Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Secret To Achieving More In The New Year


Have you wondered if this year, you have been running round in circles? 

Not really moving forward in your life metaphorically, spiritually, emotionally, professionally, academically, actually?

I ask myself these questions at the end of every year. They became particularly poignant during my husband's long illness and recovery. In this post I suggest a route forward.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What makes a "good" kind of love?

I am on holiday this week with my family, but I wanted to share this wonderful piece of writing with you, for two reasons, as many of you gather with your family for the festive season. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Finding Inspiration in the Every Day - 7

It has been a long, life changing week here in the USA. Violence and evil crossed a line in Newtown CT, by killing many small children and their devoted teachers and school staff. We have been shaken to our core and now we are trying to find ways to move forward....

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Perspective On School Crises From the Wife of a Head Of School

In light of the horrific tragedy in Newtown Connecticut, it is hard to think about anything else. 
created by George Asencio

And yet at the same time there has already been so much written and spoken about the many tragic and burning issues surrounding it, I wondered if there was anything new to say.....

But then it occurred to me that there were some special people I did want to reflect on and they were the school staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What Would You Do if You Knew You Could Not Fail?

This photo is mine. Please ask before copying
Well ........What WOULD you do if you knew you could not fail? 

Sometimes the challenges and changes we are faced with seem insurmountable. We want to do something new or change our lives in some way.

But we feel very small in the face of much larger egos, obstacles and organizations. These feelings of being unable to take on the giant, looming large, can stop us in our tracks, root us to the spot and paralyze our thinking and behavior.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Finding Inspiration In The Every Day - 6

All photos are mine-please ask before using 
There are a lot of intangible things we wish for in our lives.
Peace                 are a few examples.

And these things become more prominent when we are faced with a life challenge that involves a loss.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thoughtful Gifts Don't Always Have To Be Expensive.

As we said goodbyes to Thanksgiving, we said hello to good buys for Hanukah and Christmas.

Where ever you are in the world, (except perhaps on a desert island or at the top of Mount Everest), I think it is difficult to remain immune to the messages around us to buy big, buy now and buy more... Every kind of media has been hijacked by buying fever.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Finding Inspiration In The Every Day- 5

From birth we learn to respond to feedback and encouragement. From first smiles to first steps, from riding a bicycle to driving a car, we learn and gain confidence from the compliments and constructive feedback we receive for our efforts.

As adults I think it's safe to say we all appreciate a thoughtful word, comment  or thank you in a harried day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Do You Ever Feel That Life's Unfair?

Eight years ago, my very close friend was diagnosed with stage IIIC breast cancer at the age of 39. Her 3 daughters were all under the age of 7 at the time. She went to a support group for breast cancer survivors. Expecting unqualified support and upbeat messages at the first meeting, she was very surprised by what the facilitator had to say. Her message that day, and I paraphrase, was this:-

Monday, November 19, 2012

"How the Turkey Ran Away From This Thanksgiving Day"-An Expat's GuideTo Choosing How to Celebrate Thanksgiving

Our first Thanksgiving meal experience was in Hong Kong, seventeen years ago, when we were allowed, as the only Brits to join a truly Hong Kong- American celebration.

During our 5 years in Hong Kong, we learned to make turkeys out of socks. Jonny wrote a poem about the challenge of finding a kosher turkey, when the only kosher store in Hong Kong did not have one. And we discovered that football does not always involve kicking a ball around a pitch with your feet.

Monday, November 12, 2012

An Expat's View - If I Can Move, So Can You! Some Tips For Success

As the world gets smaller we find ourselves with bigger opportunities in faraway places. 

Over the weekend, we met up with a British family who had just moved into the Washington DC area. They came for tea    (what else?)  and as I listened to their week of firsts in a new country: first visit to the grocery store, hunting for a rental, finding a school, buying coats for the kids etc,  it brought me back to the beginnings of each of our moves to new homes in countries around the world.....

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Finding Inspiration In The Every Day-3

Last week someone suggested a book I should read.
Nothing unusual about that. As many of you know, I am a bookaholic and always looking for recommendations, as I know you are.

What was different about this situation was the person who recommended it - my 11 year old son and the book he had chosen - a children's book he thought I would enjoy.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Patient's Top Ten Tips For Surviving A Long Hospital Stay

Many of you will remember that my husband Jonny was rushed to hospital this time last year. He had been suffering a resurgence of an extremely painful facial nerve condition called **trigeminal neuralgia that had spiraled out of control. His medications had stopped working.

