Christine Schwab is known as one of the most successful television personalities and authors in fashion, beauty and lifestyle. She has been a recurring guest on the most popular network television shows including: Oprah!, NBC Nightly News, CBS-The Early Show, The Today Show, Live with Regis and Kelly, Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, Rachel Ray, Inside Edition, CNBC News, Fox Network News, E! Entertainment and Weekend Today.

Three-time author, Schwab wrote Quickstyle (Random House), The Grown-up Girl’s Guide To Style (Harper Collins) and Take Me Home From The Oscars (Skyhorse). Other writing credits include contributing style editor to Redbook magazine, style columnist for Arthritis Today and featured stories in O, the Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Ladies Home Journal, Women’s World, The Chicago Tribune, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post Book Magazine, The Orange County Register, The Daily Breeze and The OC Magazine.

Christine is an Ambassador for the National Arthritis Foundation.
19
Aug
2014

Envious

 

If I had to describe one word that would sum up my feelings about social media this past week it would be “envy.”

OK, you find that strange, well, so do I, but still “envy” is the word and I don’t mean in the resentment, bitterness, and green-eyed monster sort of way. I mean it in the coveted, desired, aspire, and wish for kind of way.  I am not an envious person by nature. I have a wonderful full life. But even though I have all these good things in my corner, some new Facebook posts last week made me wish for one more thing.

I usually go on Facebook at least once a day.

That’s when I saw the post.

All over Facebook were posts about the Ice Bucket Challenges for ALS. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis affects the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons degenerate and die which makes it increasingly difficult to move muscles. This is one unforgiving disease. It is also misunderstood and gets little attention compared to some other diseases. Most of us know ALS as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Celebrities and Facebook friends were participating in these Ice Bucket Challenges to raise money and awareness for ALS. You dump a bucket of ice water over your head and record it on video and post it on your Facebook page. Then you challenge others to do the same within 24 hours. If they take the challenge they donate $25 to ALS, if they don’t take the challenge they donate $50 to ALS. What a great idea! What a worthy cause!  Either way money goes to a very important cause.

On August 17th the ALS Association announced that it has received $13.3 million in donations from over 250,000 people and the challenge continues to grow. Can you imagine the amount of research this money will fund? The help and hope it will open up for all of those who suffer?

President and CEO of the ALS Association said this past weekend: “Never before have we been in a better position to fuel our fight against this disease. Increased awareness and unprecedented financial support will enable us to think outside the box.”

These words are music to the ears of anyone who suffers from any serious chronic disease.

I loved seeing so many people who can make a difference, people who just want to give back and help others, celebrities and real people working together for a very important cause.

And yet, I was envious. Soon there were Facebook posts about why hasn’t someone thought of something like this for JA kids or RA families. Why didn’t I think of this? Why didn’t one of the many charities for arthritis think of this? Why didn’t you who are reading this think of it? But it’s never too late!

When I became an advocate for JA Kids almost two years ago I was very naive. I thought celebrities would gladly lend their name and their fame to helping create awareness for JA Kids. The photos and stories of these children are so heartbreaking who wouldn’t want to help them.

One of my close friends offered to put together a video for my Facebook page, Christine’s Kids.  He worked tirelessly to create a wonderful video. Sugarland gave me the rights to use one of their songs, Lynda Hayes gave me the rights to one of her songs. The results is six important minutes that tell the story of kids with Juvenile Arthritis who suffer on a daily basis and are misunderstood by the average person.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds1sVc85QtM

 Very few of my media contacts wanted to talk about JA Kids. My good friend Deborah Norville spoke up, did a PSA and let us use her name and photo to help the JA cause. Al Michaels and Wayne Gretsky sent messages of hope and photos to Christine’s Kids.

But Deborah’s TV Show, Inside Edition was not interested in a story about JA Kids. Dr. Drew was not interested in a story about JA Kids. The Talk was not interested, Dr. Nancy Snyderman on NBC was not interested, GMA wanted happy giggles, not tears and the list goes on.

