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Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Superhero Era: Just Movie-Making or Something Deeper?

[From my Sidelines writing again.  Enjoy!]

I remember walking to 7-Eleven every month as a girl to get my grape Now-or-Laters and my newest issue of X-Men.

I remember walking to 7-Eleven every month as a girl to get my grape Now-or-Laters and my newest issue of X-Men.

So here we are, about to jump into the pervading psyche of Superhero movie fans, ready to dive into history and thought processes and imagine we know whence they come, here in America at least! Ready? Maybe so, maybe not? Let’s make some educated guesses, then:

The original prompt my editor created that sparked this quick post (smile!) is: The Superhero Era and the pervasive influence of films starring the übermensch: Does this say something deeper about our society’s view of individuals (as opposed to collectives), or is it simply that Hollywood has found a way to cash in on an existing fan base?

Let me see: I’m an original “Uncanny X-Men” girl. I began reading those comics at age 4, when I wandered into my uncle’s bedroom while he was away for the day at high school around 1970 or 1971, discovering his stash of Superman and X-Men lying there among his Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov novels, which I also began to read later on those country days while my grandmother did her work downstairs. (Thank goodness I didn’t discover anything else, being that he was a teen male, but there it is.)

So, no one who knew me then would be surprised to know now that I am one who wants to see just about every superhero movie that ever gets made these days. Others like me (are you out there?) may also not be surprised to know I am often disappointed when I DO get to watch a movie based on my favorite comics, but all of us continue to pay to watch them nonetheless. (An aside: I am STILL waiting for Banshee to show up in the X-Men movie franchise, and I still contend that Lela Rochon would have been a better choice for Storm than Halle Berry, even though Halle is still my girl.)

In any case, since the beginning of storytelling time, before Homer, before Canterbury Tales, before Murasaki Shikibu and “The Pillow Book”, we have been looking for the Everyman, the übermensch, and the underdog, all of whom are related. It makes sense that Hollywood would like to cash in on a quest we’ve been on since the dawn of time. Hollywood is about money and about what fuels dreams, and for many of us, characters that supersede our everyday life, that pose questions and embark on quests beyond our daily life, that answer deep questions that pervade our daily life – these characters will always be in demand.

That’s my educated guess. What do you think?

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Parenting and Stress

[Yet another re-post from my Sidelines writing.  The original title was “Handling Parenting and Stress at the Same Time.”  Your input, please! Thanks!]

Let’s talk about stress and parenting for a moment. They go hand in hand, don’t they?

In 2011, with seven active and inquisitive children at home ranging from a preschooler to a high schooler, with a flourishing career and spiritual life, plus a busy husband who also worked full-time, not only was I well-acquainted with “Stress,” but so on a first-name basis with it that I wrote and published a book on Amazon, entitled “Real Life Stressbusters for Moms on the Go.” I offered it free as an e-book for the first week and it got downloaded over 400 times in the US, the UK and in Australia. Does anybody wonder why? Parents are stressed. It’s the nature of the game.

There are so many clichés about stress out there, how to handle it, why it can be good for you, how it can kill you. I think the best cliché – one so based in truth that it bears repeating beyond nauseum – is this one:

Take care of yourself, or you will not be able to take care of anyone else, including your children.

It’s that old airplane emergency analogy: Don’t the airline attendants always caution passengers to put on our masks FIRST, and then tend to our children? We’d better listen.

In any case, I have my top five pieces of advice for parents, at least, that I can share here very quickly off the top of my head (my book is on the shelf somewhere – even I need to read it again occasionally, and I WROTE the thing. Stress is never-ending). Nevertheless, I think readers may be even more interested in what other parents out there have to say.

Please share your strategies for handling and/or avoiding stress. Yours may save a parent’s sanity today, and/or improve the bond between some child and his or her mother or father. Always worthwhile.

My Top Five (in no particular order):

1. Make a point to enjoy your children. Especially when they are getting on your last nerve, think of one or two things you like about them and focus on it. Appreciate them while you have them. Time passes quickly.

