What Is Beauty?

In case you’re wondering, this is not a review of the movie Collateral Beauty, starring Will Smith, nor a review of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson. Neither was the catalyst for this post, though each has beauty in the title. I’ll tell you what was in a minute. (Oddly enough, I mused about this subject four years ago. You can find that post here.)

   

I sat down with Lippy Lulu, Beauty Guru, to ask her opinion on the question, “What is beauty?” Before you ask, I didn’t give her that name. You can thank Moose Toys for that. She came with tiny lipsticks, a makeup case with brushes, and an eyeshadow array.

    

“Are you asking for a makeover?” she asked, as she reached for her makeup kit.

“Um no. Just want to know what you thought of beauty. What is beauty?”

She didn’t have an answer. And I shouldn’t have expected one from someone who makes her home on my desk.

In a BBC.com article, “The Myth of Universal Beauty,” author David Robson posted the question, “Do standards of beauty change over time?”

At first, I thought about writing a post about his findings, which you can discover for yourself if you click here. But I soon discovered that I wasn’t so much interested in the prevailing standards of beauty as I was in wanting to feel secure within myself if I don’t fit those standards. So, only one statement in the article really resonated with me:

The deeper you look, the harder it is to define beauty.

Ain’t that the truth?

The catalyst for today’s post was my discovery that an acquaintance (let’s call her Sue; not her real name though) was soon to undergo a double mastectomy because of breast cancer. This happened in the same week that a friend (I’ll call her Amy; not her real name either) had a biopsy. I mentioned that in my last post.

Throughout our lives, starting in childhood (Lippy Lulu is a child’s toy after all), we see various images or hear opinions about beauty, particularly what’s beautiful about a woman. Makeup ads advise women to accent their best features through various products. But when you’re a woman faced with the loss of something that is a fundamental part of being a woman, you can’t help pondering the whole subjective notion of beauty and why a paradigm shift might be needed.

When faced with the prospect of having a mastectomy like Sue, Amy asked her husband how he would feel if she had to face that loss. He said, “I’ll take you as you are, no matter what.”

Now, that’s beauty.

Robson, David. “The Myth of Universal Beauty.” BBC Future/BBC News. BBC, 23 June 2015. Web. 07 May 2017.

Collateral Beauty poster from blackfilm.com. Beauty and the Beast poster from impawards.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Lippy Lulu Shopkins™ Shoppie doll by Moose Toys.

Cute Collectibles: Making a Heart Connection

Are you the kind of person who goes wild over collectible figures? About four years ago, I used to buy Squinkies for my second and third grade students as rewards. They loved Squinkies! What are Squinkies? Tiny collectible figures by Blip Toys based on themes (like the ocean; aliens and space; animals). But one day the stores stopped selling them. My students used to ask about Squinkies, but I had no idea why they disappeared. Was that the end of their story? Read on.

In the last couple of years Shopkins have racked up mega sales in the toy section. What are Shopkins? Tiny collectible figures by Moose Toys. I’ve shown a photo of some of them on this blog before. There are hundreds to collect, in categories like common, rare, ultra rare, and limited edition (quite difficult to find).

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So is it any wonder that this year, Squinkies are back with a reboot and categories very similar to the Shopkins categories? Success breeds competition in the battle for the attention of children (and the shrinking wallets of their parents)! I don’t own any of the new Squinkies, but you can click here to find out more information if you’re curious.

If you’re a parent/grandparent/aunt/uncle, maybe you’re cringing right now, as you imagine your child/grandchild/niece/nephew demanding toys like this. Or perhaps you remember a painful moment when you accidentally stepped on something like this—tiny but made of hard plastic—in the middle of the night. If so, you might wish to skip to the end, where I talk about writing. (There. There. It will be okay.)

Squinkies and Shopkins aren’t the only small collectible figures in town. There are also Num Noms by MGA.

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Each of these (with the exception of the pink motorized one under the brown choco swirl on the right) is a little over an inch tall.

