The incredibles, self esteem and raising smart kids

incredibles.jpgI subscribe to a wonderful podcast called ThePsychFiles by Michael Britt a psychology professor, he talks about everyday topics with a psychological twist. In his episode titled “How Do You Really Raise Self-Esteem? The Incredibles vs. American Idol” he touches on the subject of praising children on talent versus effort and how it really affects them. Another article by the Scientific American, The secret to raising smart kids, also talks about the same issue.

I watched The Incredibles a while back and really enjoyed it but I had never thought about it deeply or about what underlying message it might be trying to convey. This review points out lots of points which I had previously missed such as recognizing the stay at home mom who left behind a life of super heroism and the dad who leaves the limelight to work in a miserable cubicle. Perhaps I never gave it second thought because at the time I was single and watched it for the entertainment value (which was super) and today I am married and expecting my first child and already trying to figure out what are the kind of movies I want my kid to watch and which I want to filter to make sure she is only exposed to positive influences.

In search of Islamic feminism

I just finished reading In Search of Islamic Feminism by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea. The author visits Muslim countries in search of what she is calling Islamic Feminism, interestingly she encounters a very vocal and active group of women working real hard to improve women’s lives yet do not want to be called feminists. Partly because “feminists” as seen by these women is associated with the Western type of feminism which is quite different than what is happening in these countries. Perhaps in Muslim countries, women already know what their rights are, the Quran is very clear on it. Islam has very clear laws and rules and they are all in favor of protecting and respecting women. The problem is that they are either misinterpreted or not followed, and this is what womens movements are mainly trying to accomplish, to bring these laws into the light and make sure they are followed correctly.

The book is fun to read, because it is more like a story of B.J.’s (as her friends call her in the book) journey to these countries.  She has been to most of them before and is revisiting and also tells of how things have changed.  She is neither judgmental of the culture nor completely unbiased which makes the reading even more fun and relaxed.

Reviews of the book:

Middle East Policy Council journal

Mascunilism blog

I used to be different

I am a focused, well balanced and very dependable career girl.  No wait, I was all of that until I got pregnant.  My hormones have rendered by brain into a lump of mushy marshmallows with lots of chocolate sauce and cherries on top.  I will be fair as I usually am ( thankfully my ability to rationalize is not fully gone yet ) and say that not all of it is because of being pregnant.  I am in a strange country, still don’t have a driving license, work at home and don’t get to socialize at all, so I tend to spend most of my time working at home and surfing the internet.  I am bored and when I get bored I usually loose interest in real life.  But then again, I love reading but my reading capacity has gone down from 800 page books in a week to 8 words on the back of microwave dinner packs.

I spend most of the day trying to pick out the perfect nursery,  taking into consideration that I am not going to have a nursery at all, just a baby crib which which will probably end up in our room for the first year.  I dream of lovely pink polka dot wallpaper ( for the record, I don’t even like pink that much, and polka dots were never my thing).  I also have a thing for baby clothes, although in comparison my husband is much worse off, I practically have to drag him away from the baby girl section to stop him from buying more stuff than she could possibly wear in the beginning, and every time he gives me a nasty look which makes me feel like I am the evil step mother or the wicked witch of the west.  He also talks to the baby which I find so cute and tells her all of the wonderful things he is planning to do with her, like teach her how to build Lego towers.

Did I mention I also dream of having my pre-baby body back?  I am 30 weeks pregnant and I miss being able to roll around in bed when I want to instead of having to get up and roll to my other side, and I also miss sleeping on my back.  I also miss my waist, is was a nice feature.  I was never really “thin”, but I was ok and I was happy with my body and comfortable with it, now we are not very comfortable with each other, my body wants to go to the bathroom every 3 minutes and my legs don’t want to carry me there.  My shoes don’t fit anymore either, part of it is because my feet are bigger and part because I used to buy shoes that fit with no room to spare for even a pair of thicker socks, so I guess I deserve that one.  My sister will be very happy because I guess she might as well have them, including a pair that was only worn twice and cost an arm and a leg.

The funny thing in all of this is that I am euphoric, I don’t really care about all of these things, I want to get to my due date and end up with a cute and slightly naughty little baby girl whom I hope will be my friend forever.

The century of the self

I enjoy watching documentaries, I prefer the factual programs to soaps, dramas, silly movies and reality TV.  I find it educational intellectual entertainment.  I came across The Century of the Self completely by chance.  It is a four part documentary by Adam Curtis.  In his own words the series is “about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy”.

I have always known that the media, politics and business do not just happen to market their ideas and products but they actively try to control what we think so we buy, vote or believe more of what they have.   The documentary shows how this came to be, and how Freud’s ideas and theories were interpreted and used to manipulate the crowds.

Reminds me of the Arabic phrase “waraya ya kherfan” translation; “behind me you sheep”.

Watch the series on Google video. 

You gotta be …

This is an old song (came out in the 90s) by Des’ree which has this upbeat, “life is good” feel to it. Please enjoy.

Women Inventors

I don’t usually link to interesting blog posts, but usually just share them in the interesting links, but this one is worth mentioning.  This article lists lots of women inventors.

Mahna Mahna

Totally useless and makes no sense, but then again some things in life should just be funny and make you smile.

