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The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir

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The Gift of an Ordinary Day is an intimate memoir of a family in transition-boys becoming teenagers, careers ending and new ones opening up, an attempt to find a deeper sense of place, and a slower pace, in a small New England town. It is a story of mid-life longings and discoveries, of lessons learned in the search for home and a new sense of purpose, and the bittersweet The Gift of an Ordinary Day is an intimate memoir of a family in transition-boys becoming teenagers, careers ending and new ones opening up, an attempt to find a deeper sense of place, and a slower pace, in a small New England town. It is a story of mid-life longings and discoveries, of lessons learned in the search for home and a new sense of purpose, and the bittersweet intensity of life with teenagers--holding on, letting go. Poised on the threshold between family life as she's always known it and her older son's departure for college, Kenison is surprised to find that the times she treasures most are the ordinary, unremarkable moments of everyday life, the very moments that she once took for granted, or rushed right through without noticing at all. The relationships, hopes, and dreams that Kenison illuminates will touch women's hearts, and her words will inspire mothers everywhere as they try to make peace with the inevitable changes in store.


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The Gift of an Ordinary Day is an intimate memoir of a family in transition-boys becoming teenagers, careers ending and new ones opening up, an attempt to find a deeper sense of place, and a slower pace, in a small New England town. It is a story of mid-life longings and discoveries, of lessons learned in the search for home and a new sense of purpose, and the bittersweet The Gift of an Ordinary Day is an intimate memoir of a family in transition-boys becoming teenagers, careers ending and new ones opening up, an attempt to find a deeper sense of place, and a slower pace, in a small New England town. It is a story of mid-life longings and discoveries, of lessons learned in the search for home and a new sense of purpose, and the bittersweet intensity of life with teenagers--holding on, letting go. Poised on the threshold between family life as she's always known it and her older son's departure for college, Kenison is surprised to find that the times she treasures most are the ordinary, unremarkable moments of everyday life, the very moments that she once took for granted, or rushed right through without noticing at all. The relationships, hopes, and dreams that Kenison illuminates will touch women's hearts, and her words will inspire mothers everywhere as they try to make peace with the inevitable changes in store.

30 review for The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I didn't love this book... I felt like there were some great insights and thoughts, but I also felt that it was way too long and that she rambled a bit. She would make the same point over and over using different words or thoughts... honestly, it was like reading an insanely long blog post. There was a story line hidden in the meandering thoughts, but it was hard to keep track of as she jumped from past to present so often. There were some good things. But not enough for me to like the book or t I didn't love this book... I felt like there were some great insights and thoughts, but I also felt that it was way too long and that she rambled a bit. She would make the same point over and over using different words or thoughts... honestly, it was like reading an insanely long blog post. There was a story line hidden in the meandering thoughts, but it was hard to keep track of as she jumped from past to present so often. There were some good things. But not enough for me to like the book or to read it again.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    As a mother, I felt this was the best book out there that has been written, regarding the truth of being a parent. Katrina Kenison does a wonderful job of laying it all out there in the wide range of emotions; some are painful, beautiful, endearing and some are just plain as raw as they can be described. While reading this book there were times that I became jealous, because this woman did what I have always felt needed to be done; she took the control over her life and her family's that needed As a mother, I felt this was the best book out there that has been written, regarding the truth of being a parent. Katrina Kenison does a wonderful job of laying it all out there in the wide range of emotions; some are painful, beautiful, endearing and some are just plain as raw as they can be described. While reading this book there were times that I became jealous, because this woman did what I have always felt needed to be done; she took the control over her life and her family's that needed to be taken. She wasn't going to allow the "Jones's" or the competitive environment in the educational system to label her children or family. Ms. Kenison was writing a story about herself, but I felt that she was writing about so many other mothers out there that are struggling to keep their children's head above water, in this all too pressurized world that we live in, today. I felt as though I was reading about myself, and was happy to read someone else's story, but sorry that I haven't taken the pen to paper to express my concerns. I only hope that someday, when I do, my words will be as captivating and moving as were Katrina's. This story is a true example of someone painting a picture with words, as you feel as though you are right there with her, as she takes you through this glorious and heart-wrenching journey. The only reason that I put this book down was because I didn't want it to end.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lara Van Hulzen

    On the precipice of having one son in high school and the other in middle school, Katrina Kenison decides that maybe it’s time for the family to make a change. On the cusp of mid-life, she feels a tug for a simpler life. A smaller house, more open space, and the ability to focus on the next phase of life, one that entails mothering young men instead of little boys. However, when she and her husband decide to sell their home, move to a small town in New England and renovate an old farmhouse, life On the precipice of having one son in high school and the other in middle school, Katrina Kenison decides that maybe it’s time for the family to make a change. On the cusp of mid-life, she feels a tug for a simpler life. A smaller house, more open space, and the ability to focus on the next phase of life, one that entails mothering young men instead of little boys. However, when she and her husband decide to sell their home, move to a small town in New England and renovate an old farmhouse, life seems to be far from simple. While they are renovating their new home, Katrina and her family live with her parents. What was intended to be a six-month stay turns into almost three years. By the time they move into their new home, her oldest son is a senior in high school facing the challenge of choosing, and applying to, the colleges of his choice, and her younger son has gone through the painfully awkward years that are middle school. In this time period, she also looses her job and questions exactly what her role as a mother should look like now that her children’s need for her is vastly different with play dates and reading time no longer the norm. In the midst of attempting to find a simpler life, Katrina learns that life is what is happening right now, whether it is simple or not. What she was looking for was there all the time, she just had to pay attention. The life she wants consists of daily drives to school filled with precious conversations that could never be planned. Life is a day of heavy snow that wipes out electricity, causing her teenage sons to play board games with her and her husband and have snowball fights in the afternoon. Life is the four of them snuggling up on the couch to watch American Idol, and it is celebrating her older son’s acceptance into college while in her heart, grasping the reality that when he leaves, their lives will change. This is a beautiful book. I found myself wiping away tears and highlighting so much that there is more yellow than white on the pages. Through this portion of her journey, Katrina reminds us that worry and fear only rob us of what is happening at the moment and if we don’t learn to pay attention, we will miss it and it will never return. When we fear, we lose sight of gratitude. There is not a charmed life, only charmed moments. Life will not begin when we get to that new house or when that job we’ve been waiting for begins. Life is in the moments that happen in each and every ordinary day, we just have to intentionally look for it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lain

