Looking back and thinking forward

Month: September, 2006

Be back soon


I found this at Shorty PJs … "arf! arf!" …

Hormonal confessions

Quote of the day:

I guess I have to admit that marking-time types of rituals like those we perform during holidays, birthdays etc., ground us, and give some kind of order during the mundane, and especially in the storm and turbulence of our chaotic lives. Thought by Tamarika while in the shower.

(Warning note: am not sure how much of this post will resonate with my male readers … apologies in advance …)

I cannot help but think about hormones. When I recently visited the doctor for an annual check-up he was bewildered about me. He said that I was "way out there on the curve" because by age 57 I really should be done having a period. I laughed and told him how glad I was to be finally "way out there on the curve" for something.

I may be "way out there on the curve" but, in fact, the situation is naturally accompanied by many fluctuating hormonal moments. Of course I cry at the drop of a hat. But haven’t I always done that? Yes indeed, at times my emotions seem to sit right on the edge of my brain. I have come to the conclusion that hormones give me the courage to make a stand for myself. You see, most of these feelings were there anyway. But when those hormones bounce around they raise the issues for me, front and center, and I become a fierce and assertive, courageous woman and oh my goodness, hear me roar! So now I have given up resistance. Instead, I welcome those moments, and am learning to channel them for positive growth and emotional development.

Lately I am thinking there might be some connections between hormone fluctuations and decision making. For example, do I think about giving up blogging during those times? What about exercise and eating? Are those affected? The mind and body are as connected as can be. I love this age! Am getting to know myself intimately. Every pore, each vibration of the brain, beat of my heart, inhale and exhale. I wonder how I walked about in the dark for so long when I was young thinking that all was compartmentalized, disconnected one from the other. It is the integration of all the parts and pieces that make me whole, vibrant, and stirring, trembling with life.

Suddenly, I am reminded of Germaine Greer‘s conclusion from The Change, a piece that years ago I laminated and pinned up on my wall:

While the anaphobes draw frightful caricatures of the untreated menopausal woman, and the hormone replacers rend their garments and bemoan the tragedy of the cessation of ovulation, women themselves remain silent. Let younger people anxiously inquire, let researchers tie themselves in knots with definitions that refuse to stick, the middle-aged woman is about her own business, which is none of theirs. Let the Masters in Menopause congregate in luxury hotels all over the world to deliver and to hearken to papers on the latest astonishing discoveries about the decline of grip strength in menopause or the number of stromal cells in the fifty-year-old ovary, the woman herself is too busy to listen. She is climbing her own mountain, in search of her own horizon, after years of being absorbed in the struggles of others. The way is hard, and she stumbles many times, but for once no one is scrambling after her, begging her to turn back. The air grows thin, and she may often feel dizzy. Sometimes the weariness spreads from her aching bones to her heart and brain, but she knows that when she has scrambled up this last sheer obstacle, she will see how to handle the rest of her long life. Some will climb swiftly, others will tack back and forth on the lower slopes, but few will give up. The truth is that fewer women come to grief at this obstacle than at any other time in their tempestuous lives, though it may baffle those who have unthinkingly exploited them all their lives before, but it is important not to explain, not to apologize. The climacteric marks the end of apologizing. The chrysalis of conditioning has once for all to break and the female woman finally to emerge.

Walking for the cure

Komennj2_2  … and if you are interested in sponsoring me …

Click here

A year ago on Tamarika: A Has Been

Ethnocentric trance

Images_27 My son called this morning to thank me for the fruit basket he just received for Rosh Hashanah. "Tell me, Mom," he complained, "Why must you send me so much food? There is no way on earth I will be able to eat all the fruit and nuts that’s in this basket! Just once, could you send me a card or something simple like that?" I laughed and jumped up and down. The perfect reaction from a perfect son to his perfectly Jewish mother on Rosh Hashanah!

