Guest posts around the web, Media, Relationships

4 Ways to Help Kids Express Their Emotions

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Emotions are so tricky! Here are several ways to help kids learn about their emotions. In short, always try to knowledge child’s feelings, identify their emotion and model an appropriate reaction for them.

Read more at Lifehack.Org:

http://www.lifehack.org/482331/4-steps-to-teach-kids-about-experiencing-and-expressing-their-emotions

Lifestyle, Relationships

New Year’s Eve traditions

IMG_20150102_212930746_HDRGrowing up on post-Soviet space, I am used to New Year’s Eve being the main holiday of the year.  My favorite New Year’s Eve celebration tradition is placing jewelry at the bottom of a champagne/wine glass, letting it sit there throughout the holiday dinner and finishing the drink when the clock strikes midnight and make a wish.  The meaning of the tradition is to make the wealth and luck multiply in the New Year.  Do you have any New Year’s Eve traditions at all?

Lifestyle, Relationships

On feeling like an Alien: a portrait of a modern teen according to modern literature and media

Recently I stumbled upon a popular novel intended for teens and once again felt like I have spent my high school years on a different planet. According to many modern novels and TV shows life of a teenager is composed of alcohol poisonings, giving in to peer pressure to have unprotected sex under the influence of illegal drugs, unending sequence of cigarette breaks  near dumpsters, neon hair dies, piercings done in unsanitary conditions, talking back to all adults, etc, etc, etc.

I went to an ordinary public school in GTA, I had friend, went to school dances and proms, participated in extracurricular activities and clubs and had many hobbies (dancing, drawing, playing guitar, etc).

But somehow I was never asked, coerced or talked into smoking, drinking or doing drugs.  I never felt the need to ‘show off’ by being rude to anyone.  Although I remember my classmates telling me that they have seen so-and-so smoking or drinking either near the school or at a school dance, I have never witnessed anything like that myself.

I can’t even remember taking interest in such gossips, probably because – as my dance coach once said – I was always ‘on my own wavelength.’  If I wanted to learn about sex – I read Marquis De Sad.  If I wanted to see something surreal – I watched Ukrainian art-house movies.  I was ok with acting crazy at concerts and proms without the help of alcohol and I can’t remember ever being shy to talk to someone. Hence, alcohol, drugs and ‘peer pressure’ were mostly off my radar.

According to the popular media, I was supposed to be a friendless bullied outcast with low self-esteem and super strict parents.  That was not the case either.  I can’t recall any situations when my mom told me that I cannot do something that I have requested.  I talked to people that I wanted to talk to and never felt pressure from any of my peers.

Maybe I have lived in a cave or on Mars, maybe I was totally preoccupied with my own thoughts, but when popular media is telling me – now an educator of teens myself – that youth is ‘supposed to’ rebel, smoke, drink and catch STI’s I am having a hard time subscribing to that view.

On the other hand – when I am faced with teens who really suffer from problems portrayed in popular media and literature I feel helpless because I do not have any ‘insider’ information or experience with these issues.

Hence, my questions are:

To what extent modern literature and media are ‘correct’ in their portrayal of teens?

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like an alien?

Lifestyle, Relationships

The days when miracles are bound to happen

There are certain days when miracles WILL happen. Not “might”, not “likely” but “WILL.”  These days often either coincide with national holidays, or occur somewhere in the neighborhood of these holidays. New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve are among those days, and Valentine’s day is no different. I am not saying that all of us will find a million bucks under our pillows, and princes on white horses would not park under our windows. However, something interesting, touching and memorable is bound to happen.

You might wake up naturally, 20 minutes before your alarm, not feeling like a zombie, and realize that you have time to make a nice breakfast for yourself and drink some good coffee in peace. Then you might look out of your window and see light snowflakes slowly circling in the air.  Some of them even land on your windowsill, trying to join you for breakfast.

Now you are asking: “Can’t these things happen on any day of the year?”

