directly affects how you feel

There are several foods highly recommended for dealing with stress. I know a lot of us have been snacking and eating comfort food and generally not being at all healthy, and it’s taking a toll on our mental health. Foods that combat stress that actually work are things like herbal teas, whole grains, avocados, fish, nuts, citrus fruits, berries, foods high in fiber and probiotics, and even dark chocolate! Eating healthy in general can help us feel better, but these things in particular top the list for those with stress and anxiety. If you want comfort food, go for a bowl of oatmeal topped with berries instead of a pan of macaroni and cheese. If you want something sweet, make it dark chocolate. Both your body and mind will thank you for it.

Many of the same foods recommended to alleviate anxiety are also recommended to ease depression. It makes sense as the two often go hand in hand, but there are some additional foods that are specifically shown to help with depression.

Foods high in Selenium: whole grains, organ meats, and some seafood. Foods high in Vitamin D: fortified dairy products, oily fish, eggs, and beef liver. Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids: chia and flax seeds, cold water fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), and walnuts. Foods high in antioxidants: berries, soy, most fresh fruits and vegetables, and pretty much any edible plant product. Foods high in B vitamins: eggs, poultry, oysters, milk, whole grains, nuts, dark leafy vegetables, and beans. Foods high in protein: chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tuna, and turkey. Foods high in Zinc: nuts, pumpkin seeds, beef, poultry, pork, oysters, and whole grains. And of course foods with probiotics like yogurt.

There are also some foods you should definitely avoid if you’re prone to depression. Alcohol, junk food, fast food, processed foods and oils, caffeine (which seems counter-intuitive, but that’s because most people overdo it instead of consuming it in moderation). These things can make your depression worse without you even realizing it.

Practicing mindfulness can help in many different ways

Every time I hear “mindfulness” I automatically translate it to “meditation”. While meditation is one thing you can do, it is by no means the only thing. There are probably a lot of you, like me, who find it impossible to meditate, and that’s OK! Try some other things instead. Did you know there is a whole section on LinkedIn Learning full of classes both short and long on different ways to practice mindfulness? Since all IATSE workers (members or not) are eligible for a free subscription to LinkedIn Learning, why not check it out? An easy, online application is available through the IATSE Training Trust Fund.

An organization called simply Mindful offers a list of five simple mindfulness practices for your everyday life, all of which can continue to be helpful even after this particular crisis is over. PsychCentral has some simple 1-minute mindfulness exercises as well, many of which I’ve been using for quite a while without knowing they were actually a thing. Any or all of the things you’ll find at any of these sources (and this is just a sample, there are plenty more online) can help you get through tough times, and with such a wide variety of options there is something for everyone.

Colouring!

Recently there has been an incredible upsurge in adult colouring books and printable sheets as people realize the simple joy of creating something pretty can ease incredible amounts of stress. Whether you choose complicated designs or prefer a children’s colouring book, there is something about taking a black and white outline and making it uniquely yours that is soothing. Plus, you then have something pretty you could hang up if you want! There are of course hundreds of colouring books you can buy, but several websites are offering free printable sheets as well if you just want to get your feet wet without spending a lot of money.

For example, Crayola has several different types of printable pages, all free, ranging from simple to difficult. A website called fittingly enough Just Color has 1500+ different designs you can print for free and colour as you wish. And one a friend just showed me the other day is World Wildlife Fund, which doesn’t have a lot of sheets, but the ones they do have are beautiful. Again, this is just a representative sample… there are hundreds of sites offering free printable colouring sheets.

I won’t link to any because I try to keep family-friendly, but there are also a large number of “sweary” colouring books for adults. I just bought one that is a snarky, cursing holiday theme. There are many others, some of them better than others.

Tips for reducing anxiety and stress

All of the above things are excellent ways to reduce your stress, depression, and anxiety. But I want to recap and add a few more, just to show there are almost endless options. The best part about that is you should be able to easily find something that works for you. Not everyone is the same, not everyone suffers the same, and not everyone can find relief the same.

