Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: Uncategorized

Photo Caption Contest

If you want to join the photo caption contest, it’s super easy! All you have to do is create a caption for this photo of the bear below, and type it in the comments below (along with your email address) by September 30, 2018 11:59pm CDT! (PLEASE NOTE: Your email address will not show up in the comment if you use the form below. Your name shows up, but your email only goes to me. If you have any questions, please let me know. It’s not necessary to put your email address in the actual comment! Thanks!)

There will be at least 3 winners. First place gets his/her choice between a  $5.00 Amazon Gift Card, one of my books (print and signed–if you live in the contiguous 48 states of the U.S. or an e-copy of Caught Between Two Curses if not), or a  25% OFF coupon for Editor 911 services.  Second and third place winners will have the choice between the remaining prizes after the first place winner chooses. The judges are myself and my daughter. We are looking for clever and/or funny. You may enter more than one time! Please put separate entries in separate comments, and have fun! Any questions, please email me at margo@wow-womenonwriting (dot) com.

What are you waiting for? This photo above needs a caption! The winners will be acknowledged in another post at the beginning of October.

While you’re here, don’t miss the chance to:

  1. Sign up for WOW!’s Book Marketing class, which I am teaching and starts September 26. If marketing has eluded you up to this point, this online class will get you going in the right direction–finishing with a marketing plan to put into action.
  2. Plus, my popular Write a Novel With a Writing Coach starts October 5, 2018. This online class is perfect for anyone who needs some feedback on their novel or who needs weekly deadlines.
  3. Over at Editor 911, I also offer packages for writing coach services, book editing, marketing, and picture book writing.  Go here. 






Top 5 Parenting Posts for All You Moms and Dads Out There

Since I have a few subjects I write about and accept guest posts about, I’m creating a few round-ups over the next week or so. I’m starting with a subject near and dear to my heart–parenting. WOW! It’s hard, right? Who knew? I guess our parents did, but then they wanted grandchildren, so they kept to themselves. Facebook and Pinterest make it look so easy–and makes us wonder why we are struggling so much. I’m a firm believer in practical parenting, too, as many of you know–let’s get down to what is important and how we can do that important stuff as easily and practical as we can. So…here are FIVE of my favorite posts. Hopefully, you will get some parenting tips from these!  (To find more, you can click the PARENT tag to the right in the TAG CLOUD.)

  1. Having Fun With Your Kids…Say what? Why is having fun important? Besides providing meals, clothing, shelter, and education plus taking our kids to the dentist, doctor, and school, we should also have fun? Yes!This post is inspired by our activities over the weekend and my subsequent thoughts. I’m being a little silly because of course, you know that having fun with your children is important. But let’s also be realistic–a lot of parenting is not fun. …(click the link to read more: (https://margoldill.com/having-fun-with-your-kids/) 
  2. Advice From Grandma: I am Listening… Grandmas love to spoil grandkids and love to give advice. If some of you follow me on WOW! Women On Writing or Facebook, you know that I’m currently watching Gilmore Girls from episode 1 to the reunion show (exclusively for Netflix, that takes place 10 years later in good ole Stars Hollow). This is the best show for an example of “Grandmas love to give advice” because Emily Gilmore constantly shares her wisdom and her unwanted opinion with Lorelai, her daughter and mother of a teenager/young adult. Click to read more… (https://margoldill.com/advice-from-grandma-i-am-listening/)
  3. A Lesson for the First Time at the Ocean: Get to the Root of the Problem This summer, Katie and I went on a fabulous little trip to visit one of my best friends, who has a condo in Ocean City, Maryland. And this was Katie’s first time to see the ocean. It was her first time on a beach. It was her first time to go into the ocean. And it was the least favorite part of her trip.

    How can this be? (Click the link to read morehttps://margoldill.com/a-lesson-for-the-first-time-at-the-ocean-get-to-the-root-problem/)

  4. Practical Moms Unite: Traveling With Your Child So the 6-year-old and I went on a trip during spring break, and I’m just now posting about it. No, it’s not because I need to recover–it actually went quite well. But I thought now would be a good time to talk about some practical tips for traveling with your child or children with summer break just around the corner.

