Crayons (a poem)

“Use the whole box of crayons,” he said.

So I spilled the box

and began to paint my life

Orange: cheerful days that glow

Green: for fragile things that grow

Silver: hard work, dollars earned

Blue: for love that’s not returned

Purple’s passion paves the road

Yellow’s laughter shares the load

Bright red flames for bridges burned

Blue is love that’s not returned.

Gray the silence lasts so long

White the empty, sterile song

Black the endings, lessons learned

Blue, the love that’s not returned.

Me, My Selfie, and I (aka: Artistic Narcissism)

Yesterday, my teenage son explained that kids at his high school measure a person’s popularity by how many followers they have on Instagram. I do not have an account on Instagram, but from what my kids tell me, it is basically a website where teenagers (mostly girls) post selfies of themselves in various poses and outfits, then beg for attention from their friends (“How do I look with this hairstyle? Don’t I look so cute in this outfit?).

Now, as selfie was deemed 2013 Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionary, I’m pretty sure that most people know exactly what a selfie is, even if you live in a cave, like me. However, though most of us can agree what a selfie actually is, there appears to be a lot of dispute about why our culture is currently so obsessed with taking selfies, or about whether doing so is a positive or negative thing.

My first thought about selfies? What a stupid waste of time! My second thought about selfies: How narcissistic! My third thought about selfies: I wonder if I should take a quick selfie to post on my blog post about selfies?


upside down selfie

Oooh, I wonder what I look like upside-down?

You see, I was all set to focus this article on Selfie-bashing. It is so easy to do. For starters, selfies appear to be a way for girls and women to seek attention, praise, and flattery for their appearance and sexuality, as opposed to their intelligence, accomplishments, and inner worth. (Don’t believe me? All it takes is a quick Google Image Search for Selfies to see a ton of disturbing examples of half-dressed young women trying to look sexy for the camera). Secondly, the idea that a young person’s self-esteem may be boosted or crushed by how many people give them positive feedback on their self-portraits is rather disturbing. (Please, guys…tell me that I don’t look too hideous with this haircut! I think it looks weird. Doesn’t it look weird? SOMEBODY TELL ME!!) Finally, there is something about seeing oneself from the perspective that others see us that can serve to heighten insecurities about one’s appearance. For example, I didn’t care at all about whether my curly hair looks unattractive, or whether my forehead was too shiny, or my chin too pointy, or my eyes uneven until just now, when I was studying my selfies. Oh no — is the rest of the world thinking these things when they see me, too? Aauuuggghhh!!!

But some people view selfies in a more positive light. Perhaps, like blogging, selfies are the average person’s way of “living out loud,” of making themselves feel visible in a large world. Selfies can be an expressive and empowering form of art, or a display of self-confidence — “I feel good about my appearance today and just wanted to share that with the world.” Additionally, Selfies, like blogs, can be a way to tell the world your story. Some people use them to chronicle their struggles fighting an illness, or to show the places they’ve been, or to pose with the people who are important in their lives.

Whether we choose to view The Selfie as the new evil of out times, or as a postive form of self-expression, or even as a neutral way to just be silly and have fun with our mobile phones, we cannot deny that they are a prevalent part of our culture. As a parent, the best that I can do is encourage my kids to respond to the trend in the most positive way they can. As far as being popular among their peers, well, I am lucky to have kids to whom popularity is of little importance. But even if it were, then I would give my children this advice: It is far better to be admired for the person that you genuinely are than to be admired for the person whom you present through the lens of your own camera.

Why Yes, There is a Point to Telenovelas

This week, my kids and I are home on vacation (hooray for the Presidents!). The children are busy playing video games, as the weather is too cold and foggy to go out. As for me? I have been curled up in bed, drinking tea, and doing what any normal American would do on such a day. Watching telenovelas.

(Okay fine, so maybe it is not such a normal American way to spend one’s time. But when have I ever been normal?)

Now for those of you who are all, “What the heck is a telenovela?” imagine a cross between a soap opera, a cheesy romance novel, and a radio melodrama. Really, most telenovelas are so awful, I can hardly make it through an entire episode without cringing. But every now and then, I come across one that captures my attention. Currently, I am twelve episodes into a program called Eva Luna, which has the typical telenovela romance storyline: a handsome, wealthy man and a kind, beautiful poor girl fall passionately in love and carry on a secret romance, even though discovery would result in disaster for both. Yes, the acting is often lousy, and the plot sometimes makes me groan, but still, I am glued to my seat.

Now before you mistake me for one of those stereotypical, shallow    soap-opera fans who only tunes in to drool over the hot male actors, I  should explain what drew me to telenovelas in the first place. Remember when I mentioned how one of my lifelong goals has been to speak Spanish fluently? Well, it is impossible to become fluent in a language that you never hear. A friend of mine once suggested that watching television programs in Spanish is a good way to pick up the language. And so I have tried watching everything from Plaza Sesamo to absurd game shows to partidos de fútbol en español. But somehow, it is the zany, drama-filled, hopelessly romantic world of telenovelas that draws me in. Maybe because telenovelas are filled with such vibrant, colorful characters and intense passion. Or maybe it is because telenovelas give us a chance to root for the underdog, or to believe in the impossible, or to hope that above all, love will prevail.

Or, I don’t know, maybe sometimes it is the hot male actors.

Side Note (and Rant): On the not-so-humorous side, I am intensely bothered by the emphasis on a European standard of beauty in many telenovelas. With so many beautiful people with brown skin, black hair, and brown eyes, why must the stars of these dramas constantly have pale skin and light-colored eyes and hair? Why are darker people cast only as villains or servants? It is so archaic and demeaning, and really, worthy of a blog post of its own. Coming soon…

What This Blog Will NOT Do

This blog is NOT going to:

Reveal my deepest, darkest secrets
Display amazing food porn or dazzling travel photos
Teach you how to make more money
Inspire you to greatness

But maybe this blog will:

Give you a glimpse into the lives of an American family
Show off a few pics of my three awesome kids
Teach you a new recipe (for food. Or disaster)
Inspire you to laugh or think, or at the very least, to post a comment.

Okay, yes, so blogs are narcissistic, everyone has a blog, blogs are a huge time suck, etc., etc. But still, here is my life, for your voyeuristic reading pleasure.