One of the reasons I enjoyed celebrating holidays in Israel was because we were not in the minority. When it came time for Rosh Hashanah, all the schools, stores, why the whole country, closed down, and celebration was in the air. Fine clothes, food, cards, gifts, flowers, candles, and honey flowed everywhere.

When I came to America 18 years ago, my old minority days, growing up in Rhodesia, living in the diaspora of my youth, rose up and punched me in the stomach. Each Rosh Hashanah and Passover, in Buffalo, the loneliness and alienation was acute. One year, I bought myself a Rosh Hashanah greeting card and sent it around to all the staff at the Child Care Center requesting they sign it and wish me a Happy New Year! They were mortified! Some were grateful. I had brought to their attention the fact that there were religions other than Christian in their midst. I shook them out of their ethnocentric trance!

Now, just as a reminder, I am, in fact, a declared atheist. So why should I care? And yet I do. Go figure!

Even though my partner, Tom’s last name is Jacobson and his nose is as aquiline as can be, that does not make him Jewish. No sirree. The nose comes genetically from his being one sixteenth Chippewa Cree and his name? Well … Norway. Yes indeed. Norwegian. And every year he forgets the what, when and how of my Jewish holiday cravings. This cranks me. In particular because we do make such a fuss of Christmas. Months in advance we plan, prepare, buy the tree, decorate, wrap the millions of gifts, and even visit the Unitarian Church for the midnight service on Christmas Eve.  So why oh why can’t he remember – just once – one of my holidays? I mean, before I remind and whine and bug him about it? Oh, I know. He will come dashing in from work tonight bearing a card he rushed to pick up from the drugstore nearby as he was heading out, in a panic because he realized he missed it!

Now don’t get me wrong. I adore celebrating Christmas just as I would any other holiday from any religion or culture. I just love the idea of people getting together and celebrating community no matter what or who they are. I remember one year when our Christmas tree was decorated, aglow with lights, and gifts starting to pile up under it. I invited some friends over for the first night of Hanukkah to light some candles and eat sufganiyot with me. On the table by the Hanukkiyah stood a large wooden Buddha that Tom had brought me from China the summer before to add to my Buddha collection. Nag Champa was burning and filling the room with its pungent, spiritual odor. My favorite incense that I burn when I practice pranayama daily. I looked at the scene and smiled: Twinkling tree, glowing Hanukkah candles, dish of sufganiot, serene Buddha, and smoke twirling upwards from the incense – "perfect combination!" I thought.

And so, here it is. Rosh Hashanah again and the blues are starting to descend upon me. No greetings from work-mates. No greetings from friends and acquaintances. Why don’t people know that when I lived those 19 years in Israel, Rosh Hashanah was the only time we ever sent each other greeting cards? Why doesn’t anyone know this here, in Philadelphia? I feel driven to becoming an ardent believer, a religious fanatic, to huddle with my people across the seas. I long for family as I think of them all gathering together, sitting at a huge Rosh Hashanah dinner a few hours from now in Michmoret or up in the Galilee.

Oh dear, did I forget to mention that one of my new colleagues at work invited us to a Rosh Hashanah lunch tomorrow? Yesterday she asked me what I was doing for the holiday. I made some kind of a weird, comical facial gesture, and replied, "Weeping all alone" (Could you just die for me right here and now for the pathetic victim display?). "Oh well!" she declared, "You must come over and join our family for lunch on Saturday." To my dismay and embarrassment my eyes welled up with tears that, without any control, started to roll down my cheeks (did I ever tell you that I often clown instead of saying how I really feel?). I was caught!

And so, instead of moping around wiping the floor with a gloomy countenance and heavy heart, I think I will dash out to Chestnut Hill and buy a huge bouquet of flowers and, perhaps, a bottle of red wine. What the hay! I can ring in the Jewish New Year even if I am an ethnic minority. So what!

It is a New Year (Shana Chadasha) indeed. New friends opening their home to me, laughing kindly at my embarrassment and tears of gratitude yesterday. A new era. A time to put aside all those funky blues and feelings of alienation and simply rejoice in the community of a new, sweet world (olam matok).

