Tamar Jacobson was born in what is now Zimbabwe, became a preschool teacher in Israel, and completed a doctorate in early childhood education at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She lives in Philadelphia, is Department Chair of Teacher Education at Rider University, New Jersey, and author of Confronting Our Discomfort: Clearing the Way For Anti-Bias in Early Childhood and Don't Get So Upset! Help Young Children Manage Their Feelings By Understanding Your Own. She has edited Perspectives on Gender in Early Childhood, a collection of essays by a group of early childhood scholars which will be published next March. Tam is my sister. She blogs at Mining Nuggets.
Why do you blog? > Five years ago we relocated from Buffalo to Philadelphia. I had been living and working in Buffalo for 17 years, and when I arrived in Philadelphia I was not only out of a job, I was also friendless. The transition to our new life was a challenge for me, to be sure. Especially since I had also left my therapist just as it seemed we had reached a crucial point in therapy – things were coming to a head in my self-alteration process. I felt anonymous and worthless. At the same time I was gearing up to write my second book. My then editor, Danny Miller, started blogging (here) and suggested I create a blog of my own. He thought I might enjoy it. I had only heard about blogging through Norm's blog, and so with a little trepidation I stepped out into the unknown (to me) universe of cyberspace to join millions of bloggers all over the world. My purpose? To practise writing skills and continue the therapeutic self-exploration process without my Buffalo 'Bob-the-therapist', as I like to call him. Hence the subtitle of my blog: My Diagnosis of Me.
What has been your best blogging experience? > The discovery of a community. Support and caring through the internet has been amazing. I have met people I would never have met had I sat quietly reading in my little study in Chestnut Hill. I met them virtually and in reality. A few years ago I was able to meet up with a number of blogger friends in London as well as New York and Los Angeles. In addition, I have been able to process and work through some of my deepest psychological issues just by putting my story 'out there' for the world to read. And, all the while and by the way, I feel as if my writing skills have improved tenfold. At the very least, I find it easier to write since blogging publicly these past five years. Since I started blogging I completed two books – one as author and the other as editor.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Hurting people I love while writing about personal issues and sharing my understanding of my psychological process publicly. While at times it felt important to tell my story, or find my voice, and even as I thought I was opening up myself as a kind of gift to others (here, get to know me and understand why I behave and feel the way I do; or, if I share my story, perhaps you will have the courage to share yours too), it was hurtful to some readers, most often family members. Each time I would be alarmed and bewildered to realize how much it hurt people. It was frightening and painful, and I learned a lot about myself and others through this. I learned how sorry I am to have hurt people I love. But more importantly, I discovered that my family members have hearts like lions – full of courage and love. So, while this was, in a way, my worst blogging experience, it also became almost like a best.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Find a purpose for your blog. Lately, I feel as if I blog without purpose. I seem to have reached a stage in my psychological understanding that requires deeper disclosure. I want to write a memoir, and for this I will need to examine my former relationships, marriages and, even, perhaps, my sexual development over the years. I imagine it will become extremely personal – not that I have not already done that with my blog thus far. It just seems that this particular stage renders me (and others) even more vulnerable. Currently, I am trying to find a different way to write about me, while keeping my Self and others safe... but, as for my advice for novice bloggers - purpose or focus.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > (1) My brother Norm (yes, yes, the guy who runs this blog). I wrote about him in my acknowledgements in my first book, Confronting Our Discomfort, and I mean every word: 'I am especially grateful to my brother Norman, for his relentless pursuit of justice for humanity through his scholarly works. His voice accompanies me every day in the way I think politically and ideologically.' (2) Lilian Katz, a famous early childhood scholar. I especially love the way she leans over the podium when speaking about appropriate practices for young children, and, in her British accent, says, 'I may be wrong [... pause...] but I doubt it.' (3) Bruce Perry, an international expert on children in crisis. I have heard him speak four or five times for three hours at a time, and each time I learn something new. Mostly his work reinforces and supports the work that I do in a most profound way. I think his message is the most significant one out there with regard to the development of emotional memory, the importance of quality relationships in young children's lives, and brain development in general.
