Friday, February 27, 2009

Mirror, Mirror: Self-Perception, Self-esteem, Pride and Paradigms

Mirror, Mirror

Elementary School
The little child is confused. This question is outside of her paradigm.
How do you feel about yourself? Do you like who you are? Are you happy?
Why are you happy?
I am pretty and smart. I have lots of friends and I have a nice teacher.
The six year old girl stands on one leg and watches her friends out of the corner of her eye. She cannot wait to run back to her playmates. Safe, fun, happy. Creative, positive energy abounds in her world.

Middle School
I don't know.
Well, when you think about yourself what comes to mind?
I wish I were...prettier. I get good grades, but I don't think I'm that popular.
She looks around the room as if she were under great scrutiny.
She is very uncomfortable.
Oh yeah, I don't like my name. She smiles, but there is pain in her eyes.
She is glad the interview is over.

High School
That's a weird question.
It is?
Yeah, I mean, people don't like themselves. Well, unless their like stuck up.
Hmmm.   I am not asking how you feel about others or how they feel about you.  How do you feel about yourself?
Honestly? I don't feel like people think I'm anything special. I feel ugly. Most of the time anyway. I feel boring. I have a few friends, but I'm not popular.

What happened?

I wrote the above as a response to a piece I read with my students entitled, "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Do I See Myself as Others Do?" If you're wondering about the punctuation, I decided to write it as a poem. The "Mirror, Mirror" article I read each year with my pupils is a persuasive piece designed to get adolescents to think about how advertisements and the media in general twist individuals' perception of themselves. Well, that's it's most important function, at least in my view. It's official purpose--why it's actually included in the curriculum-- is as means to teach students persuasive thinking and to reinforce comprehension of fact vs. opinion and how to use anecdotal, factual, and subjective sources to bolster an argument.

Anyhow, one thing the writer did was look at studies in which children at the elementary and high school levels were interviewed about their feelings towards themselves; it was found that elementary school children felt very good about themselves while less than 20% of high school students had positive feelings about themselves.

I for one am disgusted to my very core with the way modern society, specifically in the West where consumerism runs rampant, damages childrens' perception of themselves and reality. Marketing is a form of psychological black magic which bombards us with the idea that if we buy X or Y we will be happier, more attractive, etc. which implies that we are ugly, unattractive and not full of worth since we don't have X or Y. Even the most seemingly innocuous products such as food and cleaning agents use subtly trickery to influence people to spend money. Then you can look at the most egregious examples such as alcohol, phony weight loss products (most weight loss products fall into that category in my opinion) and automobile ads. I could go on here, but I'll leave it at that.

As I have grown older, I realize how many adults deal with the great challenge of low self-esteem. Self-esteem is problematic, but there is such thing as esteeming oneself in a non-egotistical, non-prideful way. It is difficult to walk that path because it requires one to walk the razor's edge between pride and self-pity, a tightrope balance that requires continual calibration and spiritual/psychological orientation. A true understanding of one's deepest sense of identity and the pitfalls of the ego is required. I think this is attained through a combination of careful study of the nature of reality, interpersonal relationships, our consumer culture (and society at large) and honest self-reflection.

Although I am not one who has found the perfect balance in this area, I can honestly say that I am acutely aware of my many flaws and endeavor earnestly to make changes and repent of my shortcomings but, simultaneously, am happy with who and what I am. Fortunately for me, I grew up in a household in which I had parents who told me they loved me and that I was smart and capable. It took a great deal of time for me to realize that individuals who did not enjoy this great blessing have a much more difficult time breaking out of the psychological structures that were built so long ago and which can remain hidden, despite the fact that one might inhabit them continually.

I hope I am the kind of person who can help others who suffer from a distorted perception of themselves. No one is "better" than anyone else. Everyone has unique talents and challenges. Each one of us treads a different path. We should break each other down less and strive to see how we fit together as puzzle pieces to form beautiful images which help us make sense of ourselves and of the cosmos.