The reasons? It’s not a “sexy disease,” “people don’t understand that kids get arthritis,” “it’s an old person’s disease, we need young audiences,” “our television viewers are interested in reality and sexy, controversial TV”

Many in the media just don’t think arthritis is really a serious disease. They don’t believe that these kids are bullied. They are not aware that there are only 200 Pediatric Rheumatologist in the US to treat 300,000 JA kids. They know their grandparents got it when they were old, but kids? It must just be growing pains. If you explain Rheumatoid Arthritis–and that is what Juvenile Arthritis is–is a disease of the autoimmune system, affecting almost every part of the body, attacking major organs, and is totally different and much more serious than regular old age arthritis, people look at you like you are talking a foreign language.

So when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge captured the imagination of the Social Media world I was glad for ALS, but I was also envious that Juvenile Arthritis wasn’t getting this same kind of attention.

Threads started on Facebook about doing something similar for JA. Something, anything to create more awareness and understanding and of course raise money for that much needed cure.

So in this instance envy is a good thing because it gets me thinking…what more can we do to let the world know about these special kids?

I guess just keep on trucking…keep asking. The media might think that JA is not be a big enough disease for television or not important enough for major print but to me and the 300,000 kids that live with it and their families who suffer watching them suffer, it’s a huge and very serious disease.

Every kid deserves a childhood. Juvenile Arthritis robs kids and teens of their childhoods. That in itself is enough reason to want to make a difference.

Congratulations to whoever thought of the ALS concept. Yes, I am envious (yet happy for you) at all this attention for an important and devastating disease. I can only imagine the hope this campaign brings to all of those who suffer. Much needed and deserved hope.

So in this case, envy is not a negative, but a motivator that translates to a constructive form of envy. It’s like adding supercharged gas to our advocacy engines.

Come on, JA/RA community, let’s start thinking of what we can do. Come on The National Arthritis Foundation and all of the many other arthritis organizations, let’s brainstorm together. Let’s turn envy into awareness for our kids!

Bill Gates Pulls The Cord!

And Bill Gates, Oprah and Justin Timberlake, you were all kids at one time, think about your childhood. Think about it being taken away from you with Juvenile Arthritis. Think about a life in pain with doctors, hospitals and medicines taking up times you should be outside playing. And think about being bullied and made fun of, reprimanded by teachers because you couldn’t keep up with other kids, play sports or go to school dances.

 

OPRAH TAKES THE CHALLENGE!

 

It’s hard enough to be a kid, but a kid with Juvenile Arthritis whose parents watch them suffer as they administer strong medications in hope of getting relief. And who live in constant fear of what the future holds for their children.

I challenge you all, celebrities, politicians, rheumatologists, arthritis organizations and social media friends to come up with a challenge for Juvenile Arthritis.  Let’s take away the mystery and misunderstanding and replace it with hope and awareness.

 

Justin Timberlake Brings along some friends for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

6
Aug
2014

Identity Crisis

 

It all started with this post by Kathie Lee on Facebook.


My mind kept spinning about why I kept my RA hidden for twenty years. I knew the obvious reason and wrote about it in my memoir Take Me Home From The Oscars. Basically I would have lost my career in television. As a fashion and style reporter who promoted looking and feeling your best, the roller coaster ride of RA was not compatible. And the most obvious reason? There were many talents standing in line for my wonderful jobs and if there was any hint about a chronic disease, let alone a disease that was identified with being old (because the public was so unaware that RA is an autoimmune disease, not an old person’s disease), I would have lost my work on Live With Regis, The Today Show, Entertainment Tonight, Oprah and even Fox Network News. Gone. There was not a doubt in my mind.

And so I lived with an identity crisis. Who was I? The patient at UCLA going through infusions of steroids, on and off various combinations of medicines waiting for something new to come through research or the TV style reporter who talked about the latest trends in clothes, gifts and appearance on national television talk shows? Of course I wanted to continue to be the television personality, but the reality was, I was both. And that juxtaposition of what I called being a lab rat at UCLA vs. a television personality was the basis for writing my memoir.  I wanted to help others understand the disease and the importance of never giving up and I also wanted to try to get out of my identity crisis mode.