The internist couldn't find new meds to control the pain.

The neurologist was out of ideas for treating it. 

And  Carol the Physician's Assistant to one of the finest neurosurgeons in the world at Johns' Hopkins Trigeminal Neuralgia center was at her wits end. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Finding Inspiration In The Every Day-2

Even though we had days of warning about Hurricane Sandy and were as prepared for it as we could be, for millions this mighty storm took away basic things we rely on and take for granted -electricity, running water and connectivity. It damaged homes and cars and brought the trains to a standstill. 

We live less than 4 hours drive away from New York. If the winds had blown differently, we could have been the ones without power and water as we were last summer. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Warning: Hurricane Coming! How to deal with this and the storms of growing up

From CBS evening News
With Hurricane Sandy descending on the East coast of the USA over the next 24 hours, we have been busy preparing for the "perfect storm". 

In our house it is colliding with the deadline for the first round of college applications. (Nov 1- aaagh!).  It is also Halloween and unless you have taken a trip to another planet you probably know it is the last week of campaigning before the US election. At least the 24/7 news shows have something other than the election to talk about....

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How To Find Inspiration In The Every Day -1

If you, like me, spend a lot of your day with your nose almost touching your smart phone, it's easy to miss the uplifting, inspiring, unexpected, kind gestures and beauty that are just out of our line of vision!

Monday, October 22, 2012

How To Have Your Cake And Eat It:6 Benefits and 6 steps to Make Desserts In Miniature.

We are all looking for balance in our lives.

A work-life balance
A spouse-kids balance
A spending-saving balance
And something many of us struggle with:-

 A balanced relationship with food.

In a world of fad diets, there is a plethora of advice screaming at us that if we remove all the carbs or sugar or fat or milk products, from our daily menus we will feel better, look better and life generally will have a rosy glow.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Protecting Your Loved Ones From The Hard Knocks Of Life

If you feel, like me, that your family and/or friends have had more than their fair share of traumatic experiences, you may be looking for ways to protect them.

We have all watched families and friends suffer through difficult job situations, complicated relationships, shaky marriages, financial crises and scary health diagnoses, loss of their parents or spouses and other tragic situations. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Waiting Versus Patience - Lessons From A Labyrinth

We often use the  words waiting and  being patient  interchangeably. We wait on the phone for a real live person and are thanked for our patience. We ask our children to wait for us to get off the phone and ask them to be patient. We wait at lights, at the doctor's office and in line at the bank and all these things certainly try our patience! 

This week I learned how different they can be as I had the opportunity to revisit a labyrinth. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Jigsaw Puzzle Of Life

There is nothing like sudden or unpredictable illness to throw you off kilter. In the tightly packed, fast paced lives we lead, there is little room for a throat infection, a virus, a broken limb or something more sinister. And yet when it happens, with no choice but to accommodate it, you make room for that illness in your lives and adapt.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A thought provoking quote for a thought provoking week!

Many thanks to you all for your support of  Brainstorm. Please help spread the blog readership by sharing this post or others to your face book page. It's very simple to do. Click on the F icon at the very bottom of this post, write a comment if you like and post the link. 
Thank you! 

 Please email me at or leave a comment on this post below. I'd love to have your feedback. 
Thank you for visiting Brainstorm. If you want to receive future posts by email please enter your address on the right hand side of this post,where it says "follow by email."  Remember to look for the verification link when it comes into your inbox or hides in your spam folder.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Year In Review - Check Your GPS!

Have you ever wondered if you have been running round in circles? Not really moving forward in your life metaphorically, spiritually, emotionally, professionally, academically, actually?

Back at the start of  December 2011, three weeks after Jonny's brain surgery I was  reflecting  on how small our world had shrunk since Jonny's illness had returned in August of that year.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Brainstorm: A Year In Review

Have you noticed that opportunities often open up, when you are least expecting them? 

Since tomorrow evening  the Jewish New Year 5773 begins at sunset,  I am posting earlier than usual. It's customary at the beginning of a new year to reflect on the year that has just passed. So in the spirit of David Letterman, Time Magazine and of course the BBC I thought I would take you back to some of my earlier postings.

This time last year, September 2011, my children and I were completely consumed with Jonny's worsening  illness with no road map for recovery and writing was the last thing on my mind. Looking back I could never have predicted the silver linings in the universe and I had no idea that I would be blogging weekly with such an amazingly supportive audience.(that's YOU-thank you!)

In February 2012  I moved from posting about  Jonny's health on a site called Lotsahelpinghands, to taking the plunge into a whole new universe by launching  this blog, Brainstorm.

