Wednesday, December 30, 2015


This time of year is pretty amazing.  After the hustle-bustle of Christmas, now is the time to slow down and reflect on the past year.  Every year I make a double-list entry in my journal.  On the left side I list the “Good” and on the right side I list the “Bad” of my year.

Rarely do I list world or political events, but rather the events in my own life that make me think about what was good, so that I can remember to have gratitude, and what was bad, so that I can fix, remember, honor or cope/grieve.

I won’t be making my lists on the blog post, however.  The Bad is just too personal- even though I try to put myself out there-  I just can't. And listing only the Good would sound like a goopy Christmas letter. So.

What I want to say here today is that we all have some really  Good and some really Bad and a lot of in between in our lives.  That’s life, right?  But what is most important, what makes all the difference, is how you handle yourself- your issues, your failures, your accomplishments, and your graces. That’s the reason I make my list (and why I write in a journal); it helps me look at everything that life brings- it helps me deal.

Here are a few of my journals.
I like to find meaningful quotes
and write them down.
      "life is change.
      growth is optional.
      choose wisely."
Along with my Good and Bad list, I always create a Goals for the New Year list.  I think it’s important to think critically, yet optimistically.   There’s a saying: ‘life is what happens while you’re making plans’—and that’s true, but make plans anyway.  Life will still happen, but with some plans in place, things will go better.  A couple of my goals for this year are to plant a garden (not new) and to harvest and preserve as much as I can from that garden(new).  I also want to eat right and be strong and healthy (not new).  Some of my goals repeat every year, while some are new goals.

I have found that listing goals and dreams and ideas help them to come true.  Give it a try today.  Write down some attainable goals—maybe even write a plan of how to achieve them- and give it a whorl!!  

Here’s to a peaceful, productive 2016.

As always, be good to yourself.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Gift of Nothing

There’s a children’s book called The Gift of Nothing, by the creator of the Mutts comic strip, Patrick McDonnell.  If you’re familiar with Mutts, you know the main characters are a dog named Earl and a cat named Mooch. 

In this story, it’s Christmas time and Mooch the cat, can’t think of anything to get for his friend, Earl- who seems to have everything a dog could want or need.  As Mooch tries to solve his problem, he notices that everything seems to be loud, commercialized, and excessive. Finally, after much careful thought, he decides to get Earl a big box of nothing.  At first, Earl is confused, and then he understands: Peace and friendship were the gifts he received from Mooch.
The Gift of Nothing sits next to a Wild Thing
created by my daughter, Erin
This book holds a prominent place on my book shelf because I understand Mooch. Sometimes I get so stressed out about gift giving.  I enjoy shopping for and  giving gifts, but I always seem to worry about spending too much, spending too little, giving enough, or not enough.  I feel conflicted about the amount of time I spend or do not spend with different groups of friends and family. Truthfully, I always breathe a sigh of relief after the holidays are over.  I know I'm not alone in this.

If I were to give the gift of nothing to my loved ones, maybe it would be this:

My Gift of Nothing Christmas List
1.    Walking in the woods with Tim
2.    Sitting on a fishing dock, talking with Nate
3.    Talking about books and writing with Kiley
4.    Crafting and talking about motherhood with Erin
5.    Planting and harvesting a garden with Phil
6.    Reading with my granddaughters
7.    Listening to my parents stories of growing up back in the day
8.    Playing cards with my in-laws

The greatest thing about each of these gifts, it that they would also be a gift for me!

What would your gift of nothing be?  Who would you give it to?

Merry Christmas everyone-

As always,

Be good to yourself.

Clip art from Mutts by Patrick McDonnell

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Happy Birthday Sweet Emelia!

Being a grandparent is God’s gift for all the hard work of parenthood.  Raising kids is not for wimps.  If you do it right, it’s hard. Period.  You’re so focused on keeping them fed and safe and raising them to be the kind of human beings other people want to be around. Now, as I look back, I realize that maybe I didn’t bask in the wonder of my children as much I could have. Sometimes, as a young parent, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees—so focused on the immediate goal, the big picture got lost…  And that’s why (thankfully)God graces us with grandchildren.

Watching my two granddaughters grow and learn, and develop their very distinct personalities has been, and is, one of the greatest pleasures of my life.  

Today is my sweet second granddaughter’s second birthday.  It hardly seems possible that she can already be two years old.

