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.
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A VERY SPECIAL KIND OF DIFFERENT
WHY THE KIDS?

 

This is a question I hear all the time, “Why are you so passionate about Juvenile Arthritis Kids?” And the reason people ask is valid, first because I don’t have a child with juvenile arthritis, and second I did not have juvenile arthritis as a child. So some might think I can’t relate, but those are only people who don’t know me very well.

I understand kids and teens that don’t fit in. I spent most of my childhood in foster homes. Foster homes are places where people take in children for money to pay their bills. At least my foster homes were like that. I was different from the other kids at school. It is not good to be different as a child. Kids want to fit in. When I see the misunderstanding and bullying that goes on for JA Kids it takes me back to my childhood. Kids and parents didn’t understand why I didn’t have a mom to pick me up, why I was quiet and shy. When I see JA kids I relate. It might be cool to be different as an adult, but as a child, you want to belong. You never want to be different.

And I understand arthritis. Not the kind that most people get as they get older, but the autoimmune kind that takes over your body whether you are two years old, sixteen years old or thirty years old. The kind that makes it hard to do things, hard to participate and hard to be normal. I have been through all of the stages; swelling, pain, weight gain, joints that can’t support you or work as they are supposed to, making simple tasks like writing, pouring milk, combing your hair or buttoning up your shirt difficult.  Normal things like walking, playing sports, picking up a little younger sibling, even picking up a glass of milk difficult and painful.

And I understand the reason people don’t understand this mis-understood disease. They hear the word arthritis and they think “old”. “Kids don’t get arthritis.” “Your kid is just lazy.” “Your kid is slow.” “Your child is just making excuses.” These are all common statements when children and teens have juvenile arthritis. These hurt, really hurt anyone, but imagine the little ones, the pre-teens, the teens that only want to be normal. Only want to be like the others their age.

And I understand the doctors, the hospitals, the treatments, the medicines and all the tests, way too many tests. JA is a disease that manifests differently in most everyone and each patient needs a doctor that is trained in rheumatology, but there is a serious shortage of pediatric rheumatologists in our country, serious. It’s imperative to find the right treatments and medicines for each patient. It can take weeks, months or in most cases years to find something to halt the disease, or at least make it bearable.

And I understand why most kids don’t want to talk about their JA.  I hid my RA for 20 years so that I could continue my career in television and be considered normal.  As the media will tell you, “arthritis” is not a “sexy” disease. It’s considered an old person’s disease and television needs to gear to the young. Ratings are all that matter in TV .

When I finally decided I needed to share the importance of hope in adult RA, I found out that kids, babies, toddlers, and teenagers had the same disease. I was shocked because I too never thought kids got arthritis. And when I started meeting these kids and their families through work with the Arthritis Foundation they broke my heart. I knew how difficult my 20 year journey had been, but for kids? How could they cope, how could they play soccer? How could they dance as teenagers? How could they take the same toxic medicines that I had been on?

And as I meet more and more JA kids I understood. They don’t always have normal childhoods; their childhoods are  compromised. Their teenage years are compromised. As one teen told me when I asked her how she was doing, “Well, at least I can go to school this year. Last year I couldn’t.”

And most of all I undrstand how important HOPE is to the families and the kids. I know because my doctor never once gave up on me, never once lost hope that we would find the right meds. I can’t say the same for myself going through the journey.

But my doctor was right. One day, 20 years into RA, he found the medication that put me in medical remission. Hope became a reality. I knew I had to spread that news, never give up, and never give in—Well, some days you just have to-but never think that your entire life is ruined. I had to spread the word that research is turning out newer and better meds and treatments. That one of my doctor contacts at the Mayo Clinic said “there will be a cure within my lifetime.” And I ask him every year if he is still positive there will be that cure and every year he says, “YES.”

So I do understand. I really understand. I understand it is not fair. It is not the way childhoods should be. It’s OK to feel sorry for ourselves but then we must pick ourselves up and believe in HOPE. We must stay positive and keep trying. We must work to be as normal as possible.

And you might be saying, how do you know positivity and hope are the answers? I know firsthand from my own experience and I also know from what I have read on my Facebook page Christine’s Superhero Juvenile Arthritis Kids.

I know that JA kids and teens are true Superheroes. They share their stories to help others. They fight for their childhoods. They fight to be normal. If there is anything good that comes from this disease, it is the ability to use it to make ourselves stronger. Sometimes we can’t be stronger in our body, but we can be stronger in our mind. Sometimes adversity can be our key to strength.

And this I know for sure, Juvenile Arthritis kids and teens are special.

They are survivors.

Their families are survivors.

They are a special kind of different.

Link to Christine’s Juvenile Arthritis Kids Facebook Page

http://ow.ly/8HUWf

 

TAKE ME HOME FROM THE OSCARS

Arthritis, Television, Fashion and Me

BY CHRISTINE SCHWAB

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM

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

Centered

 

 

I don’t know about you but I work everyday to be centered. Yes, every single day. If you read my latest book, Take Me Home From The Oscars you know my family calls me “sparkle plenty.” It’s supposed to be a compliment but actually it’s more of a witticism because I work so hard to be positive. It’s the goal I set everyday, not necessarily to “sparkle” but to be optimistic.