    First, don’t go to Disneyworld. HA! Just kidding. .. To read more, click the link…(https://margoldill.com/practical-moms-unite-traveling-on-spring-break/)

  5. Put the Parenting Magazines Down and Step Away Carefully One day, my friend Julie said, “Have you seen the latest issue of (Insert some wonderful parenting magazine here) and their suggestions for back-to-school lunches?”

    The funny thing is I had seen that article–I think it must have been a free issue sent to many houses, and I remember thinking: Do people really make these types of entrees for their child’s school lunch? Coconut and raisin pita roll up?  To read more, click the link…(https://margoldill.com/put-the-parenting-magazines-down-and-step-away-carefully/)

There are my top 5. Remember, I’m always looking for good parenting tips and guest posts about humorous parenting issues, as well as any serious topics you want to discuss. You can email me at margolynndill (at) gmail.com! Happy practical parenting!


Announcing the Guest Post Winner and the $10 Amazon Gift Card

I have been very lucky to have so many people show an interest in this blog, which touches on many topics important to parents–both single and married, writers, and women (single and married). 🙂

I have discussed before how it is difficult for me to keep up with consistent blogging because I have a full-time job, am a single parent, am trying to date and nurture my friendships, am freelancing, and am working on a novel! But I have a lot of things to say that don’t fit in any of those categories of my life; and when the mood strikes and time is on my side, I create blog posts. Hence the reason for this blog. And I am so lucky that many people want to contribute because it helps keep it up-to-date whenever I can get a post up. Anyway, enough of this boring talk, let’s get to the winner.

In a fall newsletter, I put a call out for guest posts and promised a $10 Amazon gift card to one winner once I had 5 who were interested in the gift card. I put a deadline on it of December 31, 2017, and so now, after randomly choosing a winner, that person is. . .

Amy Harke-Moore

She wrote a great post right before Christmas about doing the holiday at her pace. She also has a great website called “A Rural Girl Writes”. When you click over there, the first post that pops up today (1/28/2018 while writing this post) is a recipe for Butternut Beer Brat Soup! Yum!

Congratulations, Amy.

Thank you to everyone who reads, contributes, comments on, clicks on, likes, and visits the posts on my blog.

Great Parenting Needn’t Be Expensive

(contributed article)

The start of the new year is a lean time for many as we awaken, bleary eyed from the excess of late December and face the challenges of the new year. The trouble is that the view can be pretty grim through the lens of a New Year’s hangover (literally, metaphorically, or all of the above). After what seems like an eternity of seasonal spending, your bank balance aches, and your credit score looks grimmer than your father-in-law when he unwrapped yet another pair of socks for Christmas. Maybe you maxed out your credit cards to pay for the Christmas season; and though the memories will last a lifetime, they certainly won’t pay the bills. Soon the kids will be back at school and a whole new avenue of expense will open itself up to you.

If you’re recovering from the spend-a-thon of the festive season, it can feel like your personal finances simply won’t allow you to spend money on quality time with your children. For all their wonderful new Christmas presents, eventually they will grow tired of them, and you will be hearing, “I’m bored.” While there are lenders out there who specialize in personal loans for bad credit, your parenting needn’t go hand in hand with your expenditure. Sometimes, the most meaningful gifts you can give your children involve no to little expense whatsoever.

Be forthcoming with your affection

All the iPhones, xBoxes, and designer shoes in the world amount to nothing when you are comparing them to your child feeling loved. While your kids are unlikely to ask for hugs and kisses, they crave them far more than the superficial trappings, which they’re far more vocal about. Tell them that you love them and you’re proud of them. Kiss and hug them every day. If you don’t engage with them on this level (despite their protestations), it’s one of the ways to impede their interpersonal development when they grow up.

Nourish them

Nourishment is one of the most important duties of a parent. This means not only giving them the emotional nourishment they need but ensuring that they eat a balanced diet. While they’ll never thank you for it, a good diet is one of the most important gifts you can give a child. It will ensure that they grow up as healthy and nutritionally aware adults who lead long and healthy lives. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to load up on cheaply made pre-packaged foods just because money’s tight. Filling your fridge with fresh veggies and researching nutritious and delicious recipes that enable your kids to actually enjoy them is not only great parenting, it’s surprisingly easy on the household budget.

