Friday, November 11th, 2011

In The Beginning…

In every phenomenon the beginning remains always the most notable moment.Thomas Carlyle•

One thing I’ve learned, through both painful and positive experience, is that the successful flourishing of any project, product, event… or person, is seeded right at the beginning. Imagine setting off in a boat with the intention of sailing to a distant island, but having miscalculated your route by even just a tiny degree: everything will seem fine and dandy for awhile, maybe even for days. But as those tiny degrees of misdirection exponentially add up over many miles, you will at some point realize you are ending up far from where you wanted to be.

A mantra from chaos theory goes, “Sensitive dependence on initial conditions.”

This applies whenever something new is brought into being: cookies, crops, houses, stories, songs, sweaters, people. Read the rest of this entry »

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Pausing to Give Thanks

This year I’m blessed with TWO Thanksgivings! My son Ian flew out from NYC to spend his first California Thanksgiving since (as far as he and I could figure out) his freshman year in college — that is, nine years ago!

I’ve been “off-duty” from blogging, posting, tweeting and the like, since Friday. I treated myself to really savoring the grocery shopping, home care and general preparation for Ian’s arrival to my mountain cottage. I’m wishing the same for you — moments, even fleeting ones, that are set apart from the normal routine. Moments in which to pause and feel that enlivening wave of gratitude.

I cooked a full-on Thanksgiving feast for the evening Ian arrived, on Sunday. The next day we went on a forest outing to take in the fresh air, gorgeous sun… and forage for great fire kindling! We did some cool local brew IPA tasting, watched select TV highlights and a couple movies, and shared lots of wonderful conversation. We caught up in that deep heart-way that really only happens in person, and when there are many hours here and there over a few days.

Can you pick out the New Yorker, lol? Ian (center) with my friend Sarah-Jane and my love Larry.

Can you pick out the New Yorker, lol? Ian (center) with my friend Sarah-Jane and my love Larry.

Ian just now hit the road back to L.A. to spend actual Thanksgiving with his dad and grandmother. I sent him forth equipped with multiple containers packed with leftover food. (It’s official: I have become my mother-in-law, the aforementioned grandmother. At least in that regard.)

Ian’s younger sister Eve is three weeks into a 2-month artist’s residency in upstate New York. She could spend the holiday with a college friend whose family invited her,  but that would mean missing five days at her studio. So she’s chosen instead to stay at the residency grounds with a handful of other artists.

Not long before Ian left, I got a text from Eve: “Can I have your stuffing and cranberry sauce recipes?”

Mmmm, wave of gratitude.

I plan to spend time on the (good ol’-fashioned) phone over the next few days connecting with friends & family without the usual “tick-tock” time pressure that busy-life-as-usual tends to exert. Thursday I’ll go with Larry to spend turkey day with some of his family, and meet lots of new people.

My wish for you is the opportunity to be present to YOUR blessings, with the gift of a lightened agenda. A pause in the typically daily To-Do roster.

So… (for those of you in the U.S., that is) what might you drop off your To-Do list these coming few days to help mark Thanksgiving in a more joyful, thankful way??


Catch you on the flip side of thanks!






Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Holidays With Your New Baby

MotheringFeaturedSantaBaby2For anyone who becomes a mother within nine months of a major holiday season (and, taking into account all of the holidays within every faith and cultural tradition, that means almost everybody!) I have a radical idea for you: Simplify your idea of how the holidays will look this year. Better yet, let yourself let someone ELSE handle everything. {Read more at}

JodyDigger through a Creative Commons license | Flickr


Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Not Your Mother’s “Mommy” Problem?

MotheringMommyProbHeaderI saw that several people on Facebook this weekend were sharing & discussing Heather Havrilesky’s New York Times rant about our cultural uber-focus and pressure on parents, and particularly mothers.

It takes me awhile for my thoughts to coalesce into something I can put on paper (or on screen, rather), and meanwhile, our collective attention span darts away to the next conversation. If you take more than 48 hours to respond, you risk irrelevancy!

If you’re interested in an aspect of this perennial issue that hasn’t been raised yet, read on! Here’s a snippet from Havrilesky’s piece:

We smugly shake our heads at the backward attitudes of Mad Men, but at this particular moment in our history, some combination of overzealous parenting, savvy marketing and glorification of hearth and home have coaxed the public into viewing female parents as a strange breed apart from regular people. You might feel like the same person deep inside, but what the world apparently sees is a woman lugging around a giant umbilical cord.

She seems to suggest that the existential pressures and identity crises of motherhood she so witheringly parodies are unique to this moment in human history. They’re not. {More at}

donjd2 through a Creative Commons license / Flickr

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Boo! Are Fairy Tales Too Scary for Kids?

RidingHoodColor“But they’re so awful!

This is a response I often hear from parents when I recommend Grimm’s fairy tales as basic reading fare.  The idea of regaling their young children with stories of orphans and witches, kidnappings and murders—at bedtime no less—is daunting, understandably.

