5 Great Reasons to Read Books Aloud

“Fuming, Harry descended the stairs to Snape’s dungeon… ” Moments ago in my family’s car, the 10-year-old and 16-year-old were bickering about whether the 10-year-old sings with a fake Scottish accent. Now they sit silently as, in the front passenger seat, I read aloud from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I pause for […]

How Beauty-Inspired Awe Can Boost Your Mood

Like any self-respecting Netflix junkie, I wasn’t thrilled by a recent study linking TV binges to depression and other health woes. True, researchers hadn’t yet proved that watching back-to-back episodes of Orange Is the New Black would turn me into a miserable lump. But sure as Piper Chapman’s next cold prison shower, that pronouncement was […]

How I Turned Weeping into Purpose in Mom’s Last Days

Decades ago, my mother and I had kayaked together in choppy seas. We had zipped through dense woods on a dogsled. We had rafted over rapids, climbed swaying ladders up sandstone cliffs and hunkered in a tent 5,000 feet up a mountain during a thunderstorm. But we’d never felt half as daunted as we did […]

The Creative Benefits of a Little Goofiness

Midafternoon. A windowless basement. One hundred sixty solid minutes of classroom time. With all these strikes against us, is it any wonder my humor-writing students and I sometimes feel as sharp and creative as a drawerful of socks? Good thing I always smuggle in my favorite stimulant. I’m speaking, of course, about goofiness. This isn’t quite the […]

32 Nuggets of Wisdom (with a Twist)

The upside of being a columnist faced with a milestone birthday—or so it seems from pieces I’ve read by other columnists—is you get to spout some of your vast accumulated wisdom. But what if your accumulated wisdom is only, as the punsters would say, half-vast? I’ve thought a lot about this question, now that my own dreaded […]

How to Use Sad Visions for a Happier Now

While watering a perky rowof daisies on my patio,I dread October’s freezesand picture every stem turned brown,each shriveled leafstalk hanging down,each petal gone to Jesus… It’s a lame habit, all right—one that’s wrecked countless moments of my life: Instead of savoring the happy present, I find myself looking ahead to an unhappy future. Show me a cute […]

Sometimes a Tragic Tale Can Offer Inspiration…

Have you ever had a book land in your lap at just the right moment? As if the universe is saying, “Here, kid, I saw this and thought of you”? The Opposite of Loneliness was exactly that sort of book for me. It may, I suspect, be that sort for a lot of us. And to think […]

A Gratitude Habit to Boost Your Positivity


There’s a blackout while I’m in the basement of my house. At least it didn’t happen when I was cleaning the cats’ litter box, I tell myself. Next morning, I spill coffee all over the kitchen counter. At least it didn’t go in the silverware drawer. Then it’s on to bonking my hip on a table (at […]

Talk to Strangers—It’s Good for Your Body and Soul

The other day at a restaurant, my 9-year-old daughter did a magic trick that never fails to amaze me: pulling friendship out of thin air. One moment, she and another girl were at separate outdoor tables with their separate families, eating dinner. The next (abracadabra!) they were racing up and down the grassy canal bank […]