People tell me that my path is a curious one. They say I’ve worn a lot of hats.
People tell me that my path is a curious one. They say I’ve worn a lot of hats.
I love waking up each day for lots of reasons, but one reason is that I like what I do. I love writing mindfulness books for kids and I love that parents and kids like to read the books that I write. People sometimes tell me that my path from attorney to educator to children’s book author, is a curious one. They say that I’ve worn a lot of hats or tell me how great it is that I keep reinventing myself. I appreciate this kind of enthusiasm and support, but the funny thing is that I don’t feel as if I’ve been reinvented. Yes, I’ve definitely enjoyed a few careers, sometimes simultaneously, but each one has been a natural successor to its predecessor and they’ve all been a manifestation of the same desire— to help people find their way with greater ease.
I’ve included “my path” below (beginning with when I became a grown up) in case you find that kind of thing interesting. And for those of you who would rather know about who I am, beyond my “bio,” I’m sharing some fun facts that you wont find in anywhere else. You just have to get to the end of the path to read them!
I worked diligently for a large Philadelphia law firm as an insurance defense lawyer, while wishing instead that I was writing legislative policy to advance stem cell research. A musician/lawyer named Michael Silver showed up on the scene and made it all better by making me laugh and giving me guitar lessons on Monday nights.
While working at the firm, I applied to graduate school to become a neuropsychologist and follow my interest in research.
After getting rejected from the Ph.D program of my dreams, I left the firm to figure out my next steps and volunteered as a child advocate lawyer in Delaware county, PA. A letter from my very first child client siblings still hangs on my office wall.
Soon after, I was offered a job as a child advocate lawyer with The Defender Association in Philadelphia PA. I eagerly accepted this job and a few months later, a proposal from Michael Silver to marry him.
Eight months into our marriage we found out we were expecting a baby (Yikes!) and I immediately enrolled in a training to become a yoga and mindfulness teacher. I figured I had some important work to do on myself before becoming a mom. Before long I would be teaching yoga on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, often racing from the courtroom to my mat and changing costumes while en route.
After our first baby was born, I returned to work as a child advocate lawyer (part time) and continued teaching yoga and meditation all over Philly.
But it turned out that “part time” litigation was a near impossibility, inspiring me to wonder if I might serve my child clients better on the yoga mat than I could in the courtroom. I soon parted ways with my legal career to develop programming that would allow me to find the answer while also establishing a Children and Families Yoga program at the yoga center where I had trained.
The youth and school-based yoga and mindfulness curriculum that I was working on was taking shape as the foundation of what was going to become Yoga Child Inc. During this time, I incubated a second child, continued teaching an obscene number of adult, child and prenatal yoga classes, including a small handful in my in home studio on the top floor of our city home.
With a newborn and two year-old in the house, the droves of pregnant women coming for prenatal yoga and birth preparation courses could catch a glimpse of their future as they walked past two nurseries and climbed their way to the dormer room for prenatal yoga class.
Yoga Child was ready to incorporate to bring school-based yoga and mindfulness to Philly area schools and youth facilities. In its first year, I provided two weekly after school classes to two underserved public schools on a strictly volunteer basis. Today, Yoga Child has served over 100 schools and trained more than 200 teachers!
By 2004, Yoga Child had outgrown my in-home studio and opened up on South Street to provide classes for children and adults with a special focus prenatal yoga and birth preparation.
I was thrilled to provide freelance articles to The Expectant Mother’s Guide, and to garner and Enterprising Woman of The Year award from Parents Magazine as well as a few Best of Philly awards for Yoga Child from Philadelphia Magazine.
The other side of my brain was aching for some action, which gave rise to the creation of Yoga Child: A Peaceful Place Inside, The musical component of the Yoga Child Curriculum, and the only part that is for sale independent of the training program. I wrote it and Michael helped me produce it. Neither of us played guitar on the album, but it did receive a Parents Choice Foundation Award.
Raising child #2 lead me on a pilgrimage to better understand how mindfulness could support my child rearing. I discovered the venerable monk, Thich Nhat Hanh and through his teachings felt as if I had found my true home. I learned how to tend to my own emotions and struggles through mindfulness, to model mindful speech and action, and how to adapt the teachings I was learning to support my family. The journey resulted a few children’s books, one of which would later become Anh’s Anger.
Child #3 arrived and spent her first year on my breast and on my laptop, gurgling and cooing along while I read and re-read (aloud) everything I wrote ad nauseam. Her big brother and sister were in school all day, and having hired management for the Yoga Child Studio, baby #3 and I were able to talk to each other all day long, enjoying endless walks, warm baths and lots of infant massage. We were best buds and I was finally feeling as if I was beginning to catch onto this parenting thing.