As parents we tend to want to present something of a Hallmark world to our children, so we naturally gravitate to soothing, sunny, children’s books, including sanitized versions of fairy tales classics.  Wishing to shield them from the darker aspects of humanity, such as anger, greed, anguish, and cruelty, we wean our children on the proposition that people are all good.  The problem is that even the youngest child knows differently in her heart of hearts. {Read more of this post at}

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Brain-Wise Parenting: The Importance of Relationship & Rhythm

Wondering how to best build your baby’s brain? There’s an app for that! Pop quiz: do you know what RHYTHM has to do with your child’s lifelong wellbeing?? What kinds of rhythm does your child have during the days & weeks?

I’m pleased to have been invited for a 5-day guest blog spot at, which began yesterday and runs all week. Dr. Greene is a pediatrician whose focus is children’s health in a progressive way. So I’m chiming in with 5 new articles this week all centered around ways to foster children’s optimal lifelong wellbeing. And it’s a lot of NEW material that I haven’t previously blogged about! Check it out here.  



Monday, October 20th, 2014

The Importance of Play, Puttering & Pretending

I’m pleased to have been invited for a 5-day guest blog spot at, which begins today and runs all week. Dr. Greene is a pediatrician whose focus is children’s health in a progressive way. So I’m chiming in with 5 new articles this week all centered around ways to foster children’s optimal lifelong wellbeing. And it’s all NEW material that I haven’t previously blogged about!


 {Read the rest @}


Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

The Taboo Power of Girls (Guest Post @ Family Guiding)


September 21 marked the International Day of Peace, and now here we are shining a light on how to empower girls. How do these two topics relate? Closely and powerfully. Educated, empowered women bring peace to their communities in countless important ways, including reducing violence, poverty and sickness.

Personal empowerment, like world peace, doesn’t spring fully formed. It begins in the most intimate surroundings of the home and family. It begins in the inner sense of security, safety and rightness that a child develops from the earliest moments of existence. It begins as womb peace and birth peace, then Mommy-and-Daddy peace, teacher peace and so on, rippling outward.

And for girls, one of the dimensions of selfhood that is particularly vulnerable to feelings of less-than, shame, and disempowerment has to do with her… well, yes… “that.”  {Read more about “that”… and about empowering our daughters… at Family Guiding} 

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Talking to Children About Tragedy: How Temperaments Help

Talking to Children About TragedyWhen talking to children about tragic events, understanding individual temperament can be a great help. In Part I, I focused mainly on two important aspects for the parent:

    • the fundamental need for some measure of self-possession and calm amidst outer events
    • a level of honesty and clarity in speaking to the child about the events that is not the norm in our culture

Especially related to that second point — honesty and clarity for the child — I want to dive a bit deeper and look at the importance of knowing your individual child, and letting that understanding guide you with more specificity and nuance when navigating the delicate territory of tragedy with them.

One of the reasons that my book Parenting for Peace is based on principles (rather than rules, systems, or techniques) is that meaningful parenting guidance must allow for everyone’s uniqueness. What nurturance looks like to one child will feel like smothering to another; what presence feels like to one mother will feel like imprisonment to another.

A huge dimension of the parenting journey is to be led to ever deeper understandings and appreciation of just who your child is, apart from any other. While the possibilities of uniqueness are infinite, it is sometimes helpful to orient ourselves with the help of various mapping tools. Temperaments is one such tool. {Read the rest at}

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Raising Secure Children in a Scary World: Talking About Terror

Secure Children in an Insecure World | Marcy Axness, PhDThirteen years since 9/11.

Thirteen years ago last night, our daughter Eve — then ten years old — was so excited that the next morning she was going to wake up by herself for the very first time, using the radio alarm clock we had given her for the occasion. She chose the station carefully (classical was it? maybe soft pop?), but when the radio clicked on at six a.m. in her Los Angeles bedroom it wasn’t music that woke her up. The second plane had just hit its target. Nobody yet had clarity on what was happening, let alone the news media. A fragmented noise skein of unfathomable facts, disbelief, sorrow, and fear came out of the radio that morning.

Eve’s experience is a bit of a metaphor for what we all went through: we woke up that day to a very different world than was familiar, and we didn’t have a mental framework for it, let alone words. In a further topsy-turvy turnabout of how things would have normally been, it was she who first alerted us to the fact that something very big and very bad had happened. {Read more at}

slgckgc (Flickr / Creative Commons license)

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Protect Your Child’s Mental Health with WONDER

The Protection of Wonder | Marcy Axness, PhDAugust 11 was a day of two unrelated yet poignantly simultaneous events: the passing of Robin Williams, whose white-hot brilliance has often been characterized as other-wordly; and the celestial light-show of the Perseids meteor shower. As if heaven was welcoming its newest arrival with a fireworks display of thrilling extravagance befitting Robin’s unfathomable talent and heart.

That he was suffering so deeply came as a shock to even those who thought they knew him well. Insights into his psycho-history began emerging with revelations about his depression–possibly bipolar disorder; reports of his solitary childhood in an affluent family, being raised primarily by hired help; and Robin’s own recorded descriptions of using his comic gifts to make his mother laugh.

As people who were touched by Robin’s gifts, we feel sad. As parents who are raising children in this complicated world, we feel concern. Will our child grow up to wrestle with such demons? {Please read the rest at Natural Baby Pros}

snowpeak under its Creative Commons license