Thanks a Windmillion


Turns out I’m not so good at gratitude. I mean, I know how to express it and I send thank you notes and emails and say it out loud to people all the time. I drill my children to say thank you, to show their appreciation for kindness, helpfulness, compliments, gifts. Not only is it polite and good manners, but the giver feels lovely when thanked and – perhaps most important of all – actually saying or writing thank you feels great for the givee too: a time to feel the intention behind the gift, to accept the warm love, kind thoughts, pure heart that almost always accompany an act of giving.

I love to say thank you, and to be thanked, but it’s always instantaneous. In the moment. Right when the delicious deed is done. The gift received. The compliment heard. The assistance appreciated. And I feel great globs of something way beyond gratitude for all the good in my life: my family, my health, my friends, my body that works. That I can open my eyes in the morning, see a sunrise and a lunar eclipse, enjoy the sweetness of mangoes and eat marrow bones, feel love and give love, smell woodsmoke and jasmine, have memories, talk and read and write and hear my kid say things like “We share the world.” This greater-than-gratitude is inherent. With me, in me, always.

But I rarely think about the smaller godsends in my life. The tiny, almost imperceptible openings between the marvelous moments of giving and the greater goodness. The barely noticeable happenings that evoke nuances of emotion, leave me feeling different, with a perspective altered not only in that second but for the rest of the day, the week, or for always.

Last night’s late-night phone fest with my friend Lisa yielded such an opening. In between giggling bouts of hysteria – the release of both husbands away, too many kids too little time for each of us, the intensity of daily A to Z writing that we’re both enveloped in – she suggested I use this color and this topic for T.

“I have no gratitude right now,” I half-joked, half-sniffled, completely dismissed. “Oh well then,” she replied sagely.

Couldn’t get it out of my head. Fell asleep thinking about it. Woke up thinking about it. What does that mean: No gratitude?

So with tremendous thanks to Lisa, who often inspires gratefulness in me, especially in her writings at Flingo, here are my Windmills of Thanks for today:

To my friend J who gives me the biggest hug, whenever she sees me, and tells me, “You look fantastic.” I see her at least twice a week, sometimes two days in a row – we work out together – and I look a lot of things at those times (harried, tired, irritated, pained, hair too long, sweaty, unshowered) but definitely never fantastic. I choose to believe her though. And that hug sure feels fantastic.

To my kids, who started today in that can’t-be-beat way: fighting. Because he wanted to sit in that chair, and how dare she finish the cereal, and he’s an idiot because he breathed. One of the cruelest ways to kick off a Wednesday, listening to their whingeing and whining when I’ve barely taken a breath. But the silence they left in their wake as they argued their way out the door and down the road to school was serene to the extreme.

To same storm-out-the-door son who called me at 8.17am from school to apologize. Truly a breathtaking moment and one that obliterated the day’s sticky start. Thank you, love. (And also thank you to the school for allowing the kids to call their parents no matter what – this time, anyway. It’s not always something to be grateful for).

Thank you to Matthew Weiner for creating the greatest show on TV ever: Mad Men. Yes to Don Draper. Yes to Joan. Yes to fabulous sixties fashion and design. But mostly, yes to amazing writing. And scenes like the one of Betty shooting the pigeons in Season 1. Life-changing (for reasons that deserve a piece of their own – stay tuned. And watch Mad Men).

Thank you Kind Driver for backing all the way up on Clarendon Crescent – possibly the narrowest street in Oakland, made all the more so by the cars, trucks and minivans parked on either side. No mirror is safe on this street. Whether he sensed my impatience at having to navigate this obstacle course or not, his unconditional willingness to help me out, to make life a little easier this morning, restored not only my faith in human kindness, but strangely in myself. When I raised my hand in thanks. When I slowed down. And smiled.

To my sister T (how perfect!) who shows me every day that it is possible to live life with humor and abundant compassion even when it’s all kinds of tough.