Going back to PsychCentral, they have assembled a quick list entitled 9 Ways to Reduce Anxiety Right Here, Right Now. They may work for you, they may not. Personally, I find the very first one the most helpful: Take a deep breath. It forces you to stop for a second, which often interrupts the flow of panic. It’s also a lovely way to relax enough to fall asleep. If you’re an Android user, there is an app called Sleeping Pill I’ve found to be very helpful at night.

Psychology Today has put together a list of 21 tips they claim can “Change Your Anxiety Forever”. I don’t know about forever, but immediate relief certainly isn’t all bad. And if it does last forever, great! You’ll find some of the same things here that are in the PsychCentral article, but several more as well.

I’m going to add one of my own, that I’ve been doing for about six years now. At the end of every day, I find three positive things that happened that day. I call them “Today’s Positives”, and I post them on Facebook as a way of keeping myself accountable for doing it. When I first started it was like pulling teeth, and I more than once fell back on, “I have a home, I have clothes, and I have food.” But as time goes by, you retrain your brain to look for the good instead of the bad. There are some days I write entirely too many things. There are still days when I’m having a hard time that I keep it to the bare minimum. But it’s a thing recommended by therapists and other medical professionals, and it really does work.

In conclusion

With any luck at all, you’ve been able to find something in this post that can help you. Additionally, don’t forget about the resources and partnerships the IATSE has made available to you, such as the peer-to-peer chat app Be Scene – Be Heard and the Entertainment Industry Therapist Finder. Also of use is the Self-Assessment Tool put together by Behind the Scenes as a way to help you figure out with what aspect of your mental health you most need help. I would be remiss if I did not also mention IATSE C.A.R.E.S., specifically created to “provide support to our most at-risk, elderly, and/or disabled members during the COVID-19 crisis”.

I’m also going to include some toll-free phone numbers here.

  • The Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
  • National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1- 800-799-7233.
  • Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)
  • Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228
  • Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741
  • National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255
  • GLBT Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
  • The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678 (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)
  • Mental Health America Hotline: Text MHA to 741741
  • The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: (800) 422-4453
  • Rape, Sexual Assault, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN): (800) 656-HOPE

We are all in this together, but we are all at different places mentally, financially, and physically. Please don’t feel you are alone, and please don’t feel you just need to “tough it out”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… THERE IS NO SHAME IN NEEDING HELP. Reach out. There is help available, a lot of it for free. Don’t try to go it alone; there’s no need. Self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity. I’d like to see all of you when we are finally back to work!

Now, what do we say?

Be safe. Be well. STAY HOME. And as always… WASH YOUR HANDS!

BTS Launches New Peer-to-Peer Chat App “Be Scene – Be Heard”

This one is not written by me at all… I received an email and am simply copying and pasting the information here. Please make sure you take care of your mental health in addition to social distancing and avoiding unnecessary trips out of the house!

As always… Be safe. Be well. STAY HOME! And always remember to wash your hands.

As part of our goal to help you look after your mental health and well being we are pleased to announce Be Scene – Be Heard, a 24/7/365 anonymous, peer-to-peer chat app for those who work behind the scenes.

It’s often hard to talk with family and friends about how you’re feeling and what may be troubling you, but you might not feel quite ready to see a mental health professional. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to people who don’t know you, but who can relate because they’re in this industry too. They get the crazy hours, the pressures of getting the show on every night or the right shot on set, and the void felt when the gig is over.

That’s why we’ve partnered with iRel8 to launch Be Scene – Be Heard. A platform to interact with your peers, talk about what’s on your mind, find comfort and knowledge from one another, and, perhaps, offer insight to someone who is going through something you already have. Chats are instantly translatable into 54 languages. Wherever you are, Whenever you need it, for Whatever is on your mind.

Signing up for the Be Scene – Be Heard App is easy! All you need is a real email address to get started, regardless of whether or not it identifies you. To show appreciation for helping steer our efforts by participating in the survey, we’re pleased to offer you a special promotion. The first 300 people that sign up will receive free access through July 2020, after which the cost is just $0.99 a month – a less than $12 a year investment in your mental wellness. Sign up today at  https://irel8.org/behind-the-scenes-irel8-special-offer.

