Looking back and thinking forward

Month: November, 2007

A letter to commenters

Dear Commenters,

Lately I have been wondering about comments and commenting especially since Tamar commented on my blog recently and mentioned liking that I reply. It got me thinking. I guess I do not write the type of posts that have people debating and discussing like I see at some other blog sites. Most of the comments on mine are supportive, or shared stories that are associated with what I have written. And some are greetings of one kind or another.

There are a number of reasons why I enjoy replying to people who comment on my blog.

The first is that I am terribly grateful. Each and every time I receive a comment I cannot get over the fact that someone has actually taken the trouble, not only to read what I have written, but to say something to me, to all of us, about it. It blows my mind!

At times, though, there are comments that are better left without a reply – are meaningful and interesting  in and of themselves and deserve to hang out there in space to be experienced without further comment. Just as in a support group like session we are silent after someone has said something profound or intense and we just listen to the other – actively, with all our hearts and minds.

Secondly, and I simply have to admit it, sometimes I just have to have the last word! It is such an annoying habit and I have been working on myself about it these past few years with some small success. I come from a family of strong-minded, opinionated people. Being the second to youngest I always felt like I was in some kind of competition about who is the wisest and sure-est. People around me always seemed so sure that their opinion or knowledge about something was the right – no, the only way things could be. I believe it is quite common for the youngest to feel that way. Something to do with growing up and becoming an adult. Once the little sister, always the little sister, struggling for her own voice above all those strong, knowing ones around her. But now that I am, in fact an adult and becoming sort of an expert in some early childhood matters, I fear and abhor that feeling I get when I simply must have the last word – speak what I believe is the final truth. And so, lately I work on remaining silent as often as I can stand it, and just listen to others without anxiety or discomfort. Hang in there and let go of that feeling of competition that rises seemingly out of the shadows of my brain. It’s the same thing with comments on mine or other people’s blogs. I try to stay silent and listen instead of find the wisest, most essential, final word.

Third, and finally, as a counselor and early childhood educator, I relate to people. It’s part of what I do. I have become skilled in what Reik calls listening with the third ear. That means I notice people and observe closely. Am keenly aware of things they are saying between the lines of their actual words, through body language or slips or twists of their use of language – metaphors or jokes. That does not mean I am always right – no sir – not by any means. However, it does mean that if you talk to me I will listen and then relate to what you have said. This can be a problem, for example in Facebook. If someone pokes me, I just have to poke back! I can never leave the poke hanging out there without an answer. Frank, surely knows what I’m talking about. I suppose I could work more on this one, too. But it is one of the things I quite like about myself and, believe me, there are not many of those!

Once again I have discovered that why I do what I do is not as simple as I first thought. It is compounded and complex and dependent upon situation, context or anything at all.

However, I must say, I do love it when you comment, and enjoy thinking about how best to reply when you speak to me.

Oh yes, and thank you so much for reading me right now.



A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Here I am

I should be writing

Lately, whatever I do, I am thinking, "I should be writing."

  • In the shower
  • Shopping for food
  • Going to the movies with great friends
  • Watching television
  • Taking a walk in the park
  • Brushing Ada
  • Sitting on the chair, closing my eyes, and listening to my son playing the piano
  • Cooking
  • E-mailing friends
  • Grading papers
  • E-mailing students
  • Sleeping
  • Dreaming
  • Waking
  • Speaking on the phone
  • Drinking coffee
  • Playing Scrabble at Pixie Pit or Scrabulous or even on a real board with my son
  • Driving
  • Listening to music
  • Blogging
  • Teaching
  • Meeting
  • Singing
  • Cleaning the house
  • Doing the laundry
  • Watering plants
  • Reading the NY Times
  • Checking out Facebook friends
  • Sitting and staring at the oak tree
  • Eating pie: pumpkin, cherry or lemon meringue
  • Having brunch with great friends

The only time I do not think, "I should be writing"

… is …

… when I am writing.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: We greet the day together

Morning person reflections

Being a morning person means that usually I am alone every single day. It is mostly good, or am I rationalizing it to feel good about it? I mean, it is quiet and peaceful. I have my space, am able to think and reflect and watch the wonders of sunrise. But it also means that I tip toe around quietly so as not to disturb, not to awaken, not to trouble, not to get in the way of … all the other sleepers out there. Some days it feels lonely and I just wish I could share the start off the day with someone. Go for a walk, talk, or be silent together, share the dawn, the morn, new beginnings.

