October 11, 2013

Seven Quick Takes About Sinead O'Connor, Defeating Monsters, and the Dentist


 Modern Kids —


The other day, Hannah and Sophia were examining a picture in which a little girl was looking down at something. "What is she looking at?" asked Sophia. "She's checking her iphone," said Hannah. 

Hannah also made herself a little book this week, and filled some of the pages with random letters. "What do these letters spell?" I asked her. She waved her hand dismissively, "Oh, that's just advertising."

Jonah was "talking" on his toy phone while Hannah spilled her water all over the table. Immediately Jonah lunged forward, phone stretched out towards the water. "Wait, I have to take a picture of that!" And he proceeded very realistically to "take a picture". Then he "checked" his photo, and said with disappointment, "Oh, it's a bad photo." 


  Defeating the Vent Monster

A few weeks ago, Jonah developed a new fear. It all started when he came to me asking "Mama, could we cover the vents?" I asked him why, and he said something about how the "fire" lives there and he hears it sometimes, and it wants to come out.

At first I tried to ignore his fear and brush it off with things like "don't be afraid, there's nothing there," and explanations about the furnace and how it is a machine that makes noise and blows the warm air. But his fear persisted. Once he started crying at night, and when I came to check on him, he was talking about the vent and shaking with fear. That's when I knew it was a real fear, and I had better take it seriously.

After that we lived with some of our vents covered, especially the one in his room, the dining room and the kitchen. But he was still clearly afraid, and needed to be with someone every time he went to the washrooms, where the vents were uncovered.

One morning he asked me: "Mama, does the guy in the vent warm our air?"

The guy in the vent??
I went with it, and Venti was born.

Venti, the funny guy who lives in our vent, the machine operator of our furnace. He crawled in there long ago, and his job is to push the red and blue buttons that make the hot air come or stop. Over the years, Venti has gotten really big and can't come out anymore, he is stuck in the pipes. He loves to eat bacon, and can often be heard frying it up. He has a pet spider, a kitten that goes to visit him, and most recently also a puppy in there with him. He has a whole, funny life of his own, and he is quite a hilarious character. Sometimes he bangs the walls and sings when he is bored. Occasionally he can be heard scratching his back. 

The children loved it. They asked me for story after story about Venti, and I was getting worried I would run out of ideas. They bent over and shouted questions to Venti into the vents, and made up his responses. They started imagining their own pieces of the story. That night, Jonah asked me to be quiet so that Venti could sleep.

They have been talking about Venti ever since.
The best part is, Jonah seems to have forgotten all about his fear of the vents.


 — Sinead O'Connor to Miley

I never did watch the Miley Cyrus performance that started it all. But I did read Sinead O'Connor's letter to Miley, where she very clearly spells out how acting like an object for men's pleasure is a female performer's sure way to lose the respect of others, shorten her career success, and end up in therapy.

Sinead, now 47, clearly speaks from a lot of personal experience, and kudos to her for having gained such wisdom. I don't agree with her on everything; in a further exchange she had with Miley on Twitter, she stands by her infamous act where she ripped up the Pope's photograph (however, she explains that she did this as a protest against sexual abuse in the Church).

On the exploitation of women performers by the music industry and its executives, as well as by the many men who are in the audience, Sinead could not be more right. She writes:
"The music business... will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think its what YOU wanted … and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, ‘they’ will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.

None of the men ogling you give a [****] about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. ...No one who cares about you could support your being pimped … and that includes you yourself. Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change."
Too bad that Miley, who is 20 years old and still a mere child on today's mental maturation scale, has been so completely brainwashed that she is incapable of recognizing help when she gets it. Instead, she returned the favour by attacking and ridiculing Sinead as a formerly suicidal and mentally ill woman. Over Twitter and on talk shows, Miley has been snickering and rolling her eyes without ever addressing the actual points made in Sinead's letter.

