best books for mindful parents
— and a give-away


FullSizeRenderTwenty-five years ago, as a new mother trying to figure out what kind of mom I wanted to be, I went in search of books to guide me. I hoped to find some wise mothering mentors who could shine a light on the path at my feet and say, “Here, follow me, come this way.”

Looking back on those days now, I realize how much things have changed. Back then, there were no cell phones, the word “text” referred to print on a paper page, and news of the world arrived via the newspaper that landed on our doorstep each morning.

We bought our first computer in 1990, when Henry was three months old, so I could begin working from home at my new job editing The Best American Short Stories. My Apple IICX could run two programs at once, Clarisworks and Filemaker Pro, which meant I could do word-processing (an outdated phrase if every there was!) and keep a database of my two hundred-plus magazine subscriptions. I dialed in for an internet connection, kept all my reading notes on file cards, and corresponded with authors and friends through the mail.

There were no blogs to read or online parenting forums to join, there was no Amazon to browse nor any algorithm recommending books for me to buy, there was no Facebook. My husband took photos of our new baby boy with his 3-pound Nikon, we dropped the rolls of film off at CVS, and then carefully placed our 4 x 6 prints into a photo album, sending dupes off to the grandparents.

It all seems pretty quaint in retrospect, so innocent and simple. But at the time, working and raising children and trying to do it all and have it all and give it all to them, I still sensed that life was moving too fast. Much as I yearned for less pressure and more fun, my days were spent juggling: too much stuff, too many choices, too many obligations, never enough time. [continue…]

Small moments

BI SunsetO
k,” I said to my family, “I have a question.”

We were halfway through dinner at my parents’ house in Maine.  The sun was setting, casting the room in molten, amber light.  The table was littered with lobster shells and corncobs and wadded up napkins: the perfect ending to a perfect end-of-summer day.

No one could remember the last time we’d all been gathered together in this place we love, a place layered with memories and history and hallowed artifacts.  Twenty-six years ago this week, my husband and I were married in the church at the head of the cove.  We began our life together in the bedroom off the kitchen (repainted by my mom and dad in honor of the occasion) – the room where we still sleep when we visit and where my wedding dress still hangs in the back of the closet. Our sons spent all the best vacations of their childhoods at “Nana and Bapa’s Maine house.”

Even now, the books they read as children are stacked on the bedside table between the twin beds upstairs.  Winnie the Pooh sits in silent meditation upon a pillow; the old board games are piled neatly on the shelf; the sea glass and smooth stones they collected line the windowsills.

And yet, time and summer jobs and new interests and horizons have their way with all of us. Life doesn’t’ always carry young adults back  to their best-loved places.   But over Labor Day weekend, with both boys home, we seized our chance.  And for one night, my parents and the four of us were under one roof.

Of course, everyone knew what was coming: Mom was going to ask the family to reflect.

My dad rolled his eyes.   “It’s a nice meal,” he said, only half-joking.  “Do we have to make it meaningful?”  The kids laughed.  Steve said, “You can’t stop her, you know.”  And in fact, no one really tried.

What I wanted to know was simply this:  What moment from the summer are you especially grateful for? [continue…]

Happy parents, happy kids

S&J - Version 2
ould I be happier? Could I have a happier child?

Ever asked yourself these questions?

I certainly have.  Indeed, they’re the very questions that first led me to reflect on what kind of mother I wanted to be and what kind of life I wanted our family to have.  They are the questions that inspired me to slow down, to pay attention to the little things, to do less and to enjoy more.  They helped me redefine what it means to have a good life – a life that is less about accomplishing and acquiring things and more about accepting and loving people.

This summer, these questions led Beth Spicer to launch an extraordinary conversation about happiness, parenting, and the ongoing work of aligning our lives with our deepest values and desires.

Beth is a successful life coach and a single mom.  Working, raising a toddler, juggling her own hopes and dreams with the demands of her clients and her son, advising others about how to bring more meaning and fulfillment into their lives, Beth found herself coming back again and again to one word: happiness.

Happiness is, of course, what we all long for — for ourselves, for our kids, for one another.  And yet, what an elusive a goal it can be!  Is there a secret?  Does it have to do with staking out and protecting down time or, is it about simply taking a deep breath even in the midst of the day’s chaos and giving thanks for life just as it is? (Maybe both?)  Is happiness a matter of temperament or character? Discipline or practice? Choice or luck?  Why are some families happier than others?  How do we cultivate joy for ourselves? How do we bequeath it to our children? [continue…]

A moment of silence

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had a whole month’s worth of blog posts planned out.

I was going to give you a little tour of my new website, which has been a year in the making and which I’ve been eager to share with you — including the new sections on parenting, soul work, hearth and home, and writing and reading.

In honor of the six-month, “half-birthday” of my latest book, Magical Journey, I intended to excerpt some of the inspiring, heartfelt letters I’ve received from readers – and to ask you to consider buying a hardcover copy before they vanish for good from bookstore shelves, to make way for the last wave of summer beach reads.

I’ve been  looking forward to writing about my friend Beth Kephart’s wonderful new book, Handling the Truth, which will be published next week, about the art of living well and the equally demanding art of making the personal universal. (For now, I’ll simply say: if you write memoir in any way, shape, or form, you need this book.)

A summer vacation in Montana without our sons gave me lots to think about, as I both missed my boys on a daily basis (actually, on a moment-by-moment basis) and, at the same time, appreciated the freedom of not having to worry about meeting the needs and expectations of a younger generation of travelers. There is, I know, an essay to be written here.

And then, early last Sunday morning, came the news of a death. A dear friend’s nineteen-year-old son — killed instantly in a tragic accident.  [continue…]

A healing journey

L5 xray
Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to learn

~ Pema Chodron

We looked at the X-rays together, my son Jack and I.

“This is last August,” the orthopedist said, pointing to the image on the left, showing two clear fractures in Jack’s L-5 vertebrae, fractures that, after 6 months, were showing no signs of healing on one side and only a minimal feathering of bone growth on the other.

“And this is now,” he said, indicating the scan from last week. “Completely healed.

“I can tell you,” he said turning to Jack and raising his hand for a high five, “this hardly ever happens.”

I remember my very first glimpse of my younger son: the dark, cool room; the ultrasound wand sliding through the goop on my swollen stomach; my husband peering over me to get a look at the shadowy little curlicue of a person floating deep within my belly. It was, I am suddenly realizing, twenty-one years ago this summer – my son’s entire lifetime ago, and yet still fresh and vivid in my mind’s eye. The technician asked if we wanted to know the sex of our baby. [continue…]