Monday, January 2, 2012

Somebody Prove Me Wrong

     I am not a scientist, and although I am an early childhood educator and have studied abnormal psychology and child development, I cannot pretend to know all the nuances about the brain and its development. So far, hardly anyone can.

     However, I have long held the belief, that much of what we call "modern" in our technology-saturated world, is not in the best interest of our brains.

     Growing developing brains have been proven to need interactions and multiple sensory information to develop properly. Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste, and Smell - all of these things, along with human interaction, ultimately provide the building blocks of all those neural connections, which lead our brain to work the way they should.

     But... beginning way-back-when, our technology has begun to compartmentalize and separate this integration process. Phones, radio, records, tapes, CD's, ipods, MP3 players have taken "sound" away from the interpersonal connection of looking, seeing, smelling, feeling, and being somewhere or near someone playing live music.

     TV, videos, movies, DVD's, Blueray, UTube, etc, allowed our brains to see and hear, but our brains experience it all without movement. There is no kinesthetic connection to what we are experiencing.

     Cars, trains, planes....provided us movement, and our brains register that movement, but AGAIN - completely separate from all the information we get from "moving ourselves" with arms, legs, and strength.

     In this world, where everything is visually moving so fast or moving us around so fast, what are we doing to our brains? What are we doing to our childrens' brains? Autism, M.S., Depression, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Parkinsons, Anxiety Disorders, Alzheimer's..... What are we doing?

     As computers, smart boards, 1-1 instruction via technology, trickle down from the workplace to colleges to high schools to elementary schools to preschools to day care, I am left wondering, when and where do we draw the line? Is the constant bombardment of this scattered sensory information even good for the human brain at any age of development from 0 to 100?

     We are constantly "trying to keep up with the Jone's" in regard to staying ahead of other countries, but are we ahead? We need to stop looking at test scores and standards, because we are creating unimaginative, antisocial individuals, with access to an incredible amount of information, that their brains and bodies have not actually experienced together and fully integrated into the neural connections of thoughts, feelings, touch --- aka "real life".

     Why does a child take a gun and shoot it at other children? Why do young people cyber bully and deface their peers in technological arenas?

     We have taken the process out of the products called life experience and lifelong learning. Even "old school learners" knew that books and reading were valuable, but that nothing could replace the actual experience of an event, or situation, or animal, or person.

     So I am asking, prove me wrong. Tell me nothing I have said here is true. Tell me we are not changing for the worse. Are we (my generation) going to have as long a life span as the past generation?  How many of us will live long, but with no mind to know we are alive? How many of our children will have the splintered skill sets coming from genetics, environment, and all the other factors, working in unison with our technological bombardment on their young developing minds?

     Do we really have no choice, but to allow this to continue?

     Can we really not stop it from entering into our elementary schools, our day care centers?

     Somebody prove me wrong.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rituals & Routine In Everyday Life

There once was a time when everything about home life was filled with spirituality and magic. Hearth and home were the center, the power. The caretaker of the home directed it, fed it, nurtured it, so that it surrounded everything and everyone in the home. It was in the smell of the food as it was cooked. It was in the love and care taken to clean, mend, and tend to the household belongings. It was in the blood and guts and the energy needed to work a farm or grow a garden. It was in the rituals of togetherness that brought homes, people, communities together.

But now, we refer to these mundane tasks as "daily life maintenance", the endless check list of the things we need to do.  When we get away on vacation we refer to going home as "getting back to the grind". We view everything as if we are stuck on "Ground Hog Day", endlessly repeating the same activities each day. Fast food, frozen foods, boxed foods have taken away any of the real smells, real textures, real ownership we had over our meals.  Our relationship with the things and events in our lives have become "must-do's" instead of sources of comfort, energy and life. And then we are surprised when our relationships with the people in our home, life, community , feel so status quo.

I admit it. I grate against the routines in my life constantly. I don't want to wake up every morning at 6am. Work 9-2 Monday through Friday, with me going back again 5 to 9p on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Driving my daughter to school, or getting her ready for school, homework, baths, Wednesday ballet, Thursday religion class, Friday tap and jazz, Saturday acupuncture appointments, Sunday guitar lessons. Is lunch made? Are there clean clothes for the morning? What snacks are in house? Do we need to go food shopping? When are we going to take down the Christmas decorations? Did I sent out the birthday cards for February? When are we buying the birthday gifts for the party next week? I need time to invite my friends over. Oh I drank too much at the bar last night, but I still need to get up to go to see Mary Poppins at the 2pm Matinee. Did we call Grandma this week?

