A Religion of One’s Own

IMG_9798The first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant, twenty-five years ago this winter, was get in my car and drive to Harvard Square to buy a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  I am a book person, a life-long reader.  And so my first response to anything new or challenging in my life has always been the same: go find a book on the subject.

For a few years, as I became a mother to first one son and then another, I read my way through an entire shelf of parenting titles.  I read books about every age and every stage, about attachment and achievement, discipline and diet.

But the book that finally set me on my own path, both as a mother and as a person, wasn’t a parenting book at all.  It was a book called The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life by a writer named Thomas Moore.

Most of us have a handful of books we consider seminal, books that make such profound, deep, and lasting impressions that we remember, even years later, exactly where we were and how we felt as the words landed in our hearts.

I was in a lawn chair at my parents’ house in Florida, savoring quiet. [continue…]

Pub date! (Music, photos & books to win)

Today is the official paperback release of Magical Journey.

Paperback publications of quiet, mid-list memoirs don’t generally get reviews or ad budgets or press releases or parties.

But I’m pretty excited about today anyway. The fact Magical Journey even made it into a paperback edition is incredibly gratifying.  It means this close-to-my-heart book will find its way to many more readers in the months to come.  (Thanks to some energetic advance footwork by the terrific Magical Journey Team, this is already happening!)  Reason enough to celebrate, right?

So, this morning I thought, Why not mark pub date with an intimate on-line party right here, in the space where we meet each week to converse, connect, and share stories of our lives?

First, some music. . .

Exactly two years ago this week, I was holed up in my mom’s guest room, writing five or six hours a day.  To stay sane, I took long walks.  One afternoon, while listening to a Pandora station through my earbuds, I found myself stopped in my tracks on the sidewalk, tears streaming down my cheeks. [continue…]

Gracie, 8/20/00 – 11/18/13

IMG_0154Everyone we know who’s ever loved and lost a dog told us the same thing: that she would let us know when it was time to say good-bye. And of course, she did.

Yesterday morning we let Gracie go, with sad hearts but also certain that it was her day to leave us.

Since she was diagnosed with cancer just a month ago, on Oct. 17, Gracie rose to the challenge of treatment just the way she did everything else in her life: willingly, without fuss or fanfare, and with complete trust in her humans to do what was best for her. We took a big swing at it, with three rounds of chemo, and were amazed and thrilled as she gained back weight and strength and her zest for life.

A week ago, she was like her old self — up at dawn, taking long morning walks, playing in the leaves, chasing balls and sticks. (Steve took this photo  last weekend, as Gracie eagerly did her part during fall clean-up at my parents’ house.)

There were no bad days. These past few weeks have been about massages and Reiki and hand-feeding, lots of special, home-cooked food, visits with all her friends, treats and walks and togetherness. We had the great gift of getting her back for a little while, knowing as well that things could turn at any moment. When they did, we took our cues from her. [continue…]


GraceI’ve been paying close attention to the weather lately.  Over the last few days, frost has claimed the last of the nasturtiums outside the kitchen door.  The maple tree, as of yesterday, is bare, save for two golden leaves stubbornly clinging.

“The leaves fell so much earlier than usual this year,” I’ve been saying to my husband, as if we’ve been deprived of something; an extra week of gazing at them perhaps.  “It’s gotten colder sooner.”  He doesn’t believe me, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.

And then it occurs to me:  I have a record.

It was just a year ago that two young filmmakers from Boston drove up to our house in New Hampshire to shoot the book trailer for Magical Journey.  I was watching the weather pretty closely that week, too, worried it would be freezing by the time we finally had a shot list together and that late October would prove too stark and wintry to allow for the kind of carefree outdoor moments I’d been envisioning.

I haven’t watched the video myself for a year, not since the day I okayed the final cut and sent it off to my publisher to post on YouTube, with fingers crossed that it might inspire a few book sales.  Perhaps some movie stars get used to seeing themselves on film or hearing the sound of their own recorded voices, but I doubt I ever will.  It’s easier not to look. [continue…]

Book giveaway, events, and online chat

backyard parables and magical journey


A mother’s midlife memoir paired with a gardening book?