    I picked up this book expecting a ho-hum collection of musings on the meaning of motherhood, the need to grab on to the present, and the desire to have just one more "ordinary" day with your offspring. What I got was so much more. In the hallowed tradition of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "Gift from the Sea," Katrina Kenison offers readers a glimpse of the world we wish we could capture on our own; one in which each day and each moment is treasured like the most valuable of jewels and described in lum I picked up this book expecting a ho-hum collection of musings on the meaning of motherhood, the need to grab on to the present, and the desire to have just one more "ordinary" day with your offspring. What I got was so much more. In the hallowed tradition of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "Gift from the Sea," Katrina Kenison offers readers a glimpse of the world we wish we could capture on our own; one in which each day and each moment is treasured like the most valuable of jewels and described in luminescent detail. While she does discuss the topics I mentioned above, I also found lessons on what makes a home, what our responsibility is as parents, and what we can do to slow the world down long enough to extract meaning from it. In simple, accessible prose she writes of the things we all wish we had taken the time to appreciate. Hopefully we readers will take the time to read and appreciate her beautiful work.

  5. 5 out of 5

    AnnaMay

    This book took a looooong time to get through. As I thought of why, I can only guess it's because of the writing style. Kenison is very 'thoughtful' in the way she puts things, so I could only read a few pages before being saturated. There were a few 'long-stretch-reads' I was able to accomplish and that got me through the book. I asked myself a few times why I was still reading it, why I didn't just take it back to the library unfinished? Well, the 2 or 3 real 'glimpses' I was awarded made the r This book took a looooong time to get through. As I thought of why, I can only guess it's because of the writing style. Kenison is very 'thoughtful' in the way she puts things, so I could only read a few pages before being saturated. There were a few 'long-stretch-reads' I was able to accomplish and that got me through the book. I asked myself a few times why I was still reading it, why I didn't just take it back to the library unfinished? Well, the 2 or 3 real 'glimpses' I was awarded made the read worth it. I think a good editor could have tackled this and brought it down to 150 precious gem pages. 304 is too many. I found myself questioning, "Hasn't she already said this three times in this chapter?" round about page 290, etc. If it were the 150 pg version, I would probably have given a 5-star rating and purchased it for every woman who is dear in my life. Being 304 pages, I still value the insight I gained into how precious each ordinary moment of life is. I should have read 1/2 chapter inbetween my fun novels instead of reading straight through this one without a break. It's a good '1-2 pages a day' book. Each chapter really does say the same thing as the previous, just in a different setting of her life. The imagery is beautiful. I can tell she was an editor for 25 years. I enjoyed learning from the outlook of a mother who is handing over her grown children to the world. I agree that 'A Mother's Memoir' is a very appropriate subtitle. It did make me cry 2-3 times, but the rest was kind of 'warm fuzzy' and almost right on the mark, but not quite. I respect Kenison from writing so 'from-the-heart' and putting herself out there for all of us to read and critique along with enjoy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    My daughter came home from school last spring and told me that the salutatorian at a nearby high school had missed being valedictorian because she had taken orchestra, which is not officially an honors class and therefore not worth 5 points on a 4 point GPA scale. True or not, my daughter internalized this story and wondered aloud if taking band and art this year would hurt her life prospects. As someone with no –torians to her credit, I told her that I hoped she would take band and art every se My daughter came home from school last spring and told me that the salutatorian at a nearby high school had missed being valedictorian because she had taken orchestra, which is not officially an honors class and therefore not worth 5 points on a 4 point GPA scale. True or not, my daughter internalized this story and wondered aloud if taking band and art this year would hurt her life prospects. As someone with no –torians to her credit, I told her that I hoped she would take band and art every semester that she could because they give her pleasure and use a different part of her brain than the coursework that fills the rest of her day. I told her that I do not believe in living a fearful life, hounded always by the prospect of a tactical mistake that would ruin everything. Katrina Kenison says it this way: “If I really want to encourage my own two sons to follow a course in life more purposeful than accumulating wealth, power, and prestige, I must first acknowledge the value of such a life myself. I need to show, by my own example, that the path to fulfillment has but little to do with mastery and conquest and much to do with coming to know oneself, finding pleasure in everyday events, doing work that matters, living in community with family and friends, being loved and loving in return." Amen. Her earlier book, Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, was a deeply influential book for me. I read it when my children were very young, and it inspired me to be more deliberate about slowing down and paying attention to the experiences they found most compelling, like watching caterpillars inch up a tree. I have reread this book many times. Initially, I was disappointed by the new book because, unlike Mitten Strings, it is not organized into pithy chapters full of warm and fuzzy parenting insights. This book is an adult memoir about a woman in midlife. ("For the first time ever, I find myself feeling lonely in my own family, as if everyone else has moved on and left me behind.”) She describes her struggles with moving, building a house, finding a role after a layoff, and wading through adolescence with her sons. The stories aren't quite as reassuring, and the responses are more ambiguous. She flounders and doubts herself, and sometimes I doubted her, too. However, I was completely drawn in by her stories about helping her sons negotiate the transitions of middle school, high school, and college. I marked many, many passages to reread. And I wanted to join her book group. Perhaps adolescence and midlife are more ambiguous life chapters that defy the epigrams I loved so much in Mitten Strings. In spite of some meanderings, this book comforted me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Wow. This book was an excellent but wrenching read for me right now. I loved Kenison's earlier book, Mitten Strings for God, and loved how it reminded mothers to focus on the moments while parenting young children. How much more we need the lessons in the teen years and while we are struggling to learn how to parent almost-adults who are about to leave. I identified so strongly with the emotions and the feeling of impending loss that I cried all to often during this book. A few quotes that were Wow. This book was an excellent but wrenching read for me right now. I loved Kenison's earlier book, Mitten Strings for God, and loved how it reminded mothers to focus on the moments while parenting young children. How much more we need the lessons in the teen years and while we are struggling to learn how to parent almost-adults who are about to leave. I identified so strongly with the emotions and the feeling of impending loss that I cried all to often during this book. A few quotes that were meaningful to me: We are entering a kind of homestretch here, the end of family life as we've always known it, the end of the day-in-day-out, zip-your-jacket-here's-your-sandwich kind of mothering by which I've defined myself for so long. When we focus on what is good and beautiful in someone, whether or not we think that they "deserve" it, the good and beautiful are strengthened merely by the light of our attention . . . Sometimes it is necessary, as Galway Kinnell has written, "to reteach a thing its loveliness, to put a hand on its brow of the flower, and retell it in words and in touch it is lovely until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing." Take the long view, I reminded myself . . . Life finds its balance. Children grow up. Second chances come along. In the meantime, I could choose to savor this moment. This book was very provoking for me right now. We have some family traditions that are left over from early childhood which really serve no purpose any longer except "we've always done that" and it's been much harder than I thought it would be to let go. I think this is because instead of years and years ahead of me to change and adapt, I'm feeling the pressure of only two or three years with one child, and time racing along with the others, and I'm trying desperately to hold on. But I'm not always sure I'm holding on to the right things. This book raised just the issues I need to be thinking about right now.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marnie