Six letters left, one week to go in this A to Z Writing Challenge and I am feeling so much gratitude for the experience, the creativity, the purest joy of writing words so often. I am blessedly thankful to have the opportunity to read the wonderful work of others, and to connect so meaningfully and relevantly with other writers taking this challenge. But I am mostly grateful for all who have read what I have written, who have taken the time, hit like, shared, tweeted and retweeted, sent an email or a text, posted a comment. I could write reams on how much that means to me. But I won’t.

I’ll just say: a million thank yous.

Thanks a Windmillion by OPI

Thanks a Windmillion by OPI

This post was written as part of the April A to Z Challenge. To read more of my A to Z posts click here.

Getting Personal

journal“I’m a writer,” I said. It was the first time I’d ever called myself a writer.

It might have had something to do with the fact that he introduced himself as a base jumper, an extreme skier, a wingsuit flier – dangerously impressive all of them – but in truth it was the first time I truly and confidently felt like a writer.

Even though I’ve been writing since I was in high school, with a too-long hiatus while having kids, it wasn’t until just last year that I’d ever shown anything I’d written to anyone (high school and university papers don’t count). And my universe shifted.

As I re-imagined myself as a writer and launched my own writing website, fellow writer and friend, Jennifer Lang, invited me to participate in a Blog Hop where writers share their perspectives about the writing life. Perfect timing! A chance to really think about my life as a writer, and learn about the processes and experiences of others! Check out Jennifer’s inspiring post and read more about her here.

Below are my answers to the four questions that are hopping from blog to blog. Next week three fabulous writers – Katrina Kenison, Lisa Sadikman and Jennifer Skutelsky – will post their answers to these questions on their blogs. And on it goes.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing.

What am I working on/writing?

Too much. Not enough. I have several pieces started, abandoned, and taken up again – all of which I intend to “do something with.” My immediate focus is on a daily writing challenge I am participating in, together with 2,200 bloggers around the world: Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. The idea is to write every day in the month of April, except Sundays, which works out to 26 days – so each day’s piece should correlate in some way to a new letter of the alphabet. Today is R. I am using OPI’s nail polish colors to add further inspiration to my alphabet musings, and it has been one of the most creative, fun experiences I’ve ever had. I have surprised myself – not only with what I’ve created using obscure nail polish names, but with my daily discipline. My life as a stay-at-home-mom who writes – or rather, a writer who is also a stay-at-home-mom – is hectic and chaotic, with little space for me myself. The daily practice forces the space and time no matter what. Stressful, yes. But mostly, intensely gratifying. Find my A to Z posts here. As soon as April is over, I will pursue the opportunities I have to write for other channels. And perhaps… a play.

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

I write creative non-fiction, narrating my own factually accurate and true experiences with different literary styles and techniques. Whenever I sit down to write, the words of my high school English teacher reverberate in my head: Show it, don’t say it. Most of my writing teaches me something by the end of the piece, but I like to write my way toward it in unexpected ways. I was recently surprised to hear someone describe my writing style as “She says what we’re all thinking but don’t like to say.” Possibly the most valuable thing I’ve heard about myself as a writer.

Why do I write what I do?

I graduated from one of South Africa’s finest Journalism schools – Rhodes University – with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Drama. I wanted to be on CNN. And then my life happened. And somewhere between then and now I married an incredible man, moved to San Francisco, had four great and demanding children, and found myself schlepping, feeding, volunteering, fundraising and editing school newsletters. Ten years of that and I’d forgotten who Me was. Writing reminds me. Of who I am. And why I am. It allows me to create calm from chaos, to keep it real, not only for me but hopefully for others too. Writing, and what I write about, has saved me from me.

How does my writing process work?

The joke in my family is: Mom, don’t (or do) write about this!


Every moment is potentially a writing moment. But usually something will grab my attention and continue to show up in a gazillion ways. Time to write it. If I can’t find time right away, or if my thoughts are too jumbled, I make notes in a little notebook I bought at Seattle Airport. It has an owl on the cover. Writing it out happens in my bedroom. I sit on the window seat, with my Macbook on my lap, and look to the big redwood tree for inspiration and clarity. The window seat is at the furthest point from the bedroom door, and it takes whoever needs me a little longer to reach me (because they only need me when I’m writing or on the phone). I like to write as much as I can all at once, with minimal interruption. And then I’ll go back and edit. Re-write. And write some more.