Shana Tova (Happy New Year), if you choose to celebrate!

A year ago on Tamarika: Remembering Old Friends

Blog naming

Thanks to everyone who participated in the blog stopping discussion:

Citizen of the Month, Jew Eat Yet?, Through the Attic Window, Funny the World, Listics: A Sandhill-Joint, This Too, A Breath of Air, Time Goes By, Shorty PJs, The Boomer Chronicles, Dandelion Days, Simply Wait, Richard Lawrence Cohen, Blaugustine, Older, but No Wiser, YBLOG ZA, nobody asked … BUT, INSITEVIEW — tom shugart’s weblog

It was good to have such an intellectual, emotional, and real taste of the blogging community. The last time I experienced such a discussion was when I wrote about being an atheist.

Yesterday I participated for a short while (as a shy, mostly silent bystander) in a phonecon thanks to Allied by Jeneane Sessum. There were names there I could not recognize although one or two I knew, like Kalilily Time. Hearing bloggers’ real names was interesting for me. It was almost as if each time I would feel as if I was coming out of a safe, private, intimate cocoon of fantastical, virtual names, and into the cold, world of reality.

It led me to think about how we name our blogs. For example, when I first started blogging, I titled my first site, In and Out of Confidence: Fear the Final Frontier, and as time went by I changed it according to how I was feeling about myself. It then became Tamarika, because that was a term of endearment my father used for me. I saw it as a sign that I was allowing myself to remember him with great love. It was a side that was hidden while I was a child and through blogging about that I came to terms with different pieces of myself. In fact, that name has a deep and complex meaning for me. Later, when I felt like I needed to create a different blog, Mining Nuggets: Writing it Down, I used a name that Jean of This Too had used in one of her comments to me, where she seemed to have gotten a lot out of a post I had written. I would love to link to that piece where she made her comment, but I deleted it in my panic to please angry family members. Out of confidence prevailed in those dark days, I regret to say!

Sometimes I am curious to know why people have chosen their blog site names. Therein lies a great little book of vignettes, or short tales of how each person came to choose titles (This is not new for me. I have thought about what is in a name before). After all, I feel as though I have almost become the name of my blog. Becoming Tamarika was a big deal for me. Each time I would see the name as representing me, I felt closer to the Sephardic side that had been mocked and shunned for so long as I grew up. I became whole and acceptable to myself, over and over again. Now, as I become Mining Nuggets, I sense the writer in me. It becomes a way for me to acknowledge the expressive and creative side of me, and realize that all my life, in fact, I have been writing things down: through journals, short stories when I was sixteen, as a child, newsletter columns, articles, a book, blogs … it strengthens my confidence as a writer.

But more than that.

I realize that I probably could not have survived without using writing as an expressive outlet.

All that … just in the name of my blog!

A year ago at Tamarika: Life in the Fast Lane

Sun and life


One of my favorite paintings by Frida Kahlo is Sol Y Vida (Sun and Life). It hangs on the wall above my computer in my study at home, and sometimes I sit for long minutes at a time just staring into the face, tearful eye, weeping tendrils, and haunting hollows. Karlins3258s_1

When I first saw this painting at an exhibit in Canada I was amazed at how it seemed to sum up the way I felt about my life. It penetrated my soul and touched the very core of my suffering. Dark and ominous, death and sorrow in the little fetus above the sun, and yet hopeful. The one left behind to endure life after sorrow, accompanied by sorrow, and yet full, clear, round, seeing, knowing, vibrant – as passionate, warm and sensual as the sun itself – giving life after death.

I felt akin to the painting sensing all those complex emotions deep within me. My abortions represented by the weeping fetus, the hollow dark spaces as my childhood pain. Lonely, longing, undeserving, unworthy. And yet the sun ever pulling me toward life and hope, always reaching out to the kindness of strangers, gathering strength from their support and positive, accepting energy.

