Archive for July, 2016

Children’s Media: What is it Saying?

By: Rebecca Taylor

**Published by the Montreal Review in 2010**

 

It is natural for children to love having bedtime stories read to them but have you ever really thought about what it is that you are actually reading them. There are many stories and famous fairy tales out there, which undermine values, which you may be trying to teach a child. The same applies for other types of children’s media, like music and movies.

For example, there is “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” This is a story of hypocritical reindeer. Most of the reindeer refuse to or are forbidden from playing with Rudolph because he is different. He has a red nose. However, when Christmas Eve comes and it is storming out, Rudolph becomes a hero because he has a gift, his red nose can lead Santa Claus’ sleigh through the fog so that all the children receive their visit from Jolly Old Saint Nick, and not be disappointed come Christmas morning. After Rudolph saves Christmas, he is accepted, and allowed to “play in any reindeer games.[1]”  What lesson is being taught here, that being a hypocrite is okay? It needs to be duly noted that in the original “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” book by Robert L. May, Rudolph was much better treated, but why is it that this original story is not what children know?

In the popular tale, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Goldilocks breaks into the Bears’ home while they are out taking a walk. She steals food, breaks furniture and sleeps in Baby Bear’s Bed. In today’s society, Goldilocks would be considered a juvenile delinquent. She would be accused of breaking and entering, stealing and destruction of property. Does Goldilocks get punished in this story? No, she doesn’t, she goes out the window and runs away. What is this teaching children, that it is okay to do something wrong as long as you as you run and hide from it?

In “Rumpelstiltskin,” a woman is locked away and asked to do the impossible (spin straw into gold) because her father lied about her abilities. She is threatened with death if she cannot accomplish this. A dwarf helped her by spinning the straw to gold, and then blackmailed her for her first-born child unless she can guess his name. It is not until someone hears Rumpelstiltskin singing, and tells the woman about what the dwarf’s name is that she is able to keep her child. If you are reading this to a child, what are you teaching them? Yes, the woman gets to keep her child but she never should have been in the situation that she was. The lesson here would be?

When I was a child, my mother would change the ending to many stories and someday I’ll probably be doing the same thing when I have children because the lessons these stories are teaching are not what I want to portray. I could refuse to share the media that I disagree with to my children but then they would go to school and learn about fictitious characters like Rudolph. Ignoring the issues, will not solve anything, new endings should be written to these stories, for example, maybe the police would be called on Goldilocks, to figure out the best solution to the problems. If nothing else, Goldilocks needs to be told that she did wrong and that it is inappropriate behaviour. The same applies to the other examples given. There needs to be an add-on or discussion questions at the end, teaching about the issues in these stories. I believe in fiction but I also believe that there needs to be a moral to a story so that children do not get the wrong ideas.

These are only a few examples of the media which children are subjected to. The next time, you pick up a movie, CD or book, think about the actual content of it, consider what it is really saying. And if you decide to still give it to your children, as entertainment, please talk to them about it afterwards. You can discuss what the characters did wrong, and how they could have fixed it. The choice is yours.

 

 

[1] Words from song “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” by Johnny Marks, 1949.

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The Benefits of Positive Thinking

By: Rebecca Taylor (written in April 2011)

 

It is easy for life to get busy and sometimes even the smallest things make us feel overwhelmed and discouraged. However, if we attempt to keep a positive outlook on life, this makes it harder for the gloom to get a hold of us.  In order to stay positive, we must all take time for ourselves to replenish our energy. These few minutes a day might make all the difference.

There are many ways that we can turn a not so great day into something better. For each of us, this will be different because we are all unique. For some of us, it can be as simple as getting a phone call from a friend, hearing his or her voice might put a smile on our face even if we are talking about a subject of little significance. Listening to music, watching your favourite movie, reading a book or working on one of your hobbies can make you feel uplifted so if you work these activities into your schedule, around your hectic lifestyle, they may help you be a happier, more optimistic person. If you have the time, you may also consider a volunteer activity, because giving back to others is another way for us to feel better about ourselves.

Positive thinking is beneficial to our health. When we are positive, it is more likely that we will live longer, be less likely to become depressed, be less prone to, or better at coping with stress. The mental and physical strain on each of us is also supposed to be reduced when we think positively.

We must remember what Dennis and Wendy Mannering say, “Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?” If each of us does our best to keep things positive, then this will make it easier for the people around us to be positive too. There are two ways of looking at most situations. It is up to us to decide if our glass is half-full or half empty.