When I reread the first post I ever wrote on Brainstorm, I thought it might provide you with some  food for thought as many of us head into a new year full of unexpected opportunities.

Click on the link below to read my first post -A New Universe.

As is traditional I would like to wish you and your families a Shana Tovah U'metukah- a good and sweet year, free from pain of any kind.

With love and appreciation. 

Many thanks to you all for your support of  Brainstorm. Please help spread the blog readership by sharing this post or others to your face book page. It's very simple to do. Click on the F icon at the very bottom of this post, write a comment if you like and post the link. 
Thank you! 

 Please email me at or leave a comment on this post below. I'd love to have your feedback. 
Thank you for visiting Brainstorm. If you want to receive future posts by email please enter your address on the right hand side of this post,where it says "follow by email."  Remember to look for the verification link when it comes into your inbox or hides in your spam folder.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Are You Listening?

Well, are you?

Has anyone ever asked you that question? Your mother? Your spouse? Your son or daughter?

I've certainly been asked.

As Jacob ( my 11year old)  has been recounting a story while I have been tidying the kitchen, lost in my own thoughts and checking my phone, he'll ask,

 "Are you listening?" 

Followed by

"Well what did I just say?"

I will be on the phone to my mom who is calling from London and she'll catch me short with,

"Gilly are you on the computer?"....( erm yes I am  and I've been FB chatting with Benjy, looking at CNN/The Daily Mail and deciding what to have for dinner.........aaagh)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Caregiving Part 2 - Who Cares For The Caregiver?

This is the second post in a caregiving series. Last week's post was called No Job Decription-Caregiving Part1:Search and Rescue

Just a few weeks ago I searched Google for  tips for caregivers. I was looking for advice about ending my caregiving role. As a caregiver suddenly out of a job (thanks to my husband's good health)  I wanted to find a way back to something for myself. When I found a list of tips, I began to chuckle

I laughed for two reasons.

1. It had never occurred to me to google tips for caregivers when I was one. (I didn't have the time or inclination to do that research.)


2. I had failed to follow nearly all the tips that were suggested!

 Some of the  suggestions were very good. They ranged from keeping your job (I gave that up)  to getting regular health checkups yourself. From  making time to read and paint(!) to having respite care so you could take extended breaks. I found myself laughing at how many of the suggestions I had failed to heed. They also made me think about what I had done that had helped me and therefore my family, and what if anything I would do differently if G-d forbid I found myself in this situation again.

Monday, August 20, 2012

No Job Description- Caregiving Part 1: Search and Rescue

Harry Potter World, August 2011
Almost one year ago exactly, Jonny began a new battle with Trigeminal Neuralgia*(TN). One year on and 2 surgeries later, Jonny's pain is very much  under control.  From this positive vantage point I have now begun to reflect back on how we coped during  those frightening unpredictable first days and weeks. In particular I have been ruminating on how I learned the ropes of my new  job as caregiver, a job that like Jonny’s illness was thrust unceremoniously and without notice on     me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Mile In My Shoes - update

About 5 weeks ago I wrote a post called How Do You Cope? This was part of a Coping Carnival initiated by a blogger Rebecca at her site Here Come The Girls. A few days ago she published a link to my post along with 5 other bloggers' links about how different people cope with the challenges in their lives.

These stories are stories of struggle, survival and joyful living in the face of great challenges.They are truly inspiring.

Monday, August 13, 2012

10 Books I Have Loved

I grew up in a house full of books. My parents each had a pile by the bed. My father had five he was reading simultaneously, alongside the Times crossword puzzle and Wisden (the cricketer's bible). My Mother always read broadly and still does, bringing me armfuls of books most recently including The Language of Flowers(see below), whenever she comes to visit from London. 

I thought that every home was the same. I had a rude awakening in my first year at university. For a "Teaching literature to children course" we spent a morning in a local primary school asking 9 year olds about their reading habits. We had to ask them questions such as......

Monday, August 6, 2012

Memories Not For Sale

My friend’s father died 6 months ago. Sara* and her husband came back from Paris where they were living and working, to spend his last few months with him and have lived in his large rambling house ever since. It was a hard decision to sell the property and all its eclectic belongings and now she is in the midst of a huge estate sale with the house itself having sold in just a few days.

I went to visit Sara yesterday and her emotions were palpable. She stood alone, surrounded by strangers who were poking and shuffling through her father’s shoes and shirts, opening up his closets and sitting on his peach leather couch.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

2 Things I Have Learned From A Rookie Firefighter

Aerial view of the boarding school
Seventeen years ago this week, when we lived in a house in a boarding school by the River Thames in rural Oxfordshire, England, we had a fire in our bedroom.

