Play Shuffle, Life

           “The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient.  One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”—Anne Morrow Lindbergh

           Remember when the IPod was introduced, and the way we consumed music was forever transformed.  Years of listening to the radio, or even an album, where another person controlled the sequence and timing of songs without, per se, personal input, was revolutionized.  The consumer could now choose songs for download, create personal playlists for any occasion, and if desired, could even shuffle all those songs, those playlists, those genres into a Golden Corral of sorts, where all types of music could be sampled, and if the appetite was big enough, voraciously devoured. And, like a buffet, one could simply skip over any song nugget that did not fit one’s current craving with the push of a button.




          Along a similar path, I recall the days of typing papers.  Ugh! Even my master’s degree was completed with an electric typewriter.  Personally, I spent hours, taking random notes/facts and writing them on individual note cards with sources listed on the back as my long-ago high school English teacher, Mr. Wheeler, taught me to do. Then, I’d lay them all out on the floor, or dining room table, and begin the process of arranging, rearranging, and grouping these cards into potential sections of the paper. Next, I’d label each stack, and arrange them into what seemed like a logical order.  Finally, I’d used stacks of notebook paper to write out some semblance of a rough draft long hand style—and, yes, arrange and rearrange those pages. All of this before even sitting down to type! And, oh, heaven help my typing skills (Sorry, Tana Lewis, you tried to force my fingers to type 45-65 words per minute without an error in your Typing 1 class, but, alas, I am still an over-thinking-lack-of-confidence-error-ridden typist!)


Photo by Pixabay on


           The digital age has changed life in dramatic ways as I reflect over all of the rapid change I have witnessed over five decades.   I can now pay, or use a “free-version” (with, of course, commercial ads), of various music services, if I desire, rather than downloading individual songs or albums.   These services will even suggest songs I might like—allowing me, like that Golden Corral buffet, to sample a bit of this album or a morsel of that genre without increasing my cost.



           Furthermore, when writing and/or researching, I can copy, cut, paste, delete, and rearrange to my heart’s delight.  Multiple sources filled with facts, data, and anecdotal evidence can be easily and quickly be found, validated, and bookmarked.  No longer do I have to buy nearly a forest-worth of paper, note cards, and notebooks. I just click a key, touch a screen, or scroll with my finger, and voila, information in less than a second!  Why, it almost tempts me to go back to school just to research and write papers. Hmm . . . Stephanie Musick, Hill, PhD, does have a ring to it . . .wait a minute . . .nah . . . I think I’ll shuffle on to a different life tune.




           My current rabbit-hole of thoughts regarding shuffling, cutting, pasting, and even buffets, led to me to a recent lesson—a lesson I am still struggling to learn:  l-i-f-e. Those playlists and even writing projects, such as this, can be carefully controlled. Click—add a song; click—no, delete it, and put it here; or likewise, click—change the word; click—find a quote; click—no, there has to be a better way to say it; click, click, click, click—delete the phrase; click, click click—ah, that sounds better this way.


person looking at phone and at macbook pro
Photo by Christina Morillo on


           Life is not so easily arranged, manipulated, and/or controlled.  Sure, as humans, we like to think we are in control. We believe we can arrange our schedules, our goals, our days, and our lives into precisely sequenced time-slots of events. However, like the shuffle option on our favorite way to consume music, life is full of randomness.  Sometimes, we are lulled by days, months, or even years (if we’re lucky) of sweet sounding summer-like tunes like time spent with gentle surf, warm sunshine, and not-too-hot sand. Yet, even that ideal beach shoreline, continuously changes due to storms, rough water, high tides, strong winds, and pollution; and still, tourist go back year after year.


As seen on Instagram by positiveenergyalways


           Like the beach of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s eloquent quote, we must remain open to the possibilities.  Grasping and attaching to “the story of life” as arranged by our mind, often leads to suffering, anxiety, and even fear–especially of the unknown.  And, while the sea of life, can certainly shuffle-in storms, debris, high-waters, and random pieces of trash, it can also offer up beautiful shells of memories for collecting, calm water moments for soaking, and the soothing sounds of comfort.




