Looking back and thinking forward

Month: February, 2007

What is mundane?


Last night I dreamed that someone sent me a gift of pale green razors. When I awoke, I lay there wondering, "What’s that all about?" Have I become so boring that my dreams are about pale green razors?

Razor_preservethumb and then I happened over to Citizen of the Month to see what’s happening and found a call for the Mundane.

Is that a coincidence? Synchronicity? What’s going on?

Well, Neilochka, will this do?

A year ago at Tamarika: Tools of healing

Offer ourselves generously

Just as I was setting out to organize my thoughts for a keynote presentation in April, I remembered Swami Ji Sivalingam, my yoga teacher from years ago. He told me that each time, before he starts to teach a yoga class, he thanks his past mentors and teachers. He would say: "So happy, so joy. This is Yoga," and just as he had managed to convince us to hold a difficult posture he would call out sharply, "Keep a smiling face." Oh how that would make me laugh inside and I would feel the joy all over my contorted body.

From time to time I think back to all the people I have considered teachers and mentors, and quietly thank them for their influence, support, and for helping create who I am today. After all, we are touched and affected by all those who wander onto our path, on purpose or by chance.

I guess my very first mentors and teachers would have to be my three oldest siblings. They were between six to twelve years older than me and I looked up to them as I was growing up, aspiring to be just like them in ways as unique and different as each of them were. I know that even today I carry within me many of the lessons I gleaned from their personalities, lives, and advice they generously gave me over the years: Political awareness, knowledge about health and nutrition, scholarship, negotiation in an administrative world, and a healthy cynicism about wealth and material possessions. I learned to be critical, discerning, and suspicious of superficiality and hypocrisy. I am sure that because I put them up on pedestals as younger siblings tend to do, I have probably been their harshest critic because of high expectations I have had. On the other hand, I learned from them to set high standards in the first place, for myself, others, and especially for those who are significant to us.

Memories of elementary or high school teachers are few indeed. Certainly Mr. Tregidgo, my High School English teacher stands out for me. I do not remember much about the lessons he taught except for learning never to start a sentence with “I.” What I do remember about him, though, was how, whenever he would meet me in the hallway he would wave and smile, and say, “Shalom!” to me. Mr. Tregidgo was not Jewish but I was. In fact, I was the only Jewish girl in the class. Each time he greeted me in that manner I felt included, important and worthwhile. His greeting was something personal, just for me. Here it is forty four years later and I still remember him for that.

Charlie was a friend, teacher, mentor, and became my closest family. Unconditionally accepting and always truthful and honest, he shared his deepest most vulnerable self with me, therefore allowing me to do the same. And even after his death he made sure to take care of me in a way that no one in my life has ever done. He expressed pride in my achievements and always, without exception, seemed pleased to see me. He stood by me and stood up for me at personal and professional levels, in ways that no one in my life as ever done. Indeed, I learned to make a stand for myself through that. From his behaviors, actions and what he said to me, I learned that I was lovable, intelligent, and of value. Whenever I have a bad day or an out of confidence moment or two, I remember Charlie, even talk to him inside my head, and bounce back stronger than ever. He is constantly with me.

I first heard Bruce Perry speak at a National conference about five years ago. It was a life altering experience. Every piece of his talk resonated with my life’s work as an early childhood teacher. The scientific discussion about brain development was extremely exciting especially from the angle Perry took. For, he talked about emotional memory templates and the importance of relationships. Each moment during his presentation became an "Aha!" moment reinforcing and reconfirming everything I have been thinking, feeling and experiencing about working with young children, their families and their teachers. Not to mention how much it helped explain about what I had been uncovering about myself in therapy over the years. What a teacher! What a mentor! I have since heard Bruce Perry speak four or five times (two of which I helped bring him to speak to the Western New York community) and each time is the same. He inspires me to continue the work I do and brings relief to my understanding of my own emotional development. Recently I wrote to Bruce after reading his latest work: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog (2006). I said, "Your book is very, very good. It is breaking my heart and teaching me so much even after I have heard you speak five times: a total of 15 hours or so!" It is definitely people like him who remind me how important my work is. Bruce Perry says it is all about relationships.

