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Amanda Lamb: The happiness project

Posted March 24, 2013

A dear friend of mine recently told me that 2013 was her year to really evaluate what made her happy. This included everything from the big things in life, like career and major home improvement projects, to the little things, like turning on music in the house instead of the television and spending more time with good friends.

It may seem somewhat self-absorbed for a mother to think about such things, but then again, you know what they say, "If Mama ain’t happy …"

Not only did our conversation inspire me, but it made me realize that I had been unconsciously doing the same thing since my mother’s death.

For example, when I hurt my foot running, I decided to add swimming and yoga to my exercise routine, two activities that have not only increased my overall health, but also significantly decreased my stress level. I have also started lighting candles in every room, candles that belonged to my mother, not only for their lovely smell, but also for their general radiant ambiance.

But there was still something missing, until the other day…

I realized that other than over Christmas vacation, I had not read a book in months. My younger daughter routinely walks around with her nose buried in a 600-page Harry Potter book. At night, I usually have to go into my older daughter’s room and tell her to put the book down and turn off the light. But here I was, a writer, for God's sake, who wasn’t reading. What kind of example is that?

My mother was an avid reader. Despite working full time as an attorney, she read at least a book a week for most of her adult life. Next to her bed, there was always stacks of books — fiction and non-fiction — waiting waiting to be devoured. When she was done with them, she would often box them up and send them to me. I got her a Kindle the Christmas before she died, which she loved, but there was still always something about a real book that she could hold in her hands that she just couldn’t give up.

“I know you’re busy, but you really should try these. I think you will really like them,” was what she always said to me over the phone when she called to tell me the box was on its way.

She knew I didn’t like to read certain types of books — historical fiction, for example — and she always tried to get me to expand my repertoire. “I know this isn’t usually the kind of book you read," she would say when she was endorsing something long and complicated that sounded overwhelming to me.

Truth be told, I had always loved reading, but like so many other things in life, I had put reading aside when my chaotic adult life as a working mother got in the way.

So, the other night, I vowed to break my non-reading streak, and just dive into a book. I looked at my Kindle account, and nothing was jumping out at me.

Then, I remembered a file I had kept for years in my desk with book reviews that I had clipped for books I might like to read someday. I opened it up, and there it was, a simple list on yellow lined legal pad paper written in blue pen, written by my mother.

Suddenly, I recalled finding the list in my mother’s kitchen drawer when I cleaned out her house in Pennsylvania. I had completely forgotten about it. There were sixteen books on the list. I looked them up online, rolled my eyes at some of the selections, and then I heard that voice … Amanda Lamb's mom's book list

“Don’t write it off immediately, just try it. It’s good to read something out of your comfort zone.”

Now, at least I have a place to start. And as for the big things in life, I’m still working on those …

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.

3 Comments

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  • Sassafras Mar 25, 11:51 a.m.

    Would you consider posting your mom's recommendations? Would love to see them...

  • Rohir Mar 25, 8:09 a.m.

    "Highly recommend Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry." ~ Zelda

    One of my all-time favorite books! I enthusiastically second that recommendation.

  • Zelda Mar 25, 1:07 a.m.

    Another lovely column. Highly recommend Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry.