I discovered the above poem at the tender age of seven, when I decided to plagiarize it and claim it for my own in a second-grade writing assignment. The teacher did not recognize the poem and gave me a “very creative” stamp on the paper. And guess what? I’ve felt guilty about it all these years. So here’s your shout-out, Monica Shannon. I’m sorry I stole your poem in second grade.  I still think of it whenever I see a caterpillar. And, sorry, second grade teacher (I think her name was Mrs. Ryan), for passing off this work as my own. Also, I probably shouldn’t have waited 40 years to make amends. Sorry. Sorry!

Speaking of guilt, I have a number of friends who are into raising monarch butterflies. They are considered endangered, you know. My friends wouldn’t have left this fellow on the milkweed to be eaten by a hungry bird. Oh no, they would have taken him inside to nurture him safely to butterfly adulthood. But I didn’t do that. I don’t really know the fate of this fat friend. I do know that he enjoyed his meal of milkweed leaves. He mowed them down with gusto, just like anyone who has read The Very Hungry Caterpillar would expect. I hope he moved on to a safe branch somewhere to begin his transformation into a stately monarch. But I feel guilty for not knowing.

I feel guilty for a lot of things. I feel guilty for not writing. I feel guilty for not cleaning my house. I feel guilty for not pulling weeds. I feel guilty that my office looks like it belongs on an episode of Hoarders. I feel guilty for not hugging my children enough. Or am I hugging them too much? I feel guilty that they spend too much time staring at a screen. I feel guilty for nagging them about their screen time. Most of the time I’m not even sure what I’m doing right or wrong, but guilt is a constant. And let’s not even get started on world hunger, social justice and the environment. If it has a hashtag, I probably feel guilty about it.

A very good friend once told me: “Guilt is a useless emotion.” She was mostly right, and I admired her ability to give guilt the cold shoulder. Guilt is paralyzing, stultifying, crazymaking. It tells you bad things about yourself. It’s a sign of thinking too much. Perhaps it’s also a catalyst for action, though. Doesn’t it spur us to do better? Or keep us from doing wrong in the first place? I have a sense that the antidote to guilt is action, and the cure is grace, but still I get mired in the guilt-mud on a regular basis.

Are you living a guilt-free life? What do you do about mommy guilt? Daddy guilt? Eco guilt? Other kinds of guilt? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

And by the way, I feel guilty for all the guilt I’ve laid on my kids over the years. But at least I feel better about the caterpillar poem now. That’s a start.

Mental Discipline

March 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Dawn Bertuca in Garden | Living On Purpose | Photos - (0 Comments)

Sometimes you just have to stop the negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts. Am I right? That’s why, even though it’s March 23 and we just got four inches of new snow, I’m refusing to photograph it. Instead, I’m posting pictures of these hyacinths. Yes, they’re forced blooms, but their perfume fills the entire first floor of my house. It may be winter on the outside, but it’s spring on the inside.

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Pretty City

January 26th, 2015 | Posted by Dawn Bertuca in Chicago | Photos - (0 Comments)

What a difference a year makes; it’s been a relatively mild winter in Chicago. Recently I happened to be downtown early on a Saturday and snapped this image by the Chicago River. The combination of hushed streets and morning light was pretty wonderful.

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These kids packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child!

Giving makes you happier! These kids packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

The holiday season is upon us. What does that mean to your kids? Is it time for them to gather with family? Celebrate their faith? Give to those less fortunate?

Or, is it time to sit down with a stack of catalogs and create a multi-page, color-coded and tabbed index of everything in the world they want from Santa?

If it’s the latter, don’t feel bad. Many of us think our families could do better in the “spirit of the season” department. It seems that as soon as Halloween ends, an onslaught of toy commercials hypnotizes our kids and turns them into “gimme monsters.” It’s not cute, and it’s not what we want for our families. But do not fear: There are many ways to put a giving spirit back in kids’ hearts during holiday time.

Reasons to Give

Why might families want to increase their focus on giving during the holiday season? Perhaps your faith calls you to be generous. Or, maybe you’re just tired of your kids asking for things when they clearly have enough toys, electronics and sports equipment to fill a warehouse. These reasons are motivation enough, but here are a few more:

The need is so great. In case you missed it, this has been a rough year around the world. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Sudan have upped the demand for humanitarian aid significantly. As a result, global humanitarian organizations are stretched to their limits. Yet, a poll of 2,000 Americans conducted by World Vision shows that most (80%) have no plans to increase their holiday charitable giving this year. I’m not sure why that is—lack of awareness, inability to afford giving, or simply thinking someone else will do it—but we can do better, folks.

Giving makes you happier. It’s a scientific fact! This study shows that giving actually increases happiness in kids.  Why not capitalize on kids’ natural altruistic tendencies and bring some feel-good to your family? You’ll find that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.

It’s a tax deduction. As the end of the year approaches, it’s nice to know you can significantly lower your tax bill just by giving money (or goods) to a qualified charitable organization. Just make sure you know the rules and document your giving.

How to Get Started

Now that we’ve covered the whys, let’s get into the hows: How do you make giving a priority this holiday season? (more…)

“I don’t really know what my mom does all day, but she used to be a writer.”

Trophy Mom mug available on Etsy. It might be the only recognition you get!

Trophy Mom mug available on Etsy. It might be the only recognition you get!

That’s what my son wrote as part of a “getting to know you” writing assignment in school last year. I don’t know what was more upsetting about reading that sentence: Discovering my “former writer” status, or absorbing the implication that I don’t presently have much of a life.

I have to admit, it stung. I was tempted to hand my kid a list of all the “mom chores” I do every day, or point out the writing projects (both paid and volunteer) I have done in the past year. I did neither.

I did think a lot about recognition, and why it hurt me so much to feel unrecognized. Clearly, I had not earned “mom of the year” status in my son’s eyes, despite all my momming around, since he couldn’t even figure out what I did all day. And my writing exploits were, apparently, far from impressive. At least, they didn’t make much of an impression on him. That one sentence in my son’s essay stirred up a hornet’s nest of doubts about whether I was performing well at either of my “jobs.”  Of course, those doubts had been buzzing in my brain for a while. Being a mother can be a thankless job. The benefits are fantastic, but the pay sucks, and there are no trophies. In my work as a freelance writer, I seldom get any public recognition. All the “glory” goes to my clients, which is the way it’s supposed to be. I do get a paycheck at the end of the project, most of the time.

So, I’m stuck with a recognition deficit. Only time will tell if my kids ever recognize what I did all day, and truly, I don’t really care. It’s not their job to fill me up. But it is nice to have a community of other parents to say “hey, I see you, and you’re doing a good job,” and then say it right back to them. If you’ve ever felt the same way, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m nursing a nasty cold on a rainy day (and therefore not getting much done), so it seemed like a good time to check out the new Hyperlapse app, which lets you create stunning time-lapse videos with your phone. When I think of time-lapse photography, I think of watching natural processes unfold. So, I walked around my yard for awhile in search of something time-lapse-worthy. Hampered by rain and mosquitoes, I settled on this leaf. The raindrops are sped up to 12x their original speed. I think it’s pretty cool for a first attempt. I should have left the video running for just a second longer, though. My next try will inevitably be better. I already know what I’m going to attempt to capture next. Companies are already jumping on Hyperlapse as a unique way to share content. Here are five examples of how marketers are using it. Have you tried Hyperlapse yet? Where do you think it’s best applied? As always, I’d love to hear from you!

You can follow me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/dawnann12. My theme is “finding beautiful in the everyday.” Hope you enjoy it!

Visiting Chicago this summer? Or do you live here, like me, and need a good “staycation” idea? A day (or half day) exploring Millennium Park is a great choice for a laid-back, free-to-cheap, kid-friendly excursion. If you haven’t taken your kids to explore this downtown oasis, now is the time. Millennium Park is celebrating its tenth anniversary, and the city is planning plenty of extra activities. The giant “head” sculpture below (one of four) is part of a new art installation by Jaume Plensa commemorating the anniversary. It’s so serene; I loved it. The free public art—from the stunning Pritzker Pavillion to the iconic Cloud Gate—as well as free cultural activities, are what make Millennium Park such a community jewel.

There’s plenty to do, from strolling the Lurie Gardens to cooling off in Crown Fountain. You can snag a free guided tour or simply wander.  Catch a concert at the pavillion; take your picture reflected in “the Bean.” Pack a picnic lunch or just grab a Lemon Chill on the Chase Promenade. It’s all good. Get the specifics on all these suggestions in my “Do Millennium Park” list on Raved Mobile!  I’d love to hear your suggestions as well.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Millennium Park? Tell me in the comments!

Spring Heats Up!

May 5th, 2014 | Posted by Dawn Bertuca in Garden | Photos - (0 Comments)

Spring is showing up in fits and starts here in Chicagoland. I captured this wind-splayed tulip over the weekend. I do not know the variety, but I purchased the bulb last summer in Holland, Michigan, one of my “happy places!” When closed, the tulip petals make a nice flame shape to complement their blazing color.

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Happy Spring!

April 11th, 2014 | Posted by Dawn Bertuca in Garden | Photos | Social Media - (0 Comments)

It’s finally warm enough to venture outside here in Chicago! Trying to find something photo-worthy in the newly thawed yard is a challenge. This chair was made by a lumberjack in northern Wisconsin. When it started to disintegrate, I put it out in the garden. I tried to cover it with moss milkshake, thinking a moss-covered seat would be cute, but it didn’t take. The neighboring tree is more friendly to moss, it seems.

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More #Chiberia

March 12th, 2014 | Posted by Dawn Bertuca in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

This winter just keeps on going. It’s a pretty snow this time, but it’s worn out its welcome. Spring, where are you?