          While we cannot create and sequence the so-called perfect a playlist or word-document of life, we can be open to the shuffle of it, the buffet of its opportunities, the ebb and flow of its waters; and in that openness, we can find songs of joy, words of praise, and a uniquely crafted, tension-filled story of adventure with its own dynamic soundtrack penned by the Ultimate Divine Hand of Creation offered to us with love.  


As seen on Instagram @ postiveaffirmations101


           Life is unfolding and, well, shuffling, as it should.   I often forget this, but I know in my core, this is true.  And while I may never attain perfection in remembering this, I can work towards progress—progress of learning to accept, nibble, and even savor all the varied and unpredictable tastes life offers up.


As seen on Instagram @ postiveenergyalways

Versatile Vegetable Soup

            “Soup is a lot like a family.  Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it need time to simmer to reach full flavor.”—Marge Kennedy


“A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.”—Abraham Maslow


As the weather in southeastern Ohio this weekend played a mash-up mix of rain, snow, bitter winds, and plummeting temperatures, my mind churned with thoughts of ways to warm my icy fingers and toes. I drifted back to a conversation John, my husband, and I had regarding the ways in which his parents and my grandparents made their vegetable soup.  As we swapped stories, we realized how similarly his parents and my grandparent “saved” for one their favorite wintertime go-to meals.





Both pairs had large, white plastic tubs with red lettering, about 5 gallons in size, that once held some sort of meat previously purchased at a local meat market.  Once emptied of its contents, the tub was scrubbed clean and repurposed as the “vegetable soup” container. Then, throughout the year, but especially in the summer and early fall when fresh garden vegetables were abundant, they saved left over vegetable from meals in this tub.  Uneaten bits of green beans, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, celery, carrots, onions, and so forth, would be scraped from pots at the end of meals and into the tub.  This container, which resided in their freezer, was gradually filled from week to week.  Once full, there was typically another scoured-clean-container-in-waiting, ready to be filled as well!

Large white tub, only as I recall my grandmother’s, her containers had red handles and worn off red lettering reflective of the former contents.


During winter months, my grandmother, often cooked up large chuck roast covered with carrots, potatoes, and onions. Once this meal was eaten, as best I recall, the leftovers from it were often the base of her vegetable soup. She’d cut up the meat and any left over vegetables into bite size chunks, open up a couple of cans of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup along with a can of Veg-all, and put those into her large pressure cooker.  Next, she’d add water.  Finally, out came the white, filled-to-the-brim-tub with all those frozen leftover vegetables; and, while I’ll never know how she determined the “right” amount, she scooped an undetermined quantity of vegetables from tub and into the pot until her cook’s eye told the soup contained the right amount of those former garden gems.



                     360 degrees of memories Grandmother’s kitchen of long ago . .  .

                     Top to bottom left:  My baby sister, Rachel, in caught-off guard as I photograph her serving our Papaw; our middle-sister, Traci, uses the ever-present dirt-buster, to pick up crumbs after dinner; my cousin, Clifton, sneaking in the fridge; and on right side, my cousin, Michelle and me seated in the corner of Grandmother’s kitchen at the kid’s table with the ever present, white-painted, wooden high chair used for all nine of Grandmother’s grandkids!


I can still recall the way that little gadget on the top of the pot bobbled, hopped, and danced around on cloud of angry steam.  Soon, aromas of comfort emanated throughout her cozy home.  The ice that had formed on the inside of the single-paned kitchen windows was slowly transformed into condensation drops worthy of childhood finger drawings.

Though not exactly the same, this is similar to the often used pressure cooker of my grandmother’s.


To be honest, as a youngster, vegetable beef soup was not my favorite meal.  In fact, I found the meat impossibly chewy, and in my spoiled child mind, it seemed to expand the more I chewed.  Plus, I was not a hug fan of all those vegetables mixed together. However, later, when I lived with my grandparents in my early adult years, I came to love my Grandmother’s vegetable soup, but I still attempted to furtively avoid the meat as I ladled out my serving of soup!  Then, in true family tradition, I’d break up a handful of saltines into the soup before chowing down!  Oh, how I wish I could have just one more bowl of that soup and tell Grandmother how much I loved it and appreciated her loving planning and frugality . . . There’s something to be said about the skills of those who survived the Great Depression and truly knew how to not waste anything, and could thrive within their resources.