I am grateful and thankful

I realized that 90% of my life is in the virtual world. My job is in another country hundreds of miles away, so are my friends and my family. I live for email, sms and other forms of electronic communication. I feel happy when I see that my inbox is not empty and get depressed when I hit the refresh button and it stares me in the face “0 new messages”. I check my mobile phone a hundred times a day to make sure that I have not missed calls or messages. It is sad isn’t it? But then I think again, what if I were in a country all alone and had none of these forms of communication and realize I am grateful. I am thankful that I can call my family using Skype, that I can chat for hours with my mum on Google Talk and not worry about a phone bill, that I have a job that is flexible enough for me to be able to work in a different country and time zone. I miss my tribe, I miss everyone terribly, I miss the little things, the nonsense, the silly outings, the morning coffee break with my friends at work, the annoying inability to park anywhere near work and having to walk 10 minutes from my car to the office, I miss being able to drive, I miss my best friend of 10 years who also happened to work in the cubicle next to me, I miss my sister; who by complete chance used to work in a different company but in the same building. I miss my mother waking me up at dawn to pray and then to share a morning nescafe in bed to talk and gossip and laugh loudly until my sister woke up and got mad at us for being so loud. I miss the fact that I am pregnant and all the people that I wanted to share it with are so far away. I miss the fact that the grocery nearest to the house not only knew me by name but also knew my entire family too. I hate the fact that I know when the home phone rings it is never for me, I hate the fact that I can’t jump into my car and drive fast enough an leave any worries on the tarmac behind me. And then I think again, I am grateful and thankful for family and friends who even though I am so far away still care and love me, who find the time in their busy schedules to make sure I am ok, for the long distance phone calls that make my day most wonderful, for the tidbits of gossip that still make me feel a part of their lives, for calling me when they need to share news, or laugh or even (God forbid) cry. I am grateful for the little girl on the way who has no idea that waiting for her is the sweetest thing on earth, and that Mummy and Daddy really can’t wait to see her, hold her and spoil her rotten.

I apologize for being so personal and sad in this post, but I guess I needed to let off some steam.

So many different words for love

“‘Hub’ is love, ‘ishq’ is love that entwines two people together, ‘shaghaf’ is love that nests in the chambers of the heart, ‘hayam’ is love that wanders the earth, ‘teeh’ is love in which you loose yourself, ‘walah’ is love that carries sorrow with it, ‘sababah’ is love that exudes from your pores, ‘hawa’ is love that shares its name with ‘air’ and ‘falling’, ‘gharam’ is love that is willing to pay the price.”

An Excerpt from the book “The Map of love” by Ahdaf Soueif.

I just finished reading the book and was sad to see it come to an end. Although from the excerpt it might seem that it was a soppy love story but this is so far from the truth. It is an amazing saga of several generations with a historical backdrop of Egypt at the beginning and end of the century. The characters were so entertaining and their lives were like windows into that era. I had previously read “In the Eye of The Sun” by the same author which I also loved but did not grab me like this one.  Perhaps the reason why I enjoyed the book so much was because it transported me to a time in Egypt when things were so much better yet so much worse, a time when people had political aspirations and the will and drive to fight for their rights, like universities, women’s education and independence.  It might seem weird that I mention independence last but I truly believe that when a nation is educated its independence becomes and inevitability.

As for the above excerpt, it truly is amazing to look at Arabic from the point of view of a non-Arabic speaker.  I had always wondered why we only have one word in Arabic which we use interchangeably for love and like but I realized now that we have so many more versions of “love” than I had previously though.   Arabic is truly poetic and romantic yet at the same time it is timeless and strong.

I am a princess

disney_princess3.jpgYesterday, I stumbled upon Princess Diaries by chance on TV and watched it.  I know it s a pre-teen movie and in theory I am way too old  and intellectual for that kind of movie, but I am a sucker for Disney movies.  Every little girl has always wanted to be a princess in a fairy tale especially a Disney one,  where life is filled with colorful characters, evil characters are ugly, the prince is always handsome and the ending is always happy.  Come to think of it, even big girls want to be a Disney princess.   All through my childhood I have been mesmerized and fascinated by the different stories and back drops of the animated characters,  on a deeper note though they all seem to be a positive influence on girls unlike some of the violent cartoons of today.

Cinderella manages to find her prince even though she lives a tough life after losing her father and being treated like a maid by her step mother and step sisters.

Ariel is an explorer and defies her father, King Titan to follow her enthrallment with all things human  and then fights for her prince.  I have always had a soft spot for the mermaid with her red hair and amazing world under the sea.

Pocahontas teaches tolerance of other cultures and shows that acceptance and respect really can go a long way.

Snow White is a princess who learns the hard way that trust should be earned not given to anyone, and that even tiny dwarfs can be yours best friend.

Belle from Beauty and the Beast learns that even ugly beings can be really beautiful inside.

I could go on forever, and even though I know that I am slightly dancing on the cheesy side of life, I think ever girl is a princess in her own world and should be encouraged to believe she is  (without being catty or bitchy).  If I am blessed with a little girl I think I would like to read her the stories first and explain why she too is a princess, a princess who can grow up to be a scientist, a doctor, an artist or anything else she wants to be and then let her enjoy the movie on her own.  The world really is a girl’s kingdom we just have to teach them and show them how it can be.

Which Disney princess are you?

How Fairy tales shape our lives.