Famous Authors on Thanksgiving & Your ‘Very Own’ Cup

Grateful people live longer, take better care of themselves and endure hardship with greater ease compared to less grateful folks, according to numerous studies. Though I’m not aware of research supporting this, I also believe that grateful people pursue work and hobbies they love.

So…unless you write for fame and fortune alone ;), you are probably among the most grateful. If you have difficulty feeling grateful, or simply want an extra dose, watch this clip from “Little House on the Prairie.” I tear up every time!

 

 

For more simple ways to cultivate gratitude, visit my recent post, Grumpy to Gracious.

 

Here’s what some of our founding mothers and fathers of literature as well as modern day authors have to say about giving thanks:

 

“I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy.”
– Anne Frank

 

“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.” – Ernest Hemingway

 

“The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.” – Oscar Wilde

 

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire

 

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” – Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

 

“O Lord that lends me life, Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.”
– William Shakespeare

 

“Each day offers us the gift of being a special occasion if we can simply learn that as well as giving it is blessed to receive with grace and a grateful heart.”- Sarah Ban Breathnach

 

“Love your body the way it is and feel grateful towards it. Most importantly, in order to find real happiness, you must learn to love yourself for the totality of who you are and not just what you look like.” ― Portia de Rossi, Unbearable Lightness

 

“Appreciating the genius in others attracts high levels of competent energy to you. By seeing and celebrating the creative genius, you open a channel within yourself for receiving the creative energy from the field of intention.”  – Wayne Dyer, The Power of Intention

 

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”

 

May you have the BEST Thanksgiving – if you celebrate it, a mindful feast and a fabulous, gratitude-filled weekend!

 

What about you? What are you most looking forward to this weekend? What are you particularly grateful for? When you want to feel grateful but don’t, what do you do?

 

Mindful Eating and Maya Angelou

Earlier this year, I had the honor of interviewing Maya Angelou about her new cookbook, Great Food, All Day Long. To say I look up to the woman is about as accurate as saying Minnesota is ‘sort of’ cold in December—a major understatement. As I considered what to post this Thanksgiving week, nothing seemed more appropriate than sharing her insight. Angelou approaches conversations with strangers, even so-nervous-they-could-pee-on-the-floor journalists ;), food, cooking and daily life with incredible poignance, dignity and grace. With food, family gatherings and feasting upon us, we can all stand to take a few tips.

Joy, Patience and Hot Dogs: Cooking with Maya Angelou
By August McLaughlin (Originally published by EHow Food)

Photo: Steve Exum/Getty Images

It should come as no surprise that one of the most influential voices of contemporary literature brings poise, intention and palpable joy to her kitchen. Dr. Maya Angelou, the 82-year-old renaissance woman known for her dramatic prose, activism and passion for the arts, history, education and civil rights, has had a lifelong love affair with all things culinary.

“I’m a serious cook,” she said. “I love to plan the food. I enjoy the cooking of it. And I will plan the whole meal while I’m in my bathtub.”

Self-Commitment

Angelou’s food fervor met challenges when a medical exam revealed serious risks for hypertension and diabetes. She had to lose weight. Her first attempt at healthy eating involved replacing decadent ingredients with low-calorie alternatives.

“But I was starving!” she said. “So I decided to cook the way I always cook, just not eat as much. I gave myself my word that I would not have seconds. It’s the most wonderful thing, you know, when you give yourself your word in private — secretly. You feel like a ninny if you go back on it because you’ve been there all the while.”

She prepared and ate every recipe in her latest cookbook, “Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart,” and relished every bite. Meanwhile, her weight-related health concerns diminished.

Simply paging through her cookbook is enough to push your salivary glands into overdrive. Recipes such as chicken tetrazzini, barbecued spare ribs, pumpkin soup and “all day and all night” cornbread are interwoven with heart-warming stories and personal insight. In her typical way, Angelou draws you into not only her kitchen, but her life.

Abandoning Rules

Rather than abide by diet rules, Angelou recommends listening to and fulfilling your cravings. If your taste buds are screaming for fried chicken and you sit down to a T-bone steak, you’re liable to eat the entire steak — and perhaps seconds.

“It’s because your taste buds haven’t been satisfied,” she said. “If you can get what you really want, cook it the way you want it cooked, five or six spoonfuls or forkfuls can hold you. Then you can say, ‘I’ll come back to this in two or three hours. But right now, that’s exactly what I want.'”

In her book, Angelou observes that people often keep eating long after they’re full. “I think they are searching in their plates not for a myth, but for a taste, which seems to elude them,” she writes.

For this reason, her recipes aren’t divided into meal-specific categories, but instead organized by themes like “A Brand-New Look at Old Leftovers” and “Waking up the Taste Buds.” The result? A cookbook geared toward fulfilling moment-to-moment cravings, rather than following the established mealtime norms. Have fried rice for breakfast, if you want, or her omelet with spinach for dinner. All bets are off.

Seeking Pleasure

One of Angelou’s most beloved culinary experiences involves a youth favorite: the “simple everyday” hot dog. However, she’s developed a version for a grown up palate. Angelou tops a grilled, Hebrew International hot dog with her homemade chili. “Then I get a cold, frozen beer stein out of the freezer and open a wonderful freezing bottle of Corona beer. It doesn’t get much better than that,” she said.