It is difficult to change all at once, so if you decide that you’re going to work at being a more positive person, remember self improvement takes time and patience but do not give up, the more you work at being positive, the easier it will come. The way you make the transition is up to you, maybe you will decide to start and finish each day with thinking about something that is positive in your life. Wishing you all a happy, positive month.

 

Life of a Pottery Wheel

By: Rebecca Taylor

**Previously published in 2009 by Perspectives Magazine**

Some say I live a mundane life, but I just laugh and tell them it is anything but that. I am a creator of many fine items like vases, which hold the flowers picked by tiny hands and given with great care to their mothers. Not only do I assist in inventing beautiful items and precious memories but I also create a living for Linai Prichard, the pottery teacher and a supplemental income for a few of her students. If you have not yet guessed, I am a pottery wheel. It is a very rewarding vocation, everyday my heart is touched by many different individuals. I find my life intriguing getting to be involved in the process of creating unique projects depending on the artist’s mood and personality. I love seeing a chunk of clay become a useful or decorative item. There are classes in my home at the studio for all ages and skill levels. Seeing the children, some as young as three work their magic on me is amazing. They are so unafraid of making a mistake in shaping their artwork, unlike some of the adults who take a more cautious approach. Children are fearless when it comes to making a mess; to them designing a piece of pottery is like making a different kind of mud pie.

The feeling of hands of any age turning the clay over my body creates an incredible sensation. I wonder if this is what it feels like for a dog to be brushed by its master or to play fetch, at peace doing what it loves. Sometimes when nobody is spinning my wheel, I sit and watch the students decorate their pottery; some are talented in drawing and create very realistic designs like waterfalls and horses. Other students use designs are more abstract; some even engrave or paint words on their pieces. As long as these students are happy with themselves and their creations, I can smile.

The most frightening part of the pottery experience is having the artwork be placed in the kiln. The hot air can be felt in the studio, it is like having all of the windows closed in a kitchen and turning the stove up to full blast on a sultry day. This makes sense to me because mostly a kiln is a giant oven heated to harden the clay and preserve the design of the artwork that is on it. Most of the time the pottery comes from the kiln unscathed,  but there have been a few times when cracks have appeared and Linai assists her student in remodelling the piece with extra clay to give it the necessary thickness it needs so it does not fracture in the kiln. When I see beautifully completed pieces come out of the kiln safely, I always breathe a sign of relief. These pieces have a lot more courage than I do, I am afraid of the fire in the kiln.

In my eighteen years of being a pottery wheel, the most amazing experience that I recall is the story of Jennifer and Stephane Arbour. Jennifer had brought her boyfriend Stephane to a pottery class so he could see why this art form was important to her. Jennifer guided Stephane’s hands on me, the clay becoming caked to their hands as we sculpted the terracotta into a plate. Jennifer and Stephane left the studio after setting the plate aside to dry. Two days later, they came back and as Jennifer sat down to paint a teacup she had previously sculpted, Stephane sat down to design the plate. He experimented with some colour and eventually said, “Jennie, what do you think of this?”

Jennifer looked over at the plate and read the message that was surrounded by hearts and smiley faces. It read: Jennie, will you marry me?” Jennifer didn’t say anything for a minute, but her face held a surprised expression. “Yes, I’ll marry you.” she answered engulfing Stephane in a hug. Linai took of picture of them standing with their plate. This picture hangs in the studio reminding us all how pottery can touch lives in so many ways. Anyone, regardless of age or talent can give me a whirl, and if you’re having fun so will I, no matter what the outcome of the project. I’ve seen many improvements in the students’ works over the years as they learn with practice how to be a better potter. I hold their joy and perseverance close to my heart. I think I have the best job on earth. Living the life of a pottery wheel is never boring.

