So here we are. The season of gratitude. Thanksgiving.

We know gratitude:

  1. Enlarges us.
  2. Boosts our immune system.
  3. Connects us to beauty.
  4. Keeps us rooted in the present moment.
  5. Pushes away criticism and jealousy.
  6. Embraces the giver as well as the receiver.

How do we make our thank yous more than platitudes?

  1. Make it general. Don’t expect anything back.
    • Thank God or the earth. “Even after all this time the sun never say to the earth, “You Owe Me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” (Don’t know who said this.)
  2. Make it specific.
    • As the March Hare said, “Say what you mean.” Mean what you say.
  3. Find a tribe of gratitude givers.
    • on Facebook, Richard Paul Evans hosts a GratiTuesday (I’ve not read his books but met him at an event – super nice guy!)
  4. Give 7 hugs a day.
    • After a hug, we feel so warm and cuddly, then we’re able to say grateful things.
  5. Woke up today!
    • What else could we ask for?

Some of today’s thoughts were inspired from #spiritchat — a soulful Sunday morning Twitter chat about a spiritual topic. The tweets fly fast and furious. This morning, I couldn’t chat because I had to borrow a camera from a friend.

This is the second reporting/photography job I’ve had in a couple of weeks. (Am reporting on an East Village Korean church for the Interpreter magazine.)

So grateful for friends (and their generosity!)

I’m also grateful for:

  • twitter (social media) and #spiritchat
  • photography work
  • the sun warming me
  • the crunch of dead leaves beneath my feet
  • the warmth of hugs
  • my great health
  • my optimism
  • old and new friends

Check out the founder of spirit chat, Kumud Ajmani’s blog.

What are

New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto o...
New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church; added by those for whom prayer or miracles were granted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



you grateful for?


Here are some things I’m grateful for:

  • yes, first off, my awesome kids, especially as they were good traveling companions over Thanksgiving
  • my family whom we visited in Chicago — all 5 of us Coudal kids were together with our families — so many fun memories!
  • my blog, my facebook, my instagram, my twitter — and even my foray into pinterest
  • my new bathroom lights (this may seem small, but as we live in a rent stabilized apartment, we get very few home improvements. The super was in our apartment when we left for Chicago and when we came back, voila! fixtures were installed!)
  • my quirky freelance gigs and steady income
  • all of my writing students — even my bratty middle school kids
  • my old friends, like from college and high school, who’ve been my friends for DECADES!
  • my new friends, like from new work city
  • my writing class
  • my love of travel
  • the NYC theater scene
  • my finishing a 5K on turkey day
  • my Upper West Side
  • the NYC citbike program
  • my bike
  • my secret garden
  • my health — because, it’s true, health is wealth
  • my optimism

When I am grateful, something in me opens up and I make room for more acceptance.

Gratitude is a practice.

I am not perfect. At times, I see too quickly what I am missing. Because of Chris’s Parkinson’s Disease, I am, at times, sorry for him, sorry for my kids, sorry for myself. Just sorry. And mad.

I have wished I was married to someone who did not have chronic health problems. But I want to remember to appreciate and celebrate what I have. I have a lot.

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me and my siblings and my mother
I was in this crowd, running along Lake Shore Drive at the Turkey Trot
my awesome kids over Thanksgiving

Halloween Begins the Holiday Madness

Happy Halloween! Wait! I’m not ready. Did I celebrate my daughters’ birthday, or even, 4th of July or Easter, well enough?

This is the first of the marching holidays and I’ve hardly finished my last holidays. But they march on, whether I am ready or not. I have to comfort myself that I do them well enough.

I am a do-er and I do the holidays well enough. But sometimes I want to celebrate Easter in November and Thanksgiving in March.

I am a do-er but also an iconoclast or an anarchist (or some big word that means rule-breaker.)

I can change some things, but I can’t change big things like the seasons. Christmas is good in the winter. Maybe it’d be better at the beginning of December? Maybe I should start a campaign to change the date of Christmas. I could start small.

Here’s my idea: Let’s pump up the less celebrated holidays, like Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Let’s make it a big peace and love day — bigger than Christmas. Same with International Women’s Day. Let’s really love on our international sisters that day.

And I can use the money I save buying shit nobody needs at Christmas to throw some really big Pace and Love parties.

I’m not a Scrooge. While I like, and even love, Christmas and other holidays, I reject the disgusting materialism and commercialism that pervades our culture. I don’t want new things. (I want new experiences.) I don’t want my kids — or anyone for that matter — to think the acquisition of goods leads to the acquisition of happiness.

I have been happiest traveling light. The less stuff I have, the happier I am.

I have been happy with friends, having — and going to — parties, being with my kids, my family. Happy Halloween! March on holiday madness!

So,  “If bloggers had their own Halloween and could go from blog to blog collecting “treats,” what would your blog hand out?” asked the Daily Prompt today. And I answer: more fun, more love, more peace, and more parties. 