As I start to think of all the people who influenced me and, indeed, at times gave me, consciously or unawares, what I needed emotionally, intellectually, and even physically to change my life, I am awe struck by the list. For it seems endless. I realize that I am truly blessed. So many wonderful people shared themselves with me in ways that enhanced, deepened, and even changed my life over and over again.

And now, as I return to preparing my convocation address, I must admit that I probably have been and most likely am a teacher and mentor for others. The wheel of life spins on, and leads me to think about what sorts of pieces of myself or life experiences shared might have served as examples for others searching their way. For we can never really know which action or word spoken to a person affect them or in what way. Every person’s needs are related to where they are, at different places in time and experience.

But, at the very least, we can offer ourselves generously and openly to others, sharing, as Charlie did with me, our most vulnerable selves, and being as authentic and honest as we are able. And we must be tireless because nothing in this world is as important as relationships.

All of my teachers and mentors, whoever they were or are, taught me that!

A year ago at Tamarika: Jewels to discover and uncover

Lighten up


I have been into some heavy reflecting this past week. No doubt about it. And so I enjoyed this joke that a colleague sent me recently. I guess you just have to be a teacher to enjoy it …

A guy goes to the supermarket and notices a beautiful blond woman wave at him and say hello. He’s rather taken aback, because he can’t place where he knows her from.

So he says, "Do you know me?"

To which she replies, "I think you are the father of one of my kids."

Now his mind travels back to the only time he has ever been unfaithful to his wife and says, "My God, are you the stripper from my bachelor party that I made love to on the pool table with all my buddies watching, while your partner whipped my bxtt with wet celery?"

She looks into his eyes and calmly says, "No, I’m your son’s math teacher."

A year ago at Tamarika: The many faces of me

Uncovering the shame

Quote of the day:

Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim. Nora Ephron

Writing about my shame was not easy. It felt as if I was standing up in front of a group in some Shame Anonymous Society, and declaring: "My name is Tamarika and I am infested with shame." It was as if I had come out of the closet and bared my deepest soul in public. It was scary and painful as I wrote about it but later, as the day wore on, I started to feel released, lighter, happier.  Two of the comments to my post were about disconnecting the shame from the writing.

Neil said:

You are free to express yourself to others. We will always back you up. The hard part is not with us or with the writing, but getting yourself to be comfortable with yourself.

Ilene wrote:

Why does one write? To make things right? To explain and exorcise? To rework the script? Is writing therapy? Or is it a way of pushing beyond the limitations put on us by childhood pains, of working the world out in a way that gives us power: gods and goddesses of the page.

So what is writers block? A refusal to take control, a lapse into self-destruction, a slip into the old patterns where no matter what, you’re always helpless, small and never quite good enough? Let alone good enough to control or create your fate?

Or perhaps the two don’t connect at all. Perhaps making friends with shame isn’t it at all. Maybe recognizing at last that you don’t need it – it’s simply an old habit, a familiar tug on the leash.

Both were excellent reminders and pulled me deeper into myself. All the comments I received for that post brought me back to reality.

The people who did the shaming knew not what they did. Even as they shamed me for my writing (hence the connection).

Untitled_3 Bob used to explain to me that it was their way of stuffing me back into a box, shutting me up, and making whatever it was I was saying, disappear. My self-expression was not what others wanted, or felt comfortable hearing. None of it had anything to do with the validity of my life experience or feelings. It was about feeling safe and comfortable with themselves in whatever life situation they were facing at the time. And I, with all my needs and wants, was making waves.

Of course, if, as Neil suggested, I was comfortable with myself, those shaming words would have bounced off, and blown up and away out into the Universe. If I could only recognize that I don’t need it, as Ilene wrote about my shame, I might just see it all as an old habit, a familiar tug on the leash. (Down, Fido!)

And so, Danny, if you thought my first book was ground breaking, the next is more formidable. For, as I explore teachers’ emotions while interacting with children they consider challenging, I find myself uncovering my own emotional story. The more I share my emotional journey, or so teachers gratefully tell me over and over again, the more they allow themselves to uncover their own stories.

No time for wimping around now wondering what this or that person fears in my words. No time for the ancient wounds to rise up and bite me the closer I am to writing it down. Fear, the final frontier, an old friend of mine used to say. Yesterday at a training of early childhood teachers we talked deeply and sincerely about the way we were disciplined and how it affects our adult behaviors in the classroom. I watched teachers as they bared their deepest fears and anxieties and wept as they realized how these feelings were affecting their classroom management strategies, and, more importantly, their sometimes, misguided perceptions about children. It was powerful. And I was inspired by their courage.