That is why I love to go to conferences and room with my friends. Some of them are morning people too and we can chit chatter away, make coffee, giggle, walk out into the street, or share some intimate disclosures which always seem to come out best early in the day.

Some days, though, I just become so tired of tip-toeing around …

Once, I was married to a morning person. It was fun. We would wake up very early indeed, pull on our clothes and with our first cup of coffee drive out to see the geese in the swamps flying out for their first morning flight. Or, we would sit out in the yard looking at the birds at the many different feeders he had created for all their various needs, shapes and sizes.

I did not appreciate it.

Now I do.

Me and my drum …

Early in the morning Ada greets me as I sit down by the computer. She rubs her head on my hands over and over again. I reach into the drawer and pull out her treats and she rubs her head on the bag as I open it. I watch her in wonder at her gratitude. "We should all be so thankful for such small mercies," I think to myself. Ada does not ask for much. A warm spot to sleep, food and water and a daily clean litter box. Every now and again some tuna or shrimp and a small ritual of treats out of a bag with me each morning.

I have been thinking about gratitude quite a bit lately. Can’t help it. ‘Tis the season for it. It seems that as the leaves turn and fall, thankfulness rises. I have much to be thankful for this season:

  • Ada Mae
  • After 14 years I have just paid the very last installment of a large and onerous debt from a former, bad marriage, and with that I can finally bid farewell to a really painful, shameful part of my life
  • Feeling included and appreciated in my job
  • Outstanding friends whom I love with all my heart
  • I have forgiven me, my past, let go of bitterness, regret and hurt, and given me back my family
  • I am fortunate to be writing a book whose subject I have been pondering for over twenty years
  • My son coming to us for Thanksgiving this year!
  • Relationships – of all kinds – for they are all that matter to me now
  • And, yes, I am thankful for this blog for it has brought into my life a community of friends – people whom I would otherwise never have had the privilege to know – people the likes of whom I have never known. It has broadened my world view and expanded the world. It has brought, and keeps on bringing, hundreds of my father’s family into my life ever since I shared my story of Rodos.

Oh yes, and I am also thankful for that sweet voice of Josh Groban especially as he sings Little Drummer Boy to me on my commute back and forth from work lately …



A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Some of the best days of my life

Do you have it?


[The New Yorker]

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: The art of fiction

Becoming an adult (Update)


A thought came to mind as I hastily try to complete my book:

Children love their mama and papa. Why do we have to hurt children to teach them? If, when they are very young, and they learn to curse by imitation by trying to be "one of the gang of adults they adore," why do we wash their mouth out with soap, put pepper on their tongue, or other such punishment? What’s the difference between pepper on the tongue to pulling out one’s tongue for lying, as they did in ancient times? Why can’t we hold young children close and seriously, earnestly, tell them that we love them and that when they do that it makes us all feel unsafe? Young children need us to approve of and love them. They need us to guide them with kindness and compassion so that they may learn to be humane. Think of those innocent, trusting, yearning, curious, mischievous, needy eyes. Why do we hurt them to teach them? Why? oh why?

As I was driving to work yesterday listening to music, and looking at the glorious colors of autumn leaves passing by along the roadside, I suddenly had this great feeling of being an adult. Released from blaming others, free of anger, I felt master of my domain, in charge of my choices, and aware that my attitude or how I feel is up to me, and only me. No one can make me feel thus, such or any other. I can choose to feel bad, worthless, undeserving, pathetic, a victim. Or, I can choose to feel that I am A-okay, human with frailties, weaknesses, and, yes, strengths too. Indeed, I am responsible for my actions, feelings and thoughts. No one can make me do or feel anything without my permission. And with these choices comes an awesome responsibility. The responsibility to do good, be kind, forgiving, understanding and compassionate to others – just because – we are all human, celebrating the joy and sorrows of humankind – just because – we are all and all are we – we are connected.

And, this very awesome responsibility is what makes me feel like an adult. This very awesome responsibility is what gives meaning and purpose to my life and, thus, makes me feel worthwhile.

It occurs to me that discipline is all about learning about that awesome responsibility. And the boundaries of compassion are the boundaries we must wrap around our youngest children, so that they might learn to feel worthwhile in this way themselves, forever and ever.