Regrettably, it appears that Miley's juvenille tactics have worked to at least some extent, and in her 4th letter to Miley, where she demands a sweeping apology, O'Connor refers to "the types of e mails and communications I have had for the last few days urging that I should kill myself...[and] the type of ‘net abuse’ I have had to endure as a result of what you did."

One day, when she burns out her own candle, Miley will finally see the flaming truth in O'Connor's words. But what about the rest of the music industry? What about the fans who are writing to Sinead, urging her to kill herself? Those ordinary guys (and perhaps women) who live in our own neighbourhoods? Will they ever get it?

When, I wonder, will our culture finally recognize that it's not empowering for women to turn themselves into objects for men's lust and pleasure?


  — Serial Moving  —   

My mom surprised me the other day by saying that repeated moving from place to place is a traumatic experience, the losses are too high most of the time, and people should just settle down wherever they are and stop moving around. Life has clearly taught its hard lessons.

I can't say I disagree with my mom. In fact, I completely agree with her. I have been uprooted so many times in my life that for decades, living with my roots up in the air was basically my permanent state of being. But for my children, I wish a different kind of future. I want to give them the stability that comes with rootedness in one particular place, with a particular group of people (especially family).

  — Alice Munro 


Go Alice Munro! Wow. I am so proud of this Canadian writer, who truly does have great talent. And I am relieved that the Nobel Prize did NOT go to Margaret Atwood, who is usually far more visible here in Canada.


   — Surprise at the Dentist's Office — 


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Yesterday the children had their dental appointments, and I was getting ready for the worst. Last year when we took Jonah to the dentist, we left the office covered in sweat and tears, so this year I enlisted my mother to come with me, as extra manpower in a looming battle of wills. I expected emergency-room-worthy screaming, lobster claws on the handles of patient's chairs, locked jaws.

What I got instead was the total opposite: as if under the influence of a magic spell (could it be the many muttered prayers...), Jonah and Hannah were both incredible embodiments of decorum and obedience. Hannah especially was completely at home, happily chatting with the assistant and the dentist. At one point she even counted to one hundred, number by number, while the dentist patiently waited until the end (why I don't know, I think maybe they asked her how high she can count). Jonah was basically mute but entirely obedient.

The dentist was apparently impressed: they both got to choose not one but two prizes out of the children's treasure box. But the biggest prize was the one for me: I got to feel proud of my children at a moment when I had expected to be embarrassed and frustrated. Words cannot describe my relief and joy at this unlikely turn of events, which totally made my day.

 — Rediscovering the Forest — 


We live at the edge of the city and we have beautiful nature close to us in the form of Ottawa's Greenbelt, an area that is essentially a nature preserve of forests and wetlands that are immune to development.

We don't take enough advantage of this treasure so close to our house, but this week we did. My parents organized the trip and we visited a nearby forest trail that winds its way through to one of the wetland areas.

What an amazing time we had. The children loved it, and I did too. It's incredible how much the forest had changed since the time we visited in the summer. Instead of the lush greenery that had been all around us last time, we crunched piles of brown leaves underfoot. There was more light and visibility, the same old broken trees and logs strewn in all directions, and huge rocky formations jutting out of the ground.

This time around we had little birds sitting on our outstretched hands, pecking at sunflower seeds in our palms. We also spotted all kinds of other little critters, including a forest mouse, ducks (they too love sunflower seeds), and huge dragonflies that circled the wetland like helicopters. The crown of it all was the large black woodpecker, sighted by Jonah, who continued in his work of drumming on the tree even as we were just a few meters away. I had never seen a woodpecker up that close, and it was a magical moment.

Going to the forest possibly qualifies as the best spent 2 hours of the entire week. The children learned and experienced so much there, even museums are not nearly as educational. This is true learning through living! So now I want to plan the forest into our weekly outings.

For more 7 Quick Takes from across the blogosphere, visit Jennifer Fuller's blog Conversion Diary.
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