We had just returned from London late on a July Saturday night. It was an unusually hot weekend by British standards. No houses had air conditioning and ours was no exception. The air was still and humid.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Competing Contrasts:Little and Large

Diagram from the NY Yankees
Last week I wrote about our idyllic days at the beach- just Jonny and I in a large beautiful house, with room enough for 3 families. This week we are in Manhattan, reunited with 2 of our sons, squished into one hotel room on the Upper West Side.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Beach Break -Tales and Tips

Jonny and I are at the beach. It is a cloudless day and we are sitting side by side in low slung beach chairs. We have some shade from an oversized umbrella and our feet are partially buried in the white, clean sand. The sun is bathing us in its warmth and we are watching the waves tumble onto the shore as the Sandpipers hop away from the foamy puddles just in time.

If you feel as though you have read this before, you would be right.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Strength Of The Human Spirit

Design by Jazzydesignz
There is no doubt that first responders, soldiers and other brave men and women who choose to take on life threatening jobs to keep us safe are very special people indeed. 

They need to be physically strong, psychologically stable and extremely well trained to carry out their missions. 

Equally however there seems to a piece of them that needs to be extraordinarily positive, determined, thoughtful and caring in order to cope with the aftermath of their experiences. 

The strength of mind and spirit in these soldiers seems to be as important as the buffed up muscles in their torsos and biceps.

After my post How Do You Cope? I received this very poignant message from Marcy, a breast cancer survivor herself, who had spent the day at Walter Reed Army Hospital in DC. 

With Marcy's permission here is her comment.

Monday, July 2, 2012

How Do You Cope?

mile    I am writing this blog  after four days without power in our home, as a result of the most incredible storm on Friday night. It crashed through the Washington DC area, devastating lives, damaging a lot of property and leaving millions of people without power in sweltering 100F weather. One of my friends from out of state texted me asking,

        How are you coping?

Monday, June 25, 2012

12 Ways to Help Children Face Their Fears

With the launch of the Olympics in a few weeks, it occurred to me that if there was an Olympic event for worrying, our family would definitely have a chance of winning the gold medal. After all to become champions you need to get a lot of practice.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pondering on the Porch

A porch with a view
I have spent a lot of time on our front porch since last August when Jonny's trigeminal neuralgia reared its head again. I planted out my garden to be an oasis, a place to contemplate, breath deeply and slowly,  a haven in which to recharge. (See Rabbit Wars)

Through all four seasons I sat out there drinking gallons of tea, often alone, sometimes making plans with Jonny, regularly chatting with friends. I listened, laughed and lamented about many things.  Often I watched our visitors come for a while and leave again and sometimes I  had a wistful fleeting wish to follow them........

Monday, June 11, 2012

Anything But Routine

Cool SummerI do not like change. I am soothed by the 8.00am to 3.30pm school routine and the rhythm of the school week. Half days of school, the beginnings of school holidays, even the first couple of days away from home can unsettle me.  

This must sound pretty funny since we have lived on 3 continents, in 7 homes in our 23 years of marriage. But I always imagined that I was going to be the one who lived in London around the corner from my parents and grow old close by my family and the friends I'd known since I was fifteen.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Queen's English

The longer I live away from England, the more patriotic I get. I hung our British flag outside our front door for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee which in case you were unaware, was this past weekend. I am more obsessed with tea, English chocolate, British television, films and novels than ever before and I am an avid Daily Mail fan (mainly for the pictures of royalty!) Looking at the UK from a distance the rose coloured* spectacles, only get rosier.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rabbit Wars

My pansies before the rabbit's breakfast-lunch-dinner
I am at war with a rabbit. I know I am pretty mild mannered but it has come down to a battle of wits. I have to get rid of her* or she will continue to feast on my pansies.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Boys and Their Bedrooms

Click for cartoon

Please note that you can use the links to Amazon on the right hand side of this blog to find out more details about any of the books I reference in my blog posts.