The heck with it! Body_02 It is time for me to jump right out of the box …

Writer’s block

Quote of the day:

Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to. Mark Twain

Thinking about shame. I am aware that my recent writer’s block is connected to feeling shame. I realize that I use ancient pains to prevent myself from self-expression. And yet, self-expression has always been the one way I was able to crawl out from the abyss. My old wounded soul is infested with shame, shame, shame.

It is shameful to admit feeling shame. It is painful, therefore, to confront it head and heart on. It feels humiliating to myself to feel the nagging agony that I am worthless. I remember Bob-the-therapist telling me over and over again that these were family stories/myths that were invented about me. They were not true – not connected to reality. He gave me permission not to believe them. And when he would notice that I was wavering and starting to believe them again, he would repeat and repeat the same message to counteract them: "You are worthwhile. You are a good person. I will never leave you no matter what." An antidote. His antidote. As I slide into these feelings I claw my way out by remembering Bob’s words. But by then the day has slipped by and not a word has been written.

There is no way out for me now. I just have to admit that shame is at the source, the very core of my childhood psyche. I will have to explore it, hold still with it, and come to know it intimately, the texture, smell, sound, sight of it, before I am able to walk away. There is no way around it and running away has brought me full circle, face-to-face with it once again. If I was an artist, I would paint shame in intense, vibrant, striking colors, and if I was a poet I would write words that penetrate deep into the reader’s soul and take their breath away.

One of the ways that I have decided to embrace my shame is by reading about it. In one self-therapy page I found, I read that the childhood psychological message was: "I can and will treat you any way I want to … you are a worthless weakling at my disposal." Although I have known about this (I have worked with young children for thirty years for goodness sake!), somehow these words had a positive effect on me. They made me rise up inside and want to defend that little girl … the inner child. It gave me back my fight for me.

I am starting to make a list of ways I can fight for me:

  • Stay close to and visit people who love and value me
  • Take hot bubble baths and eat good foods
  • Keep toxic, energy vampires at bay
  • Hold still with the discomfort
  • Tell myself the truth about me
  • Learn to make shame into my friend and not an enemy
  • Write down all the times I have survived the shame abyss
  • Remember who my real friends are

I am sure that more will come to me. Right now I am wrapping my arms around my blog in gratitude for being here to accept my pain and confusion as I try to work some of this stuff out. I remember that last night I dreamed Ada was giving birth to darling, tiny kittens and I was helping her. Yeah! I remember that compassion has always been one of my strengths.

I think I will add that to my list:

  • Write down all my strengths …
  • … write it down … write it down …
  • … write it …
  • … just … WRITE

Love … throw [me] a line …

A year ago at Tamarika: Tagged

Blog hopping (Update #2)

Quote of the Day:

And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I had a bit of free time this morning to peruse some of my favorite bloggers. Things are happening. Here is just a taste, a snippet of the huge, diverse blogging community out there. But I am energized and comforted to know that even I am a part of it all – however small (Technorati says I am not even in the top 100,000) …

Yesterday I wandered over to Danny Miller’s blog and found that I am not the only one when it comes to family angst about what and how I write. What a great piece! It brought me back to my own trials and tribulations of yesteryear and why I started Mining Nuggets in the first place. The only huge difference for Danny, and for which I envy him, is that his family is forgiving and, more than that, proud of him for being the writer that he is. I am proud of him too and grateful. For Danny has given me support and encouragement all these years to find my own voice as a writer. I know he hates it when I say things like this but, yes indeed, he changed my life! Check out the comments. Especially this: "Books and articles would be pretty dull if writers didn’t exploit their real lives, so I guess this means you are a real writer. Congratulations. Don’t expect to be invited to any more family gatherings." [Phew! That hit home … or, at least, what once might have been considered home]

Now take a look at what is happening to Ronni Bennett. She is truly a voice for all of us. Bringing the aging news front and center through all media venues, not just her great blog. Congratulations, Ronni! You are an inspiration for us all.