Grandmother’s vegetable soup often started with left over chuck roast and any remaining vegetables. Ugh! Never my favorite as an ungrateful child.


While I am still not a big meat eater, John is, so when creating this recipe, I tried to create a versatile blend to make both of us happy.  Sometimes, I make a huge pot of this, but pick around the chicken—just as I once picked around Grandmother’s beef in her vegetable soup.  Other times, I drag out both the large Crockpot and my mini-Crockpot.  In the larger pot, I make a version with the chicken thighs, but without the beans and potato. While in the smaller pot, I make a version with all ingredients, but no meat.  This allows John to have a lower carb variety of this healthy soup while still allowing me a hearty plant based version. Plus, both variations are naturally gluten-free.  (Sigh, sadly, saltines crumbled into soup are NOT gluten-free, and I no longer add them to my soup due to celiac disease.)



                    Cooked with chicken in a 6-quart crock-pot for John, and without chicken cooked on stovetop (or mini-crock pot) and stowed away in a 2-quart glass dish.  There’s several meals with of food here!  And, it can be frozen!


If cold weather is chilling you to the bone, set up this soup in the morning or on a Saturday/Sunday afternoon; and, you’ll be noshing on warm, home-cooked comfort by dinner.  In fact, you can even throw all of your ingredients in your Crockpot-insert the night prior, and stow it away in your fridge overnight.  In the morning, simply add it to cooking base, select your setting, and dinner will be ready after work.  Additionally, while I do not yet have an Instant Pot, I am told this handy kitchen tool will allow you to prepare this soup in less than hour!  Wow!


                     Served, sadly without crackers, for me.



Served with plenty of saltines for John!


Play with the ingredients of this recipe—add more of some ingredients, and/or remove the any ingredients that do not suit your tastes or dietary needs. Make this recipe work for you and yours, as it is versatile.  Then, drop me a line and let me know how it went.  I’d love to hear about your variation!



Play with these ingredients.  (I forgot to include the russet potato in these photos.)  You do NOT have to use them all.  Pick the ones you like, and double up if desired! It’s your soup, your way, to meet your dietary needs!


From our home to yours, John and I wish you healthy, happy, and homemade meals!

Versatile Vegetable Soup

 Serves: 6-8 generous servings (Depending upon serving size.)


1-2 tablespoon olive oil (optional)

5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (optional)

1 ½ teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 russet or sweet potato, chopped (optional)

1 ½ cup chopped carrots

2 cups broccoli florets (Can substitute equivalent amount of favorite green vegetable, such as green beans, spinach, kale, peas)

1 zucchini, chopped

1 yellow squash, chopped

1 large can (28 oz) pureed tomatoes

1 can (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes

2 cans (14.5 oz) cannellini or garbanzo beans (optional)

4 cups of broth—either chicken or vegetable, depending upon preference

1-2 teaspoons sea salt

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon red pepper

2 bay leaves

1-2 cups additional water


To Make:

First, prep vegetables that need chopped and set-aside.

Next, in large pot, over medium heat, add oil if using, or spray pot with nonstick cooking spray.

If using chicken, arrange meat all along the bottom of pot and place garlic on top of it.

If NOT using meat, place garlic on the bottom of pot.

Next, add in onion, celery, potato (if using), carrots, broccoli, zucchini, and squash.

Pour in both cans of tomatoes, beans (if using), and broth.

Gently stir in, avoiding the chicken layer if using meat; sea salt, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and red pepper

Add additional water until desired soup consistency is reached.

Gently place bay leaves on top

Cover and allow to simmer (gently bubble) 60-90 minutes, or longer, until chicken, if using, is cooked through, and vegetables have reached desired level of softness.

If using Instapot or Crockpot, be sure appliance has an 8-quart capacity, and follow manufacturer’s suggested cooking time.

Remove bay leaves before serving.


Tastes even better reheated!

Can be stored in refrigerator for up to a week or stored in freezer for up to a month.





Bear Lake Wilderness Camp: A Boat-in Fishing/Hunting/Canoeing Adventure!

           “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”—John Buchan

           “There are always new places to go fishing.  For any fisherman, there’s always a new place, always a new horizon.”—Jack Nicklaus


Scottie Duncan holds a bass he caught and released at BLWC.