What are you reading at the moment? > Intellectual Emergencies: Some reflections on Mothering and Teaching, by Lilian Katz and Stephen Katz. Gee, I wish I could have written something like this with my son.
What is your favourite movie? > Life as a House. I especially love the scene when Kevin Kline's character and his son (played by Hayden Christensen) express their profound anger and pain through the physical act of breaking down the old house in preparation for the new building. I have watched that scene many times over.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Educated in Romance: Women, Achievement and College Culture, by Holland and Eisenhart. I read it in 1991 as an assignment in a doctoral level course about qualitative research. I believe that I became a feminist from reading this book. So much of what the authors discuss about their findings of how young women chose careers in college spoke directly to me about my life that I literally felt as if I had my eyes opened - almost as if I had been asleep for over 40 years, and then I awoke.
Who are your political heroes? > Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Marian Wright Edelman, Bill Ayers.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > The silence of good people is just as destructive as the committal of bigoted acts. I believe Martin Luther King said this, or some version of it.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Refunding and completely overhauling the public school system, and most especially, offering universal, affordable, quality early care and education for children from birth through age 5.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > Barak Obama.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I think it is yet to come – if only we would have the courage to take on – really take on – those huge global issues cooperatively. Yes indeed, I am a dreamer and an idealist, and not ashamed to admit it. I wear a black bracelet that has inscribed on it the word 'Hope'.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Lately I try to live each moment as if it was my last. I once had to do this as an exercise for a day in a Grief Counselling Course that I took during my doctoral studies, and it had a profound impact on me. Since I turned sixty this year, faced a nasty illness of my own recently, and lost two very dear friends to cancer these past few years, I find that 'exercise' that I did back in 1991 has special meaning for me in my life right here and now.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > No. Political is connected to Personal for me. I do not think I can separate the two, nor do I want to. Indeed, I would need an entire blog post to talk about this. But, for now, suffice it to say - no.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Compassion.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Bigotry.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To save my life or the life of another.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Yes indeed. I am against the denial of human rights to anyone, but in particular, for women. So I am completely biased about cultures that treat women as inferior to men. As culturally accepting as I try to be, this is extremely hard for me to accept. I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend why women would willingly hide themselves behind anything.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Watching American football.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > My son's happiness. I constantly worry about that.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Oh dear. Oh my goodness. Yes! I would have clearer boundaries for myself, with myself, for and with others, for and with my son. I think I have done a very bad job with that, and am working hard to rectify this in my life. Hmm... this profile is helping me identify future blog posts, and that is surely going to have to be one of them.
What would you call your autobiography? > The Only Way Is Through.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Paris.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Something like Christmas without the religious context. A winter holiday with good food, trees and gifts and beautiful decorations – a time to be joyful – a time to be kind to one another – a time that brings warmth and light into a dark and bleak season. I do not think we need a God or a Saviour to have such a holiday. Just all those good feelings – and gifts, definitely gifts.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Walking, blogging, Facebook (especially Farm Town), tennis, eating really good sashimi, watching movies, travelling to see people I love in different countries, states, towns.
What is your most treasured possession? > My cat, Ada Mae. Strange to think of her as my possession but indeed she is, for she cannot roam free. She has the dearest, sweetest, and most gentle demeanour of any animal I have ever 'owned'. With Ada, I always feel somehow as if I have a second chance to get it right. I have so much guilt and regret about what kind of mother I have been for my son, and even how I treated some dogs in my life, that with Ada I have another chance. And so I spoil her rotten. And she reciprocates with great love, and humorous interactions even as she bats her toy mouse to me as if her paw was a tennis racquet every morning when I sit down to type on the computer.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Actress, singer or journalist.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > After buying a home, car and grand piano for my son, I would buy a huge estate to organize an orphanage of my dreams for children.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt – all together – to talk about making the Ocean movies.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]