Of course they can! And they do happen every day and every minute. But sometimes we tend to  take them for granted. We might as well start appreciating the miracles on holidays – for starters :).

Lifestyle, Relationships

Forgiveness and the ones who really need it

I get really surprised when people threaten their peers with a phrase “I will never forgive you.”

Do we really forgive for the sake of the person that has offended us?

Imagine that every time someone tells you something unpleasant or offensive, they throw a heavy “rock” at you.  The rock can either hit you hard – if, for instance, you were not expecting that blow – or, you can duck down, so the rock misses you, or, you can imagine that you are pulling out a “shield” that protects you from the rocks and keeps you happy.  If you did not manage to protect yourself from that thrown rock, you will be the one stuck with the “bruise” and the “rock” itself.  Some people may have a collection of smaller “rocks”, others may be dragging a really large one.  The person who threw that rock does not have to carry it.

So it is in YOUR best interest to throw that “rock” away as soon as possible, unless you want to be buried under a pile of “rocks”.

I do not deny that sometimes the rocks can be sharp and that they stick to some people very well.  And I do not claim that it is easy to get rid of them.  I carry several. You might carry some as well.  The main thing to understand is that these “rocks” are our property and our problem from the time they hit us till the day we throw them away.  They have nothing to do with the person who threw them.

I don’t claim that I have made a discovery here.  In fact I cannot imagine that there are people who are still using “I will never forgive you” as a threat.

Lifestyle, Relationships

Anti-Hipster-ish and Un-Cool Statements, Lara Fabian and Thanks to the Readers

I have not been posting for the last month because of intense grad school schedule, but I have noticed that you, my readers, have been looking at my page. Thank you, all, for not forgetting about me! Let’s have a healthy and happy New Year!

I have been observing the following tendency among my fellow peers [mostly graduate students, undergraduate students and recent university graduates]: everything that is ‘non-mainstream’ (whatever that really means) is becoming extremely popular, while anything that is ‘mainstream’ is being looked down upon.

The terms ‘mainstream’ and ‘non-mainstream’ are extremely vague and the line between them is so blurred, we can consider it non-existent. Many hard-core ‘hipsters’ would not deny the ‘coolness’ of reading Shakespeare.  But everyone knows Shakespeare. Does that make him too ‘mainstream’?  Slavic-American youth seems even more radical in terms of ‘hipster-approved’ and ‘hipster-inappropriate’ art, literature, music, films, etc.  For example, any artists that have become popular at the beginning of the 1990s – usually referred to as ‘estrada’ artists – are totally off limits for some Slavic-American young adults.  I know numerous people who would rather be caught without their underwear than in a room where a record of Alla Pugacheva or Philip Kirkorov would be playing (for non-Russian readers – these are the two very prominent representatives of the Russian ‘estrada’).  These people propagate the view that intelligent youth absolutely cannot be interested in such artists for two reasons: they are too popular, therefore, their art is not meant for refined tastes; and they are too ‘shallow’ (I have heard this term many times and each person endows it with a different meaning, so I will not attempt to list all possibilities).

I do not like labeling people as ‘hipsters’, ‘intelligent’ or anything else.  Each of us has their own name – the only label that I think we should maintain (or use interchangeably, if we have more than one name).  Then each of us has a set of unique intellectual characteristics.  Some of us may love to listen to a band that plays only in underground clubs, but do not mind listening to Pitbull once in a while.  Others may experts on Dostoyevsky, but also in love with silly teenage romance stories.  The ability to CHOOSE what to read, listen to or look at is precisely the trait that distinguishes mindless consumers from people who want to think for themselves regardless the endless messages that popular culture is propagating.

So on this note – I would like to say that last Monday, despite the numerous ‘boo’s’ from my ‘hipster’ friends, I went to the concert of Lara Fabian and enjoyed it! And I think my aforementioned ‘hipster’ friends would have enjoyed it as well, if only they allowed themselves to listen to their intellectual and emotional intuition, not the ‘popularity index’ of certain artists.