What, you might well ask, could these two volumes possibly have in common?   And why would a married mom of two and a resolutely single, encyclopedically knowledgeable, former-Martha-Stewart-publishing-executive-turned-rural-hermit ever become writing partners, let alone dear friends?

Well, if age teaches us anything, it’s that life is full of surprises – and that the relationships that bloom and blossom in the langorous afternoon of life are often quite different from those of its bright morning.  No longer bound to our friends by social stratifications, proximity, or the shared duties of parenthood, we find ourselves connected, instead, at a soul level.  “Friendship,” writes C.S. Lewis, “is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What? You too?  I thought I was the only one.’”

And so it was with Margaret Roach and me.  Coincidence brought us together (we share a publisher, and our editors had given us galleys of each other’s last books).  But it wasn’t until we met in person, at a bookseller’s convention two years ago, that we each experienced that unmistakable “click” that signals this is someone who is meant to be in my life.

Reading Margaret’s work, I knew right away I was in the presence of a kindred spirit — someone who finds pleasure in the small moments, who draws sustenance and inspiration from the frogs in her pond and the flowers at her doorstep, who is more at home stirring a pot of home-made soup at the stove than hobnobbing with fellow writers at literary soirees.

Becoming her friend for real, spending overnights in her guest cottage and sharing countless dinners together, only confirmed what I’d already suspected: different as our lives may be on the surface (Margaret never has to postpone a writing project because a son needs help on his college application; I wouldn’t know a Chaenomeles x superba if one was in full bloom in my own yard), we nevertheless have much to offer each other – gifts of time and support and perspective on the universal challenges (and joys!) of growing older and, hopefully, just a wee bit wiser.

So maybe it’s not so surprising after all, that when we exchanged manuscripts of our most recent books, we each found ourselves scribbling excited “Yes!” notes and exclamation points in the margins.  There were so many common themes that we had to laugh.  And then we realized that of course our readers would probably enjoy getting to know one another as much as the two of us had.

Since our books came out last month, Margaret and I have appeared together at bookstores all over New England – and we can now report that our hunch was right.  The conversations are lively, our joint readings fun for all, and the connections and cross-overs always surprising and delightful.

So, consider this your invitation to come join us!  Win our books (signed, personalized copies), hear us speak, or if you can’t make it to one of the events below — jump in to our free online chat starting Monday on Goodreads.


 Duets with Margaret

The goodreads.com event
Goodreads is like a giant online book club that never sleeps. It’s amazing, and it’s free; a great place to get tips from other keen readers on books to look out for, according to your interests, and to “talk” to authors. Margaret Roach (author most recently of “The Backyard Parables: Lessons on Gardening, and Life”) and I will be there Monday February 25 for an open forum, to answer your questions about our new (or older) books, about writing, or about whatever you feel like asking about.

In our in-person events recently, the topics have ranged from finding midlife friendship, to raising adolescent boys (or unruly plants), to recipes we’ve swapped and books we’ve both read, to our writing “process” (Margaret paces, I sit still for hours on end)—no kidding, that wide a range, and more. Fun! So come share whatever’s on your mind. Won’t you sign up and join us?

The in-person events

  • Sunday, February 24, 3 PM: POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER. Reading and conversation with author Margaret Roach from our two new books, her “The Backyard Parables: Lessons on Gardening, and Life” and my “Magical Journey” An Apprenticeship in Contentment,” at the Concord (MA) Bookshop.
  • Thursday, February 28, 7 PM: Reading and conversation with author Margaret Roach at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, Troy, NY, hosted by memoir-teacher and author Marion Roach Smith.
  • Sunday, March 3, afternoon: Two events, same location: 2 PM, “The 365-Day Garden” slide lecture by Margaret Roach. 3 PM, a reading and conversation with me and Margaret from our two new books, at Battenkill Books, Cambridge, NY.

How to win the signed books

To enter to win a signed copy of “The Backyard Parables” and one of “Magical Journey,” too, simply comment below, answering the question:

What’s the last book you read that you recommended afterward to a friend, and why?

Then to double your chances to win—two sets are being given away on each of our websites—scurry over to Margaret’s book giveaway now and paste your comment there as well.

No answer to the question, or simply feeling shy? No worry; just say “count me in” or something to that effect, and we will. Winners will be drawn at random after entries close at midnight on Wednesday, February 27. Good luck to all.