Life and Living

Sometimes You Can Find Happiness Right Behind You

Whenever I hear a flight attendant say, “Remember, your nearest exit may be behind you,” I think, “As above, in air travel, so below in ordinary life.”

Most of the time we focus only on what we already believe. Fixated on these ideas, we don’t notice anything that could spark new ways of thinking. Since we evolved to be highly alert to danger and difficulty, we can get stuck staring at them, seeing only what we believe rather than believing what we actually see. This is a recipe for suffering and disaster. But shifting our focus—looking in [...]

May all our scores be very low

Doggie Do-Good Camp was supposed to last two weeks. That’s a long time to be separated from a dog you’ve just adopted, but when we got Claire, our emergency backup Golden Retriever, it seemed necessary. She was anxious, jittery, and unresponsive to even simple commands. After two weeks, a Doggie Do-Good trainer called to report that Claire needed more time. “Claire is one of the cutest dogs we’ve ever worked with,” said the trainer. There followed a charged silence. The trainer took a deep breath and added, “Her scores are, er, very low.”

It was hard to contradict, but still, harsh, [...]

Why It’s Okay to Change Up Family Traditions

This article was first published in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper

Holiday traditions have always made my heart beat a little faster—not with excitement, but with stress. Growing up as the seventh of eight children, I spent every December struggling to find gifts and make treats for everyone in the family. Things got easier when I started my own small, nuclear family. But our numbers are growing, and in recent years I’d begun to feel a touch of the old anxiety. Still, I was a bit shocked when someone suggested that we switch up our traditions by assigning each [...]

Giving Thanks

I want to begin by thanking you for reading this post. In a world blitzed with information, you’re giving your precious time and attention to my words, and I am deeply, genuinely grateful.

Lest you think I’m having a selfless moment, let me confess that I wrote the previous paragraph to see if it would make me feel good. I’ve just been reading studies that say expressing gratitude is one of the quickest, most powerful ways to increase feelings of well-being. 

It’s totally working, y’all.

By stopping to give thanks, I redirected my attention from my small, drudging self to you, wherever [...]

Finding Silence in a Storm

“Hey, everyone,” I said to my family. “Listen.”

We all stopped talking, and quiet wrapped around us like a warm blanket. A light breeze rustled the oak leaves above us. Bees and hummingbird murmured in a patch of wildflowers.

“Do you hear that?” I said. “Wherever we end up going, I need that.”

We were enjoying a cool summer sunset on the porch of our little house at the edge of a national forest in California, planning where to go next. For six years we’d been saturated with the awesome beauty of nature. Now we hankered to be near the awesome beauty [...]

Early Spring with the Notorious Badger (or, Why I’ve Made a Podcast)

A bit of searching online will tell you that “Spring in the Northern Hemisphere will begin on Thursday, March 19.” You can repeat this to others in a confident voice, and everyone will believe you. 

Meanwhile, the trees and flowers in the woods around my house are calmly celebrating Spring on their own damn schedule. Bright-green crocus and daffodil shoots are pushing leaf litter aside. The exposed spot on a dogwood tree, where woodpeckers have revealed the cambium, has also turned green, flooding chlorophyll upward to every little leaf bud on every little twig.

I love the stubbornness of nature. I [...]

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