To start you will find a “room” for general conversation and one for industry resources. As participation grows, sub-groups will be formed for more focused discussion on topics such as depression, sobriety, women in the industry, LGBTQ+, etc. Participants will be able to create their own groups as they see fit (i.e. wardrobe, riggers, gaffers, etc.) and conduct one-on-one chats within the app, giving you the ability to create and tailor your own safe spaces.

While Be Scene – Be Heard is a great way to find and lend peer to peer support, it not a crisis hot line. If you or someone you care about is in danger of harming yourself or someone else you should call 911 or reach out to one of the 24/7/365 resources at btshelp.org/resources.

So many of you expressed a desire to assist with the mental health initiative, we need your help here to create a true online community for our industry to turn to, ask for, or provide assistance, insight, comfort, and support. Please join us today and Be Scene – Be Heard!

Sign up today at  https://irel8.org/behind-the-scenes-irel8-special-offer.

The Behind the Scenes Mental Health Steering Committee

Homeschooling Can be Fun… Honest!

Obviously many of you did not choose homeschooling, and now here you are. Yes, a great number of schools are holding class via Zoom or other software, and of course schools sent work home with the kids that they’re supposed to do while they’re home. I can’t help you figure out New Math, and I certainly can’t tell you to ignore the requirements you’ve been given for your child.

What I can do, however, is show you ways to think outside the box so you can not only teach your kids valuable things, but also get things done around your house. Everybody wins!

Take cooking, for example. Cooking is math, and it’s also reading comprehension. There are fractions all over the place in cooking! Depending on the age of your kids, you could have them choose a recipe and make it (with supervision). Another fun one is to have your kids think of something they love to eat, and then write a recipe how to make it. If you’ve got more than one kid, have them exchange recipes and try to make food following them as written. Explain to them how fractions work, and convert cups to ounces, etc. Not only did you teach them something, you also get a meal out of it!

Laundry. Since I do a great deal of laundry for shows, I pretty frequently hear, “it’s just laundry, how hard can it be?” I admit, it’s not hard. You just have to follow the rules and you’ll be fine. Now is a lovely time to have your kids start doing their own laundry! Have them read the tags, separate items appropriately, and wash and dry them how they’re supposed to. If your kids are old enough, teach them to iron! These are valuable life skills, and an astonishing number of people don’t know how to do them.

Cleaning! Cleaning can be science. Explain what different cleaning chemicals do, which ones can be mixed, which ones should never be mixed, and how much to use for any given project. Make sure they’re aware of those that should only be used in a well-ventilated area and those that require protective clothing, and why. Look up how much bacteria can live on various surfaces and how long it can live if left alone. Also, while I’m sure you have, make sure they know the proper way to wash their hands and for how long.

Washing dishes. Many of you I’m sure have a dishwasher, and that’s fine. But you can teach them how to scrape and rinse. How to sort. How to be safe when handling sharp knives. How to load a dishwasher properly. They can also dry and put away dishes, which will help when you have them start cooking more.

Yard work? Why not? I’m having to stretch a little here, but… Any leaves left in your yard will have started to break down by now, and new leaves should be budding. Circle of life! If you’re going to garden, have them help choose what plants, where to put them, which ones work well next to one another (and which ones do not), and ways to protect them from pests. You don’t have to have a yard for a garden, just an outdoor space where you can put some pots. Watching something go from a seed to something on their dinner plate is a good way to teach your kids to appreciate the work that goes into feeding everyone, and it’s also more likely they’ll eat healthier if they grow it themselves. Additionally, being tasked with taking care of a garden teaches them responsibility.

If you’ve got a yard, or can get to an outdoor space, learn about the various plants, flowers, and trees. Plan a daily walk around your neighbourhood, and maybe change up which ways you go so you see different things. Find a safe place to watch any construction going on and see how that works.