Now, as my mother enters a new phase in her old age, energy fading, allowing herself to receive nurturing and care from my wonderful, solid, generous and kind sister-in-law, I observe and listen from afar, and feel closer to her than ever before in my life. My spirit is full of love and wonder at how she was able to give us all life when her own was so full of struggles, confusion and inner torment. Now, I wish for her comfort and the love of those around her, even though I am unable to be there to provide it for her, and, as always, through circumstance and choice, am on the outside looking in. As always, a stranger, a visitor passing through, with no rights to ownership of anything about her, my love of her will always belong to me; her strength, sense of humor, and passion for knowledge will ever be a part of who I am. Her resilience to failure and determination to try and try again, whenever confronting a dead-end, forever finding a way out, are qualities and skills I learned, acquired and keep close to my heart.

I cried when I heard all her things were cleaned up, distributed or thrown away, and her rich and amazing life now culminating in one room, even though she told me she felt relieved by that. Since then I have been looking around my home and realized that I could certainly sum up my entire life in one room. Indeed, most of what is important to me is in my study. If I placed a bed in this room, that would be all I needed. For my life lives inside my brain, behind the weeping eye. My countenance faces outwards, becoming clearer, more detached, and peaceful, hiding a passionate, spiritual, and sensual soul enduring life after sorrow, accompanied by sorrow, and ever hopeful, seeking joy through loving over and over again.

A year ago on Tamarika: Jack is Back

Quote of the day

Forgive me, but I am lost in reading, Almost There: The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman by Nuala O’Faolain.

Cheryl sent it to me because she knows that "friendship is something you do" (page 15). She wrote in her note that came with the book, that she was "thinking about [me] at so many places."

O’Faolain writes:

My report, then, from middle age, has a tension to it, because it swings between the two poles of wanting to be alone and lonely. Middle age is the least talked about of all the seasons of life, and yet it seems to me the most exacting. It is adolescence come again at the other side of adulthood – the matching bookend – in its uneasiness of identity, its physical surprises and the strength it takes to handle it. A person who feels herself still uncertain, still tentative, still a learner, is startled to see beginning in her age group, a winnowing-out, a next-to-Last-Judgment. I look now past bland young faces to the ones with grooves down the upper lips and indistinct jaw lines and wrinkles around the eye sockets. I’m looking to see whether my contemporaries know how to do this growing older stuff better than I do. How’s their health? What people do they have in their lives? Do they look serene? Do they look happy? Do I look as happy as they? (page 28)

A year ago on Tamarika: Cave Withdrawal

Blog stopping

Quote of the Day:

Without the buzz and energy and cross-talk of the earlier period, it’s hard to get very involved with this medium any more. Tom Shugart

The subject has come up again. The question has re-arisen:

To blog or not to blog

090806_1601_1Yesterday, I thought to write about my trip to New York on Friday when I visited the Dadaists and Bethesda Fountain; and when LeAnn and I stumbled upon E.E. Cummings house in a quaint little side-street/place in the Village. Hmm … what a day! Full of sunshine and New Yorkers.

As my good friend, Uncle M., back in Buffalo would say: "Memories are moments that refuse to be ordinary."

But then, I said to myself, "Well, honestly. Who would care? Who pays attention?"

Ah, those synchronicity-type moments! For just as I thought that, I happened upon Tom Shugart, thinking and asking a similar question

Yes, Tom, I think attention does matter. And while I get so much out of and enjoy writing for myself, I could do that without the feeling of responsibility and commitment that I have developed for my blog. Plus, I always remember Ronni saying that the really good bloggers are the ones who receive the attention – because they are good. So, perhaps my blog just is not good enough for attention any longer. I had an edge there for awhile and the flame has gone out. Just not passionate, humorous, or intelligent enough. The honeymoon is over and out …

Now, please let me be clear. This post is not about asking for attention. It is for me to see in black and white the reality of my personal blogging future. I am looking at that eternal/internal blogging question:

Why do I blog? Why do I blog? Why do I blog? Why do I blog?