Emelia is her own person.  She’s had two years of watching her older sister, and she’s using all the information she has learned to its fullest extent! Emelia is a mountain climber, a marathon runner, and a WWE scrapper who is always ready for a wrestling match.  She is a singer of songs.  Her repertoire includes, but is not limited to, classics like Itsy Bitsy Spider, Ol’ McDonald had a Farm, and The ABC song.  Some of her latest hits include Let It Go, 1994 - singing about Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie, as well as Boys ‘Round Here  who are red, red, red, rednecks by Blake Shelton.  Emelia has a great imagination and has many adventures with her big sis.  She is a perfect and loving mommy to her babies.  She changes their diapers and sings them to sleep.  Occasionally, her babies like to fly through the air.  J

Emelia loves her Papa, evidenced by the many times she has sprinted past me into the arms of my husband. (Or maybe it’s because he always has goodies and treats in his pockets…) She and her sister’s lives rotate around each other, with their mommy and daddy as anchors to their orbit.

Today is a beautiful day!  Miss Emelia Marie is two years old today. Happy birthday, sweetie!

Until next time, Be Good to Yourself-


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How I Became a Writer: Poetry

When I was a participant in the Eastern Iowa Writing Project at Saint Ambrose University, I was encouraged to give many writing styles a go.  One of the challenges was to write poetry.  Now, I am not a person who particularly cares for poetry.  I’ve never read a book of poems for pleasure- only for work/lesson design.

I hate free verse poetry. I’m terrible at writing poems that rhyme; the few times I’ve attempted to write rhyming poems they ended up sounding like they were written by Dr. Seuss on crack.

For me, the best way to write poem is with a formula.  And luckily for me, there are a great many poem structures to use. 

The poems I’m sharing today are called Lune Poems. An American Haiku, if you will. Their structure can be thus: three words on the first line, five words on the second line, and three words on the final line.  A three line poem. Easy enough. Maybe.   Here goes…

The Chapel at St. Ambrose
Serene peaceful blessed
The water of new life
Trickles through me

And this one, also written while in the chapel...

People sharing hope
Faith grows when properly nurtured
Love shines through

The chapel had just gone under major renovations...

Clean and new
Smells of paint and plaster
Rebirth of space

And then this…

To Be a Writer
Courage conviction confidence
Soaking in all that surrounds
Just letting go

Also on that day, I wrote one that I didn’t finish.  Maybe you can help me with it.

The Eastern Sun
White and bright
Promising warmth and new life


As you can see, I’m not a poet by any stretch of the imagination.  And I’m not even sure if I’ve followed the formula correctly. I JUST now looked up the formula on the internet and the sample poems I found actually created a complete sentence.  Kinda like this one I wrote a minute ago, after the internet search:

From the top
of that old Oak tree
baby birds fly.

I make mistakes. Many mistakes. But it’s because I have to stretch my writing bone, you know?   And that’s o.k.   What are you trying to do and making mistakes at?  Keep at it.

Until next time, be good to yourself.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Butterscotch Candy


My father-in-law, Dave, always carries wrapped hard candies in his pocket. Some of them he enjoys himself, but mostly, he gives them away. He’s done for at least the thirty-four years I’ve known him and more than likely even longer than that.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, he and my mother-in-law were here for a visit. The family decided to go see a local greenhouse’s Christmas finery.  As we were walking through the rows and rows of Poinsettias, a young woman asked if we needed any assistance.  We replied no thanks, and that we were just looking around. 

But then my father-in-law said to her, “You look like you could use some candy,” as he held a butterscotch in the palm of his hand. Her face brightened.  I swear, even the freckles across her nose became more noticeable.  She smiled, said thanks, and took the candy.  This transaction took less than ten seconds, but it made and impression.  It made an impression on me, too.  The look on her face was golden.

As we walked away, I said to Dave, “You used to give out peppermints.  Why did you change to butterscotch?”  His reply? “Too many people have problems [digestion, flavor; etcetera] with mints.” I thought to myself: He changed his candy to please other people. Then I said to him, “You’re giving God’s good grace one piece of candy at a time.”

And he is.

This whole candy-giving thing got me to thinking about how I show God’s grace.  What do I do, what do I say to show His glory? What have I done to be the good I wish to see in the world ?   I came up with a “what I’ve done(recently)” list:

1.    I gave a young father’s child pen and paper while we were in a restaurant to keep the child occupied and out of trouble while the other adults chatted.

2.    I say ‘excuse me’ in stores when I cross paths with other patrons.

3.    I keep my classroom stocked with candy for all of the ESL students in night classes.

4.    If someone drops/spills something; I pick it up, or help them pick up.

It’s rather humbling to make a list.  It makes me think I can do more, if I put my mind to it.  If I make IT a priority.  How will I show God’s grace??? I’ll let you know in future posts what I come up with.