Treat them like an adult

Maybe don’t offer them a cigarette and a shot of vodka before sitting down to your favorite zombie flick 🙂 HA! HA! , but treating your kids with the same respect and transparency as you’d treat, say, a work colleague, is tremendously empowering for them and is likely to engender maturity.

While it’s perfectly fine to spoil your kids over the festive period, it’s important to remember, especially in the thrifty aftermath, that the most meaningful gifts you can give your kids won’t cost you a penny.


Making a Commitment to Morning Pages

I’m doing it. I’m making a commitment right here and now, to anyone reading this, that I’m writing Morning Pages every single morning!

What are Morning Pages? If you have read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, then you’re familiar with Morning Pages. OR if you have ever been to just about any writing conference or creativity workshop, you have probably heard about them. If not, Morning Pages are:

 Three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.  (From Julia Cameron’s website/book)

I started today (and actually wound up with FOUR pages). Day one down. I’ve had a creativity block for a while now–although every once in a while I am inspired to write something like this post, “A Letter to a Narcissist” I wrote this week. So, today during Morning Pages, I came up with a first sentence for a short story. No idea where that will lead me, but since then, I’ve been thinking about this line and who could say it and what the conflict for the story could be.

I did a Google search for “morning pages”, and I happened upon Chris Winfield’s site. His tagline is “take back your life.” He has a free ebook (in exchange for your email address) titled How to Save 23.3 Hours Each Week. His site is all about working smarter, not harder. But he also has this amazing page about Morning Pages, which you can check out here. He starts the post by saying he never thought he’d have time in the morning to write three pages by hand, but he made a commitment to do it; and since then, he says that some of these amazing things have happened in his life:

  • I’ve come up with ideas that changed my businesses
  • I’ve worked through issues that were bothering me and seemed overwhelming
  • I’ve been better in tune with my intuition and listening to my heart
  • They have shown me what’s most important in my life and helped me to focus on that
  • and more….(check out the link above to see what else he says)

Pretty amazing, right?

So I’m making the commitment. I also recently made the commitment to read something for enjoyment EVERY SINGLE DAY. Now I read a lot. I read a lot of online articles, blog posts, unfinished manuscripts, emails, kids’ books (to my daughter), and articles about agriculture. But I haven’t been reading for myself. My creativity and writing have suffered because of this. So, since last Sunday, 11/12/2017, I said: “Enough is enough.” Katie and I went to the library. I found a novel written by an author my friend suggested. And I’m happy to say that I have read at least one chapter every day.

Surely, all these positive steps–reading and Morning Pages–will continue to feed my creativity and renew my spirit, and soon that first line I wrote during my Morning Pages will turn into something more.

By the way, for some people, journaling (which is what Morning Pages is) can give you results in your life. If you have never checked out Mari L. McCarthy’s Create Write Now site, then you should. Start with this post I did on her book–all the links you will need to find out her amazing story are in that post here


Practical Parenting: Making Bedtime and Sleeping Better For Your Child at Any Age

When it comes to babies and really young children, it’s undeniable that routine is king. With the world so big and unpredictable, routines help to bring order to the chaos and are highly beneficial for establishing good sleep patterns. With night times sorted, day times tend to flow much easier – kids and parents are in a better mood and have more energy for active play and creativity. It’s never too early to start with introducing a bedtime routine that works for you, your baby and their siblings. The key is simply consistency. Here’s how to create a restful routine that works.

Where do I start?

You can get started with introducing a routine from as early as six weeks old. It may not stick right away, of course, but you’re putting in strong foundations for the future. If you think about it, we all need time to unwind before falling asleep, and babies are no different. With older children, it’s helpful to explain what you’re doing and why. So tell them: “We are having a story, and then we’re going to bed, so that we can get up in the morning and play.” Find advice from Mothers and More on the safest sleeping positions to introduce.