    A must read for any mother who loves mothering her children, and who struggles daily with loving them enough to prepare them to one day leave home. This book provides great encouragement to parents who want simply to raise their children up to be who they are intended to be, not what prevailing society thinks our children should be. So often it can be hard to escape societal noise about what "should" be important to us as parents, and to decide for ourselves what truly matters as it relates to o A must read for any mother who loves mothering her children, and who struggles daily with loving them enough to prepare them to one day leave home. This book provides great encouragement to parents who want simply to raise their children up to be who they are intended to be, not what prevailing society thinks our children should be. So often it can be hard to escape societal noise about what "should" be important to us as parents, and to decide for ourselves what truly matters as it relates to our own children. If you are a mother (or father) who truly cares about what is unique and important about each child in your family, then you will find great comfort reading from a mother who is on the other side of raising kids up to be who they are, and simply being the parent you want to be. Parenting well can be mighty challenging. In this book we read great writing from a mother who stayed true to herself and her family in spite of the hardships along the way. Toward the end of the book there was some meandering, almost as if a journal were shared with us unedited, with incomplete thoughts. However, this did not make me love the whole of this book any less. It was almost as if I wrote this book back to myself ten years down the road from where I stand now. I am grateful for Katrina Kenison’s insightful, heartfelt words of wisdom. I consider this a must-read for mothers.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anne Mcarthur

    I feel like I've come full-circle with Katrina Kenison. I read "Mitten Strings for God" when my children were younger. Now with one out of the nest, one nearly there and mid-life staring me in the face, I read this beautifully written book. As much about mid-life as nearly-grown children, her words spoke to the places in my heart having similar struggles with mid-life and what's next. The journey towards the end of high school and college searching made me smile in solidarity and anticipation.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Young