Finally, I'd like to leave this thought: when we think about child abuse we usually think of the most depraved and tragic forms of abuse such as physically violent or sexual abuse. In reality, the most common forms of abuse that occur and which we likely contribute to, in some sort of conscious or unconscious way, are the kinds of abuse that involve not helping children live up to their full potential. I pray that each of us can, in our spheres of influence as parents, family members, friends, home or visiting teachers, etc. help lift someone else up. As a disciple of Jesus Christ I am always touched by His request to suffer the little children to come to Him.

When I think about how little children view themselves and others, I am reminded of what He taught us about them.

"But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven."
(Matthew 19:14)

Related reading:
Overview of study on changing self-esteem
Self (philosophical notions)

A Violinist in the Metro

A man sat at a metro station in WashingtonDC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousand of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mr. T-O-Double-D

Daniel has been selected as his school site's TEACHER of the YEAR!  I know how hard he works to make a difference in his students' lives and to assist other teachers and administrators on his campus and I couldn't be happier for him!  

Also, it appears that middle school language arts teachers are safe from lay offs so he is keeping his job as well!  It is a great day here at the Todd Pad!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wow...bacon-cheese-pizza-burger...a food abomination!

Yet another abhorrent culinary creation.  This will actually make vegan readers cry.

This, my friends, is the bacon-cheese-pizza-burger. Defibrillator not included.  The question is, who ate that huge piece?

Oh, ok...

My favorite comments on the pizza burger:

"Breakfast of champions"

"Batter dip and deep fry that &$%@... right now!"

"Michael Phelps eats three of these for breakfast!"

"Only 5,043,234,788,510,332,500 calories!"


"can i have it with diet coke and a side salad please........................."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dan's Quick Hits v.1

Hey, just some quick things (personal anecdotes, news items, etc.) I thought I'd share:

*Sarah might get braces.

*Carter finally went pee at school!

*Claire is talking like crazy!

*The next computer you're likely to buy isn't a desktop PC or a notebook; it will be a NETbook.  A netbook is a small laptop computer that doesn't have all the bells and whistles of a standard laptop BUT you can use it to get online, burn a CD and type out your research paper or emails.  The coolest thing: they cost around $300!  I found amazing deals at reliable online retailers such as, and  Check out more details here. If you're interested in getting one but don't know which one, let me know and I'll try to help you.

*The CA budget might get passed soon and that's good news for those of us wondering if we'll still still have a job. I'm in danger of being layed off next year and the year after that.  The risk, however, is low.

*My cousin Mark gets back from Afghanistan soon.

*Sarah and I are going to NYC for 4 days/5 nights in March WITHOUT the kids!  Woo-hoo!

*My father-in-law Jeff recently helped me install a new bedroom door.  Wow, that was a lot of work!  I learned a lot thanks to his help and am excited to do more home improvement projects!

*Facebook seems to be blowin' up.  I think I've gotten more friend requests in the last month than I did in the previous three.  I don't spend a ton of time on there, but I use my phone to check in and post updates here and there.

*Sarah and I enjoyed a fun meal with our friends the Barney's last week and I saw Chris spit fire using a secret recipe from the kitchen which he kindly shared with me.  Video coming soon of my recreation of this flammable, flamboyant act.

*I have started training MMA (mixed martial arts) at a local gym.  We work on muy-thai kickboxing, boxing, jiu-jitsu (ground fighting/submissions) and wrestling.  It's fun, challenging and a bit dangerous.  I've come home bruised and humbled on more than one ocassion.

All right, that's the rundown.

Moose A. Moose's Critter Comrades Song

Animals are awesome.  Enough said.  This is a tribute to animals by our favorite mammal: Moose A. Moose.  I want to sing this at the upcoming UH talent show.  Yeah?  Yeah!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Are you kidding me? Lucha libre!

I don't like prowrestling, but this gets my vote!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gorgeous Day in San Diego

My brother, Robbie, and his wife, Laura, flew to San Diego a few weekends ago to take a cruise for their belated honeymoon.  My parents planned to meet them at the airport and gave them a ride to the cruise ship.  When they found out Danny would be at work, they invited me to tag along, and I am so glad we did!  We left a dark, cloudy, Riverside and this is what we enjoyed in San Diego:

The kids ended up matching Papa & Grandma without even planning it!