I’m not exactly sure what they are, besides small collectible figures. They’re scented though. One smells like chocolate cherry, while others smells like caramel and strawberry.

And then there are the erasers by Iwako. A friend sent a bunch to me from Amazon.com. These are just a few:

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These also are a little over an inch tall.

And there is the queen of small collectible figures: Hello Kitty by Sanrio.

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She’s about a quarter of an inch taller than the Iwako erasers.

And then there are these: My Mini MixieQ’s by Mattel, which debuted this year at the Toy Fair in New York. So far, the only comment I’ve heard about them is a consistent one: “Awwwww. They’re so cuuuuuuute.”

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These figures are about three-quarters of an inch tall.

And there are dozens more. But I know what you’re thinking: These seem awfully girl-centric (though I know some boys who like Shopkins and some girls who hate this sort of thing). What about stuff for boys? Well, there are Star Wars Micro Machines and tons of other Star Wars figures (Hasbro), Five Nights at Freddy’s figures (Funko), Hot Wheels (Mattel), DC and Marvel action figures (Mattel and Hasbro respectively), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Playmates Toys), Minecraft (Mattel), and dozens of other collectible figures. (Girls like these too.)

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So what does this have to do with writing? Well, I’ll tell you my reason for paying attention to toy trends (besides liking them). Toy manufacturers know what appeals to the soul of a kid; for example, the desire to nurture or to be on an adventure. I once held up one of the Shopkins while talking to someone and soon had several people (kids and adults) crowded around me with sparkling eyes. This is the kind of rapt attention you want if you’re writing for kids, teens, or adults—the kind of attention that means you’ve made a heart connection.

Granted, translating this connection to the printed page is a challenge. Yet authors like J. K. Rowling and Rick Riordan have met the challenge. (So it is possible.) But they connected to what was in their own hearts first, instead of attempting to guess what might appeal to a kid. For example, Riordan loved his son and wanted to write about a kid with dyslexia and ADHD like his son. He was also a fan of Greek and Roman mythology, having taught these stories to middle schoolers for years. Thus, Percy Jackson and other series were born. Rowling’s mom died. Writing Harry Potter was her way of dealing with her own grief. She also loved The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, which combines fantasy and reality as does the Harry Potter series.

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What do you love? How does that translate to what you’re writing now?

Book covers from Goodreads. Minecraft toy from minecrafttoy.com. Star Wars Micro Machine blind bags from action figuren24.de.

Gender Talk

When you see photos like the ones below of girls talking in a group (just hanging out at a sleepover or at some other gathering), what do you imagine they’re saying to each other? (Okay, yes, I know they’re all dolls of a sort. Just pretend, okay?)

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Raise your hand if you think they’re talking about boys. Or hair and makeup. Or collections of tiny things like Shopkins. Or perhaps you think they’re gossiping about their friends or other people. Now, raise your hand if you think they’re talking about quantum mechanics (“the science of the very small,” according to Wikipedia), earth science, psychology, or what’s trending on the internet. Anybody? Hello?

Now look at the photo below. Think of them as boys having a conversation. (Um the one in purple is Batzarro, who is in Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League.) What do you think they’re discussing? Sports? Quantum mechanics? Girls? Cars? Videogames? Collections of tiny things like Shopkins?

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Many of us have preconceived ideas about what girls or boys talk about or like. Some of these ideas have to do with how we were socialized, and the expectations with which we grew up. You know the ones: girls like dolls and colors like pink and purple; boys like cars and trains and colors like blue or green. Girls talk about boys and hair at a sleepover. If a kid stepped out of the “bubble,” he or she was “corrected,” sometimes by other kids.

Think times have changed, now that we’re so “enlightened” about preconceived gender issues? Think again. A little boy I know used to love the color purple until he was told by another kid that purple is a “girl” color.

If we have kids, we want them to be all that they can be. But sometimes what we think someone else “should” like or be like has more to do with our own frustrated hopes than that person’s natural bent.