Play games! It’s not all drudgery. Many kids’ games are already geared toward teaching them in a fun way so they don’t even notice they’re learning. Anything with dice and pieces to move teaches numbers and counting. There are numerous memory games to keep their brains active. Some games help with spelling, others with math, and all of them with teaching patience, waiting your turn, and following rules.

Read to them. I assume as good parents you already are, but reading to your children is a great way to spark their imaginations. It’s also what I’ve always called travelling in my mind, as books take you places you can’t go right now. If your kids are older, have them read books themselves and then discuss with them what they’ve read. It’ll get your kids talking to you, and you’ll get some insight into how their brains work, both from the books they choose and how they interpret them.

You know your kids best, and now is your opportunity to let them learn how they want to. If your child loves to draw, let them draw! If they play a musical instrument, have them practice daily. You can have them put on shows, or write their own stories, or create their own games. Whatever your child loves to do, encourage them. School at home does not have to follow the strict guidelines of school at school.

The world will not end if your child is bored. They may think so, and they may make you feel like it with their whining, but it’s really not so bad. Some of my most creative projects have come when I’m bored, because all I have to think about is something to do. When I was little I used to spend hours sorting the buttons in my grandma’s button can. I’d sort beads, coins, anything like that. If they’re bored, DON’T let them watch TV or pick up a video game. They’ll figure something out.*

*I do not know your children. If yours are the type to invent new ways to blow something up or otherwise wreak havoc on your house, maybe letting them get too bored is a bad idea. I can only make general suggestions.

Have them keep a journal. I’ve seen this recommended for all of us. It seems counter-intuitive at a time when we’re “not doing anything”, but it’s a good time to write about your life, your hopes and dreams, how you’re handling what’s going on. Keep track of what you do every day, the feelings you have, fears, triumphs, and anything else you want. Not only is writing good practice for developing language, spelling, and grammar skills, but it’s a good way to take things that seem overwhelming and put them in a form where they can be dealt with. Share your journals and talk about the things in them. Your kids may surprise you.

Related to a journal, this is a thing I’ve been doing for years, and it helps my mental well-being. At the end of every day, find three positive things that happened, and write them down. They don’t have to be huge, earthshattering things, just good things that happened that day. Have everyone in the family make their list just before bedtime, and then share with each other. Not only will you all have to think of good things instead of dwelling on bad, but you’ll see what your family members find positive as well. And then you can work on doing more of those things, if it’s possible.

This is a big one. Don’t try to make your kid do school at home for the same number of hours they do school at school. Set a timer when you start a lesson. When it goes off, take a break. Do some jumping jacks. Take a walk. Have a snack. Do any kind of exercise. Play Simon Says. Have them walk the dog. Anything to keep it interesting and to break up the monotony for them. They’ll come back more able to concentrate on the next lesson.

Remember, anything can teach you something. Challenge your kids, and challenge yourself. Read books a bit above their normal level. Do puzzles that are a little harder than usual. Come up with a photography challenge. Create your own word searches or scavenger hunts. While you’re on your daily walk, see how many things you can find that start with a certain letter. The possibilities are endless, and not all of them are found in a textbook.

Having said that… Please also make sure your kids do work as assigned by their teachers and schools. Creating your own curriculum is great, but they’ll still need to be in the same place as their peers when they do finally go back to school. Just make it fun. Your kids will appreciate it.

Now, what do we say?

Be safe. Be well. STAY HOME. And as always… WASH YOUR HANDS!

Explore the World from your Couch

Here we all are, stuck in our homes. Sure, there’s cleaning to be done, purging of closets can happen, and of course there’s always laundry. But sometimes you need to take a break, and being the creative types we are sometimes we’d rather do something interesting (or even educational) instead of binge-watching yet another season of whatever show. Of course most (if not all) museums, aquariums, zoos, and theme parks are closed, but a great number of them are offering free virtual tours and live streams, from all around the world.

Pro tip: If you’re trying to come up with ways to educate and entertain your children, most of the things in this post count.