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pic was taken by me

Art, Creative writing, Lifestyle, Photography, Relationships

The Monster of Gratitude

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As he sat at the table in front of me, I could see the heavy monster of gratitude sitting on his shoulders, squishing his breath out and leaving him speechless. It is easy to deny the fact that gratitude is all that is left in a relationship.  Gratitude is a ‘big’ feeling. It tricks you into believing that there is still hope to change something.  But there isn’t any hope. There is just a heavy monster of gratitude that needs to be shaken off.  This furry creature, however, should never be forgotten.  Being thankful to the ones that care about us is still essential.  Nevertheless, we cannot be dragging monsters of gratitude around because this way we will never get anywhere past the arms reach of the one who placed that monster on our shoulders.

Lifestyle, Relationships

“Love Has Gone By As an Elephant”…?

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“Love has gone by as an elephant” – I was sure that these are the exact lyrics of a popular Russian song until I was almost 10 years old. Interestingly, back than I did not notice anything strange about this phrase.  Most children, including myself, have seen elephants walking proudly, but slowly and heavily along the circus arena.  Why can’t love ‘go by’ in the same manner, just like an elephant?

I was very surprised to find out that the lyrics are in fact: “Love has gone by as a dream”.  I was sure that ‘elephant’ is a more appropriate comparison in this case!

The matter is that Russian words ‘elephant’ and ‘dream’ differ by only one letter. Moreover, they sound similar. No wonder I confused the two as a child.

Now I realize that love CAN literally go by as an elephant. In nature, elephants can be pretty aggressive.  They often damage small houses and village fences; they can even destroy some crops.  Relationships (or ‘love’) cause emotional or physical damage, comparable to the one that an elephant might cause.  Sometimes I still suspect that the artist chose the word ‘dream’ that could easily be confused with ‘elephant’ ON PURPOSE…

*There are several more puns that were untranslatable into English, so if you happen to know Russian, check out this version in my LiveJournal http://mariya-boyko.livejournal.com/8905.html

Art, Creative writing, Lifestyle, Photography, Relationships

Self Portrait

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“Can I paint your portrait, Madame?” – shouts a stray artist on a busy street

“No. thank you” – I say

“It is a mistake, Madame. I have been painting for N-years and ladies chase me, begging to draw their portraits”

“Then ask one of those ladies to pose for you.”

“Don’t you want to be remembered forever and live through my paintings?” – he looks surprised

“I don’t want to ‘live through your paintings’. I want to be known for what I have done myself.” –I say

“What if you will not do anything memorable?”

“That will be my problem then. Besides, it is better to be totally forgotten then to live through some paintings by a stray artist.”

“What if I will become rich and famous? Then you will regret your choice” –he is desperate now

“It will not change anything. You don’t know anything about me, and I don’t want a portrait that only depicts my body.  You don’t see me the way I really am.” – I say

“Don’t you want to be able to boast to your friends that I drew your portrait?”

“I don’t like boasting about anything, especially if it is not MY achievement.”

“You will regret it” – he is angry now

“If the thought of me regretting it makes you feel better, I cannot stop you from thinking this way.”

Art, Creative writing, Lifestyle, Photography, Relationships

Abandoned tandem bike on a sad pathway

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There is a pathway in my city that has many memories tied to it.  Usually this little road makes me sad, but if taking this road is unavoidable, I try to turn on some music, that is also tied to some memories and try to make the best out of that walk.  It was a sad grey day when I needed to go to an art store located right in the middle of this street.  The tattooed wall was behind me and I was just steps away from my destination when I saw this abandoned tandem bike chained to a pole. It was disfigured and its rotting body looked sick and helpless.  What kind of story is behind this bike? Maybe a hipster couple decided to move to India and abandoned it. Maybe they broke up and do not wish to ride together anymore.  What if one of them died of cancer? drug overdose? got into a car accident? Or maybe the bike was broken and they bought a new one.

In any case, the bike is still there. If you have seen it – let me know.