In the meantime, maybe you'll want to try this little experiment too!  I'd love to hear how it goes for you.

And, as always, be good to yourself,


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

I have so much to be thankful for.  God’s good grace is the first on my list.  He has given me my family and my health and they're always in my prayers of thankfulness. I thank Him for all that I am, all that I do, and all that I have. With that said, the following list is a little more light-hearted.  Enjoy!

1 I am thankful for my sense of humor.  I like silly things that play on words.

2. I am thankful for music... including disco.

3. I am thankful for science fiction - and thanks to my book club girls, the opportunity to read any and every genre.

4.  I am thankful for nature and for every time I have the privilege of walking along an ocean.

5.  I am thankful for arts and crafts, even though I'm pretty bad at it, I enjoy the camaraderie of my artsy friends and the creative process.

6.  This year, and every year, I am thankful for The United States of America, the  greatest country on earth.

7. I am thankful for abundance.

Give thanks for all you have.
Ask for strength when you're in need.
Help others.
Be kind to yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tree Love

Tree Love

We lost a tree this weekend.  Last week we had high winds that blew everything that was not nailed down, far and wide.  Our tree was one of them, although, technically, it was “nailed down.”
The ornamental pear tree in our backyard was small in tree standards, but rather big for an ornamental tree. About a quarter of the tree broke off and landed neatly in our yard between the house and the fence. Thankfully, no damage was done to either structure.  After we cleaned up the downed part of our tree, it was obvious that the rest would have to be taken down as well.  I didn’t want to admit it. We planted that little tree ourselves. I so wanted to keep that tree, but even I could see that in the next big wind event we probably wouldn’t be so lucky.  The house and the fence were likely targets for airborne logs. So, this past weekend, my husband and his buddy (is that the right word? buddy?) took the rest of the tree out with the help of our son-in-law and his buddy (dude friend?).

Sad me looking out at our tree.
Nothing left but a sad stump and some saw dust.

Last week I could look right into the middle branches of that tree from my office window on the second story of our home.  For many, many years I looked out this window at the top of that tree.  Then, in just the blink of an eye, it seems, it suddenly towered over our house!
Today the space behind our house looks so naked.  It’s just stark.  A couple of summers ago we put a swing in that tree for our eldest granddaughter.  (Both granddaughters are waiting for Papa to fix the tree swing, however we don’t have another tree that could support it.) That tree provided great shade for our deck, a home for birds and, much to our dog’s indignation, a jungle gym for squirrels.
Funny how attached you can get to a tree. I don’t think there is any other plant that elicits people’s emotions quite like trees do.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Honoring My Vets this Veteran’s Day

I come from a long line of veterans.  I’m proud of that fact.

My grandfather, Wesley V. Hill, as a young man, served as a medic in World War I.  He was a father of four and 35 years old when he enlisted in the Army during World War II. His job was to run supplies to troops through Iran and other areas of the Middle East. 

To say that every American served in WWII would be an understatement. The home-front did more than its fair share.
My Grandfather, W.V. Hill, directly behind the sign.

My dad, Donald J. Hill enlisted in the Air Force and served in the Korean War.  He was a radar man and an electronics genius. 
My dad, Donald J. Hill, at his post.
Written, in his own hand, on the back of this photo:
"Do I look worried?"
My dad has (had) four brothers. They all served in the military.  William Hill, Robert Hill, Vernon Hill.
My uncle Bill (William) Hill on the left, having a beer with his cousin.
And dad’s youngest brother, Terry Hill, was drafted and sent to Viet Nam. My mom’s youngest brother, Jerry Bacon, was also drafted and served in the Viet Nam War.  As a child, I remember sending cassette tapes of our family’s everyday conversations and of us singing songs and telling stories to my uncles.  We wrote letters and sent pictures to them.  We did everything we could to help them know they were always in our minds and hearts.

After the Viet Nam War, we had a short span of “peace.”  Babies born between say, 1969 and 1979ish were free from The Draft and Selective Service Enrollment.  But that “Peace Time” was profoundly short-lived.

August 1990.  I watched the president’s speech on TV as the Gulf War was declared.  I realized then that our sunny life in American was about to change.  It was feasible that my then four-year-old son could possibly, more than likely, have to go to war when he grew up.  Remember, I grew up during the Viet Nam war. It was a twenty year war. I was distraught over this declaration of war. I cried and held tight to my baby boy.

September 11, 2001.  Al-Qaeda. Taliban. Osama BinLadin. War on Terror. The Taliban.