Not alone

Quote of the day:

As for the Dadaists– they were a fascinating bunch- some cynical pessimists while others light hearted and playful- a great mix that made for intelligent, fascinating, charming, alarming art!  LeAnn Erickson.


090606_0718 Well, they are all here. Packed into two bags and ready to go. I checked out our new digs and found it worthy of my friends. Even my staff is going with us, and I do not usually take it along unless I am sure the environment is safe and respectful. Some years ago a student gave me his staff that he received from his fraternity. He said he wanted to give it to a wise person and so he came to me. When he left my office, I cried with gratitude and from the honor. And I have taken it with me wherever I go, always trying to learn some wisdom so that, in my heart, I might do that student justice. Can you see my staff? It is standing on the right of the bags of dolls.

Yes, those dolls have been with me everywhere too. Early childhood teachers learn with me how to experience children’s awe of doll-life. Mind you, I played with dolls until I was a teenager. So I know how important those doll-lives are! They will live with me in my office, ready to accompany me to class whenever I need to explain how to interact with children, or how to use dolls in concrete ways to help children understand abstract concepts. A long educational story, here, which I do not want to bore you with.

Dolls are my rod and my staffthey comfort me. Once I dashed out to give a presentation in a far off town. I jumped into my car for the long drive early in the morning when suddenly I had the urge to take one of my dolls with me. I ran inside, picked up Keisha and placed her gently in the car seat next to mine, up front. As we set out, Keisha and I, I turned on the radio and the news announcer reported that it was "take your daughters to work day." I looked over at the little doll, sitting quietly next to me, and laughed out loud.

That raucous little group, all stuffed into two bags will accompany me to my new office. A place is prepared for them and from what I can see of my colleagues there, my dolls will be greatly appreciated and welcomed … as I have been these past two weeks.

I sigh with relief. I am not alone.


Quote of the Day:

Have you ever gone on an Internet-arranged date?

No, I am not interested in dating. I have a chosen family of friends. They include old lovers, who turn into friends. It’s so wonderful. All the brain cells that were dedicated to sex, they’re free for other things now.

You’ve always been described as "the good-looking feminist," as if the others were ogres. Does that bother you?

I wasn’t considered so good-looking before I became a feminist.

Gloria Steinem, interviewed in New York Times Magazine by Deborah Solomon in All About Eve. September 3, 2006

I have been thinking about how I quote other people all the time. Am I a professional groupie? Do I have nothing to say of my own? Or is it that what they say connects so well with what I am thinking and feeling I allow them to say it for me? Or is it that I think they can say it so much better than I – as in, a lack of confidence? Many years ago, my yoga instructor would tell me that each day he thanked all his mentors who came before him for without them he would not be where he was then. That was a lesson that has remained with me. Just before a presentation, new job, even before each class I teach, as I look out at the audience, students, or employer’s faces before me, I silently thank my mentors who came before me. In fact, one of the most fun parts about writing my book was the acknowledgments section. I was so carried away with thanking people who had influenced or affected me, that I wrote pages and pages. The hardest thing to do was to edit that, cut it down, shorten it and choose only some of those important people in my life over others.

Ever since I can remember people have affected and influenced, supported and encouraged, and reached out their hearts to me in different ways. I seriously do believe that I would not be where I am without them. Although kindness was always the most important characteristic for me, intelligence and humor was essential. As I head out on this the first official day of my new job I think of all of them. The list becomes endless, so I think it silently, whisper their names to myself as I shower, dress, drive, and when I face the faces today, my mentors will be right there, standing firm, like a chorus hailing and cheering me on.

Communities of friends and mentors have always been so important for my development. These days, that includes the blogosphere. Who would have thought that out there through ether and cyber space there is a community of friends and mentors cheering me on? So, I take you all with me too.

As Gloria Steinem said: "There is a reason why societies universally believe that the greatest punishment is isolation."

A year ago on Tamarika: Shame