I got a kick out of Mona Patata over at Jean’s blog this morning. It certainly made me smile. Check out Jean’s Third Monk series. Talk about being a real writer!

And as always, so much is always happening over at Neil Kramer’s site: Birthdays, road trips and separated spousal conversations. His blog not only warms the cockles of my heart, Neilochka makes me think, gives me pleasure and makes me laugh from my belly.


More from favorite bloggers: I could not resist a quote that I found while reading Blaugustine this morning. Natalie gives credit to Find me a Bluebird for it. I think I will use it for my Quote of the Day, which starts off this post. Another really good quote from Find me a Bluebird comes from Woody Allen (Love and Death):

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer. To suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy then is to suffer. But suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you’re getting this down.

Update II:

Over at Simply Wait is a fantastic list of suggestions that will seriously help you kill time if you are preparing to write. I laughed so hard I almost choked on the crackers I was eating while checking my e-mail for the umpteenth time today before I get down to writing. Did Patry write this just for me?

Listen to this as #1:

Sit around and think about every single person who’s ever been mad at you or mean to you, and mentally go through the reasons that it’s so unfair. (This could not just kill a day, but it can, and HAS, annihilated entire lifetimes.)


A day in the life

Cherry_blossoms Rising

to the occasion

over and over again

A year ago at Tamarika: The why and wherefore of linkalization

Self discipline

Appetite by Renoir

This is an image of bounty, a view of female physicality in which a woman’s hungers are both celebrated and undifferentiated, as though all her appetites are of a piece, the physical and the emotional entwined and given equal weight. Food is love on this landscape, and love is sex, and sex is connection, and connection is food; appetites exist in a full circle, or in a sonata where eating and touching and making love and feeling close are all distinct chords that nonetheless meld with and complement one another … Renoir once said that were it not for the female body, he never could have become a painter. This is clear: there is love for women in each detail of the canvas, and love for self, and there is joy, and there is a degree of sensual integration that makes you want to weep, so beautiful it seems, and so elusive.

Appetite in the World of No

In Renoir’s world, a woman’s appetites are imagined as rich and lusty and powerful, the core of the female being celebrated as sensual, deeply attuned to pleasure. In my world – a place that unquestionably still exists, that’s inhabited with varying degrees of intensity by all too many women – appetites had a nearly opposite meaning, the body experienced as dangerous and disturbing and wrong, its hungers split off from each other, each one assigned multiple and contradictory meanings, each one loaded and fraught.

From: Caroline Knapp: Appetites, Why Women Want, Prologue and Introduction

A noble concept: self discipline. To have the will to hold back, do without, resist temptations. The on line Merriam-Webster defines it as: correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement. I wonder, what do we improve on when we resist temptations? Is it greed? or hunger? Hunger of the soul perhaps? And do we need to improve this? I wonder.

I have always admired people with the ability to correct or regulate (especially regulate) themselves for the sake of improvement. There are times when I am also very good at it. When I was in my twenties I was amazing at it. For a few years I would fast every week from Sunday evening right through until Tuesday morning (36 hours) allowing myself only sips of water with lemon juice. A weekly purification. I would rise at 5:00 in the morning and do yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation for two hours.

I used to do very well at dieting, as you can imagine with such a purification record. I could lose tens of pounds within a few months. At the same time, participating in strenuous work-out regimes that kept me strong, lithe, in-line. In line for what, I wonder?

At some point it becomes exhausting. And, lately, it feels meaningless. No, more than that, it feels like self-punishment. Ah, if only I were ever to find a balance between self-torture, deprivation, purification, and pleasure. Is that maturity or just more self-discipline? Or is it that I enjoy feeling like a kind of saint, superior to others when I succeed in holding back so much while I watch them indulge without resistance? And when I crash and give up my resistance, why do I feel like such a slob, sloth, hog? Ah the names I get to call myself then as I sink into the hollow abyss of self-loathing.

I have always been intrigued by desire. And my will (or lack of) to resist it.

I stop writing as I say that and turn to books on my shelf, books being read by me right this moment and read over and over again my favorite lines about women and desire. About food, sex, shopping, whatever. About pleasure. There is so much I want to say about all of this. I feel the words rising inside me as I write and know I will have to put it off. There is simply too much, bubbling, formulating, whirling.

It’s not too late to embrace temptations, rights to pleasure, or explore my desires, is it?

In the meantime I return to self-discipline as I ruminate, sense, and experience yet another awakening, new awakening, rude awakening … and think about …

Useless Desires:

A year ago at Tamarika: Mercury Morning


Quote of the day:

When you start spending most of your time alone … it is easy to experience the feeling of physical disappearance. Maybe the reason why writers write – and photographers take photographs – is just to verify if they still exist in the material world. Never Neutral

Last night I shared my vulnerabilities … just a few … with newly forming friends. It was mutual. What a miracle! How often do we come by such a combination? It was warm, welcoming, intellectual, and humorous. It was in real space and time. Not virtual. I felt less invisible, not as anonymous, less longing for my blogging community.

Just for a few hours.

I woke up longing for the intimacy of cyber-world once again.

Have I become addicted?

Or am I able to connect more authentically in the real world since I feel supported by a virtual community?

More of the same (Update)

Quote of the day:

I guess, never being satisfied to a point generates ambition and creativity, no? Sister Sue.

As I write the title to this post I imagine what I will be writing. A sort of depressed introspection about how nothing and no one ever changes. But, in fact, the words, "more of the same" came to me when I thought about all of us bloggers blogging away. Each of us doing the same kind of thing that is characteristic of our selves over and over again. Like a mantra. Some do their political shtick over and over again – same opinions, same side of the aisle. Others write about their devotion to this or that God, about cooking, gardening, therapy. There are even bloggers who look at the wonders of aging. I write over and over again about how I came to be me, exploring it from every angle, past and present, through family and society. Over and over, round and round, spiraling up and down but somehow it is always more of the same. My own personal mantra. And here I go again … well, almost. I think I will look outwards, towards you instead of inside me today, and share the Year of the Pig

Pig_1 Exchange Every Day sent out these Tips for a Powerful Chinese New Year, which is coming up this weekend. As we all go around and around each on our own personal life or blog carousels, perhaps some of these "tips" will give us a boost. I dedicate these to you – whoever and wherever you are:


From an unknown web source comes these suggestions for making the most of your New Year:

  1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day.  And while you walk, smile.  It is the ultimate anti-depressant.
  2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.  Buy a lock if you have to.
  3. Buy a TIVO, tape your late night shows, and get more sleep.
  4. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement:
    My purpose is to___________ today.
  5. Live with the 3 E’s:  Energy, Enthusiasm, Empathy.
  6. Watch more movies, play more games, and read more books than you did in 2006.
  7. Make time to practice meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, and prayer.  They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.
  8. Spend more time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.
  9. Dream more while you are awake.
  10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less foods that are manufactured in plants.
  11. Drink green tea and plenty of water and eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds, and walnuts.
  12. Try to make at least 3 people smile each day.
  13. Clear your clutter from your house, your car, your desk, and let new and flowing energy into your life.
  14. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts, or things you cannot control.  Instead, invest your energy in the positive present moment.
  15. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn.  Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class, but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
  16. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.
  17. Smile and laugh more.   It will keep the energy vampires away.
  18. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
  19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
  20. Don’t take yourself so seriously.  No one else does.
  21. You don’t have to win every argument.  Agree to disagree.
  22. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
  23. Don’t compare your life to others’.  You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  24. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, and wear the fancy lingerie.  Don’t save it for a special occasion.  Today is special.
  25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
  26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words:  "In five years, will this matter?"
  27. Forgive everyone everything.
  28. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  29. Time heals almost everything.  Give time time.
  30. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
  31. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick.  Y our friends will.  Stay in touch.
  32. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful, or joyful.
  33. Envy is a waste of time.  You already have all you need.
  34. The best is yet to come.
  35. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.
  36. Do the right thing.
  37. Call your mother and father often.
  38. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements:
    I am thankful for __________.  Today I accomplished____________.
  39. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.
  40. Enjoy the ride.  Remember that this is not Disney World and you certainly don’t want a fast pass.


Too good to just leave in the comments, Richard says about more of the same:

Fitzgerald said that each of us has one or two big things happen to us in our lives and we write about those things over and over and that’s what gives us our identities as artists.

Yes, Richard, # 9 is a good one – I want to be way ahead on that one too …

A year ago at Tamarika: Breathing deeply