Our daughter was in her third year of college when she brought home a young man.  Ma’am and Sir were frequently used words in his world. Phil, ROTC at the University of Iowa; he was THE ONE.  When he graduated from college he would be a commissioned Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He was (and is) a proud American serving his county.  Shortly after he and my daughter were married, he was called up to serve in Afghanistan.  We all breathed easier when he got back home. 
My daughter and her Lt.

My nephew, Jacob served on the front lines Afghanistan.  Our family rallied to make sure he and his family knew they were in our thoughts and prayers the whole time he was deployed. Again, we all breathed easier when he got back home. 
Jacob saying good bye to his wife.

I thank God for my veterans.  I thank my veterans for my county.  God Bless America.
The Bill of Rights
Our legacy. Our fight. Our power.

Below you will find several rights and responsibilities that all citizens should exercise and respect. Some of these responsibilities are legally required of every citizen, but all are important to ensuring that America remains a free and prosperous nation. 



·         Freedom to express yourself.

·         Freedom to worship as you wish.

·         Right to a prompt, fair trial by jury.

·         Right to vote in elections for public officials.

·         Right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship.

·         Right to run for elected office.

·         Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

·         Support and defend the Constitution.

·         Stay informed of the issues affecting your community.

·         Participate in the democratic process.

·         Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.

·         Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.

·         Participate in your local community.

·         Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.

·         Serve on a jury when called upon.

·         Defend the country if the need should arise.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Making Curtains- Making Mistakes- Life’s “Do Overs”


This past couple of weeks I have updating my fifteen year old bathroom d├ęcor.  I’ve been stripping wall paper, washing walls, light fixtures, and switch plates.  I painted everything with two coats of  a soothing foggy gray. (I think it gives the room a spa-ish feel.)  On Saturday, I sat down to make curtains. Yes, you read that correctly.  Me… making curtains.   I’m no Becky Home-Ecky by a long shot.  (No offense to my Becky friends, or my home-ecky ones, either.)  I don’t even own a sewing machine.  I had to borrow one from my daughter, who has two of them.  (I don’t know where she gets her home  ec. talents.)

On a side, but related note, I had planned to do this project last winter.  I went out shopping for new curtains to help me make my paint color decisions.  If you have a bathroom with windows, and you've shopped for curtains, you know how this tale ends.  Bathroom.Curtains.No.Longer.Exist!  So I asked my Facebook friends for advice.  The resounding answer was: “Make your own curtains.”  YIKES!  And that’s how this project didn’t happen last winter…

Anyhow, I am not without skills.  I took the required home economics in seventh grade, so I know some sewing basics.  Also, over the years, I have created a few projects with the use of a sewing machine. This project was not hard, just not my cup of tea.

So, knowing I had to make my own curtains, I went shopping for just the right material. I found a shower curtain that I liked so I purchased two of them for my curtain fabric.  The shower curtain fabric had a horizontal stripe, but I wanted a vertical stripe, so I turned it sideways and got to work. I finished the curtains for the first window; two panels and one valance in just a few hours. 

When I put them on a rod and held them up to the window, I realized that the panels were an inch or two shorter than what I wanted.  Maybe I could just move the curtain rod down a little? Also, I chose to use the “factory hem” instead of doing my own.  That was not the best decision because the factory hem didn’t always follow the grain of the fabric and I had to cheat a little to make it all work. My final problem was that my stripes didn’t match up.  The gray stripe on the valance was on my left, and because I had turned the shower curtain to use its side seam as my hem, the panels had the gray stripe on my right.  This would not do at all!

Life is like making curtains.  Sometimes you screw up.  Sometimes without even realizing it until it’s too late. I thought about running to the store to get another shower curtain so that I could re-make the curtains better.  How much easier would life be if we could have ‘do-overs’?   Like when I’ve said something hurtful, or made a bad decision, or didn’t pay attention when I should have.  But would our lives really be better? Would our relationships stronger? Would we be thoughtful problem solvers?

Would we be less humble and more reckless with our thoughts, our actions, our words?

We’ve all had moments when we wished we could just have a do over.  For the most part we can’t.  And really, as much as it may burn, this is one way we grow and learn and become a better person. Right?

As for the curtains, well.  They’re just going to be a little too short. And, because I learned from my mistakes, I made sure the curtains I made for the second window flip-flopped in pattern.  Now the valance of the first set of curtains match the panels of the second set of curtains and vice versa.  I’ve created matching sets – although not matching curtains. Such is life. Now it’s time to hang  ‘em up and move on.