Patience, Angelou believes, is a significant ingredient lacking in Americans’ diets. “Our children, for the most part, have their major meals at counters and various places where they eat standing,” she said. “I encourage people to sit down. Have some patience with themselves.”

To this end, she suggests planning meals beforehand to avoid stressful rushing around while cooking. Sit down to enjoy meals in a peaceful, pleasing atmosphere. And don’t reserve your best dishes, silverware or food for guests.

“I serve myself with the best I have,” she said. “I make a pretty table. There are some white roses on my table right now. I’m looking at them. And I’m having a nice glass of pre-lunch, good white wine… Pretty soon my assistant and I will have a great, sort of a chef salad, served with English biscuits.”

Because that’s precisely what she craved.

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To view the original article, visit: Joy, Patience and Hot Dogs: Cooking with Maya Angelou. (You’ll also get her recipe for Chili Guy, a scrumptious dish named after her son.)

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Simple Ways to Eat More Mindfully
Most of us eat way too fast, while paying little attention to what we’re eating, how much or why. (“Where did my fries go?!” You know you’ve been there… ;)) Eating mindfully, with awareness of our bodies, emotions and food, promotes physical and emotional wellness. It also facilitates gratitude. Rather than focus on calories, TV, guilt or holiday stress this season, I invite you to slow it down, pay attention and say, with sincerity, “Thanks!”

  • Set your fork down between bites.
  • Eat sitting down at a table, no in front of your TV or worse, standing in front of your fridge.
  • Before eating, take a moment to observe the smells, colors and overall presentation of the food.
  • Cook! Preparing dishes automatically promotes mindfulness; you’re involved in the process and understand the effort required.
  • Cut back on mealtime distractions, such as your cell phone, laptop, TV, radio, newspaper, etc.
  • Create a pleasurable dining atmosphere. (As Dr. Angelou says, don’t reserve your best dinnerware for guests-only!)
  • Shop at your local farmers market.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen, Meals on Wheels or local shelter.
  • Rather than view food in terms of calories or fat grams, consider what foods and nutrients do for your body…and the pleasure food brings.
  • Eat with chopsticks. Unless you’re a pro, this slows you down. (Your relatives might shoot you funny looks as you pick turkey and stuffing up with chopsticks…Then again, doesn’t that make it more fun?? ;))
  • Say a prayer of gratitude, religious or not, before meals.

So what do you say? Will you invite mindfulness to your next feast? How has Maya Angelou influenced you in your life? Your writing?

Books I’m Crazy Grateful For

Books are many writers’ closest friends. It’s one reason we feel so compelled to write them. With Thanksgiving soon upon us, I decided to share a few books I’m CRAZY grateful for. I’m not sure my life would be the same without them…

I first read A CRY IN THE NIGHT by Mary Higgins Clark during the fifth grade, mostly tucked away in my loft bed with a bowl of Doritos. 😉 As Jenny MacPartland was swept off her feet by a talented, mysterious artist, so was I. As she discovered horrifying truths that threatened her life, I felt my own life being threatened. Great books take us out of our lives and into others.’ This book taught me that. And nothing had captivated me in such a way before. It marked the beginning of a ‘real life’ love affair—with mysteries, thrillers and suspense.


If Jenny MacPartland had THE GIFT OF FEAR by Gaven de Becker, there wouldn’t have been a book. De Becker is the leading expert on instincts, survival and violent behavior. His book features people who could have died at the hands of attackers, but didn’t. And whether they realized it or not, their fear helped save them. When I sense that someone’s following me, I now turn to look rather than dart away. I look suspicious people in the eye, observe their appearance. I know what to scream if I need to. And I won’t step into an elevator with someone who gives me the creeps. I may never know how much THE GIFT OF FEAR has helped me, which is perfectly fine by me! I recommend it to EVERYONE, particularly women. It’s an empowering book you’ll want to read time and again.


Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY had me in tears on the elliptical when I first began reading it. A passerby said, “If it’s so bad, you can stop.” I would’ve laughed at the workout angst joke, but I was too intrigued by the words before me. At the time, I was at a crux in my relationship and career and had no clue what to do. The ARTIST’S WAY is one of those books that feels like it was written for you. “How did you know that?” I kept wanting to ask. And like DeBecker, Cameron’s insight helped me help myself and has stayed with me since. The ‘morning pages’ exercise, free-writing three pages promptly upon walking, revealed answers I’d been seeking.

“I have an agent, so now what do I do?” This question led me to Kristen Lamb’s, ARE YOU THERE, BLOG? IT’S ME, WRITER. The web is overloaded with information for people who want to write a book, represent themselves or seek agents. But once you have one…not so much. An author friend said to “just keep writing. The agent does the rest now.” That didn’t feel right. I plugged random words and phrases into Amazon.com and came upon the title that to this DAY makes me laugh. It says so much and in such a funny, fun-loving way…Much like the whole book. It changed the way I view social media and life as a writer in hugely positive ways. If you haven’t read it (or WE ARE NOT ALONE: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, also by Lamb), joined Kristen’s blog or the #MyWANA Twitter conversation, get out from under that rock! Er, I mean… It would be in your best interest to check them out. 😉
What books top your Crazy-Grateful-For list??? You know I love hearing from you. (A blessing I count often! ;))