And Kathie Lee, without knowing it was very instrumental in my survival. I worked with her for the 15 years she was at Live with Regis & Kathie Lee from 1985 to 2000 and I got to know her well. I saw the joy of her marriage, her blissful pregnancies and the growth of her little ones. I watched how philanthropic she was in helping others with her Cody’s House and Cassidy’s Place. Always a smile on her face. And then I watched her go through dealing with personal issues on national television, in front of a hungry press looking for stories. While I was living with the trials of RA, she was living with personal trials and the criticism that she was just “too perky.” I could see tears in her eyes some mornings before we went on air. I could feel tears in my eyes some mornings when my pain pills weren’t working and the countdown to my TV segment was in progress. And yet her smile made me smile. Her attitude influenced my attitude. She held her head up and I held mine up too. And I chose to become better and stronger watching her become better and stronger.

I never realized how her actions influenced my actions until it was all over. She left Live with Regis and did many things: some singing, some Broadway, some music and book writing, and then back on daytime TV with The Today Show. Our paths crossed less and less but now I see her on FB all the time, posting wonderful things like this quote and I realize that she turned trials into treasures and she taught me to as well.

When I read the stories of the JA kids I understand how they too are going through an identity crisis. Who are they? A six year old who wants to take ballet and can’t because of her joints? A twelve year old who was a great soccer player until JA robbed him of his ability? A kid who wants to walk through a theme park instead of riding in a stroller or wheelchair? A teenager who wants to fit in with her fashionable peers but she can’t walk in today’s stylish shoes?

Who are we? Who are the kids? Do RA and JA have to come before our name in every instance? And just how does one change trials into treasures?

My solutions? Know that we are better and stronger kids, teenagers and adults and even yes, television personalities. We are determined to see our trials as treasures because we know others need our support and we are not alone. Social Media has made it easy to reach out for advice, insight and friendship. We have the choice to surround ourselves with people who lift us up, not tear us down. We understand we also have the choice of not allowing a disease to define our identity. I know it’s hard some days, but we keep our chins up and move forward.

We want and need to prove that Kathie Lee is right about seeing our trials as treasures.

As if it was meant to be, this morning I was watching CBS’s Sunday Morning and during the Steve Hartman segment about an inspirational man dealing with MS, I heard this quote,

Remember there is only one thing better than a great day-making someone else’s.”

And I leave you with my thought of the day,

Spend more time during your day thinking of others instead of yourself.” 

 Christine Schwab

26
Jul
2014

Laughter

 

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OK, my last blog was about frustration. I get it, I really do, the roller coaster ride of life. The hide under the covers day vs. the day you can smile, and then laugh and if you’re lucky, belly laugh until it hurts.

So this past weekend was a belly laugh weekend and I have to tell you, it felt so good, so needed, so incredibly liberating. Yes, liberating, because tears and frustration take hold of you and take away the smiles and the laughs. But I got them back.

And it all started with good friends. We have these amazing two couples that live two hours away. They come spend a few days with us and we spend a few days with them every other month. One of the friends calls it “medicine” and it is. The reason? We just love to laugh and I mean really laugh. We laugh about silly things, about things from the past, the present and the future. We work at keeping our conversations positive. We don’t let health issues take over. We tell stories we have told before, we relive other times we have had together, we plan for the future, and most important we all become twelve years old.

The chemistry started on our first meeting and it has continued for sixteen years because it feels so good to be twelve every once in a while. It feels fabulous to laugh until your stomach hurts.

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So how do you get there? You think of all your friends, the ones who like to smile and laugh and the ones who like to complain and then complain some more. And everyone has things in their lives to complain about, but should you make it a focus? This is where writing comes in. Instead of complaining to friends and family, write it out. Do your own blog and rant, rave, complain until you run out of complaints and then file it in a folder named appropriately “COMPLAINTS” and whenever you want to add to it, do so, with the privacy of your computer or your pad of paper and a pen. Just get your frustrations out so you have room for some laughs.

Now that doesn’t mean you can’t reply to the question, “How are you?” with the truth, you can, but keep it short and simple.

“How are you?”

“Having a tough week, but this will pass.” And then instead of letting them ask the follow up question. “Why tough?” You keep talking with questions about them. Everyone loves to talk about themselves. And if your friend answers with complaints and negativity, you change the subject, you control the conversation by introducing something fun, maybe even funny.

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We can certainly gather funny things from the news these days to balance out all the tragedies. How? Watch the opening of Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon or David Letterman. I have to record it because I can’t stay awake that late. But laugh, you will get material to make your friends laugh right along with you.  Or read a funny book instead of a dark thriller.  Watch a tad of the gossip shows like ET, The Talk or TMZ. The craziness will give you silly, laughable material.