           For fisherman and hunters alike, January and February is the time of year when many outdoors enthusiasts start planning their spring, summer, or fall fishing or hunting trip(s).  Many larger cities host annual hunting and fishing shows in attempt to bring together outdoors enthusiast with those organizations that who support their endeavors either through goods or services.  In fact, the West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show is scheduled for January 25, 26, and 27 of 2019.

           This is the 32nd year for this local treat sponsored by the West Virginia Trophy Hunters Association. According to the show’s website, proceeds from this event, other than the costs to run the show and operate the club, “are donated to programs that promote or protect hunting, fishing, wildlife, conservation, and related educational activities.”  This show prides itself in offering the outdoor adventurer quality products and services related to hunting and fishing with first class exhibitors from as far away as Alaska, New Zealand, Spain, and Africa as well as the United States and Canada.


Another nice bass caught and released at BLWC.


           One of those first class businesses is Bear Lake Wilderness Camp.   Owned and operated by Pendleton, KY resident, Major Bill Drane (US Army Reserve), this camp offers opportunities for both fishing and hunting adventures, depending upon the season.  Located in the La Cloche Mountains in the heart of Ontario’s Killarney Wilderness Park, this boat-in camp is situated in a picturesque, pristine natural setting sure to please the pickiest outdoors person.  In addition to abundant hunting and fishing opportunities, BLWC is also a great location for swimming, wildlife photography, hiking, rock hounding, camping, as well as multiple canoe excursions, including portage routes.




Welcome to the peace, quiet, and seclusion of BLWC.



Cooper, the camp’s husky; Manly, the camp’s rottweiler; along with dockhands, Rheal Quinn and Stewart Jordan are ready to take to your cabin at BLWC, so that you can start your next fishing adventure!


           Located on Bear Lake, the most remote lake of a chain of ten connecting lakes on the northern boundary of Killarney Provincial Park, campers can expect a 15.5 mile boat ride from the only road in the area of the lodge!  Due to this remoteness, Bear Lake offers fishermen and women the opportunity to fish for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, lake trout, walleye, northern pike, whitefish and perch. Given its location, BLWC may have the best largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing in all of Ontario!  Furthermore, this lake is especially known for its trophy walleyes.


Who’s ready to fish?



Scottie Duncan, Travis Lane, and my husband, John Hill last summer (2018) at Bear Lake Wilderness Camp.


Notice all the lakes and waters (red, yellow, green, and blue areas of map) that can be explored in BLWC


        This past summer (2018), John,  my husband and diehard fisherman, along with two of his buddies, Travis Lane and Scottie Duncan, visited BLWC for John and Scottie’s 3rd visit and Travis’ 2nd.  All three fishermen agree that BLWC is the ideal location for budget-friendly fishing (or hunting) adventure.  Lane especially could not say enough about the friendly and helpful staff. “They are all around good guys who are willing to go the extra mile to help their campers.” Duncan added that it’s the camp’s seclusion that grabs his heart with each visit.  “You can’t find a place more remote or more beautiful than BLWC, especially the remote portage lakes. Bill goes out of his way to help campers get to those isolated areas with no fishing pressure whatsoever.”



Taking a lunch break on the shore of a secluded Canadian island after several hours of fishing in the pristine and private wilderness found at BLWC.




           For sure, opportunities for off-the-beaten path fishing are a special and unique feature of BLWC.   With 35 other lakes surrounding Bear Lake, BLWC has canoe or boat caches on 25 of those remote lakes!  According to John, these lakes are virtually un-fished and untouched by man except for the few adventurous fishermen and women willing to take the time to explore those areas.  Furthermore, John added that the immense peace and quiet, as well as the wild, natural beauty, of those remote lakes must be seen to be believed! “When you realize that no other human is around; it’s just you, your fishing buddies, and nature, it is a feeling like no other!”   A few of those lakes, he added, even offer the opportunity to fish for brook trout or lake trout



Are you ready to go fishing yet?




           That said, if spring and summer fishing/ canoeing aren’t your preferred out-of-doors adventure, BLWC also offers hunting for moose, black bear, duck, and grouse.   Can’t decide between fishing and hunting? Talk to Bill about the “Cast and Blast” special. This offers campers the opportunity to fish and hunt during the fall. When hunting, campers can expect to hunt over baits from tree stand or from ground blinds; and, BLWC offers hunting specials both during bow-only season as well as gun/bow seasons.