I’m not sure if I believe there are those who are born positive and those who aren’t. I think it’s more of a life choice. I have been accused of only looking on the “good” side of things, the “happy” side of life. And in reality it’s only partially true. My son calls me a “cheerleader” and sometimes even says, “Mom, please don’t cheerlead me.” I understand where he’s coming from. I cheerlead to try to keep him centered and yet I know that nobody can keep someone else centered. We have to do it for ourselves.

My question is why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to keep positive? Why look on the dark side? Why say the glass is half empty when it’s also half full? Those are all choices we deal with and yet not everyone choses to be centered.

So I ask myself why? Why wouldn’t you want to be happier rather than sad? And I can predict many of the answers.

“Life is hard, I can’t find happiness.”

“I have a chronic illness, how can I be happy?”

“Nothing goes my way.”

“Sure, you’ve had all the breaks. I have only run into walls.”

“What do I have to be happy about?”

And to me there lies the problem.. It’s how you deal with adversity. It’s how you deal with the day to day in life.

At one point I was having a very difficult time at work. My boss seemed to be out to make my life miserable and he was succeeding. I would fret and worry about everything he said. I took it all personal until my husband said to me, “Christine, do you think all your boss does all day is sit around and think, how can I make Christine’s life miserable? He doesn’t care. It’s not about you, it’s about him. He is miserable. Don’t take it personally.”

And it made sense. I had to change. My boss wouldn’t change. This simple explanation helped me get back to center.

So let me set the record straight. I am not “sparkle plenty”, I am not a “cheerleader,” I am not a totally positive person by nature. I am normal. I have good days, mediocre days and down days. I get set off by something someone says just like you do. I wake up with my RA flaring and think, how am I going to get through this day?

But that’s when I stop and tell myself only I can make my day better. Only I can live my life in a centered way. My friends and family can’t do this for me. I have to take responsibility for myself and decide that I am going to look on the bright side off things rather than the dark. I am going to work hard everyday to be positive. I am going to be concerned about helping others rather than dwelling on what isn’t going right in my world. And for me it works. I move back to center.

I cry when I hear the stories and see the photos of Christine’s Kids. They break my heart. But their spirit then fills me up again and makes me work to bring more attention to them. Not to me, but to them. To take their innocent voices and keep them in my head. To hold on to their smiles when you know they are in pain. By focusing on others we don’t have as much time to dwell on ourselves.

I do believe life is not easy. It’s a roller coaster ride. You go up and you go down. Things are great and then they’re not. We can’t control the roller coaster, but we can control the way we choose to take the ride.

And once that choice is made, we have to work to keep it in place.

I’m not saying you can immediately turn a bad day around, sometimes you need to just give in and say today I am sad, but tomorrow I will be better. I call it a pity-party day. We all need them at times. Just don’t let them accumulate. Find something positive, your child, your spouse, your friend, your dog or cat, your garden, your gym, your computer, something, anything to get yourself back to center.

The dictionary defines centered as middle, core, hub, halfway point. I call it living the better life. And anything worth having is something you have to work for.

I choose to work for centered. The other options are just not any fun.

Christine Defines Boldness

 

Exactly what is boldness?  I decided to look up the definition in Webster’s dictionary.

“The ability to take risks, confidant, courageous.”

Intoxicating words. Now I had to ask myself just how do they pertain to me for this story’s purpose? I had never thought of myself as a bold person. I was a bashful, quiet child. I remember my knees knocking when I had to do my first oral book report in front of a third grade classroom. As a teenager I was more the shy, studious type, although I yearned to be the outgoing party girl. As a young bride and mother, I followed in my mother’s footsteps, “don’t make waves.” And I didn’t until my frustration at keeping quiet got the best of me and I decided I had a voice that I needed to use. I was not the muffled girl my husband had married. Was I getting bold without realizing it? It never crossed my mind.

Divorced and working in television as an on camera talent was about as far from my personality as I could imagine. It all came to me happenstance. I never set out to work in television. I started in a nice up-scale salon doing make-up part time when my son was an infant. I liked it so much that I went on to UCLA Fashion School of Design to learn how to package the entire person. Head to toe fashion. I was still shy, but when I talked about style, my confidence grew, my career took off. Bold? I didn’t think so. Just doing what I loved.

Now I ask myself, was there a bold person hidden inside the shy façade all along and I just didn’t realize it? Could be. Now I understand that we all have a bold person inside of us. Some never find their boldness, others, like myself find it out of necessity.

My necessity was survival. I was a single parent, trying to make it in the television world. My knees still knocked at the beginning. As I heard the stage manager’s call out, “5,4,3,2 and….” My heart fluttered in my chest. My nerves at an all time high. And then the camera’s red light came on and the hosts started talking to me and I forgot about everything except the world of fashion I was reporting on. I was no longer aware of the lights, the microphones or the cameras moving about. I was talking about something I knew. I was an expert. People were listening and responding. Was I bold? I never thought about it, I just talked, and talked and talked.

Twenty years later I had talked my way to be one of the top fashion reporters on TV. I had authored three books. Worked on everything from ABC News to OprahEntertainment TonightThe Today Show,Live with Regis and NBC Nightly News. I didn’t have time to think about being confident, courageous or bold. I just worked. I never thought it took courage to pick up a phone and call a television show and pitch my ideas. I never thought it was risky to go with my literary agent to meetings to pitch book concepts. I just did it because I wanted to succeed.

If I would have known that I needed to be bold, courageous and confident I might never have succeeded. Inside I was still that withdrawn girl.

What I have learned is that we all have a bold piece. We all have confidence and courageousness inside of us, it’s just a matter of bringing them to the surface. If you’re like me you might need to do it sublimely, without thinking about what’s necessary to succeed. If boldness is something you recognize in yourself, lucky, lucky you.

Today, what I am sure about it that we all have the ability to succeed. It can be to succeed as a professional, or as a wife and mother. It can be at any level on the success monitor. Success is what’s important to you. It’s achieving what you want from life. For some of us it’s reaching for the moon, for others it’s staying in your own backyard. Boldness is inside us. It’s up to us to choose how to manifest it into our dreams or reality.

As a long time fashionista I think of boldness as that one perfect accessory. It isn’t mandatory to your outfit, but used properly, it makes your outfit spectacular.

THE PATHWAYS OF LIFE

 

I guess it was because I was so silent for so long.

Twenty years with only my doctor and immediate family knowing about my battle with RA.

When people hear I kept silent they are shocked.

“Why couldn’t you let people know?” is their first question.

“Didn’t your symptoms give you away?” is always the second.

And if you’ve read my latest book, Take Me Home From The Oscars: Arthritis, Television, Fashion and Me you already understand. It wasn’t hard to keep silent, in fact it was easier for me. Silence had always been my safety blanket during my childhood. If I didn’t tell the kids at school that I lived in foster homes most of the time, seeing my mom only a few days a month, they would think I was normal. I only wanted to be normal and fit in. Silence made that possible just like silence made it possible for me to keep my career in television as a fashion and lifestyle reporter. My perception of arthritis at the time I was diagnosed was from watching Arthritis Telethons years ago on TV where everyone was old and crippled.

Many coveted my career. Some blatantly tried to take it away from me. I couldn’t give them the ammunition that would help them. I had finally made it and it felt good to be accepted and appreciated, things one never feels in foster care. I finally felt normal.

And because I was in fashion I knew how to cover up my RA symptoms. Feet hurting? Sneakers became my trademark. I convinced millions on television that they were the latest trend before that was actually a fact. Kathie Lee even commented on air one day about my high top khaki sneakers, “You have to be very confident to wear those sneakers, Christine.” And my years of thinking on my feet because of working with Regis Philbin kicked in as I replied, “Kathie, these are the hottest sneakers for spring. Everyone’s wearing them.”

I knew how to alter my make up, hairstyle and wardrobe in order to keep working through weight gains while taking high dosages of prednisone. It’s what I did for all my makeovers on TV so it was easy for me to do it for myself. A little more length in the hair, a little shading on my cheeks, a little more emphasis on the eyes did the trick.

And then 20 years zipped by and my secret was still intact.

So what made me come forward and take another pathway in life? Enbrel.

My doctor had been able to prevent visible physical damage with his constant adjusting of my meds until I ran out of meds that worked and went into the trial program for Enbrel. I couldn’t take any other medication other than the secret Enbrel dose I was getting, either the full dosage, half dosage or placebo. I wouldn’t know until the six-month trial was over.

When the trial ended I learned I was on the placebo. It taught me three things: one, the power of positivity, two, that a new pathway was opening up in my life and three, it was time to give back

I contacted the Arthritis Foundation and said I wanted to use my media experience to change the perception of arthritis. With the new biologics everyone wouldn’t end up in wheel chairs. And that was when I found out kids got arthritis, too, and young adults, and people like me. And then it hit me, if I didn’t know about the kids and young adults with arthritis others must not know either and that’s when Christine’s Kids Facebook page was created. I didn’t want these kids to feel alone and different like I did as a child. I wanted them to feel like they could conquer anything and everything, that they were Superheroes.

The JA stories overwhelmed me and broke my heart but the spirit of these kids amazed me. Their strength and determination inspired me. They fought adversity and I, as a child, had fought adversity. I understood not only their disease but also their fight for survival. Their fight to be normal.

And as much as I loved fashion, I loved the bond I felt with Juvenile Arthritis even more. I understood what they were going through physically and emotionally.

I had heard about second acts in life and now I am living one. It’s totally different than television, it’s real, it’s painful, and it’s inspiring. My first act in the fashion world came from my love of clothes and the belief that everyone can look their best if they just know the secrets. That we can look and become whoever we want to be with the right style. My second act, in JA advocacy, came from my past and the belief that no matter what, you can overcome adversity and use it as strength.

My latest goal?

Everyday to try to remind a child who believes that they can’t achieve their goals that they will find a way.