There are a LOT more museums offering virtual tours than what I’m listing here. I just wanted to give you an example of what’s out there.

The Louvre; a place most of us will probably not get a chance to go in person, but is world famous for a reason.

The Guggenheim; even if you’ve been there and/or plan to go, it’s worth seeing again.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History; one of my favourite places since the first time I went as a child.

The Vatican Museum; religious or not, Catholic or not, there is some incredible artwork to be seen.

Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology; a fantastic exploration of our neighbour to the south.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art; another place you can visit repeatedly and still find something new.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); while perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, what you’ll find is always interesting.

Many of the above links have additional links to similar tours or other tours of the same facility. I encourage you to check them all out!

Aquariums! If you’re one of those people who turn into a child when you see aquariums, then by all means explore every single one of these and also anywhere else they may send you. Some have dedicated webcams on certain tanks, so you can choose your favourite sea creature to watch. I could spend hours with stingrays!

Monterey Bay Aquarium; hands down my number one aquarium in the country, with live cams on a number of different tanks.

The Shedd Aquarium; my second choice, and a place I’ve been numerous times but am always willing to return. They have a YouTube series I love, and if you haven’t seen their video of penguins visiting other animals during the shutdown, you must!

The Georgia Aquarium; I haven’t yet made it here, but I hear good things from friends who have.

The National Aquarium; I was fortunate enough to tour this one shortly after it opened. It was my first aquarium visit, so it holds a special place in my heart.

Zoos! What a lovely way to see animals in person you would otherwise never get a chance to be near. Of course, these webcams and virtual tours will not put you there in person, but they will let you see a lot of neat stuff.

The Houston Zoo; pretty much every website I sought to find virtual zoo tours had the Houston Zoo listed first, and with good reason. It’s pretty neat!

The San Diego Zoo; if Houston wasn’t listed first, then San Diego was. Pick your favourite animal and off you go!

Zoo BRNO; with dozens of animals to choose from, you won’t be bored with this Czech Republic zoo.

The Virginia Zoo doesn’t just offer virtual tours and webcams. They’ve got all sorts of activities, a YouTube channel, and a blog where you can learn a bunch of interesting things.

The Cape May Zoo; is offering virtual zoo school! You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it; the whole family can learn together.

You can’t go very far on the internet without running into some sort of nature webcam or another. I just picked some of the ones I found neat to highlight.

Northern Lights; do I really need to explain why you’d want to watch this?

Galapagos Islands; a place I’ve been fascinated with since childhood, and even more so since my nephew went there on a high school trip.

While there are a number US National Parks with webcams, I’m particularly fond of Katmai National Park in Alaska.

Since we’re on National Parks, I would be remiss not to include Yellowstone.

The Great Barrier Reef is another one I could lose several hours watching.

When I was very small, my grandparents went to the Great Wall of China, and I didn’t understand how amazing a structure it is, especially considering its age.

The Gardens of Versailles have been gorgeous since the mid-1600s. Not only are they beautiful, but they are steeped in history.

For our final section, I’m going to focus on cities, theme parks, and other interesting places. I’m particularly excited about the last two, and have “toured” them more than once already.

Walt Disney World has several different tours, along with some virtual rides.

LegoLand Florida is offering a virtual tour of their hotel while they’re closed, and now I really want to stay there.

Seaworld Orlando has jumped on the bandwagon as well, offering a virtual tour of their entire park.

WorldCams has live webcams from numerous cities around the world. Some of them are eerily disturbing (the Las Vegas Strip leaps to mind) due to quarantines and stay at home orders, but it’s still neat to take a little vacation in your mind.

And now we come to my two favourites, both on my short list of vacation destinations…

The Winchester Mystery House is fascinating purely for its architecture, but throw in ghosts and I’m there.

The Catacombs of Paris can’t help but be haunted, right? Also timely, considering they were created due to a major health crisis.

If you can’t find something in this post to catch your interest, I’m not sure what to tell you. I’ve whiled away probably more hours than I should virtually visiting places I’ll probably never see in person, and it’s been fabulous!