AW . . . the peace and quiet of watching storm clouds rolling in . . .


Living the dream of wilderness fishing away from the hustle and bustle of contemporary life.



Random images captures while exploring abandoned cabins found on several remote islands of BLWC.  If only their walls could talk, what tales might they reveal?


          As a boat-in camp, BLWC doesn’t have those challenging weight-limits that fly-in camps have.  However, it still offers the same desired level of remoteness that fly-in camps possess. Located on a small island, BLWC offers both American (dinner only) and housekeeping plans.  Each cabin comes with a refrigerator, stove, lights, and sinks with running water. The kitchen area of each cabin is stocked with all the pots, pans, and utensils needed to cook up favorite camp meals.


Who’s ready for a fish fry? Plus, extra to freeze and take home!



Hungry after a hard day of fishing . . .


           With regard to fishing, every two paying customers get the use of a new 16-foot Lund boat with Honda four-stroke outboard motor; and, BLWC pays for the gas!  Plus, the camp has a fleet of portage boats and canoes on the surrounding lakes at the disposal of campers—something John and his buddies highly recommend taking advantage of!


The excitement of your buddy and you catching a fish at the same time!


           Want to take your child along to BLWC? Kids under 14, when accompanied by a paying adult, are offered a reduced rate.  Studies indicate that kids who hunt and/or fish with their parent(s) have a greater appreciation for nature, wildlife and conservation efforts.  Thus, BLWC could be the perfect destination for parent/child outdoor adventure!



The splashing joy of catching fish . . . 


           John and I highly encourage you to visit not only the West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show at the end of this month, but to especially make sure you visit  Bill Drane at his BLWC exhibit! You won’t find a nicer gentleman who is ready to make your Canadian fishing and/or hunting aspirations become a reality. Tell him Steph simply sent you!

           From our home to yours, John and I wish you happy, safe, and adventurous travels in this upcoming year!




           P.S. If you have any questions regarding this camp, feel free to email me at, and I will put you in touch with John.  Additionally, you can directly check out for more information!



Just imagine sounds of the shoreline water lapping the dock and boat and the moon blesses the sky above.



A community to remember and honor

        “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”—Lao Tzu

        “wear blue: run to remember is a national nonprofit running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the American military. wear blue: run to remember creates a support network for military members and their families; it bridges the gap between military and civilian communities and it creates a living memorial for our country’s fallen military members. wear blue: run to remember exists for the fallen, for the fighting and for the families.”—excerpt from




       Aw . . .January . . .the month where many people begin or renew health and wellness goals.  Gyms, yoga studios, health clubs, and outdoor running/walking/biking paths are often overflowing with the vigor and excitement of New Year’s resolutions.  The gluttony of holidays is now replaced with better, healthier habits and goals.





        Personally, while I rarely, per se, establish New Year’s resolutions, I do find I have increased motivation and renewed excitement for my own personal health goals.  Additionally, I use the start of the New Year as a time to reflect upon my current habits and look for ways to refine, improve, and if needed, change/adjust current practices for physical, spiritual, and mental well-being.


        At one point in my adult life, running was part of my fitness regime, including running a local marathon to celebrate turning 50.  I loved that most races in which I participated benefitted a local charity, so that my training/running felt as if it served a purpose greater than my own personal gain. However, a back injury brought running to a quick and unforeseen hiatus.  While I dream of one day returning to the world of running, I fully recognize that most forms of movement, including walking, offer numerous benefits to the body, mind, and soul. Thus, I have learned to accept my current physical state and fully recognize that I still have the gift of life.  A back injury is a minor life setback compared to other more life-altering experiences. Still, I remember the challenge and the sense of accomplishment that followed the obligatory, once-per-week “long run,” that was part of any training plan/goal.


Mindi Church Newell (left) smiles at sister-in-law, friend, and “cheerleader”, Sandy Mers, Coordinator of Ashland wear blue community, during the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington D.C.this past fall–a true long run.


