1. Encourage or promote the development of (something, typically something regarded as good).
2. Develop (a feeling or idea) in oneself: "appropriate praise helps a child foster a sense of self-worth".
The Free Dictionary
This past week or so I’ve made many eclectic connections related to fostering. Bear with me, as maybe one venue of fostering will not appeal to you maybe one of the next three or four related to creativity might.
I want to start in Salem. I start there not because I have a great daughter. (I know I do, and those of you who know her agree without my scones or prejudices swaying your judgment.) I start in Salem because that's where I started thinking about the concept of fostering. First, fostering motherless kittens. F came home from a hiking trip to Colorado and decided to sign up for fostering cats and kittens. She stopped by the Salem Friends of Felines with the hopes of completing the paperwork and being placed on a list or register as one of their foster homes. Instead, she returned to her shared home (with several college students) a few hours later with six motherless kittens, a large kennel cage, formula, syringes, and general instructions on how best to try to keep them alive.
Now, F is a woman in college, holds down at least a couple of jobs during the school year, plays sports, and is active socially in her community. The last thing one would expect is for her to take on kittens, six high needs kittens, that live in her room 24/7, where she lives to feed them, and only eats herself when she finds time. I believe she will be moving into her third week fostering these wee ones. College classes started a week ago. Although she is the primary caregiver, she and a few roommates coordinated schedules so as someone would always be around to take care of feeding, cleaning and providing physical comfort and interaction for the kittens.
This fostering of kittens started an array of interconnected thoughts with regard to fostering. What fostering may bring to us—validation, positive experiences, new vocabulary, new terrain and new ways of thinking—without being a necessarily obvious outcome. Related to the kittens, F and I talked about their chirruping that had yet to develop into meows, how fostering them relates to obligations and burdens of parenting, some new vocabulary like the ‘failure to thrive’ term of art, what her days would look like in between classes and studying and feeding kittens… there would be no time left. She was slightly overwhelmed at the concept of bringing two home with her in a few weeks timeframe, but within a few hours her daily responsibilities included six small lives. This was out of her immediate comfort zone, but she shifted, adjusted and continues to take care of their needs.
Fostering kids over the summer was not what I had in mind the last week of school. Yet, when I received a phone call asking if I would be interested in taking care of a couple of extra kids, I said I was willing to meet and talk about the possibility. Things moved forward and I had a busy summer with three kiddos here. Well, the kiddos are still with me for part of the days even though the next school year has already started. This fostering was new to me as it was in my home, out of my typical comfort zone of a school or after school setting. Individuals I barely knew were coming to my home to be nurtured, fed, and hopefully have some fun. It pushed my daily thinking about social interactions for kids, changed my vocabulary out of need and for want to create fun. Each child’s personality and daily needs for attention or interaction from me were so different, I made a mental check list to see that I was meeting those needs on a regular basis. One needs humor and silliness in frequent and regular doses, one needs to be seen doing whatever is happening in the moment, one needs the ability to have space yet deep connection. This fostering created new subjects to write about, new perspectives as they are not my kids but I’ve come to care for them deeply, their successes, fears and dreams. I do not foresee doing this long term, but I appreciate where the adventure has taken me as a nurturer and creative being.
Next fostering offshoot... I balanced the time spent with the kids on a daily basis and that of fostering my creative outlets—writing, drawing, printing, carving, and recharging the energy that drives my creativity. Some days I would bake scones or cookies for the kids while meditating on a writing topic or working through a section of an unfinished poem. Other days I would foster my creativity by using the time at the library while the kids were focused on the kids’ programming for the day to research and checkout books that energized my creativity or pushed my boundaries. Here are some of my re-energizing finds from one week’s visit:
Popigami You Tube —When Everday Paper Pops! James and Francesca Diaz
Lotta Prints Chronicle Books Blurb —How to Print With Anything From Potatoes to Linoleum Lotta Jansdotter
Here There Nowhere—Paintings by Michael Brophy, Essays by Jonathan Raban and William L. Lang
West From The Columbia Powell's Listing —Views at the River Mouth Robert Adams
The Pencil by Paul Calle
Modern Women MoMA Book —Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art
The Unknown Monet Powell's Listing —Pastels and Drawings
Some of the above represent momentary mind candy, something sweet that soon fades. Others have generated other interesting, creativity sparking paths to follow. Have you ever randomly grabbed some book off the shelf, preferably one of the large awkward to carry ones, where the subject matter is totally out of your realm or comfort zone? Have you tested its vocabulary on your tongue, looked for some of your own answers in the page sized pictures? I find that some of these ventures through the library help to foster my creativity, spark interest in differences, locate and learn about new to me interests that sometimes becoming lasting.
For something different, I may head to one of these book marked in my favorites:
One of Elsa Mora’s many creative blogs—papercutting, miniature books and the like—
View a talk with a handful or so of extra minutes...TED Talks
Exercise the closet voyeur at... An Afternoon With--
Peruse the beautiful print at... The William Blake Archive
Drool over the beautiful, serene homes... Sanctuary
Check out all the great handwork at... The Makers
Or a few I list on a whim that I’ve never perused…
Many of these are photograph journals of sorts, but elemental in recharging. When I have a few minutes, I love to queue up a TED talk on a subject matter new to me. A few days ago, I was looking for a talk that related to an article I had read (unrelated to this smattering about fostering). I didn’t find the TED Talk I wanted but instead re-watched this talk.
It so happened that it played into my thoughts about fostering creativity or creative energy. Tim Brown talks about how creativity and play are important, how we need to “forget the adult behaviors that get in the way of our ideas”, how people need to be “shocked out of their normal way to thinking” to expand our creative possibilities, and the last item I noted… creative individuals need to get something quickly into the world to advance their thinking.
I believe fostering, planned or unplanned, long term or short, can evolve into opportunities to forget our adult behaviors and to move out of our normal way of thinking, and provide a new vocabulary. We are focused on what has been entrusted to us—whether it be a helpless animal, small child, or another individual’s words in the form of a poem to create a broadside. It's interesting to see that in hindsight the fostering of kittens and the fostering of kids pushed us out of our norm, brought new vocabulary and new experiences. On some level, all of it feeds my creative being.
Yes, an eclectic grouping, a smattering, but hopefully a spark or two is generated. That's all I hope for. Something to move you from where you are at, for a moment or perhaps a bit longer... Fostering. What does it mean to you right now? What might it mean? Are you fostering a loved one and what unique vocabulary or nest does that provide? Are you fostering your creativity, avoiding other responsibilities and obligations? Fostering. Hm.