Be safe. Be well. STAY HOME. And as always… WASH YOUR HANDS!

Cleaning and Disinfecting for COVID-19

By now we all know that to keep ourselves safe the best thing we can do is wash our hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap. What about everything else, though? Since we’re all going to be home for a while, we might as well all learn how to clean and disinfect properly for COVID-19. While no one knows everything there is to know about Coronavirus, current evidence suggests it can live on some surfaces for hours or even up to days. For example: aerosols up to three hours; copper up to four hours; cardboard up to 24 hours; plastic and stainless steel up to two or three days.

These recommendations come from the CDC, so they’re infinitely more reliable than your cousin’s girlfriend’s brother’s best friend’s forward of an email he got from his stepmother’s sister-in-law, or anything you see on Facebook.

First, make sure you’re wearing gloves that are designed to protect your hands from germs. Ideally these would be disposable, but if you need to use reusable gloves make sure you have a dedicated pair ONLY for COVID-19 cleaning purposes. Clean your hands immediately after you remove your gloves! Remember the warm water + at least 20-second rule.

If the surface you need to disinfect is also dirty, wash it with warm soapy water first. Any dirt on a surface will interfere with disinfecting.

As to what you should use to disinfect, there are options (assuming you have things already or the hoarders have not decimated the supply). Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, most common EPA-registered household disinfectants, and diluted bleach solutions are best. For a bleach solution, the proper ratio is either 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. DO NOT MIX BLEACH WITH ANY OTHER HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS. More is not better. In this case, more can kill you. Also, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area when using a bleach solution (and if it is recommended on any commercial disinfectant you are using).

Obviously those are not practical for clothing or other soft, porous surfaces, especially those that could be harmed by bleach. For carpet, drapes, rugs, etc. wear gloves, remove any visible contamination, and then follow with the appropriate cleaners for the item. If possible, launder items in the warmest water possible and let dry completely. If laundering is not an option, you should use products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims on them.

For clothing, linens, etc. that you would normally launder, again wear gloves! Do not shake your dirty laundry, as that could cause the virus to spread. Launder items according to their instructions, in the warmest water possible, then dry completely. After you remove the dirty laundry from hampers, baskets, etc., they need to be disinfected as well. If possible, line any containers used for dirty laundry with either a washable liner or a disposable one to help keep the virus contained. And of course, when you’re done touching laundry, wash your hands!

Here’s a thing I didn’t know… Obviously you’re supposed to wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds, and if that is not available then use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. But here’s the catch: If your hands are dirty, you MUST wash them with warm soapy water. It makes sense! If a dirty surface cannot be disinfected, then neither can dirty hands.

If you have someone in your home who is sick, make sure you have as little contact as possible with them. Let them eat separately and use either disposable dishes/flatware or handle non-disposable plates and flatware with gloved hands only. Make sure any dishes/utensils used by a sick person are washed immediately in hot soapy water or a dishwasher. Their trash should also have a dedicated container of its own, ideally lined with a disposable bag. Wear gloves when dealing with their trash in any way and consider contacting your local health department for guidelines on trash disposal. If someone in your house has tested positive for COVID-19, it is safe to wash their clothes with those of other household members using the above guidelines. Wash your hands after you remove your gloves!

Whether someone is sick or not, you should clean frequently touched surfaces as frequently as you touch them. Doorknobs, light switches, microwave keypads, toilets, sinks, faucets, drawer handles, computer keyboards, smartphones, TV remotes… anything you and/or your family touches frequently should be wiped down with warm soapy water or cleaned with a bleach wipe (or diluted bleach solution) on a regular basis.

Current knowledge is that COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, especially when those land on another person. Your first, best line of defense is to wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and keep at least six feet away from other people. But disinfecting your surfaces can’t be a bad idea, especially if someone in your house is sick or you’ve been exposed to someone who is sick.

Be safe. Be well. And as always… WASH YOUR HANDS!