Cabin Fever

snowbound3Cabin fever is defined as boredom, restlessness or irritability that results from a lack of environmental stimulation, according to the American Heritage Dictionary. The name first surfaced in the west in the 1800’s when people were more likely to spend whole winters in a remote cabin  isolated. Wikipedia describes it as a claustrophobic reaction to being shut in a small space with nothing to do for an extended period. When experiencing this, a person may tend to sleep more and have distrust of anyone they are with, accompanied by an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow, dark or hail.  It eerily goes on to say that the character Jack Torrance suffers from cabin fever in the movie The Shining. As if this is some sort of precautionary warning?

I don’t know about Wikipedia’s message intent, but let’s just say I have been feeling bored and perhaps a little irritable lately.  Could I have cabin fever in this day and age of instant connections with people on Facebook, Twitter and constant access to cell phones and texting?  How could I be feeling as isolated as those people in the 1800’s in remote cabins?  Could it be due to the extremes in weather we’ve experienced in the Midwest? I realized it also might be the fact that I don’t have a car right now due to a suspiciously out of the blue engine failure of someone’s car in my family. This cabin fever was made worse by my decision to leave my place of employment two weeks ago and embark in unchartered territory, searching for a more suitable profession that I can pursue with passion.

Items on my to-do list have been checked off. Bills to pay, office to organize, house to clean, laundry to get caught up on  check. Cooking new recipes, baking cookies  check. Reading that deep philosophical book I told myself I would finally read. …I am getting to it as soon as my sock drawer is organized. Yes, I forgot  check.

So I sit in front of my computer plotting and prodding myself forward. No one is there to tell me not to take a nap. The couch looks so comfortable and soft staring at me from the table where I sit writing. What else can I do with my time in the remote cabin of my imaginings?  I start to feel a kindred bond with my 1800’s relatives in those cabins creeping into my psyche. The snow keeps coming down, the winds howl, the temperatures drop to negatives.  Not even Facebook can keep me from claustrophobic feelings in this weather.

Since leaving my job, there have been days I haven’t left my house. To stave off those restless feelings of boredom and sleepiness, I am trying to keep busy and get out once a day. At the very least, until the weather breaks, I will slough my way to the mailbox in the snow and dark of night, if needed.  I will breathe in the frigid air, or be doomed to stir restlessly until the wee hours of the morning, rummaging through the cupboard looking for chamomile tea.

And so with some fresh arctic air in my lungs and my sloughing exercises finished, I sat down the other night with a bowl of popcorn and decided to watch a movie  as I scanned through the listings on my TV  I came to the S’s. The Shining appeared on my screen.

I decided to take a pass on movie night and started looking for that book….

How are you handling this long winter?

-Diane Hiller

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Honor Flight Chicago: A Day to Remember

By Diane Hiller

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is the interaction with new people every day.  A few days ago, I met someone special. We were talking about the weather and I noticed his cap. This man was wearing a War Veteran’s cap. I asked him what war and he responded Viet Nam. He looked hesitantly at me as if wearily waiting for me to say something. I wondered if he was remembering the treatment our Viet Nam Vets experienced after coming home from war. If you were raised in the sixties, the Viet Nam War was the most controversial conflict the USA had ever entered. Unfairly, that sentiment was aimed at the soldiers returning from war. They were spit on, and called terrible names by some who opposed the war. No hero’s welcome for them.

I told him my dad was a WWII veteran. His eyes became teary; as he talked with me about an organization he was involved in, called Honor Flight Chicago. This group sponsors WWII veterans on a trip to the Washington World War II Memorial. Each Vet has a sponsor who accompanies them on their trip to Washington D.C. They are met by dignitaries and escorted to the memorial site. Many of these men have never spoken about what they endured and witnessed, not even to their own families. The memorial and the camaraderie of their fellow vets perhaps allows them the opportunity to talk about their experiences and shed tears for those brothers in combat who didn’t return. They are given the star treatment, and are welcomed with crowds at the airports along with a water cannon salute, as they taxi to the gate and arrive home. Was my dad still alive, he asked? No, he passed away in 2006, I found myself saying through watery eyes. I had always wanted to take my dad to his World War II Memorial, but never got the chance.

The Honor Flight Chicago organization has flown 45 flights from 2008-2012. They have flown 3,806 World War II Veterans to their War Memorial. 89 is the average age of our Vets on the waiting list. There are an estimated 21,000 WWII Vets, who have not had their honor flight in the Chicago area. There are 8 scheduled flights for 2013. Each flight costs $35,000 dollars. This group hopes to continue these flights for veterans of all wars through the years.

As we closed our conversation, we both had tears in our eyes. I knew then that this was a very special group and he was a very special man. A veteran, himself of a war, where soldiers returning home did not get a hero’s welcome. Here he was giving these veterans, a hero’s welcome and memories they will never forget.   As we celebrate our Nation’s birth and our freedoms, let us remember our aging WWII Veterans by donating to Honor Flight Chicago. And remember the sacrifices of all veterans by paying it forward to the next generation of war veterans. They are all heroes.

To volunteer, donate or fill out application for a flight, go to:

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Memorial Day Remembrances

By Diane Hiller

I thought It appropriate to re-post this remembrance today.

I found the box of photos on the bottom shelf in a dusty damp corner of the basement. As I leafed through the faded black and white images that were part of the contents marked miscellaneous, I realized I had come across old photos of my father. The pictures were faded and small, but in remarkably good condition even though they were unprotected  and strewn haphazardly among the other items.  I had never seen these photos of him, at his air base in England. He looked like every other G.I. I had seen in pictures. It was hard to believe this was my Dad. He looked so young − they all did.

Other G.I’s were standing next to him or casually sitting on the ground in a fenced in area. Some of them were smoking cigarettes, others had their arms folded and some were smiling at the camera. My father had never mentioned these pictures and so I had no idea who the other men were in the photographs. They were probably fellow mechanics or maybe gunners or pilots on the planes. The fly boys, as Dad called them got the glory, but he didn’t mind, they also had the bigger risks. He had wanted to be a pilot. He was glad now that his mother wouldn’t let him sign up to fly. I wondered how many of those men in the picture made it home safely.

As my father grew older, he would talk more about his war memories, perhaps to make sure this personal history wasn’t forgotten and lost forever. As I have mentioned before, he was stationed on an air base in England called Deopham Greene where he worked on B-17’s.   He recounted how anxious he would feel as he ran out to the field with his buddies to watch the Flying Fortresses limp home from their raids over Germany.  Nervously, they would count each plane as it came back, dreading when the count was short. One day a plane made it all the way back from a raid over Germany with an engine out, only to crash-land and catch fire on the runway. He remembers the horror of pulling the crew out of the wreckage, never forgetting the men they lost that day − men that he had known.

My mother’s father, who was English, fought in World War I. He had suffered from the effects of breathing in mustard gas that the Germans used as a weapon during the war and my grandfather suffered complications from this for his lifetime. My husband’s brother served in Vietnam and we have a nephew who served in the Gulf War.

I realized after closing up the box of photos that every generation of my family since my grandfather has been touched by war, as many families have been. We were lucky and they all came back alive, many did not. Those are the men and women we honor on Memorial Day.

I admit, sometimes I get caught up in other things. I get too busy getting out the Jell-O mold and potato salad recipe; I want a day to relax and an extra day off work. Occasionally, I need to remind myself of the real meaning of the day. Here is what I learned:

The origins of Memorial Day were started when it was a day of remembrance for those who died in our nation’s service. Originally called Decoration Day, it was made official on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and was first observed on May 30, 1868. Flowers were placed on the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington Cemetery.

In 1915, A Canadian Army Doctor, John McCrae was at Flanders in Belgium tending to the sick and wounded on the battlefield. He wrote the poem Flanders Field, which is now often recited at Memorial Day services across the country. The poppy is a bright red annual flower whose seed can lay dormant for years in the soil until it is disturbed, and then it germinates and grows. Ironically this is what happened on the battlefields of Flanders. The doctor was moved by the poppies growing amidst all of the death and destruction in the fields. The poem became a symbol of the war and moved two women on two different continents to do something for those affected. Anna Guerin of France and Moina Michael of the U.S. sold artificial poppies to help those impoverished by World War I. The practice of selling poppies is still happening today in many towns by veteran’s organizations. In 1971, Memorial Day became an official federal holiday and was switched from May 30th to the last Monday in May.  In 2000 the White House instituted a National Moment of Remembrance to be held at 3 pm on Memorial Day, to preserve the meaning of what Memorial Day stands for.

Growing up my father always flew an American Flag on holidays and always took us to the services on Memorial Day. Because of that tradition, I have always taken my family to the Memorial Day Parade and services in Hinsdale.  I have been privileged to sit on the dais alongside the war veterans and participate in the services. This Monday, take your children to see these real-life heroes, as they honor their fallen brothers and sisters.

Please join me in remembering those who have fallen by attending a service, flying your flag and visiting a cemetery to lay flowers on the graves of those who died, making the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe and free.

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

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Moving Day

By Diane Hiller

I lay in bed this morning, my feelings see-sawing from dread to excitement. We are moving out of the house my husband and I built, created life in, nurtured and raised three beautiful souls in for the past twenty-two years. This was the place of many celebrations and parties with people that I cared about and mattered in my life. A launching pad for goals and dreams fulfilled. The kids grew,friends came and went; cars of teens drove up looking for my baby child who was no longer that but a stranger with a personality to match. I didn’t sleep during those years, until everyone was home safely in bed.

Such happy times they were and some not so happy, but the good outweighed the bad in my memory. God’s gift to me, kind of like forgetting the pain of childbirth once you see that precious new life in your arms screaming their head off. Feed me, take care of me, I’m yours, they would say to me with their cries. And I did, for twenty-two years in the house with the beautiful windows I picked out and the intricate lines of the ornate white molding I loved so much surrounding them as if the windows were picture frames that were framing a gorgeous view of my life.  The walls were painted happy colors of joy and hope for the future, sunny yellow, nature green, flowery lilac. The stairs that had the black and gold flowered carpet I had picked out so as not to show dirt. The dirt from the gym shoes running down the stairs, the hand prints on the walls my son would touch pretending he was a Notre Dame Football player. “Play like a champion today,” he would recite before running out the door. Then there were the scratches on the wood floors where my girls would clop with their hard shoes practicing their Irish dancing steps for the next competition. I remember staying up for hours curling hair for those Feis dances. And how can I forget the maple syrup stain that my three year old toddler son made in the matter of 30 seconds, when I was distracted on the phone. By promptly taking the syrup bottle out of the cabinet, walking into the family room (accompanied eagerly by our dog) and pouring it all over the carpet. What the thought process was of that action in his little mind I will never know.

Now I was leaving, nothing left to do. I spent countless hours looking through photo albums, with the kids as I packed them carefully away. Instantly remembering the event or time it recorded. I had to laugh at some of my clothes and hair-dos of the times (what was I thinking?) The flowery pastel skirt and top, two-piece out-fits and who could forget those high-waisted jeans with white gym shoes, believe me I tried to. Oh, and the fanny pack my kids thought was hilarious. Not to mention the “big hair” I had back then.

I cried when I saw the picture of my parents on their wedding day and the ones of them with the kids at their birthday parties, their loving and adoring faces looking out from the pages. I wish they were still here, I thought through blurry eyes. Why didn’t I really appreciate that time more?  I admired pictures of my gardens in their glory days when I lived outside nurturing them after my children were grown. Those were also times when I needed a diversion from life going on inside those walls. I needed beauty and accomplishment and so I dug and planted and pruned, weeded, watered and shared my flowers with friends.

Goodbye house, be as good to the new owners as you were to us. I hope they don’t accidentally dig up all of the guinea pigs and hamsters that were sent off, over the years with a service and burial by the back fence. My daughter wouldn’t like that.

I know tomorrow, I will look forward to the future and making more happy memories, but for right now the time has sadly come to leave this home.  I will close the door and lock it for the last time with a click. The echoes of the past coming back to me, happy echoes I will keep in my heart forever.


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Let’s get Physical

No Pain – No Gain 

As the saying goes, after a two-year absence for reasons ranging from expense to the time it takes, to the logic that I can get the same results at home, I’m back at the gym working out. Things have changed since I was a member of a health club back in the 80’s. Does anyone remember the women – only “spa” health clubs of the 1980’s?  There was a location in Villa Park that I was persuaded to go to on my lunch hours with my female boss, she insisted – I think she wanted company in her misery. And so I did what any other employee would do to suck up to the boss, I went –  hating every minute of it.

It was all pink, cramped, crowded and had a hot tub in the changing area that looked like a science experiment gone wrong. Yes, we wore leotards, leg warmers and head bands! What a sight, I think mine were pink. That was my first experience with health clubs and I must say I did start to notice a difference from going. I felt more toned and had more energy. Even though I’m sure we looked like Olivia Newton-John wanna-be’s from one of her exercise videos.

Fast forward to throwing my back out when my kids were younger and I was lifting them up – a lot. “Mommy-uppy!” was a constant refrain heard in my household. I was sent to a physical therapist by my doctor and I healed and strengthened my back very quickly from that experience. I still feigned injury for a while after being healed so I could actually sit on the couch in the evenings with a heating pad while hubby tended to the little ones. The jig was up when he saw me in the family room dancing around with the dog and kids one day when he got home from work. After going back to mommy duty with my back, I became a regular in their Super-Slo work-outs, which were one-on-one training sessions on weight equipment with very heavy weights and super-slo reps until you reached muscle failure. The pluses were a twenty-minute work-out, once a week. The negatives were the cost and the sheer torture of it, although it was only for two-minute intervals. The results were great and I never ended up looking overly muscular like a body builder, which I was initially worried about ( I was leg pressing 300 pounds! and It felt like I was giving birth.) When the kids started going off to college and the budget got tight, I thankfully had an excuse to quit.