At the church retreat at Shelter Island last weekend, some of the teens carved awesome pumpkins. This is one.
beach scene in October
Leaves blew on to the beach on Shelter Island.

Daily Prompt: Time Capsule

2012 is drawing to a close (3 weeks left!). What would you put in this year’s time capsule?

collage for UMCOR
collage for UMCOR

I would put:

  • My collage art to promote UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). Am so proud! This was an early version.
  • My bike. Oh, my bike. I love my bike. Biking in NYC makes me happy.

    seen in a bike shop window in Portland
    seen in a bike shop window in Portland
  • My first (ever!) unemployment direct deposit check. Definitely mixed feelings, but overall grateful.
  • My new business cards.
  • Masks that the girls made at Art Students League. We all play roles, wear masks, make art.
  • Chris’s SAG movie pass. Going to the movies together has been a great way to connect. Due to Chris’s illness and our busy-ness, I feel we are ships passing in the night. But we’ve sat together at such amazing movies this year! Yesterday we saw Amour. Formidable! (my favorite French word!) Today we are going to see The Guilt Trip.
  • Abeach handful of sand from Siesta Key beach. The kids and I had such a restorative time hanging out at the prettiest beach in the world last spring. Great times, too, with my bro, Nicole, dad, and Marty.
  • A mosquito from the kids and my ill-fated camping trip to Fire Island.
  • Yoga mat. Because my mom still practices yoga and stands on her head.
  • Shake Shack fries. After teaching a semester of middle school creative writing, I take my kids to Shake Shack to celebrate.
  • School Swimming Pool and Van Cortlandt Park. I watch my kids play basketball, soccer, and baseball, but I spend most of my spectator time on the sidelines of the long benches of the pool or on the edges of the Van Corltandt Park track.
  • all the cousins
    all the cousins

    All of the cousins. Being with my four siblings and their kids for Thanksgiving was definitely the highlight of 2012.

  • President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Just in case anyone, in the future, has any questions. The man is an American, all right already. Forward.

2012 was a very good year.

Working Out for Thanksgiving

Holidays are for fitness.

While we’re in Chicago for Thanksgiving, the kids and I have signed up, along with cousins and aunts and uncles, for a TurkeyDay-5K. A couple of years ago, we ran the Coogan’s Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks Run for another holiday, St. Patrick’s Day.

That was fun. That March morning was freezing, and no one wanted to get out of bed. But we ran any way. I was damned if I was going to go it alone. I was so proud of myself, because I ran (didn’t walk) the whole way. I aimed for a 13-minute mile.

I run slowly enough to snap pictures as I go. On today’s run, this sidewalk art made me smile. Big Bird Lives!

That’s right. I run in the slow lane. Every one passes me, 89-year olds and toddlers alike. I don’t care. As they say, I’m lapping every one who’s still sitting home on the couch.

Besides, I’m fixing to have a big dinner Thanksgiving night, which includes dessert. And I’m going to be eating my meal slowly too.

Family meals and family fitness should be savored.

When I work out the day before, of, or after a holiday, I feel I can eat or drink anything I want. Guilt-free and happy! That’s what I run for.

Savoring Thanksgiving

Sometimes I feel melancholy being apart from my four siblings and my parents (and Marty) during the holidays. But then maybe I idealize our time together. Maybe I’d get sick of them if I lived closer. Or they’d get sick of me. Or someone would walk away right when we had dishes to do. (No, not my sibs!)

Chris’s family is so responsible they fight over who can jump up the fastest to clear after a holiday meal — practically elbowing each other out of the dining room door arms full of dishes, rushing to the dishwasher, while I’m still savoring that last forkful of mashed, stuffing, and turkey. Please don’t rush me. Although well, there are many kinds of pie coming — what the heck. I’m done with the turkey. Bring on dessert.

It is hard to keep up with the Joneses. I like to sit with my hands wrapped around a hot cup of something after a meal. Like a Hobbit, I like the warm drink to creep into the nooks and crannies of that last good meal. When I was little, my Dad read to us from the Hobbit on summer nights after dinner in our backyard in Skokie, even before we moved to Park Ridge.

This reminds me – while memories happen while eating big family holiday meals, memories also get impressed on us during the moments of reading or sitting together after a meal.

I’d like to write more about this right now, but I hear the laughter, pots, and pans from the kitchen. Someone’s singing. There’s the smell of pumpkin pie. The family is cooking and I should go help. I don’t want to be known as the sister-in-law who doesn’t pitch in. Not that any one of us – no, not a one of us, would walk away when there are dishes to do.

Although one person might sit a bit too long warming her hands on her coffee mug. But rest assured, dear friends and family, I’ll get up in a minute. I’ll set, I’ll clear, I’ll scour the pans and prep for the next delicious meal. I’ll do my share. I’ll be there in a minute.