2. Teach them at an early age to be respectful and to show manners. It will make your days happier and more pleasant, as well as save some public embarrassment. Think about how stressful a grocery store meltdown can be, and you’ll understand why I include this. If you didn’t do a good job at teaching manners and respect when they were still in their twos and threes, don’t give up. Even a teenager can learn. (You may age ten years in a day, but do it anyway. Society will thank you, and so will your cortisol level.)

3. Always schedule in some time for yourself. Make sure you have a “Man Cave” or a “Mama Cave” somewhere (even if it’s just a closet with your favorite things stashed in it and a pillow to sit on). Retreat there for even 15 minutes of de-stress time. Or leave and go grab a coffee or tea for a half an hour while your significant other or a friend you trust watches your children for a bit. Watch a movie just for you when they’ve fallen asleep. Don’t neglect your personal time. You need it every day.

4. Exercise, dance, or somehow move your body. Get those endorphins rolling. It is said that endorphins are your natural “stress-busters.”

5. Seek and accept help whenever it is offered (as long as you trust the person who is offering it). You don’t have to parent alone. Get some books. Take a class. Ask some old people. Get those villagers involved when you’re feeling too alone.

In other words, do what you have to in order to learn to love and trust yourself enough to enjoy this thing called Parenting. It takes a lot of self-forgiveness in order to raise a healthy child. Nobody is perfect. Don’t believe anyone who claims to be.

Oh yeah, I was voted “National Parent of the Year” in 2010 along with my husband of 21 years. So what. We’re still learning, just like you.

What are your tips? We’d all appreciate reading them.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in parenting

 

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Kids Fashion: The Glam Kids #2 – Wedding Style

Kids Fashion: The Glam Kids #2 – Wedding Style

Here’s Post #2 – The Glam Kids assisting at a wedding in October, showing off their sense of style while helping their daddy usher the couple into that great adventure.

October 2014 - The Glam Kids lending their sense of style to help Daddy welcome the groom into the family.

October 2014 – The Glam Kids lending their sense of style to help Daddy welcome the groom into the family.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in fashion, parenting

 

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Japan and the West: Star-Crossed Lovers Still in Love

[Another Re-Post from my Sidelines Magazine writing!  Have fun!]

Let’s jump into deceptively shallow waters for a moment. I know I’ll get a lot of interesting opinions on this one, so I’m putting my swimming cap on. Ready? Set? Jump!

Japan and the West have a mutual relationship that can best be described as that of star-crossed lovers. Each country has been infatuated with the other for over a century, waxing poetic and declaring the other exotic and mysteriously attractive, even going through a stage of intense hatred that usually is only engendered through passion and misunderstanding. We exchange philosophies like business cards in our popular entertainment. We look over each other’s shoulders constantly in fashion and design. We marry each other in hopes that our beautiful children will bridge the gap between East and West, and they often end up straddling it precariously. Japan loves America. The US loves Japan. But neither understands the other, and sometimes, neither really wants to. The love is there, nonetheless.

How can I say this with any authority? Well. In a youthful age of anime-fueled interest in Things Japanese here in the West, and hyper-tanned B-Kei girls and Hip Hop-dressed ‘Fro-wearing youth hanging out in Ueno Park and Harajuku, I am an old Japan Hand, as they used to say. Never a “hen na gaijin” – in other words, never a “Japanese Wanna-Be” but a proud mostly Black and Native American woman well-versed in Japanese modern culture and ancient literature through, first, a childhood friendship, then a stint as an undergrad at an Ivy League school and at a Japanese university, then as a full-fledged employee in Tokyo at a Japanese company, and most integrally as a young woman formerly but seriously in love – and loved – by a Japanese man, I kind of know a little of what I’m talking about.