I read an article a few weeks ago (wish I could find it again) where a father mentioned the Girl Toy of the Year and the Boy Toy of the Year for 2015. The Girl Toy of the Year was the Shopkins Small Mart Playset (by Moose Toys). The Boy Toy of the Year was the Zoomer Dino (by Spin Master). There was a general Toy of the Year too. But in the article I read, the father complained about the girl toy and how it lacked action. Never mind the fact that a girl moving a doll around the market shows action and especially imagination. I can’t recall if this father had daughters or not. If he did, more than likely they should not expect to get this Small Mart Playset. (By the way, I’ve seen kids play with remote-controlled toys. They grew bored with them fairly quickly.)

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I wonder if this dad would be appalled if he saw some little boys I know happily playing in the giant toy kitchen set up in their home. They know their way around the kitchen, because their dad is an awesome cook who probably could open his own restaurant.

At this same house, I watched the kids at a birthday party recently. Now in this family, there are three kids: a girl and two boys (same as my family). The family will soon grow with the addition of a baby girl this summer (also the same as my family, though my sister didn’t live).

It’s fascinating to me to see to what toys and games children naturally gravitate. Though lightsabers and Nerf guns abounded in this house for anyone to use, the girls at the party chose to play quietly in a bedroom away from the raucous lightsaber/Nerf gun battle in which the boys participated. Every once in awhile, the girls would emerge from the room with a doll or doll blanket. (All of these girls were under the age of eight.) But they refused to join the battle.

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Yet when I babysat the children of the host family, all of the kids participated in a game I introduced to them that I used to play with my brothers. We called it Houseboat. The couch was the houseboat. The floor represented the shark-infested waters. The object was to dive for pearls or other treasure and make it back onto the houseboat without being attacked by sharks. The lookout (usually me) would call out, “Sharks!” Everyone would have to get out of the “water” and back to the houseboat. There were always some casualties. 🙂

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It’s fun to watch kids be kids whether they pick up a doll or a lightsaber. (And I’ve picked up both.) They can be all they can be as long as they know there is no shame in what they choose.

By the way, a girl at church who has been the beneficiary of some of my Shopkins mentioned that her brother wanted some of them too. Just sayin’.

Shopkins Small Mart Playset image from crossencreations.com. Zoomer Dino from norcalcoupongal.com. Shark from download32.com. Lightsaber from unity-technology.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

Tiny Treasures—Blogoversary Time!

004Ever have one of those weeks when you almost forget your own name? Last week was a really busy week for me, which culminated in a jury summons. So on February 19, I was taken aback when WordPress sent me this note:

anniversary-2x Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!
You registered on WordPress.com 3 years ago!
Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging!

Thanks, WordPress! I had totally forgotten my blogoversary!

You might wonder about the post title—“Tiny Treasures.” Don’t let the photo at the beginning of the post fool you. The kitty in the teapot is less than two inches tall. This is a tiny treasure—one of the Littlest Pet Shop blind bag pets. (Um, I can totally see you yawning or fidgeting. There is a method to this madness. Really.)

When I was a little kid, I loved to collect tiny things. This was one of the reasons also why I loved to visit the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It’s filled with miniature furniture!

Colleen Moore Fairy Castle @ the Museum of Science and Industry

Colleen Moore Fairy Castle @ the Museum of Science and Industry

One Christmas I was given a box of 100 small, pink plastic ballet dancers. I played with them for hours. I’m glad I found a picture of them on the internet, since I no longer have the set. Some internet wag referred to these as the girl version of those little green Army men.

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These days I still collect tiny treasures, but mostly in book form. (Okay, yes, I have a few Shopkins and characters from series like My Little Pony and the Littlest Pet Shop. I also have a small throwing knife and like to crochet tiny envelopes. Eclectic is my middle name.)

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I love fantasy and science fiction books. I realize these types of books are not everyone’s cup of tea. But to celebrate my blogoversary, I’d like to give away a tiny treasure—a book under 200 pages in length—to a commenter. Normally I love a long book. But some books pack a punch in a short amount of time. I chose two that have inspired me over the years. They’re oldies but goodies.