I think you get the picture.

Just reading that gives me a headache. A million voices in my head with a million lists of things to do. A million roles to play and responsibilities involved with each.

But what if......

What if I were to let the magic back in? What if I embraced the power which is inherently mine?

I am the homemaker.

We have sure let that title fall to the bottom of the totem pole over the years.  I want to re-establish the power of that role. Open the windows, let the air in, bring colors back to life.

I cook because I want to feed my family, to make them happy and healthy and strong. I clean to bring positive energy into my home, to sweep away negativity, sickness, darkness away. I grow things in a garden to be creative instead of destructive, to nurture and care and show my daughter that the feminine power of bringing life into the world is everywhere. Our strength of forging connections is just as powerful as the masculine forces in the world and just as necessary. They are not lowly, and annoying tasks that get in the way of living. They are life. Friendships, parties, gifts, gestures all generate, forge, build the strongest ties that bind families, friends, communities together.

So tomorrow when I wake up I want to look at the world with new eyes. Instead of cringing at the alarm, I want to thank it for waking me to start a brand new day.

I think it really wouldn't take too much of an attitude adjustment to rearrange how I view my daily routines.  The rituals are there. The magic and spirituality never left. We just have left it untended like a wild garden, full of new and interesting things we never noticed before.

Monday, January 31, 2011

We all need to believe in something....

A Secular Franciscan, a W iccan and a pagan Catholic walk into a bar......... (smile)

It sounds like the opening to a raunchy joke.....

Actually it could be you, me, a friend..... everyone believes in something, or at least we should.

I cannot imagine going through life without believing in something bigger than myself.  However, I am aware that there are people who just don't.

I was born and raised Catholic. I am raising my daughter Catholic.

I kind of equate it with exercise. If you are born and raised to include exercise in your life, you just always make it a part of what you do. How you exercise may change as you get older or if what you believe is good exercise changes, but the fact is, you will always make exercise a part of your life because that is what you know. 

My daughter will know that no matter how she chooses to celebrate her spirituality in the future, spirituality will always be in her life. It is a part of all that we do.  Her background will be Catholicism because that is what I know. It is the structure that shaped my spiritual path. It was a good structure and a good place for me to start. I think she will learn and take from it what she needs as well. She will grow and understand that there is something bigger than she is, a shaping force to protect, to heal, to fill you with that feeling of happiness.

People spend a lot of time with labels, so not surprising everyone's religious affiliation needs to be defined as well. My husband is a self-proclaimed agnostic and because of this he pretty much lets me run in whatever direction I want with our household's spirituality. Statues of saints abound...especially St. Jude, St. Anne, St. Therese, St. Francis, St. Anthony, Joseph, Mary....... why? Because they were always the mediators between my family and God, Jesus, and Heaven. My family prayed to the Saints in the way most people pray to God, but as most Italian Americans do, we have a saint for each thing/person/situation we are praying for.  My love of the Saints comes from that and my spirituality is immersed in that.

My daughter knows we have friends who are Jewish, Lutheran, Buddhist, Wiccan and probably lots of other descriptions as well. Each practices their spirituality in different ways, but none is "without God/dess".
 
If my daughter can grow up knowing and being accepting of the many different ways that people celebrate the world and being in the world, than I will know that I have done well as a parent. There will be many people who do not agree, but that is a whole another blog.

I just want her to know there is always a dialogue, a conversation to be had about spirituality, God, creation, heaven and earth, and all the daily things happening in and around it.

And eventually she will know the story about how a Secular Franciscan, a Wiccan and a pagan Catholic walked into a bar......... (smile)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It is What It Is

It is what it is, but it will become what I choose to make it.

I wrote this to a friend today. Is it true? It feels true.

I know people have a philosophy...an underlying way they view the world and how it works. I have always believed that everyone has a destiny...a purpose to fill in the world. I think "God" - a higher power, whomever, whatever - created the world and each outcome is already decided. However, how we get there, how we reach that destination is our choice. Free will.

I have been told that you cannot believe in free will and destiny at the same time. I do not believe that is true. Different paths to the same outcome. How is that not a possibility?

So in the end, it's not about the destination. It is about the journey.

It is what it is, but it will become what I choose to make it.