    LOVE her writing. This is a book I will be giving to SO many of my friends for a gift. Each day I took it to the gym, I would ALWAYS end up getting off my machine and running to grab a pencil at the front desk because I had to mark something. Her writing is very soothing and calming to me. She has a way of speaking about the changes in life, that just reassures the reader that things will be ok. That we don't have to push and pull and worry so much. We can TRUST that life will work itself out, th LOVE her writing. This is a book I will be giving to SO many of my friends for a gift. Each day I took it to the gym, I would ALWAYS end up getting off my machine and running to grab a pencil at the front desk because I had to mark something. Her writing is very soothing and calming to me. She has a way of speaking about the changes in life, that just reassures the reader that things will be ok. That we don't have to push and pull and worry so much. We can TRUST that life will work itself out, that our children will be led on their own paths, that we will be shown the way ahead for ourselves. Here are some of my favorite excerpts and thoughts... In our fast moving, noisy world, less can be more, silence is precious, and in our daily rush through life, we often sacrifice the very things we need the most--quiet, awareness, patience, joy. There is no such thing as a charmed life, not for any of us, no matter where we live or how mindfully we attend to the tasks at hand. But there are charmed moments, all the time, in every life and in every day, if we are only awake enough to experience them when they come and wise enough to appreciate them. According to yoga teacher and writer Stephen Cope, every human being is born with a unique gift, a gift that, once discovered, is the doorway to a fulfilled life, to our particular path or calling. Not surprisingly, the gift requires practice, an enormous investment of time and energy and faith. But what is surprising, according to Cope, is that our gift is often paired with a wound. In other words, our strength seems to be born of our suffering, growing and flowering out of our limitations. If I'm paying attention, then I do experience these days, and all these plain, unadorned moments, as gifts. And I remember that grace, like any other gift, can easily be mine, if i open my hand to accept it. "Grace is available for each of us every day--our spiritual daily bread," writes Sarah Ban Breathnach, "but we've got to remember to ask for it with a grateful heart and not worry about whether there will be enough for tomorrow." As soon as I stop wishing for things to be different, I am met by the beauty of what is--a family on the brink of change, a friend at my side, a narrow country road slick with rain, the first tiny coils of sweet fern... To live is to die to how we wanted it to be, writes Jack Kornfield, and to open to more truth. To love is to accept. It is the most extraordinary power. The world is filled with need. If I am to be of some use, I must first rise to the challenge of my own rebirth and growth, must engage in the gradual, demanding process of discovering the person I am meant to be now and taking up the work I am called to do.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Celestia

    This book is so lovely. I read the author's first book Mitten Strings for God (about life with little children) when I was postpartum with baby #4. It affected me greatly, by planting a seed in my mind to stop watching TV and listening to news on the radio in the morning. Now this book, the sequel, is about the author with children who are teens. How fitting for me to read it now that my oldest are up there too and I was postpartum again, this time with baby #7. (I was disappointed to read in th This book is so lovely. I read the author's first book Mitten Strings for God (about life with little children) when I was postpartum with baby #4. It affected me greatly, by planting a seed in my mind to stop watching TV and listening to news on the radio in the morning. Now this book, the sequel, is about the author with children who are teens. How fitting for me to read it now that my oldest are up there too and I was postpartum again, this time with baby #7. (I was disappointed to read in the sequel that she let her kids watch TV and they became big fans of American Idol.) Anyway, this book is about one woman's attempt to get off the conveyor belt of suburban life and find something more satisfying. She does this by selling her home, buying an old home in the country, razing it, and building a new home. The whole idea of moving on with life symbolizes her sons' growing up and her growing up as a mother: letting go of their childhood and preparing to be an empty nester. I loved all of her quotes from other authors. They were so nourishing. She got way too repetitive, however, with her theme of "letting go/dying as to the old self to give birth to new life" so that it seemed to be on every other page. But all in all, it was a great book and a great reminder to me to let my children find their own agenda and not impose my agenda for them onto their lives.

  12. 5 out of 5

    MaryBliss

    It was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end but I don't think I'll recommend it highly. Her earlier book had much food for thought about a mother's efforts to simplify and slow down a hectic life with younger children. This book read more like a mother goes off the deep end in anxiousness about time and location angst as her children become teens and it takes her three years to come to grips with her anxiety and to remedy the upheaval it has created. She's aware and articulates, by t It was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end but I don't think I'll recommend it highly. Her earlier book had much food for thought about a mother's efforts to simplify and slow down a hectic life with younger children. This book read more like a mother goes off the deep end in anxiousness about time and location angst as her children become teens and it takes her three years to come to grips with her anxiety and to remedy the upheaval it has created. She's aware and articulates, by the end of the book, that that is what this has been, and she recounts some good experiences that helped reground her. But her experiences of upheaval and uprooting (including physically uprooting her family and moving multiple times and overseeing the building a new, custom house) were, I believe, less common in nature than the experiences in her earlier book, so there was less for me, as a mother of children who've gone through their teens, to relate to than there was in the first. I guess I was expecting essay and commentary like her first book and instead got biography. That said, Kenison writes well and tells a good tale.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    I bought this at my 4th grade son's Scholastic Book Fair in December 2010, for myself. I read it over Christmas vacation and savored all the lovely, true parts she mentions that come with being a wife and a mother. I read slowly so that I could drink in every moment and feeling the author shares with her reader. It was wonderful to connect with her on many levels. I too left the city for the country with my husband, children and pets, and have never regretted the decision and choiced we've made. I bought this at my 4th grade son's Scholastic Book Fair in December 2010, for myself. I read it over Christmas vacation and savored all the lovely, true parts she mentions that come with being a wife and a mother. I read slowly so that I could drink in every moment and feeling the author shares with her reader. It was wonderful to connect with her on many levels. I too left the city for the country with my husband, children and pets, and have never regretted the decision and choiced we've made. Not always easy but so worth it! At the same time, I felt as though the author paid homage to her eldest son in writing this story. I began to feel as though she recognized his gifts and talents and needed to change their (family) life in able to provide her eldest son the freedom to grow in a better, more nurturing environment. It left me feeling that her second, youngest son was left out of this beautiful process she gives her eldest son, and rebelled against her ideals and values as a way to get his own attention.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I would have given the first half of this book four stars. I felt inspired by Kenison's forging through large changes in her life with confidence and some degree of optimism. I feel the older I get the more frightened of change I become. She helped me to think outside of that fear for a moment. Later in the book Kenison's writing became too monotonous - writing ad nauseam in a self assessment, minutiae laden, universal truth sort of way. Too many pages that said the same thing again and again. A I would have given the first half of this book four stars. I felt inspired by Kenison's forging through large changes in her life with confidence and some degree of optimism. I feel the older I get the more frightened of change I become. She helped me to think outside of that fear for a moment. Later in the book Kenison's writing became too monotonous - writing ad nauseam in a self assessment, minutiae laden, universal truth sort of way. Too many pages that said the same thing again and again. Although I must admit some of her "universal truth" perspectives resonated with me in a way that makes me feel grateful to have read the book. My children are still small, but adolescence looms nearer than we ever care to imagine. Adolescence, and early adulthood, that takes our children into the new realm of life outside of our own. There will come a day when I let my last child go off to find his own way through adulthood and Kenison has given me insights into how to do that with some amount of grace.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Homeschoolmama

