November 2009

Dear Friend

What happened to the month of October? I haven’t found a way to slow down time. Every Monday evening when we put out our items to be recycled it feels as though we do this once-a-week ritual every day. I set a kitchen timer to log in every hour we work at our writing desks and am utterly amazed how quickly the day is over and how vitally important it is to put in the hard work every day.

With every book I write, I become fully absorbed and end up eating, sleeping and breathing my subject. Balance is no exception. It is almost as though I have an inner scale weighing every thought, every choice, every action. I’m writing about equilibrium and equanimity and, amazingly, everything depends on our lives being well-balanced and yet I experience imbalance everywhere I turn.

Reading the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal is a daily research project because of people losing their sense of balance. One of the sweetest things about living in one house is we’re able to enjoy the small grandfather clock Peter inherited from a favorite aunt many years ago. We always loved the tick-tock and the gongs, bonging out each hour. We now have this treasured possession in our front hall at the foot of the stairs. The pendulum swings freely back and forth under the influence of gravity. There is an integrity, an accuracy and truthfulness to a working antique clock that gives us comfort and pleasure in an unsettling world. Another vivid reminder that time moves in one direction – clockwise. Each hour brings us potential to do meaningful things with our precious resources of time and energy. Aristotle believes in “active-virtue.” Each of us has to be personally responsible for the life we’re now living, most of us under extremely changed circumstances. We can no longer take anything for granted; we should not assume anything, but look for the truth, listen well, and ask seriously weighty questions.

We can do the things we truly believe are important and choose not to do what someone else can do if we have passion to pursue our dreams. Now that Peter and I are settled comfortably in our renovated cottage, we have a fresh sense of urgency to work quietly and steadily on our writing projects with as few mindless distractions as humanly possible. This recent incident of two pilots using their laptop computers in the cockpit is frightening to me, as is a parent text messaging while driving with children in the back of the car.

To balance our work and play schedule, Alexandra flew up from Chevy Chase, Maryland, with Nicholas, Anna and Lily. Brooke came with her husband Tony and baby Cooper. Rather than our going to stay at the Inn at Stonington where we happily lived for 14 months, we chose to stay in our own bed. Our cottage graciously accommodated all nine of us for Cooper’s first birthday celebration.

This was no ordinary party. The kitchen was transformed with decorations, purple and pink balloons, a cake, cupcakes, sparkling cider, champagne, party bags, hats, poppers, noise makers, bouncing balls and enough love and laughter to light up a dark universe. Cooper was in her element; she knew we were all together to make her first birthday as happy as can be. “Wow,” she exclaimed. Every present was something she loved instantly and wanted to play with. “When you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” Cooper clapped her new building blocks together, giggling, showing all four teeth. Looking at a photograph of her cousin’s dog, she’d say “doggie.” When she saw a picture of me when I was a little girl, she’d point, “baby.” And this pure glee reminded each of us just how beautiful life can be, and is, in these authentic moments where we create ceremonies with our family and loved ones.

Cooper thrives on attention, loving eye contact and being with her affectionate cousins. Nicholas, Anna and Lily love spending time in the art room at one end of the “silver room.” I have a few extra tables and chairs I didn’t need downstairs, so the attic is now a third floor space with the best view in the cottage of the harbor, and lots of space to run around, explore, do projects and let off steam on rainy days. One of the antiques is a French rent table that has a slot where the coins were to go into a drawer. Nicholas claims this as his space, collecting rent from us when we come visit his real estate … There were some antique ivory dominoes that were in a drawer of a Directoire table I bought at auction in 1979 from the estate sale of Eleanor McMillen Brown. I brought them up to the art room and Nicholas loves making them all fall down, but not without awarding himself 10 cents from a doting grandparent as he illustrated the “domino effect.”

Peter wanted Nicholas to see a photograph album from his law firm in New York City and the two of them sat by the far window on swivel stools examining each photograph. It was a precious scene and a priceless moment.

October brought me news that a small country between Spain and France, Editora Elevacao, is publishing Things I Want My Daughters to Know and You Are Your Choices. I’m always glad to know that my books are reaching readers in a wide range of countries, something I don’t think about when I write, but a fact that makes me smile.

I went to Hartford, Connecticut, to give a talk at a luncheon at a New England Library Association conference a few weeks ago. Preparing for my talk, I became quite intense about the importance of books in our lives, of libraries and librarians. One of the librarians from our wonderful Stonington Free Library was in attendance. I’ve written portions of each of my books in various libraries, and sing the praises of these wonderfully educated men and women who encourage our journey of discovery, wonder, information and inspiration.

Recently I received a note from a woman who lives in Canada:

“Dear Alexandra,

You have been a joyous discovery, newly made, in my life. I love the library in Barrie for the light and literature, as well as the helpful and encouraging staff. The Barrie Public Library is where I first saw one of your books. In the decorating section I found myself seeking to find my style, to help make sense of what seemed to be a mish-mosh at home.

With two young daughters, a now proud first-grader and a toddler, life is fun, busy and wonderful. It is also messy and I am enjoying the freedom that comes in knowing it doesn’t have to appear perfect. The joy of being with them in our home is what the moment is about. I am also learning to rediscover my instinct and put my personality (and those of the other members of our family) back into our home. Your words felt like air in the forest, giving me the means to feel the freedom to trust myself and also to feel the grace in my existence in this universe. Humbling and powerful all at once.

Thank you so much and I wish you well.


Happy November. I intend to make the entire month one of gratitude for our countless blessings. Being a writer has opened worlds to me and having friends I adore through my books brings me continuous joy.

“Love & Live Happy.” Peter is wisking me off to Bermuda for a long weekend to celebrate my 68th birthday. He’s calling it a “writer’s workshop.” I’ll let you k now how accurate he is!

Love & Live Happy

Have you taken photos at one of Alexandra's events that you'd like to share? If so, you can email them to AStoddardInc@aol.com. Please be sure to include the names of those in the photo and where and when it was taken! We will try to include them on the website in the future.

Alexandra adding a personal note to her book for a friend.

Incredibly beautiful autumn sunset.

A crisp, clear October day at Skipper's Dock in Stonington Village.

If you would like to get an autographed copy of Alexandra's newest book, please send your order (including inscription information) to:
Jane Hannon
Bank Square Books
53 West Main Street
Mystic, CT 06355
(860) 536-3795

Grace Note

"I ... had always thought of Paradise in form and image as a library."

Jorge Lois Borges