Creating a Haven of Peace: Joanne Fairchild Miller’s Growing Sanctuary Movement

by Tilly Thyme on March 14, 2017

“What is sanctuary?”

“A place of asylum and immunity.”

“A place of peace and unconditional love.”

“A place to escape from the everyday stressors of life.”

“An attainable retreat accomplished through intentional living.”

~Joanne Miller 

Entering into the serene world of Joanne Fairchild Miller is liking take a deep breath of mountain air on an early October morning.  One feels immediately soothed by her gentle suggestion to “put the OM in H-O-M-E,” for instance, and acts on her advice because it reveals the human truths we all know, but often don’t live.  

“What your child wants most – and needs – is to be with you with no goal in mind beyond the joy of spending time together.  He wants you to take pleasure in him, play with him, and listen to him.  Nothing bolsters his self-esteem more! So why not pull out an old board game or a deck of cards tonight?  Playing games is an easy and excellent way to spend unhurried, enjoyable time together,” Miller writes in Creating a Haven of Peace:  When You’re Feeling Down, Finances Are Flat, and Tempers are Rising.  

Are you reaching for that worn Game of Life box too?  Sitting down on the carpet to play a game of Old Maid with your kids?  I know I did, minutes after reading those words, and I wondered why I needed to be reminded that simple pleasures are all that really matter.

Miller is also the author of numerous children’s books, all designed to bolster little spirits and “help parents and children cope with budding expressions of independence.” Illustrated by Ross Gauss, the I Wanna Be …series includes I Wanna Be ME, I Know Who I Am, Pretty in Pink and When I Am Quiet.

I Wanna Be MEthe first book in the series, is written for the girl who doesn’t want to “wear pink and get all dressed up in frills and lace.” She likes “holes in her jeans and room to run, things to climb on and horses for FUN!”  She wants to dance barefoot across open expanses of land, seeking, exploring, and making mud pies.

I, who was called a “tomboy” all through my childhood, identify most with this book. I would fight my mother each time she tried to make me put on a dress for picture day and couldn’t wait to get out to my beloved stream in the woods every afternoon after school. My 8-year old daughter, who kept uttering, “That’s me…Just like me” as I read it aloud, thought this book was written for and about her.

My 4-year old was immediately captivated by Pretty in Pink, a sweet story that celebrates the child who loves tea parties, dolls, stuffed animals and all things pink, but also can be found running outside finding turtles, bugs and frogs in her muddied jeans.  No child can or should be defined by just one trait, and Pretty in Pink avoids the one-dimensionality of so many “pink” themed children’s books.

If I were to pick a book for my cerebral son, I’d immediately choose When I Am Quiet because of its message that silence can speak volumes, for children can express themselves in a multitude of ways without words.

The prose hums quietly along, pulling us gently with it from “I like to sit upon a rock, beside a trickling brook.  All by myself, I travel far through pages in a book” to “Inside my head I can build a house. And draw. And paint. And sing. I can race a car … and farm the land … and mend a broken wing.”

I Know Who I Am is for the child who is “eager to tackle the world” and “be the star.” She is the little girl who leads with confidence, puts on shows, dreams big and tells you all about it.  Both of my theatrical daughters saw much of themselves in this final book of the series.

The nod to a vegetarian lifestyle was unexpected and very welcome:  “No meat for me! Just broccoli and corn, asparagus right from the stalk. We can nibble on power food on a bright sunny day while we go on our afternoon walk.”

I must admit that my favorite book just might be Miller’s most recent: What If It Were Possible?, co-authored and illustrated by Miller’s 8-year old granddaughter, Clara Isabel Logsdon, whose “vivid imagination” and “artistic flair” have been nurtured lovingly by her grandmother (Yia-Yia).

The mother in me loved the “About the Illustrator” page, and I found myself nodding in agreement with Clara’s sentiment that “play and imagination [shouldn’t] be just for kids.” Clara also urges her readers to “overlook any imperfections” because creating isn’t meant to be perfect.  Indeed, the beauty of art is most often found in those very imperfections.  “Embrace your own creativity and use your imagination to expand your thinking and learn to see with new eyes,” Clara encourages us.

Clara and Joanne found inspiration for the book in the antics of Clara’s dog, Harley, as he tried desperately to chase a squirrel up a tree.  Joanne asked her granddaughter, “What if it were possible for a dog to climb a tree?” and they had their opening line.

With precious illustrations that burst with color and character, the book introduces us to lions who live in beehives, ‘gators who paddle canoes, butterflies who swim, fish who drive cars and cows who wear pink shoes.  How can this be? Well, “Anything can happen if you think it might. In your imagination, Anything is right!”

The collaboration between Joanne and Clara oozes with enthusiasm for creative spirit and privileges fantasy, a childhood right we so often snatch away from young children in an effort to prepare them for the “real world.”  What a beautiful reminder that childhood is fleeting, delicate and worth protecting. There is no better way to pave the road to a successful future than to validate creativity and personal expression through art, song, words, and immersion in the natural world.

There is even more to love about this book.  The publisher, Morgan James, donates a percentage of book sales for the life of each book to Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg, so while we readers find inspiration in the words and images of What If It Were Possible, we are simultaneously helping to make many things possible for families in need.

If you are ready to embark on the journey of creating the life you desire and inspiring your children to see the world with fresh eyes, you can find Joanne Fairchild Miller’s books on Amazon and Miller’s personal website,, where you can buy the I Wanna Be … series as a bundle.  If your children would like a copy of What If It Were Possible signed by Clara, visit her lovely website, Captain’s Creations: Creativity by Clara.  Let me know if you feel lighter and happier after spending some time with Joanne, and come back in a few weeks for my personal interview with her right here on Play.Eat.Love – Motherhood Explored.

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