    I loved the title of this book more than the book itself. I found some points profound, and other parts of the book seemed repetitive. This definitely could have been a shorter book . Kenison writes about her life; her boys growing up, her impulsive moves, friends she meets, struggles her family goes through. And weaves in thoughts throughout about appreciating the smaller things in life,, taking time to savor each moment. She talks about simplicity, paring down, slowing down, but I couldn't hel I loved the title of this book more than the book itself. I found some points profound, and other parts of the book seemed repetitive. This definitely could have been a shorter book . Kenison writes about her life; her boys growing up, her impulsive moves, friends she meets, struggles her family goes through. And weaves in thoughts throughout about appreciating the smaller things in life,, taking time to savor each moment. She talks about simplicity, paring down, slowing down, but I couldn't help notice just how busy her life truly was, full of activity and anything but simple. Music lessons, practices, long commutes, writing, packing, painting, moving, ball games, performances, and the list goes on. I like her ideas, her aspirations for a slower, simpler life. Perhaps the book would have been better if she'd incorporated that simplicity in her writing- 100 fewer pages. 3+ stars.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lenore Diviney

    Great Read!!! While two of my favorite take-aways were actually quotes by others Katrina shares a side of herself we all know as mothers.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tricia Howard

    It took me 9 months to read this book. Partly because it was verbose and at times it seemed to ramble on but also every emotion the author expressed I am feeling as I have a senior in high school and an 8th grader. I could identify with every emotion expressed and sometimes I would have tears in my eyes and just couldn't continue. The author has a gift with words and writes beautifully. I would have loved to have given it 5 stars but it wasn't quite there for me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Another gem by Katrina Kenison, though I like Magical Journey a little better. This is a book about a time in her life when many changes were happening, her boys were growing up fast and she discovered that, in her words, "The memories I find myself sifting through the past to find, the ones that I would now give anything to relive, are the ones that no one ever thought to photograph, the ones that came and went as softly as a breeze on a summer afternoon. I has taken a while, but I know it now- Another gem by Katrina Kenison, though I like Magical Journey a little better. This is a book about a time in her life when many changes were happening, her boys were growing up fast and she discovered that, in her words, "The memories I find myself sifting through the past to find, the ones that I would now give anything to relive, are the ones that no one ever thought to photograph, the ones that came and went as softly as a breeze on a summer afternoon. I has taken a while, but I know it now- the most wonderful gift we had, the gift I've finally learned to cherish above all else, was the gift of all those perfectly ordinary days." There were so many other quotes that I loved, here are just a few others: "Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you" -Parker Palmer "Not a day goes by that I don't still need to remind myself that my life is not just what's handed to me, nor is it my list of obligations, my accomplishments or failures, or what my family is up to, but rather it is what I choose, day in and day out, to make of it all." "I've wasted too much time worrying, backsliding into fear, when I could have loved and lived more boldly. I've skimmed the surface of life when I could have been diving deep. Now I begin to view our time together differently, begin to see that stepping up to one's life adventure doesn't necessarily mean doing extraordinary things. It also means coming to understand that viewed in the right light, through the right eyes, everything is extraordinary. The hardest part of being a parent may be learning to live with the fact that there are so many things that we simply can't control, so much of the journey that is not our doing at all, but rather the work of god, the unfolding of destiny,fate. We give birth to our children, we love and cherish them, but we don't form or own them, any more than we can own the flowers blooming at our doorsteps or the land upon which we build our homes and invest our dreams. Caterpillars spin cocoons in which to metamorphose into butterflies. Teenagers, it seems, need to create for themselves the same kind of transformational space in which to do the hard private work of growing up. They leave behind all that once was beloved and disappear for a while into a place that is, for all intents and purposes, our of our reach. Life flows on, and it's OK. The best days, sometimes, are the days when nothing happens to ripple the calm surface of life. There is no such thing as a charmed life, not for any of us... but there are charmed moments, all the time, in every life and in every day, if we are only awake enough to experience them when they come and wise enough to appreciate them. It is so easy, living with teenagers, to confuse life with performance, and busyness with meaning. I see how my own responsibilities expand to fill every moment of the day and that my sons have grown accustomed to having something going on during every waking hour. Yet I keep hoping, for all our sakes, that we might strike more of a balance between being and doing, between meeting the demands of life and pausing long enough to appreciate its sweet rewards. The secret of contentment, as I've come at last to know, is not in getting what I want. It's not about being in the perfect place or having just the right sort of life. Contentment and grace may just be two sides of the same coin. And they are both mine whenever I remember to stop, look around, and appreciate where I already am and what I already have."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This is the second time I have read this book. I knew I needed to pick it up again because it's about how life and motherhoold continue to change as adolescent children become adults. It's a perfect read for any of you who, like me, are constantly reinventing ourselves to make sure that we are doing right by our growing kids. Feels appropriate that I finished it today as Jude and I are spending the day in Boston on his first college tours. I couldn't recommend this book more. Be warned: it can g This is the second time I have read this book. I knew I needed to pick it up again because it's about how life and motherhoold continue to change as adolescent children become adults. It's a perfect read for any of you who, like me, are constantly reinventing ourselves to make sure that we are doing right by our growing kids. Feels appropriate that I finished it today as Jude and I are spending the day in Boston on his first college tours. I couldn't recommend this book more. Be warned: it can get pretty mushy sometimes and may require tissues.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Teresa Staton

    What an enjoyable, quiet read! As a mother of four kids, the oldest being 11, I value the wisdom of those farther down the mothering path. In this memoir, Kenison, a mother of two teenage sons, writes about a time in her family's life that included a drawn-out move, a child applying and eventually transitioning to college, raising teenagers, and trying to find identity amidst the changes. Kenison is authentic about mistakes and struggles; I never felt like she was putting on a pretty face, and I What an enjoyable, quiet read! As a mother of four kids, the oldest being 11, I value the wisdom of those farther down the mothering path. In this memoir, Kenison, a mother of two teenage sons, writes about a time in her family's life that included a drawn-out move, a child applying and eventually transitioning to college, raising teenagers, and trying to find identity amidst the changes. Kenison is authentic about mistakes and struggles; I never felt like she was putting on a pretty face, and I appreciated her honesty. There is also a strong spiritual thread throughout her memoir. While her beliefs are different than my own, I enjoyed her insights. There are many common human experiences reflected upon in this book, and I like how Kenison processes these experiences on paper. There are many highlights in my copy, and I would recommend this book to other mothers- especially to those going through transitions. Lovely read!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Alright, so I'm only 10 pages into this book and already feel a kinship with the author - now if I could only express myself so eloquently, ahhh, the dream of becoming a writer . . . I connected immediately with this book and wanted to share a portion from the introduction: "And so I offer the story of my midlife searching and mothering over the course of five unsettled years, in the hope that other mothers will recognize aspects of themselves in these pages and remember that, unique though our Alright, so I'm only 10 pages into this book and already feel a kinship with the author - now if I could only express myself so eloquently, ahhh, the dream of becoming a writer . . . I connected immediately with this book and wanted to share a portion from the introduction: "And so I offer the story of my midlife searching and mothering over the course of five unsettled years, in the hope that other mothers will recognize aspects of themselves in these pages and remember that, unique though our own experiences may be, none of us really travels this path alone. Parenthood is what binds us. Our own doubts and questions awaken empathy for parents everywhere, and our fierce love for our own children deepends our compassion for all children. Walking in the woods with a friend, or gathered around a dinner table when the candles have burned low, or sitting in a circle in a church basement, we share our struggles, open our hearts, tell about our lives and our children's lives, in an effort to make sense of things, to learn the hidden truths of ourselves, but also, of course, to share the small discoveriens that may somehow ease the way for someone else. This is how it's been for me." Another paragraph: ". . . I learned a lot about myself, and many lessons in mindfulness, during those long days. Intense and demanding as they are, the years we spend with our young children can also be deeply, viscerally gratifying. We know exactly where we are needed and what we need to be doing. Immersed in the physical and emotional realm of parenthood, we develop reserves of patience, imagination, and fortitude we never dreamed possible. At times, the hard work of being a mother seems in itself a spiritual practice, an opportunity for growth and self-exploration in an extraordinarily intimate world, a world in which hands are for holding, bodies for snuggling, laps for sitting . . ." Now that I've finished this book, it has graduated into the category of "books to read every few years." Beautiful, inspiring, reflective, and filled with wisdom, I know I will continue to peruse it's pages on those days I feel unsure of myself, my children, and my life's direction. I think I've underlined more passages than in any other book I've read - ever - and I attribute that to the connection I felt with the author and her spirit. I highly recommend this book to every woman I know who has experienced the joys and sorrows of motherhood.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Erin Riley