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Why these books? Well, The Ordinary Princess represents everything I love about fairy tales. And I love the way Le Guin explores the different cultures in her tightly written classic, A Wizard of Earthsea.

Comment below to let me know which book you would like to receive if your name is chosen. (Do not be alarmed. I am not giving away my old, beat-up copies of these books.) It’s okay if the answer is “neither,” and you just wish to comment without participating in my book giveaway. Just know that I appreciate the fact that you found your way to my little corner of the internet. 🙂 You deserve some cake for that. Feel free to take a huge bite.

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I’ve enjoyed writing this blog. Still, I never imagined I’d reach a third year! Thanks for putting up with me over the years.

What tiny treasures, if any, do you collect?

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Book covers from Goodreads. Plastic dancers from onemoregadget.com. Cake from clker.com. Fairy castle from msichicago.org.

Indoctrinating the New Kid

Happy post-Valentine’s Day and Happy Presidents Day today (if you live in the U.S.)! This post has nothing to do wither either holiday! Enjoy!

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When I was a kid, the older kids in my neighborhood, when they weren’t trying to intimidate us younger kids or extort money from us, would teach us stuff. You know—stuff like Double Dutch rhymes; limericks they’d heard from kids older than them; curse words (in different languages); how to ride a skateboard; how to flirt; how to hold a cigarette and look cool (um smoking is bad for you, kids); how to hit a baseball. You know—stuff they thought was useful. After that, they would go back to ignoring us or telling us to stay out of their clubhouse. (Okay, that last one was just something my older brother would say to me.) We wanted to be like them, so we listened to them.

As I grew older, I taught those younger than me the ways of the world. Ha. I totally did not. I ignored or terrorized younger kids (like my younger brother). I was not an Obi-Wan Kenobi, out there in search of a young padawan to train.

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Perhaps that’s why I listened in fascination as Kitty took a young kid under her wing. Even a supervillain can be a mentor.

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“What’s your name, kid?” Kitty asked, somehow managing to look menacing even with a cupcake in her hands.

The kid flinched. “Isabelle.”

Kitty nodded. “I’ll call you Mel then.”

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Isabelle frowned. Or at least that was her intent. But try as she would, she couldn’t change the cheerful expression on her molded plastic face. “Mel? But that’s not my na—”

“Mel it is. And you don’t have to raise your hand to ask a question, Mel.”

“I can’t lower it. I was made this way. Just like you were made to hold that cupcake, right?”

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Kitty conceded the point, then cleared her throat and assumed a lecturing attitude. “Mel, to succeed in what I do, getting others to do your bidding must be as comfortable to you as this chair looks.”

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“Is that the Shopkins Comfy Chair? I love collecting Shopkins.” Isabelle reached for the Comfy Chair. “I don’t think I have this one.”

Kitty held out her cupcake like a judge holding out a gavel. “Don’t touch that. I’m using it to make a point. . . . As I was saying, as any successful entrepreneur would tell you, bending others to your will is what’s necessary for the good of the world. And what the world needs is the firm hand of a true leader. That’s why I demand yearly tributes from the leaders of all nations. . . . Um, you should be writing this down, Mel.”

Isabelle nodded, but I was skeptical of her ability to write anything well, since she had that one-hand-raised issue. But Kitty did not press the issue. Though I was curious as to what point(s) Kitty planned to make when she pulled these out . . .

More Shopkins

. . . I moved on at that point. But I had to admire her technique for imparting her wisdom. It was certainly different from that used by the kids in my old neighborhood.

Judging by the look on Kitty’s face while listening to Isabelle’s squeals of delight as Kitty set the above items on the table, I was certain Kitty had the same thought in her head as did I: Isabelle would never make it as a career criminal.

Sometimes imparting your wisdom is all you’re called to do for a person younger in age or someone less senior in your chosen career. The wise person, however, knows when to give advice and when to hold back.

When have you been the new kid? How did someone older or in a senior position help you?

Valentine hearts from tastefully-done.blogspot.com. Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi found at fanpop.com. Presidents Day image from presidentsday-2015.org.