Don’t get me wrong. Boundaries of compassion are not wishy-washy or weak. They are firm, serious, awesome. They stop you in your tracks and hold you tight in their embrace. They mean business and they repeat themselves over and over again until you get it! They don’t neglect or ignore you. They are relentless, constant, consistent and strong, and accompany you wherever you go. They show you how deeply we care about you. Compassion is deep, wide, serious, awesome.

And our youngest children (and our inner, youngest children) need buckets, tubs-full, rivers, mountains, of it.


This just in from my friend Mira. Thanks, Mira. It fits perfectly. Right here:

Anything you do from the soulful self will help lighten the burdens of the world.


You have no idea what the smallest word, the tiniest generosity can cause to be set in motion. Be outrageous in forgiving. Be dramatic in reconciling.


Back up and make them as right as you can, then move on. Be off the charts in kindness. In whatever you are called to, strive to be devoted to it in all aspects large and small. Fall short?

Try again.

Mastery is made in increments, not in leaps. Be brave, be fierce, be visionary. Mend the parts of the world that are within your reach. To strive to live this way is the most dramatic gift you can ever give to the world.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Into the fall


[click on images to enlarge]

Quote of the day:

I want to express my age and be authentic. Why do so many people follow somebody else’s idea of what is attractive? Diane Keaton

I once knew an older woman from China who taught me to run my fingers through my hair with strong, firm, deep, massaging strokes one hundred times each morning. Sometimes I remember to do it. And as I massage my scalp I feel my eyes opening and waking and I find myself sighing deeply as if releasing the tentacles of stress that have begun to nestle and settle into my brain.


This time, my travels took me on more than just a journey of conference meetings, presentations and networking. I was faced with some difficult news from a most dearest friend. And a sadness has been accompanying me these past few days. [I think that Dean might term it melancholy.] A sobering sadness that pushes me face-to-face with life’s realities, my own mortality, and a reminder that time is running out. Is it autumn? So soon? Dear, darling friend. My heart is bursting with love and each tender memory of our friendship rises to greet me hour by hour, moment by moment, interrupting me even in the midst of whatever it is I am doing or saying.


[Reflections on a bean … I met two beautiful young people … there we are, the three of us … can you see? And he e-mailed me a picture he took, there and then, with his iPhone but, alas, I must have given him the wrong e-mail address for I never received it … too bad, too bad, for their kindness was healing for me that day … and we disappeared out of the reflections and into the night, our separate ways …]

A-conference-I-will-go …


Well, today is is time to pull out my warm, winter coat. I take a long hard look at it and place it next to the suitcase and back pack waiting by the front door. Rain dribbling down and time to go. I look back at Ada. I hate leaving her, even for just a few days. She is already nestling and settling on the desk next to the place where my computer usually sits. Does she know?

Did you ever love someone so much that it hurts in the chest?

Hm … do I repeat myself every year?

The pain of freedom

This morning, after reading Tamar’s story about Aviah, I was reminded of "In Conflict," a play I saw recently that moved me deeply.

When the play was over, I sat in the semi-dark, emptying theater and wept for a long while. And then staggered out into the light of day wondering at the resilience of human kind, and the joyful, compassionate sorrow of the human condition.

What’s in a ring?


I want to tell you the story of my two rings. But I have no time. This month, when I am not working I am presenting in Atlantic City and Chicago, or I am writing and writing. So much to get done and so little time because all seems to be happening in November. I wanted to tell the story about how, when I was 25, I was urged to sell my engagement ring so that there would be enough money for me to go to therapy. And how, that beloved ring was replaced by a kind in-law with a visit to a gallery to purchase any ring of my choice. And after that, 15 years later, I gave that same ring to a young woman as a graduating gift. She lost it and then had two rings made with the same type of bloodstone, one for her and one for me.

I wanted to tell how, 26 years later, after Charlie died, I felt deserving enough to buy an antique ring as a gift to myself for setting about writing my first book. I think of it now, five years later, perhaps because I am headed to Chicago this week, and that is where I first met Danny.

But, I simply do not have the time because each of these stories are long and full of all kinds of meaning, especially connected to the amazing and wonderful kindness of strangers.

So, I thought I would mention them anyway just because this was on my mind when I woke up an hour earlier than usual.