As a kid I was forced to write thank you notes to my paternal grandparents (and Aunt Karyl) and maternal grandmother (and Aunt Suzanne) every Christmas. I remember my dad would take me to his office in downtown Washington, D.C. the day before school started back up after winter break so I could write my thank you notes. Now, I only had about four notes to write, but it seemed horrible—and I liked writing! My problem was that I did not feel any gratitude toward my relatives and so all of the words that came out of me were so forced. It also probably didn’t help that I had to write in French to my French grandmother and I felt very insecure about my English, let alone my French grammar at age 12. I felt my parents judged and criticized my writing and that my grandparents did the same on their end. I could almost see them laughing at my thank you notes, “Can you believe how bad Alice’s handwriting is? Good God! Back in my day, we learned proper penmanship!” I don’t think I was too far off the mark. In college I wrote lengthy snail mail notes to my mother once a week and she would criticize my typos in the letters.

I felt wrong about not liking to write thank you notes, but it didn’t dawn on me that thank you notes shouldn’t be painful to write when the receiver feels grateful and the receiver of your thank you note is also grateful too. How could I feel grateful when writing thank you notes opened me up to criticism?

When you give from your heart you can receive so much and as a kid, my heart wasn’t ready to give. I didn’t learn to say “thank you” with open gratitude for a long time. My kids aren’t quick on the thank you notes, but I can tell they love writing them when they get going on them. My son even wrote his English teacher a thank you note without prompting! (Now, if I could get him to remember Mother’s Day…)

As busy people we can get so caught up in the day-to-day stuff of attending meetings, answering emails, setting up events, grocery shopping, taking kids to school, etc. we can forget to be thankful for what we have. I strive to not let this happen!

If you can write someone a handwritten note who has gone out of their way to help you—do it! Not only will you feel great, you’ll create a ripple effect where more good things will happen to that person and to the people around you. How about before you get up in the morning, write at least 5 things you are grateful for. I promise you you’ll get rid of the morning grumpies.

Here’s my gratitude list from last week:

I’m grateful for

A husband who listens

Kids who do well in school

Main Street Rag and M. Scott Douglass for publishing my new book of poems (Heroes without Capes) and getting my preorder link up on their website

The Nexus Poets of New Bern for their extremely warm welcome and for showing me around town and even putting me up for the night

Music and Irish dance teachers who are awesome

Unity Church of Raleigh for the fellowship, friendship and venue for me to sing and play guitar!

Facebook friends

My Subaru with 143,000 miles that made it to New Bern, Asheville and Hickory without issues this past month

Folks who dig my poetry

Game of Thrones

My laptop

A flat driveway

awesome in-laws who love spending time with our kids

living in Raleigh, NC–with other artists and entrepreneurs

Friends who tag me and take pictures of me at events


So what are you grateful for today?