        Thus, when Sandy Mers, friend and Coordinator of the Ashland wear blue community, shared a video with me from TedxTacoma of Lisa Hallett, Executive Director & Co-Founder of wear blue: run to remember,I was reminded of those once-upon-a-time “long runs”. As Hallett described the back-story that ultimately forged the foundation of her group, I was moved to tears. She passionately portrayed the way in which running, in particular, her once-per-week long training runs with her community of friends, provided her with much needed support as well as a healthy outlet for her grief following the loss of her husband/ best friend/ father of their three children (one whom he never met), CPT John Hallett, “who was killed when his Stryker was attacked with an improvised explosive device in South Afghanistan” on August 25, 2009.   It is from these friend/community-supported runs that the wear blue running community evolved.  Yet, from what I can tell, it is so much more than running . . .


        In fact, Mers emphasized the importance of all participants, whether running or otherwise, in the group’s first local event held this past Saturday at Central Park in Ashland, KY.  12 people, according to Mers, convened 8:00 am at the 17th street entrance. Then, at 8:15, participants gathered in a celebration circle where they took turns reading the names of 51 military personnel killed in action during the dates of January 4-6 from 2001 to present.  Then, some participants ran, some walk/ran, others solely walked, and still others remained at finish line to cheer for each participant as he or she reached their goal destination. Despite the fact it is called a run, each participant, emphasized Mers, offered “a purposeful step” for the wear blue community.  








                     Participants gather in a celebration circle for the inaugural wear blue: run to remember of the Ashland community.


        The Ashland community of wear blue established a distance of one mile for this inaugural event.  However, the goal for community members participating in the February “run” is two miles, and the goal for March is three miles—at which they plan to remain for future events, although Mers is not ruling out hosting longer events.   Of course, participants can always choose to do more, depending upon their training needs.







        Sadly, I missed out on the opportunity to participate in this first event.  That said, as I read about this movement, I found myself yearning to once more get out there on a running path, even if it means walking; and what better motivator than supporting, honoring, and remembering those who have served and sacrificed while in our American military. As the wear blue website states, the  “wear blue is an all-inclusive organization that actively strives to bridge the gap between the military and the community.”





        Therefore, I have joined the wear blue: run to remember Ashland community, which can be found on Facebook.  It is a public group that is open to all. Each “run” occurs on the first Saturday of each month at 8:00 am at Ashland Central Park, 17th street entrance with the celebration circle beginning at 8:15.  The next event will occur February 2. For more information/inquiries, outside of the Facebook page, email:




Images of Mindi Church Newell from the Marine Corp Marathon held annually in Washington DC.  Newell ran in honor and remembrance of her late husband, “Tuc” Church who was killed in action in May of 2007.





         In the meantime, won’t you consider participating in February and/or other future events? There is absolutely no cost; and, best of all, your effort, whether walking, running, a combination of both, or cheering pays tribute to those service members who have given the ultimate sacrifice.  Plus, as icing on the cake, you’ll reap physical, mental, and perhaps spiritual benefits. I hope to see you there!







From the Facebook page of one survivor.

2018 Family Love and Reflections

           “Family is a unique gift that needs to be appreciated and treasured, even when they’re driving you crazy.  As much as they make you mad, interrupt you, annoy you, curse as you, try to control you, these are the people who know you the best and who love you.”—Jenna Morasca

           “To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”—Barbara Bush


From Maddie, my daughter, and Johnny’s, my nephew, high school graduation party in 2017.


           I suspect there is a direct correlation with each increased year of age, but I cannot help but notice that I have a growing sense of appreciation for my family.  It is not as if I never before put value on my family, because I always have. However, like the warmth of the sun’s rays in winter versus late spring, the esteem with which I hold my family has likewise intensified; and, I further suppose will evolve in the same way spring’s warmth develops into summer’s heat.

           This past year, especially the holiday season, only convinces me more of the truth of this realization.  I more fully appreciate the gift of each year with my husband, John, now of nearly 30 years. Each moment with our daughter, Madelyn, in her second year of college, is more precious.  Conversations with my siblings and parents are also more cherished. Furthermore, I have a greater sense of loss with the passing of each friend and family member as, like my age, those numbers are also increasing.




           2018 was certainly a year of amplified awareness for me—an awareness of things left unsaid, words said in hasty anger, impulsive reactions, and/or a lack of action.  It seems time is flowing rapidly like our Ohio River after heavy days of rain; and, I am adrift on a log of emotions unable to reach the shore line.