Meet my fellow blog hop writers:


Mostly American, a little French and kind of Israeli, Jennifer Lang has spent decades jumping between continents. The question that has plagued her most is which way is home? For the past 10 years, she’s thrived on one constant: wherever she lives, she writes. Once upon a time, she was a magazine writer for Alternative Medicine, Parenting, Yoga for Natural Solutions, Yoga Journal and more. Until she decided to focus on writing her own stories as well as teaching Creative Non-Fiction writing classes. Her essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, the South Loop Review as well as on, among others. In 2011, she and her family relocated–once again – from White Plains, New York to Raanana, Israel, where she continues to write and teach and push the boundaries. Connect with her through her blog, opentoisrael, her attempt to see the good in a place she never dreamed of calling home.

author photo copy

Katrina Kenison has traced the seasons of a woman’s life through three books: Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry (2000) now considered a classic for parents of young children, The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir (2009), and Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment (2013). In the process of writing a memoir, she says, “I’ve learned to celebrate the beauty of ordinary days and to savor the pleasure of small moments well lived.” Before becoming an author, Katrina spent many years working in publishing, first as an editor at Houghton Mifflin Company in New Haven, New York, and Boston, and then, from 1990 through 2006, as the series editor of the best-selling The Best American Short Stories anthologypublished annually by Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt. She co-edited, with John Updike, The Best American Short Stories of the Century. Katrina is also the author, with Rolf Gates, of Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga. With Kathleen Hirsch she co-edited an anthology of short stories about motherhood, Mothers: Twenty Stories of Contemporary Motherhood. Her writing has appeared in O: The Oprah MagazineWoman’s DayReal Simple,Country LivingFamily CircleRedbook, and other publications. A Reiki practitioner, gardener, writing and yoga teacher, Katrina lives with her family in rural New Hampshire. Her YouTube video for The Gift of an Ordinary Day has had well over two million views.  She blogs weekly at


Lisa Sadikman is a writer living in Northern California with her husband, dog and three daughters, the third one arriving just as she began dreaming of a life beyond motherhood. Instead, it’s déjà vu all over again except this time she’s wearing heels and blogging about it. Now a stay-at-home mom, she’s also worked as an ice cream scooper, a department store clerk, a congressional staffer, a mortgage trader, a reporter, an editor and a content and user interface strategist. Drawn to the power of telling true stories, Lisa writes to find balance, make sense of her world and carve out a safe space for all the crazy. A lifetime writer with a Master of Journalism, she blogs at the Huffington Post and on her own blog, Flingo. Her work has appeared in Salon, BabbleLiterary MamaThe Sun and The Monthly, among others. You can read about her adventures navigating love, motherhood and a grown-up life at and by following her on Twitter @LisaSadikman.


Jennifer Skutelsky was educated in South Africa and the US, where she earned an MFA in Creative Writing. An editor and writing coach, she is the author of two nonfiction books, and blogs at Write on Sisters and Musings of Orientation. She now lives in San Francisco with her daughter and a menagerie of pets. Her novel, Grave of Hummingbirds, a gothic mystery set in the Andean highlands, won the Clark Gross Novel Award at San Francisco State University in 2011 and is a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2014. Also a ballet teacher and visual artist, Jennifer has a soft spot for elephants and rhinos.


Nicki1South African by chance and Californian by choice, Nicki Gilbert lives in the Bay Area with her husband, four kids and an aging dachshund. With dreams of reporting live on CNN, she majored in Drama and Journalism at Rhodes University in South Africa, met a boy, married him and moved almost 180 degrees west to San Francisco, to live her life as a wife, marketer, event coordinator, non-profit board member, and eventually stay-at-home mom. There was very little writing and even less acting during those years. Last year Nicki started blogging for Times of Israel, and now writes on her own website Red Boots – from dancing to walking and everything in between, and beyond. As a reluctant yet full-time, barely-at-home mom, writer, avid reader, country music lover and wannabe surf diva, she writes to keep perspective about it all. With tears, humor, skepticism, love, pain and truth. Trying to keep it real. Follow her at and on Twitter @nixgilbertca.