I finished writing Ann’s Anger and needed to find a publisher. This was going to take time. The hours between 4-6 am seemed to be free and became my dedicated time to research agents and publishers. Within a few months I was compiling my submissions for post office runs and making friends with my neighborhood post office staff. The rejections arrived hastily on form postcards.
Raising a 6 year-old, a four year-old and one year-old, and running a yoga center and a rapidly expanding school-based yoga program, I had managed to forget about a lone email query of Anh’s Anger that I had sent to Parallax Press. Being the organized person that I am, I had charted all of my submissions on a word document, by date, but I guess I had failed to enter the email submission into my chart. Needless to say, I was a little surprised when I saw something arrive in an old AOL inbox from Parallax. I had been preparing to shut that account down and rarely checked it anymore since most people were emailing me at my business account.
At first, I assumed the email was a promotion, or maybe about a book order (since Parallax was where I was purchasing all of my favorite Thich Nhat Hanh Reading). I considered deleting it, but then thought I should take a look and see what they’re offering. I could probably use a new book. So I opened the email. They would be “happy to take a look at Anh’s Anger!”
The irony here comes with the phone that came in from Parallax (many months later). Who knew that publishers call you when they want to publish your book? At least they did in 2007. You see, I wasn’t having the best day. It’s a long and embarrassing story, but suffice it to say, I wasn’t practicing mindfulness when I answered the phone. Thinking it was someone else, someone who I was irritated with and had just disconnected from, I barked a snippy “hello?” into the receiver.
I’ve never had a moment and a mood turn on its head so quickly.
Time stopped and tears of joy ran down my face, soaking baby #3 who had woken up and latched onto my breast to share in the experience.
Anh’s Anger received a Skipping Stones Award for Multicultural Awareness, and the sequel Steps and Stones, was nominated forThe Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award. (He’s the guy who wrote Chicka Chicka Boom Boom). The third book in the series is Peace, Bugs and Understanding, but nobody seems to know about that book except the 10 people who reviewed it on Amazon, the kids at Merion Elementary School and a fourth grade class at Germantown Friends School. If you like it, spread the word. It’s supposed to help people be nicer to each other.
While childrearing, yoga-ing for Yoga Child and writing children’s books, I was invited to do some pretty fabulous things, like attend a book signing for Anh’s Anger in NYC (where I would sit starstruck next to Mo Willems and Jon Muth), speak at The National Kids Yoga Conference, and go on tour with Thich Nhat Hanh to read my books to the children attending the kids program.
In 2014, I was asked to co-write the animated family film Planting Seeds of Mindfulness, based on the book Planting Seeds by my original teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh! I worked with some terrific people in relation to this project and was flown to Plum Village Monastery where I spent a week in damp french farmlands with those terrific people doing some terrific work. Aside from a few awkward scenes where the acting is questionable, it’s a mindfully educational film. As far as I know, the film has not won any awards, but kids and families should watch it anyway.
In 2014 I sold the Yoga Child studio to The Yoga Garden so that I could focus on The Yoga Child school-based program, writing books and my family. Some of my kids were at that age where my presence at home was perceptibly important, even if nobody was keen on hanging out with me.
I’ve love being asked to write about meditation for kids for Lion’s Roar (formerly Shambhala Magazine). It’s a welcome change of pace to be asked to write something for publication rather having to ask people to publish what you’ve painstakingly written.You can check out those articles on the “For Parents” page of this site.
One of my musings (definitely not about meditation) found its way into Bust magazine. I also spent a big chunk of these years working on a novel on the same topic which may or may not ever be published. Don’t worry though, the novel is in good company alongside endless files of unfinished children’s book manuscripts.
Based on some things that I witnessed during a Yoga Child class in one of our partnering schools in 2015, I became motivated to work harder to ensure that all children and all teachers in our underserved schools have sustainable access to the benefits of mindfulness and yoga. This lead me to form The School Mindfulness Project (SMP), a Philadelphia area non-profit organization dedicated to providing students and teachers in Philly’s underserved schools with greater physical and emotional wellbeing, paving the way for compassionate classrooms and creating space for academic success.
That the American Psychological Association is publishing Mindful Bea and The Worry Tree is a pleasant twist of fate for this former wanna-be-neuropsychologist.
Today I divide my time between Yoga Child, The School Mindfulness Project, family life, my personal practice and am always writing something.