           Thus, as the holiday season winds down, if you will allow me, Dear Reader, to indulge in a few lines of gratitude.  It is my hope that by sharing these thoughts with you, that perhaps you will join me in saying those words that need to be said; or, at the very least, begin to reflect upon the people Divine Providence has put in your own life.  



                      Images of my brother, Scott, and sisters, Traci and Rachel.


           To my brother, Scott, and sisters, Traci and Rachel, during the holiday season, I received the gift of seeing all of you! As stories were swapped and laughs were shared, I frequently heard tales of my childhood bossiness, although I prefer to think of it as my blossoming leadership skills!  “The kids,” as I thought of you, were in need of my guidance and advanced wisdom, I felt certain as a youth. Thus, while I am sincerely sorry for my pushiness, I hope each of you know that my actions were motivated from a sense of great love, pride, and protectiveness for you. I felt as if I was your third parent, and with that came a sense of responsibility for your well being—however misguided my intentions were.  I loved, and still love, each one of you. We share a unique history that bonds us like no other. You each formed me into a better person; and you each shaped/influenced the type of parent, teacher, and even writer, I am now. Thank you.






           To my nieces and nephews, while I was unable to see all of you, I was blessed to see six out of nine of you during the holiday season.  Furthermore, of the three great nieces/nephews, I was able to see one. What a blessing each of you are to our family and me! Each of you is bright, articulate, witty, and all possess beautiful and unique souls.  When I am around you, I feel energized, renewed, and full of hope for the future. May you continue to bless the world with your sense of humor, creativity, and raw honesty. I love each of you.






           Mom and Dad, while you were not a perfect match for one another, you each did the best that you knew how to do at the time.  I could have never managed to go to school, work, and raise four kids in my twenties; yet, you unbelievably did just that despite the obstacles! Each of you instilled within me the love of the written word, appreciation and drive for education, a strong work ethic, and a love of movement.  Mom, you gave me the gift of cooking and baking; while Dad, you gave me the appreciation for quiet time in the woods. Both of you also shared with me the love of the beach, the mountains, educational travel, and you tempered my leadership, aka bossy skills! I hope each of you know how very much I realize you sacrificed of your own happiness for us kids.  Your early adult years were not easy; and I was NOT an easy first child, but through your struggles I learned, and, even now, I continue to learn from you. I am more empathetic and sensitive because of you. I love you both; and, I am so glad you each are traversing your own paths of happiness.







           Maddie, my singular, miraculous, and marvelous child, you are truly a gift, not only to your Dad and me, but also to the world. Your quick smile, sensitive nature, and pure, honest soul heals and/or soothes all who come into contact with you.  I was, and continue to be, an imperfect mother that is for sure. However, from the moment you were born and our eyes met, I have felt a deep, abiding Iove and connection with you that is more fierce and true than I ever knew was possible until I became your mother. Furthermore, you are my greatest teacher—providing me with ample lessons of humility, strength, and fortitude.  I love you, and will continue to love you “to the moon and back again” as your Dad and I would assure you when you were quite young.




           John, you are my dear husband and truest friend.  From our very first conversation, I knew you were the love of my life.  As my greatest cheerleader, you have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, however crazy they may seem to others.  You believe in me—even when my inner-demons of unworthiness raise their ugly heads of doubt and fear. I know that when we join hands, we are an unstoppable team that is able to face down any obstacle or challenge that life swerves our way.  Our nearly thirty years together have not always been easy, but just like the pains of birth, nothing worthwhile is born out of ease. It is through our challenges that we have grown, and they have only deepened my love and appreciation for you. You are, and always will be, my north star.  




           Finally, to you, Dear Readers, who faithfully read my words as I struggle to derive greater understanding, deeper meaning, and more positivity from life, thank you for joining me.  Whether you are reading my writing for the first time, or you are a follower and regular reader of my blog, you motivate me to continue this writing exploration as amateur as it is.  Your feedback, kind emails, and unspoken energy fuel this writing exploration. It is my wish that maybe, just maybe, in some small way I add a form of encouragement, optimism, and/or light to your life.  

           Here’s to 2019 and all its lessons, promises, as well as realities it has to offer us.  Namaste.


lit firecracker
Photo by Sonam Yadav on