We walked around Seaport Village after dropping off Rob & Laura and down by the USS Midway.  
There is a large statue called "Kissing the War Goodbye" which is an exact replica from a photo taken in the 1940s.  
Now the kids thought it was fun to play on it... would have been nice though, if this sign was posted on the front of the sculpture too.

We stopped at Ben & Jerry's before coming home. Claire thoroughly enjoyed hers.  
Carter didn't because he wanted vanilla and I ordered something that had "stuff" in it too. I guess he is a purist.

No, this is not me trying to be a model, Carter is just OBSESSED with taking photos 
and he is pretty good at framing the subject and all...I think we need to get him a "real" camera
(his toy one just isn't the same)!
Thanks again Mom & Dad for such a wonderful day together!
*The font changes are really annoying in this post, but I am not sure how to change them, also, this is Sarah, but I am not sure how to change the author since it already has Daniel listed
---maybe I should stick to scrapbooking.

How far will you go to get your children to eat fruits and vegetables?

(Claire chowing down on a chocolate banana)

Snow Day at FUMPS

Carter's school brings in snow for the kids to play with.  They talk about snow/winter for days before and even do simple science related to it, i.e. what is colder: snow, ice, or ice cream?  Carter was so excited and refused to wear anything but snow pants, although it was quite warm outside.  Once preschool was over, the parents can come to take pictures and Claire got to jump in then too.  She was playing with snow mud in the kitchen and having a great time.  

Yes, this was January

We have had some wacky weather this winter in Southern CA.  One afternoon in mid-January, the high was well above 80 degrees.  We had some friends over to play and Carter, the ever-adventurous one, came up with the idea of putting on swim suits and playing in the sprinklers.  We had a great time doing it!  

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Insane nerf sniper rifle...the perfect gift for the boy who has everything

DISCLAIMER: When I first created this post and linked the pics from Picasa, they were all in the correct perspective. Now some are turned upside down, etc. I am not going to fix them, so go ahead and relax your neck.

I own firearms.  I don't have a huge collection--a semiautomatic pistol, a few .22 rifles, and a couple of miscellaneous rifles and shotguns.  I guess to some that might seem like a small arsenal, but compared to true gun enthusiasts and collectors, my collection is just a starter kit.

As you can guess, I don't have a problem with firearms.  I was raised to understand that firearms are tools, albeit dangerous tools, and they serve various purposes.  Some are designed to hunt, others for defense, and yet others for sport (target practice, etc.).

All that said, I am not a big believer in toy guns.  Guns are serious business and our society is way too centered on violence and war as entertainment which is truly tragic.   When Carter is old enough, I'll teach him out to clean and use a firearm; I will teach him how serious and dangerous weapons are and I believe he'll learn to respect and use them for what they are intended, just as one would teach a child how to use a hammer or a roll of duct tape or a car.

So, at this point my guns are locked up and Carter really doesn't have any toy guns, minus a Buzz Lightyear laser gun which we hid a long time ago due to the highly annoying noise it makes.  Then, on Carter's birthday, my dad busts out the *Nerf Longshot Double Component Air Chamber Supreme 3000.  What...the...?

I'll let the photos speak for themselves.  Suffice to say I ended up playing with it more than Carter...and Claire nuetralized the darts pretty quickly with her sharp little teeth.  Oh yeah, and I ambused my buddies Gary and Ryan from my roof top when they pulled up the other day.

*Not the real name. (;

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"David After the Dentist": A Boy's Reaction to Being Drugged by the Dentist

I found this video online and I think it's hilarious. Here's the description from You Tube:
"This is my 7 year old son who had an extra tooth removed last summer, 2008. I had the camera because he was so nervous before I wanted him to see before and after.

He was so out of it after, I had to carry him out of the office. The staff was laughing and I had tears it was so funny.

He is doing fine now and the teeth are great.

Best of all he is the best kid as his brother William. I couldnt have asked for two better sons!

2/3 Update: Video camera is a flip video. not bad for $150 bucks!"