Looking back and thinking forward

Month: August, 2014

As in being seized by the moment …

It never is just about the peanuts or the cookies. Like the morning I start wandering the halls at work, prowling for something, anything to munch on. I discover a few shelled peanuts in one office, and then find myself at the vending machine searching for my favorite vanilla sandwich cookies. But the machine is out of order, and the one in the adjacent building isn't working either. For awhile I search for someone to make change for a twenty dollar bill on the off chance that the vending machine will take cash instead of a credit card. Maybe that way it will work? But, no one has change, and I find myself back in my office. I realize that it is not about the peanuts or the cookies. It is about the tiny, irritating hole in my soul that has flared up recently. My inner child is in need of some nurturing for some reason – and of course as soon as I think that I realize I know exactly what the reason is that stirs up these old early childhood hurts and holes. I stare out of the window at the sun shining through a clear, blue sky. I hold still with the twinges of childhood pain, and breathe in and out deeply. Nurturing comes in different forms, I say to myself. Peanuts and cookies will be transient. They will encourage me only to look for more. 

Then I am reminded of the film, Boyhood, that I saw recently. Toward the end, the mother weeps a little as she wonders how time has flown by, and that she always thought that somehow there would be more to life. I always thought that too, and identify with how she was feeling as she said that out loud. Somehow it is comforting to think that this is it! Life is about being seized by moments here and now, and that "we are all just winging it." I forgive myself for the crazy decisions I made in my past. I did the best I could at the time, I think as I reflect on the lives of the characters in Boyhood. I realize, too, that I never understood what my son was feeling as he was growing up. I wonder – did I even think about that at all, as I simply tried to survive the day to day of living? 

My mind continues to wander, and I discover that my urgent desire for peanuts and cookies has passed me by. Nurturing myself has taken the form of writing out loud my feelings in the moment. Faculty are arriving for the first meetings of the semester, some stopping in to share their summer stories with me, and also enthusiastically listening to mine.

A warm sense of belonging envelops me, and I remember the reason I had for feeling a hole in my soul at the beginning of this post. 

Ego sustenance

Reading the New York Times this morning, I glance at the terms, "ego sustenance," and "social media" in the same sentence. I think to myself, "There we go again – criticizing people for using social media to boost their egos." I know I do! And I know why. I love the attention. Having received so little of it as a child, this is one of the ways to fill up the holes created way back when. I feel supported and comforted when people notice my status updates, or shares of one kind or another. And, oh gee! Don't all those tweeters out there just adore the brisk, urgent, quick second-by-second attentions they receive as re-tweets or favoriting type mentions for even the most banal updates?

So, rather than moaning and groaning about everyone needing "ego sustenance," let's turn our attention to early childhood care and education, and think about about how little acknowledgement we give to our youngest children? Indeed, I observe infant rooms all over the country, and see over and over again that from the day they learn to vocalize sounds before words children are being shushed and silenced.

Just yesterday morning breakfasting in our local bakery, an older infant in a high chair was intentionally knocking his bottle on the table. I could tell he was experimenting with the sound of it from the serious, diligent look of pleasure on his face. After the second tap-tap of the bottle, it was whisked – nay, grabbed – from his hands, and an irritated looking mother slammed it down on the table next to her far away from his reach. He sat staring straight ahead – startled and confused for a long moment. Then looked toward me. I smiled at him and he smiled back, a small sigh escaping from his lips. I imagined that as they were in an adult establishment – a bakery for breakfast, maybe the mother was worried he was making too much noise for the people around them. Us, for example. Young children's squeals and squeaks, tap-tapping of bottles and toys should delight us – like music to our ears. For what could be more amazing than a young child discovering their voice, or learning a new skill?

So, let's spend time – hours, dollars, human power – to educate adults with children – or those who have chosen to remain childless – that young children need attention. They need us to enjoy and celebrate the noises and messes they make. That way, when they grow up to be adults, perhaps they won't need social media as much as they do now for ego sustenance, and could use it for activism to change the world instead!

Speaking of cats


I have been thinking about compiling a book with a collection of blog posts where I mention my cats. It could be a memoir, perhaps titled: "Of Cats and Me." Lately, as I have been reading through my blogs from the past nine years up until now, I have found almost a hundred pieces where my writings include my cats in some form or another.

[Some examples: Silently WatchingEarly EducationOf cats and me]

One day in March last year, I heard me whispering out loud to myself, "Ada was me," referring to my beloved cat, who died in 2012. It so caught me by surprise to hear me say it aloud, that I wrote it down in my journal. I am amazed to see how much they accompany me through my life. Indeed, they could well be my alter ego! At times I write a full post just about the cats, but mostly they are featured as just being there – as background to my story or self reflections: looking out of windows, lying on chairs next to me, or sleeping on the rug as I write. As a young child I had imaginary friends, and I think, now that I'm older, my cats sometimes turn into those – a way for me to feel not so alone.

In a way, just by being there, they help me tell my story.

Flowing like a river …

My head is filled with things to say: about my life and much about the early childhood profession. For professional and personal are connected in our work with young children and their families. With each interaction, the "inner child" rises up from my emotional memory, and influences my behaviors or decisions. The time for writing is upon me but digesting ideas and feelings comes first. They accompany me through my chores, down the shore, at the pool as I swim laps, on my walks around the neighborhood or in the beautiful Wissahickon valley, driving to and from work, while I meditate, and when I am mowing the lawn, weeding, or cutting off dead flower heads in the garden.

I imagine that when I sit down to write these thoughts out, they will flow from me like a river.

Unless, of course, I procrastinate. You know the deal: cleaning closets, rearranging photo albums, or browsing the Inter-webs. 

"How will I fit it all in?" I ask myself, "Writing, walking, Chairing, teaching, presenting, eating, sleeping, visiting, playing … and what will happen to my blog?" I wonder, "Is that excitement or trepidation speaking?"

For me, self expression is always accompanied by anxiety and enthusiasm. It is an emotional deal – serious. 

I read over the words I have written here, and feel a tingling of energy in the palms of my hands. I notice that my breaths have become shorter – staccato – and I sense a sort of hum – a vibration ever so slightly in my brain.

Yes indeed, the book is percolating and bubbling up inside.

It's time to let it out …

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Preparations