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My Apple IICX could run two programs at once, Clarisworks and Filemaker Pro, which meant I could do word-processing (an outdated phrase if every there was!)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…]

Dear Older, about these cars. . .

sport-fury-brougham“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.” ~Goethe

This is the second in a series of letters between me and my friend, author Margaret Roach, on the challenges (and joys!) of aging. I’m Old (just 55) and she’s Older (facing 60 this year). And since we’re surely not the only ones buying wrinkle creams, we decided to share our exchange with you, too.  Be sure to read Margaret’s letter to me here.   

Dear Older,

Oh Margaret! You would have to bring up our cars.

Well, I’m not going to lie about age here.  Yes, my Acura is ten years old.  And she’s about to roll over 170,000 miles – that’s a lot of trips taken, a great deal of life lived, many bridges crossed.

Buying this car was the first thing Steve and I did in 2003 when we left the suburbs of Boston and moved back to my country roots.  If we were going to make our home in a place where the last snow might not melt til mid-April, I wanted a car that would carry me through our Northern winters without too much anxiety on my part.  “Good in snow” was my top priority when we went out shopping for new wheels.

It’s worth remembering that gas cost $1.54 a gallon when we arrived in New Hampshire to embark on this new life.  “Good mileage” was on my list, but it was somewhere below good visibility, comfort, and safety.

Jack was eleven and Henry was just starting high school when I began driving the kids around rural New Hampshire in my brand new silver MDX. (Family trips we took in our Toyota Sienna minivan – plenty of room for two parents, two boys, one dog and gear for all, and already showing the wear and tear of four years of hard daily use.) The Acura was the nice car.  My car.  And, I’ll admit: it was and is the only car I’ve ever loved.

A little back story:  I’m not a natural behind the wheel.  I shudder to recall my first solo forays on our rural roads after I got my driver’s license in 1974.  The car: my parents’ 1970 red Plymouth Fury sedan, graciously bequeathed to me.  The most notable feature of that car was its size.  Huge. I have vague, unsettling memories even now of drifting around curves in the road, wondering if I was going a little too fast, fighting to hold the car on the pavement, straining to sit tall enough in the broad, slippery seat to see out the windshield.  [continue…]

Happy parents, happy kids

S&J - Version 2
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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 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…]

Parenting wisdom & a Mother’s Day gift for you

Confident Cover High ResA few years ago, I packed all my child-raising books into shopping bags and delivered them to the used bookstore.  It didn’t mean my mothering days were over, of course, but I figured that from here on out I should be able to manage on my own.  My sons were young adults, after all, our struggles over bedtimes and screen time and green vegetables and messy rooms were already ancient history.  We were forging new relationships with each other – complicated, yes, but I couldn’t imagine ever again turning to an “expert” for advice on how to get along with my kids.

And then I met Bonnie Harris.  Bonnie is a faithful yogi like me, and we often find ourselves side by side in the challenging class we both like to take on Thursday nights.  I’d known since moving to town that Bonnie is a revered family counselor and parent educator, that she’s in demand as a speaker all over the world, and that we even shared a New York publisher.  I’d heard good things about Bonnie’s book When Kids Push Your Buttons even before meeting her in person.

But what really impressed me about Bonnie was her headstand, which she performs with ease right out in the middle of the room.  (I’m not the only one who admires Bonnie’s ability to hang out upside down; in class she’s known as Headstand Bonnie.) [continue…]