The trick is to forget about your issues for an hour, a day or a weekend and become twelve. Twelve year olds don’t stress, they play, they giggle, and they laugh. Even the incredible JA Kids I work with have terrible days and then  Voila!, they are laughing and smiling once again on their JA roller coaster ride.

It’s magical.

It’s medicine.

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“You’re not going to ruin my life. I can fight back with laughter!” Macintosh HD:Users:christine:Desktop:laughter.jpgMacintosh HD:Users:christine:Desktop:KidsLaughingWS523x260.jpg

“SOMETIMES I LOVE AND NEED TO BE TWELVE YEARS OLD ONCE AGAIN, AND SO SHOULD YOU.”   CHRISTINE SCHWAB 2014

19
Mar
2014

The Start of Something New…

 

I have started something new several times in my life, as most of us have. Always with some fear and trepidation. What if it doesn’t work? What if I am making a mistake? What if I fail?

Enough worry to keep me awake at night thinking should I have gone forward. And the answer was yes to each of these questions at some point in the process.

And yet, about three years ago I was trying to write my third fashion book and going nowhere. I realized it’s time to do something different.   When the words didn’t flow out of my computer and onto the screen as in my first two books, I knew another fashion book was not the answer.

And so I put it away and pulled up a new word doc.  A fresh, clean, empty piece of paper looking back at me from the computer screen. I started writing about my childhood. It was difficult. I spent many of my years under the age of 10 in foster homes.  But I had overcome my childhood and made a career for myself. As the words flowed from my fingertips I knew I must be onto something. But then the words stopped. So I tried a few more things; my mom and her twin sister, the identical twins that were very different in personality. Interesting. I filled one page. So where do I go from here? For me writing had been an experience of typing as fast as I could just to keep up with the words in my head. This was not the case this time. I was struggling, not the writer’s block that stalls you, but the missing passion that drives you as a writer. It just wasn’t there.

Try something different my writer friends told me, try something you haven’t talked about before.  That took some deep thinking and then all of a sudden it came to me, a memoir. I had the most dysfunctional childhood, a challenging time from my 20’s to my 30’s but then it all seemed to fall into place. My career skyrocketed, my personal life blossomed and then I became humbled at 40 with the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis and I dealt with it like I did my childhood, I kept it hidden. And two hundred and nine pages later I had my third book.

Take Me Home From The Oscars was published in 2011. My story from childhood to Hollywood. From Foster homes to attending the Oscars. From shy, quiet little girl to stand in front of the national TV cameras woman. And I thought I had written my story. It was in print. No more hiding. But that was only half of the story.

What do I do next? How many more times would I report on TV about a new trend in lipstick, a new style in shoes, a “must-have” color of the season? Especially when I just found out that there are 300,000 kids in the US dealing with the same disease I am living with. Kids who teachers don’t understand why they can’t run and play like everyone else. Kids that some doctors think are just lazy or slow to develop. Kids who are made fun of at school. Kids just like me that want to disappear when the teacher asks why they miss so much school.

I remember when they passed out PTA cards in my school. My mom had just remarried, I was no longer in foster homes, and I was adjusting to sharing my mom with my new step-dad. When they called my mother’s name for me to go up and get her PTA membership card I sat still in my seat. I looked around like everyone else to see who this Gerry Everett woman was. I was too embarrassed to raise my hand and claim the card because I was the only kid in the class whose mom had a different last name. And so my mom’s card was returned to the office and my secret was intact.

This is why I relate to JA Kids. Because Juvenile Arthritis is misunderstood. Because the word arthritis denotes someone old. Because instead of understanding them, these kids are being bullied.  And so the JA community is far quieter than the diabetes or autistic community. Celebrities don’t come forward to support JA. Even if they want to their agents or managers warn them against talking. I understand this. I relate to this. But I am determined to change this. I hid my mom having a different last name. I hid my foster home childhood. I hid my RA for a long time. I no longer hide.

And suddenly I knew, it was time to start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings.

And the magic came.

The magic for me is called Christine’s Kids on Facebook. Come visit us, watch our new video, and hopefully you will want to start something new.

It is pure magic.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christines-Kids/218905234862177

19
Mar
2014

OC Register

 

Christine featured in OC Register as an “Everyday Hero”.

OC Register Article