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The Dog and the Cow

A True Story by Rebecca Taylor

For many reasons including the fact that most of last week and the entire weekend was spend busy with garage sale things, Chapter 32 of my novel didn’t get written this week. I had good intentions of getting to it last night, but that didn’t work out either, but I thought I would share with you part of yesterday’s adventures. The day began as normal, I got up early and went to my computer where I checked my e-mails for orders from my writing clients etc. Then, it was time to relax a little before work. I had just sat down with my cup of tea and my cat was sitting on my knee when my family and I looked outside the window and saw the neighbor’s Husky and a black bovine standing in the road. Still in my pyjamas, I quickly set down the cat and my cup of tea and put on my running shoes. I wasn’t even wearing socks yet. I went outside quickly, but not too fast as to startle the animals. I walked towards the road and waited for my dad to come out so he could get around the black cow – who when we got closer was actually a large bull calf. In the meantime, cars were coming by on the road and I gestured to get them to slow down – they did – but I’m not sure if it was the sight of me in my pyjamas on the side of the road or the dog and the bull in the road. It wasn’t long before the dog decided to go home as if to say that he was leaving his bovine friend in our hands. The bull calf decided that it was going to meander to another neighbor’s place, which is between ours and the calf’s owner. After several minutes of trying to catch it – I could get close to it, but it kept taking off – my dad finally caught it in a wooded area. It had a twine collar around its neck and he was able to take it by that. The bull’s owner is a man and I think the calf was certainly more used to them. My dad was able to lead the calf by its collar. Thankfully the calf had horns and that meant the collar didn’t slip off over its head. My mom brought us a better rope and then we led it into an enclosure at the neighbor’s – until the other neighbor could come and get it. I was able to finish my tea – now partly cold before getting ready for work. In the evening as I was sitting down, planning to get to work writing, one of our own cows decided it was a good time to give birth and she needed assistance so I went out to help my brother and my dad. A cute red and white bull calf was born and mom and baby are doing well. Life is never dull when you live on a farm in the country.

Love Without Borders

In celebration of Canada Day and Independence Day. This was a writing prompt about what might happen if the Canadian flag and American flag joined together in marriage.
by: Rebecca Taylor
“We are gathered here today to celebrate the rejoining of two nations, Canada and America. I, Freedom, am ecstatic about the opportunity to officiate this marriage. Without further ado, does anyone object to the union of these two countries?”

The two flags leaned in closer to each other on a high mounted flagpole, each one almost holding their breaths in anticipation, it was their day and they feared that someone may object to them because of their past differences. It didn’t take a fancy dress for the bride or a suit for the groom to make the twosome shimmer in the moonlight just like it didn’t take the same citizenship, colour or exact beliefs to make a harmonious union.

“And now onto the important part,” said Freedom, “the marriage vows, Canada, do you to take America to be your lawfully wedded wife through natural disasters, joyous celebrations and international disputes until the end of eternity?”

“I do,” replied Canada.

“America, do you take Canada to be your lawfully wedded husband through natural disasters, joyous celebrations and international disputes until the end of eternity?”

“I do,” whispered America, her stars gleaming.

“Amen,” said Freedom, “and now I believe you both have a very special vow to make to each other. Canada, you may begin.”

“Meri, you and I have known each other for what seems like forever, our designs have changed along the way and sometimes so has the way we’ve felt about each other. I want you to know that even though we are from different sides of the border, my love for you is boundless. There was a time when we grew apart, our ties felt severed by our differences, but while we were distant, I learned the importance of holding onto my beliefs no matter what the cost. The bottom line is regardless of what happens to our individual economies and elections, I love you and we belong together. This day is for us and for all the other lovers out there struggling with their differences. I want you and them to know that when a couple is meant to be together even when they have differences, they need to reach for the sky. You cannot stop loving because someone thinks you do not belong together. Our love is immeasurable, and I thank the higher powers every day that I have you,” said Canada clutching America.

“Canada, that was absolutely beautiful. Now, look at me, you made me cry. Tears of joy because we have been so fortunate in love to be devoting ourselves to each other again. We have been given a second chance at happiness and because of this our countries should rejoice. There was a time when we may have been called opponents, but what we need to be seen as are allies. In our union, I pray that we may be seen as one. Canada and America, reuniting with the blessing of our countries, our witnesses, and the wisdom of Freedom and Liberty. Thank you for being my rock in this world of turmoil. It is my belief that together we can assist the universe in overcoming many obstacles. I’m in this marriage for the long haul, I know it won’t be easy, but when have we ever taken the easy route. Thank you for living with me each day and loving me to your fullest.”

The crowd assembled beneath the lavishly decorated flagpole clapped and cheered, all the onlookers smiling and taking in the wonder and knowledge of the couple. The crowd began singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” and then the most radiant display of fireworks engulfed the darkening sky sealing the vows which Canada and America had made to each other and the world.

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