For as long as I can remember, since I stumbled upon the Zits cartoons in the Washington Post, I have thought they were drawn in response to observing my family of boys. They center on a teenager called Jeremy, his stay at home mom and dentist dad. If you are a parent or grandparent to boys or have brothers, nephews, boyfriends, fathers or messy, procrastinating, constantly hungry, teenage daughters then you will relate to this series. If you have toddlers or tweens be warned these comic strips are a hint at things to come!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Recovery Part 4-Take A Break

***This is the fourth post in a series about living with and recovering from serious illness. The three previous posts are Recovery-The New Normal, Recovery Part 2- Poem In Your Pocket and Recovery Part 3- What Does Recovery Look Like? ***


                              One of the many challenges of being a patient or a dedicated caregiver is that you can’t suddenly wake up one morning and decide you no longer want those roles. It is hard to ensure that the illness that has charged into your life does not define you.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Recovery Part 3 - What Does Recovery Look Like?

***This is the third post in a series about living with and recovering from serious illness. The first post Recovery-The New Normal appeared two weeks ago. The second post Recovery Part 2- Poem In Your Pocket appeared last week.***


I really thought I knew what recovery looked like. I started to write about Jonny's recovery from MVD brain surgery, the moment he emerged from the ICU back in early November 2011, until starting this blog in February. I measured it in terms of Celebrating the Small and Big Milestones. I described it as Navigating a Labyrinth, I talked about  Two Steps Forward One Step Back. ( Please see Brainstorming, for all these posts and an explanation of MVD.) I thought I had it down.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Recovery Part 2 –A Poem In Your Pocket

**This is the second post in a series about living with and recovering from serious illness. The first post Recovery-The New Normal appeared last week.**

Poem In Your Pocket DayToday is Poem in your Pocket day. As it is described on's website, the idea is simple: "select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends."   

So, I got to thinking about which poem I would choose.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Recovery-The New Normal

This is the first in a series of posts about living with and recovering  from major illness. Many thanks to Jonny and a number of dear friends who agreed to share their thoughts with me about their own journeys through illness in order to help me write these posts. Their bravery ,honesty and poignant accounts moved me deeply and with their permission I am sharing  these insights with you.

When Jonny was first diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia in October 2008, I remember yearning for him and our world to get back to normal.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Food For Thought-The Perfect Job Share


In the run up to the festival of Pesach (Passover) which is punctuated by an enormous amount of preparation, I had the most wonderful experience cooking in the kitchen with my mother. Given the normal challenges of cooking with a partner, especially when that job share is a close relative such as your  mother, things might not have gone as smoothly as they did. We have cooked together in my kitchen before but this time was particularly special.
My mom (Joy), arrived from London on a Tuesday evening, 3 days before Pesach, to spend the eight day holiday with us. With the kitchen clean, the groceries bought, the menus designed and the recipes found, the two of us were ready to begin. 20 recipes in two days –a marathon cookup.  Add in to this cooking mix normal mother-daughter baggage, strong opinions and my mother at 72, having cooked for at least double the number of years I have, the experience might have been bumpy.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Relish The Moment

Relish The Moment-taken at great Falls MD
Jan 2012
A friend of mine sent this essay to me, after reading my previous post    I Wonder If....... Its message is clear and echoes my thoughts - enjoy the journey! Thank you very much Sharon P.
Have a great week-Gilly

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Wonder If The Children of Israel Ever Stopped to Enjoy the View

As we approach Passover, I have been thinking about the story of the Exodus from Egypt, which we are going to retell this weekend at our Passover table. These slaves from Egypt were to spend 40 years journeying in the desert. Their goal was to reach Israel. But for many of them, the trip through the desert would take their whole lives and I wondered if  any of them ever stopped  for a minute to admire the view.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Among The Weeds (Reads)

I have been watching a tulip grow in our front garden, for days. Not an unusual occurrence in spring, I hear you say. What is unusual is where it is growing. I spotted it first about a week ago. Small stemmed with one tight bud, alone, under a window, surrounded by weeds

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

An Ocean View

As a follow up to my latest post "Four Girls and a Bar of Chocolate." a friend sent me this. It has made me chuckle all day. I hope it will do the same for you. Thanks Debbie F!

A group of 15-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner.
They agreed to meet at the Dairy Queen next to the Ocean View restaurant because they had only $6.00 among them and Jimmy
Johnson, the cute boy in Social Studies, lived on that street.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Four Girls and a Bar of Chocolate

** This post is dedicated to  strong, resilient, brave friends  all over the world  who are living  with serious illness:  patients  and  caregivers. **

Here we sit, four of us in Edgar’s in Manhattan on a Saturday night. We’ve all gathered for the weekend for M’s son’s Bar Mitzvah and it is obviously time to eat again. Four of us in our forties, each dealing with medical issues of our own, or our family’s, are at crossroads in our lives.

There is much to discuss.