Japanese is my second language, and if you ask my children who, unlike me, are all into Japanese anime and pop culture (and Korean and French and others, too – we have that kind of family), Japanese is my first language at home with my kids when I’m miffed or exhausted. My older kids understand quite a bit of what I call “Mama Japanese”. The younger ones are obstinate about it, but like their older siblings, they know what “Shirimasen” and “Nenasai!!” mean. As a matter of fact, many a time I have heard my oldest say, “Mom, we already know you’ll only speak Japanese by the time you’re in your 90s. We’re getting ready.” I don’t know why, but Japanese is my language of release, even if it is 20 years rusty and I am firmly and irrevocably American. (You need to taste my sweet potato pie…)

So, when I say that Japan and the West are star-crossed lovers, I say this because star-crossed lovers are legendary in how they passionately pass through heaven and earth to meet each other, to swim through each other’s emotional waters, to be a part of each other – only to be frustrated in the end. The leveling and deceptively mainstreaming powers of the media – TV/Film/Internet – notwithstanding, cultural exchange in all its glory notwithstanding, at the very least Japan and the US have much in common now, but they are still very disparate in values and culture. Our human ties bind us, and forever will, but I believe the two will forever remain star-crossed lovers. But then everyone loves a good Love Story.

Other perspectives?

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Kids Fashion: Glam Kids and the Entrepreneurial Spirit

When kids get entrepreneurial, whether it’s with a lemonade stand or designing their own jewelry or fashions like these girls are about to kick off, we stand and salute!  Especially when style meets substance.  Meet the Glam Kids.

Fashion Entrepreneurs: Style Meets Substance

Fashion Entrepreneurs: Style Meets Substance

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in parenting

 

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Cultivating a “Can Do” Attitude in Kids

[Welcome to a re-post from my writing at Sidelines. Enjoy!]

In this era of supreme convenience, marked by lightning-quick technology that provides instant gratification, heralded by parents preferring to drive a half-mile away to a store rather than bike the distance (or God forbid, walk it), and exacerbated by a dearth of experiences that many children go through either in the classroom or at home that teach them persistence or instill in them stamina, the question remains:

How do we cultivate a “Can Do” attitude in our kids?

I’m finding that the nature vs. nurture debate has little place in this conversation, although I’m sure someone will disagree. With seven of my own and all with the same mix of heritage, same genetic cocktail, same two parents, each of them displays a totally different attitude (as well as a totally different predisposition to tears!) when it comes to showing us they have that “grit”, that “stick-to-itiveness” to hang in there when the going gets tough and you have to fight for your dreams.

I can honestly say my kids are all good at dreaming, constructing goals, and hanging in there, but Man, it’s an uphill battle with some of them sometimes, although “Can Do” usually wins, thank goodness. I usually find another silver strand in my hair as my trophy after that battle, however. My sometimes not-so-secret worry is that, if our community experienced a disaster, would my children each have the grit to survive. Several would, but I worry about the others. (I have a handwritten reminder on the fridge right now about this, called my “survival training list.” It’s been there several weeks, JUST because this has been on my mind.)

So what do I do personally to cultivate this attitude? Lots of talking things up. Lots of “I remember when”s and “Your great-grandmother used to do THIS when THAT happened.” Lots of “You can do it!” Lots of prayer and supplication. Lots of blackberry pomegranate tea, or a glass of merlot on the front porch at the end of the day.

And I model it. I model it every day and every night. I look for role models to point out examples, and then I model it some more. I model it so much that I get loudly exhausted trying to model, and I occasionally end up fussing at the end of that exhausting day that “I shouldn’t have to model it!! You should know by now how to have a ‘Can Do’ attitude!!!”

But no, kids need constant modeling, even grown ones. So I keep blackberry pomegranate tea and merlot on hand, just in case exhaustion hits again. Then I say a prayer at night, and expect to do it again the next day until one day, when I’m finally old, I see the results in each of them.

What do you do? How do you cultivate a “Can Do” Attitude in your kids?

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in parenting, Uncategorized

 

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