My next foray into the work-out world was with exercise tapes and free weights at home. Which over time became half a tape and recently degenerated to picking out only the exercises I liked doing. I started running about a year ago, which I thought I would be good at until I just recently found out-I’m not. After 2-5K’s under my belt my running time is getting worse. Don’t get me wrong, I still like to run, and will continue, but I’m just not very fast. I also didn’t see much difference in tone or weight loss from running. For women over fifty, you need an adjustment in your work-out styles. Weight training, I am learning is very important to tone and to build muscle which we lose a pound of every year after the age of 35. So even if you used to do a lot of cardio when you were younger, as you get older, you need to add more weights. Muscle burns more calories than fat and you will have more strength and balance. It is also good for your bone density.

I have just started back on weight machines and after three visits, I’ve already noticed a difference. So, my advice to women, over fifty especially is don’t give up exercise with weights. Find a gym, if money is tight, they have very good inexpensive fitness centers cropping up all over. Get into a routine and go to the gym the same time and find a rotation of days that works for you. I find the mornings to be my best time to go,  three times a week.  Pick a good time for you. I liken it to starting a new job. At first it’s really hard and challenging but you will start to get into a good routine and enjoy the results once you start seeing them, and you will.  But with this job you won’t be forced by your boss to wear pink leotards and leg warmers, which is a good thing.

Let me know what you think about gyms and working out. Are you a regular or are you struggling to go? Did you go a couple of times and now your membership card is collecting dust in the drawer? What are your stories and motivations to help us all?

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Reader Appreciation Award

Thanks to Renee Spindle for nominating me for the Reader’s Appreciation Award. I am honored to accept the award and pay it forward…Here are my nominations for the Reader Appreciation Award:

1. Trifatherhood is written by a father as a letter to his kids. He is a triathlete and his observations are interesting coming from a father’s point of view.

2. Simplify2X I love the concept, photos and look of the site. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

3. Kristen Lamb’s Blog Not that she needs more readers, but there is a reason why this is a popular blog among writers. Check it out. Great advice and tips for writers.

4. Renee’s Revelings I love the personal stories and feel of Renee’s posts.

5. Me and My Muppet Quirky and silly, yes! Only from the mind of a writer! If you need a good laugh, go visit and see where they will go next.

6. Alenas Life Calendar style blog, easy to read and something different everyday. She mixes it up. Love her latest book review.

Now it’s your turn to nominate your favorites! Recipients of this award should nominate six of their favorites, copy the Award logo onto their site and acknowledge the one who nominated you!

There are many more that I love to read. More to come…

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Daisy Dash 5 K– Life Lessons and Paying it Forwar

By Diane Hiller

Thank you Daisy Dash, for reminding me about the rules of life. I only have one complaint. What’s with all the hills? Oh that’s right, we live in Clarendon Hills.  I’m the one in the middle of the photo with the white hat, gasping for air to get to the finish line.

It’s not like I’m making excuses or anything but I’m not an avid runner or athlete. Before training, I was running about two miles once or twice a week in the summer only. I started training about four weeks ago doing 8-11 miles a week and was injured two weeks into it. I was told to get an x-ray (which I didn’t) and no more running until the race (which I did.) So I toughed it out and ran today but did terribly.

It’s funny but I really don’t feel so bad about it. At least I’m able to run and finish a race. I like to run because it is hard for me. It makes other areas of my life easier to get through because of the discipline of running.

I was in a workshop downtown recently for grant writing. I was speaking to a woman next to me about the economy and how hard it is right now, with lots of roadblocks for nonprofits and for many people and families, as well.  She was from an organization on the south side of Chicago and knew a thing or two about roadblocks. But instead of agreeing with me or chiming in herself, she put her hand on mine and said, “Stop thinking of them as road blocks, they are opportunities for you that are opening up and you are lucky to have them.”

I remembered her words as I struggled today to finish the race. I realized my running parallels life in so many ways, I decided to share list of do’s and don’ts:

  1. If you can’t run, walk for a while. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail to live up to your expectations. Walk then run but don’t give up just because it’s hard.
  2. When an outstretched hand offers you water, take it. You don’t know where or if the next one is coming. Oh, and don’t forget to run through the sprinkler too, it will cool you off and makes you feel like a kid again. Accept kindness and laugh once in a while. Don’t take life too seriously.
  3. Smile and thank the volunteers in the race. Giving is as good as getting so don’t forget to pay it back in some way. Volunteer for something in your community that may not be the charity “du jour” but could really use your help.
  4.  Pay attention to road blocks on the route. They are there to guide us in the right direction. We think our road blocks in life are stopping us, but they are really there to open up opportunities for change and growth. My workshop friend was right.
  5. Even though you train and see success around the bend, you may get injured running. No matter how prepared you think you are.  Life is going to throw you a curveball. Be flexible and roll with it. Sometimes life isn’t fair, deal with it and move on.
  6. When life hands you lemons…take a big bite, spit out the seeds and be glad you are alive to enjoy another beautiful day in paradise!


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