    One of my favorite books of all time. Couldn't stop reading it. Finished it. Read it again. Simple and pure.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    A few months before my grandmother died we were talking one day on the phone about the fact that my life was crazy and we were trying to find a house to buy. Grandma lived a pretty simple life on a beautiful farm in the country. The one place you can go to leave your cares behind, eat well, and relax in the beauty of nature. Long country road walks and hikes through the woods, daily views of the wildlife, and the songs of birds in the trees that sound exactly like something you would overpay for A few months before my grandmother died we were talking one day on the phone about the fact that my life was crazy and we were trying to find a house to buy. Grandma lived a pretty simple life on a beautiful farm in the country. The one place you can go to leave your cares behind, eat well, and relax in the beauty of nature. Long country road walks and hikes through the woods, daily views of the wildlife, and the songs of birds in the trees that sound exactly like something you would overpay for but truly enjoy on a cd at a bookstore. She mentioned to me that I ought to read a most wonderful book by Katrina Kenison that she had read. She must have liked it because she owned it. I wrote the book on my list thinking I would probably not get to it for a while but I wanted to be sure to jot it down. When I went to the farm for her funeral we had literally just moved into our new house. As I was walking around the farm house looking at the things on the walls, taking pictures, remembering how she hardly ever changes anything she decorated with, etc it felt so peaceful. I noticed a bright blue book on her bookshelf. I knew she loved poetry, especially from Kahlil Gibran, so I was browsing her bookshelf. I picked up the bright blue book and there it was! The book she wanted me to read! I asked my aunt if I could take it and mail it back. She reluctantly at first but graciously agreed to let me take it. After enjoying and reveling in the first 6 chapters on my first leg of the flight home the flight attendant announced we had to change planes. This was unexpected and made me a bit nervous. I hate traveling by myself. So I hurriedly grabbed all my things and left it there in the pocket in front of me. After realizing it on the next plane I literally cried for 45 minutes. I guess I was holding it all in at the funeral! The poor man next to me thought I was having seizures! At least she didn't have any personal notes in it just her name in the front but I was SO upset that I LOST it. SO mad at myself! I waited a few weeks for the library here to get it and enjoyed every word. My grandma knew exactly what I was going through and looking for at that time in my life and she chose the PERFECT book for me. I could relate to it on SO many levels.

  24. 5 out of 5

    The Reading Countess

    Katrina Kenison's in depth (perhaps too lengthy?) look at what it is to parent nearly grown sons, how to fashion a life worthy of living in midlife, and to live in harmony with those around her spoke to me from page one. Though admittedly a bit long and repetitive, I found myself sticky noting too many pages for the sheer beauty of the words. Slow down. Enjoy. Don't over parent. Be in the moment. Seek who you are. I needed to read this book. Your children are not your children. They are the sons a Katrina Kenison's in depth (perhaps too lengthy?) look at what it is to parent nearly grown sons, how to fashion a life worthy of living in midlife, and to live in harmony with those around her spoke to me from page one. Though admittedly a bit long and repetitive, I found myself sticky noting too many pages for the sheer beauty of the words. Slow down. Enjoy. Don't over parent. Be in the moment. Seek who you are. I needed to read this book. Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable. - Kahlil Gibran "A Wish for My Children" On this doorstep I stand year after year to watch you going and think: May you not skin your knees. May you not catch your fingers in car doors. May your hearts not break. May tide and weather wait for your coming and may you grow strong to break all webs of my weaving. -Evangeline Paterson

  25. 4 out of 5

    JoMama

    I have been a fan of Katrina Kenison since Mitten Strings for God. This book(The Gift Of an Ordinary Day)took me almost a year to read. Not because it was boring or anything negative, but because of where I was in my life. I would pick it up frequently though, never going for more than a few weeks between readings. The premise of the book is that her boys are getting older, and heading towards leaving home. She describes with such power and simplicity the feelings that those changes bring to a h I have been a fan of Katrina Kenison since Mitten Strings for God. This book(The Gift Of an Ordinary Day)took me almost a year to read. Not because it was boring or anything negative, but because of where I was in my life. I would pick it up frequently though, never going for more than a few weeks between readings. The premise of the book is that her boys are getting older, and heading towards leaving home. She describes with such power and simplicity the feelings that those changes bring to a home, as our children grow, the time they are with us, and the war we wage on ourselves as they do so. Do we want them to grow and mature and create their own lives, do we want them little, on our laps reading to them? It is such a tug of war of the heart. I now know why it took me a year to read, because I am moving into that phase of letting a child go away from home in a few years. Yet, unlike her I still have little ones to raise as well. It is an interesting and confusing place to be. I have found that teenagers are amazing, and.. they are alot like toddlers. They need you, just not for the same reasons anymore. Katrina describes the ebb and flow and the particular angst of 15 year olds to perfection. I found myself saying, "ahh.. I am not alone, he is normal, even she (who I hold in high regard as a nurturing mother) has these issues." I feel as if I was offered a glimpse into her world for a few years, and voyeuristic as it sounds, dont we as mothers, really like that idea? To see, "are we normal?" "Oh, they are not as perfect as they seem," "How do they handle this?" I appreciated it, and took many of great words of wisdom from it. Thank you Katrina- my 5 children thank you too!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shirley

    I loved Katrina Kenison's previous book, Mitten Strings for God (such an unfortunate title for marketing purposes - it wasn't really about God so much as a spiritual, deliberate way of living), which she wrote when her kids were young, about living less-scheduled days with less hurry. That book, along with Simplicity Parenting, are probably the two books I'd put on my "this is how I want to parent" shelf. So I jumped to read this book, which she wrote some years later. It is a bit more unsettled I loved Katrina Kenison's previous book, Mitten Strings for God (such an unfortunate title for marketing purposes - it wasn't really about God so much as a spiritual, deliberate way of living), which she wrote when her kids were young, about living less-scheduled days with less hurry. That book, along with Simplicity Parenting, are probably the two books I'd put on my "this is how I want to parent" shelf. So I jumped to read this book, which she wrote some years later. It is a bit more unsettled time in her life - her family decides to move from the home they thought they'd live in forever to a farmhouse via three years spent living in her parents' home. Her sons are adolescents and busy with school activities and applying to colleges, she loses her job (she edited for many years the "Best American Short Stories" compilations), and so she has to find a new identity outside of working mother in middle age. This reads like a journal of those three years. It could have been shorter and more streamlined. But as she admits, she needed to write this to work through those times. She doesn't always succeed in living like her ideals, but I like that she has them and I like the ones that she has. This too goes on my "ideal parenting" shelf for me to reread as the kids get older. At this point all I'm grooming my four-year-old daughter for is a Sound of Music sing-along in the next few years, and I just hope that she's happy with who she is and what she does. This book will be a balm for the days when life doesn't seem so simple.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Roberts

    Kenison does go on a bit - saying the same thing in 5 different ways, but as mum who is the same age as the author with three teenagers I did find myself brimming up on several occasions and identifying with her thoughts and feelings. It made me feel guilty for not being the 'Supermum' she seemed to be (although part of me was thinking 'you need to get out more love and stop living your life through your children!') nostalgic for the days of cutting and sticking and sad that I didn't make the mo Kenison does go on a bit - saying the same thing in 5 different ways, but as mum who is the same age as the author with three teenagers I did find myself brimming up on several occasions and identifying with her thoughts and feelings. It made me feel guilty for not being the 'Supermum' she seemed to be (although part of me was thinking 'you need to get out more love and stop living your life through your children!') nostalgic for the days of cutting and sticking and sad that I didn't make the most of that era. I have always tried to be aware of the little triumphs of family life, the meals where everyone likes what you've cooked and enjoys a good conversation round the table, the spontaneous hugs etc, and it made me more determined to do that in the future during the 'difficult teenage years', and also to stop moaning so much about being a continual taxi service, because 'this too shall pass' and before I know it I'll be sat at home with no-one needing me to do anything and that's a scary thought! It also made me think about the onset of empty nest syndrome and how that might affect me. So all in all, although I didn't warm to the author, it gave me plenty of food for thought and hopefully made me into a slightly better mum.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    If you like sentences like "Contenment and grace may be two sides of the same coin." or "One reason I am happy here is because I've decided to be." or Mend the part of the world that is within your reach.", you will probably like reading The gift of an ordinary day. Katrina Kenison decides to leave the hectic world of suburban Boston for the simple life in rural New Hampshire, dragging her 3 "men", sometimes kicking and screaming, with her. When her long time book editing job ends, and she finds If you like sentences like "Contenment and grace may be two sides of the same coin." or "One reason I am happy here is because I've decided to be." or Mend the part of the world that is within your reach.", you will probably like reading The gift of an ordinary day. Katrina Kenison decides to leave the hectic world of suburban Boston for the simple life in rural New Hampshire, dragging her 3 "men", sometimes kicking and screaming, with her. When her long time book editing job ends, and she finds herself living back under her parent's roof with her husband and two teenage boys, she has a great test of her desire to learn to live simply, in the moment. As she struggles with the end of her mothering role and what to do next, life takes many twists and turns. Although I am not nearly as introspective as Katrina, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I like her delightful use of words, her joyful descriptions of nature, the story of her sons' passage into adulthood, the long meandering chapters. I miss my grown children and thoroughly the empty nest at the same time. To Katrina I say, wait for the grandchildren. And to Goodreads, I say thanks for "the gift of an ordinary day".

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I found it hard to decide on a rating for this book. On the one hand, I found the writing style maddening -- it was extremely repetitive and went back and forth in time frequently for no apparent reason. I was so frustrated with it that I put the book down twice, intending to quit it completely. But I don't like to leave things unfinished, so I picked it back up...and ended up loving the book's message, which seemed to be: - See your children for who they are and support them in being themselves. I found it hard to decide on a rating for this book. On the one hand, I found the writing style maddening -- it was extremely repetitive and went back and forth in time frequently for no apparent reason. I was so frustrated with it that I put the book down twice, intending to quit it completely. But I don't like to leave things unfinished, so I picked it back up...and ended up loving the book's message, which seemed to be: - See your children for who they are and support them in being themselves. - Your children will be grown and gone before you know it, so cherish the time while they living at home. - No matter what's going on in your life, there is always someone worse off than you. Give to others, and you will find contentment even during difficult times. - Do less and be more. Live in the moment, and accept each moment as it is. I don't feel that I can really recommend this book, because it felt like one chapter's worth of material endlessly repeated until it was book-length. And yet...I really liked the author and the message, and I'm glad I stuck it out.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    This book grabbed me as the premise was a mother watching her children become teenagers and eventually college bound. That is many years off for me, but this passage caught my attention and held it throughout the book: "It seemed to me during those early years of child raising that my sons' childhoods would go on forever. I couldn't imagine any life other than the one that consumed me right then, a life shaped by the joys and demands of raising young children." What the author conveys is that it This book grabbed me as the premise was a mother watching her children become teenagers and eventually college bound. That is many years off for me, but this passage caught my attention and held it throughout the book: "It seemed to me during those early years of child raising that my sons' childhoods would go on forever. I couldn't imagine any life other than the one that consumed me right then, a life shaped by the joys and demands of raising young children." What the author conveys is that it not only doesn't go on forever (obviously), but that it goes very quickly. Being the mother of two young toddlers, this book was a great lesson in what will be coming down the road and that the ordinary days are the ones that I have been missing. I read this book from the library and regretted that because I wanted to highlight so many of the passages!! The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that about 3/4 of the way through, it started getting a bit repetitive and detailed so I skipped a few passages. Other than that, I highly recommend this book!

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