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,