Make Bedtime Special

Many small children get anxious at the thought of being separated from you, and that’s perfectly natural. So spending some one on one time before bed is a great way of relaxing them. Reading a storybook, singing a bedtime song, and having plenty of cuddles before they get into bed helps to take away the fear factor. Many parents try a white noise machine – babies are used to background noise and motion from their time in the womb and often like the sound of a fan or even a washing machine or dryer to help them fall asleep!

Try a Transition Activity

Before you go straight into pre-bedtime, it’s useful to use a transition activity to move from active play into a more relaxed state. This can start with a quieter kids program centered around rest, like In The Night Garden; it can be taking a bath with bubbles; or it can be playing quietly in their room for a while. Easing gently into the routine is much better than expecting them to immediately feel sleepy the second their pjs are on.

Put Them Down Drowsy

Make sure that you put babies especially down to sleep when they are drowsy, and not fully asleep. This helps to manage “micro-wakeups” during the night. Imagine if you went to sleep in a nice, soft bed and woke up on the lawn outside. You’d be really freaked out, right? You might yell. You’d definitely want to know what had happened. And you’d probably have a hard time getting back to sleep again. The exact same is true with babies that fall asleep being rocked or cradled in your arms. When they “come to” during the night, they may realize that they are not in the situation they were when they fell asleep – and they’re likely to protest about that! Teaching them to fall asleep in their own environment is really important and helps to make sure they’re able to get themselves back to sleep if they do wake up.

Create the Right Environment for Sleep

Just as it is for adults, creating the right environment to promote sleep is very important for babies and young children. So check that you have a comfortable mattress, that the room is the right temperature, and that your baby has comfortable sleepwear, like a swaddle or a sleep sack. Lighting is also important – it doesn’t have to be pitch-black; you can add in a soft night light if your child needs it for comfort. Make sure they also go to bed without feeling hungry – so a last feed or bottle can be given around 20 minutes before you put them down to sleep, and toddlers may want a bedtime snack – although avoid giving them any sweets or fruit juice.

Never Use Bed As A Threat

Resist turning bedtime into a negative by steering away from telling your children they’ll go to bed if they’re naughty. Focus on reducing their stress and anxiety over going to bed by keeping your tone of voice positive and calm; babies are very quick to pick up on tension and anger. Taking the softly-softly approach can work wonders.

Make Daytime Naps a Priority

A lot of parents think that if their child doesn’t sleep well during the day, the sleep will get made up at night, but the reverse is usually true. Getting overtired can mean that sending children off to sleep simply doesn’t work as well and may lead to more wake-ups during the night. At least one nap each day in their crib or toddler bed helps them get more used to the same sleeping environment when it’s time for bed.

How do you establish a nighttime routine?

(contributed post)


Hidden Wonders of America

contributed post

America is an incredible place to visit; and if you find yourself exploring the land of the brave and the free, do yourself a favor! Forget the main tourist spots like Orlando and New York. While they each have unique wonders, you’ll be missing out on the true secrets of this wonderful country. To be honest, there’s a little slice of brilliance in each incredible state, but we’re just going to pick some of our favorite experiences that you might not have heard of.

Broadway, Here I Come

As promised, we’re skipping New York. Instead, it’s time to head to Nashville, where you will find Broadway and a rather different kind of road than the one you’ll discover in NYC. Broadway in New York is all about the theatre. In Nashville, it’s all about the music. The best part of this dazzling section of the city is that you can’t walk more than a couple hundred yards without hearing a different type of music echoing from a club or bar. It is an incredible amalgamation of different sights and sounds, which needs to be seen to be believed. There are lots of places to experience types of musical culture in America, such as the jazz bars in New Orleans. But only Broadway in Nashville bring them all together on one street.

Forget The Highway

Instead, seek out the incredible Route 66. You’ll find it runs from Chicago all the way to California. The roadway has fallen into a state of disrepair as of late, but it’s still the ultimate choice; and it is packed full of small sights and things to do that all add up to a remarkable American experience. You’ll see old neon motels, country diners and places that you would never find in a tourism guide. Even so, these places are worth visiting to experience old America in all it’s former glory.


Garden Of The Gods

We’re not really sure how best to describe this forgotten beauty of America, except perhaps, paradise? The name fits the location beautifully with towering rocky peaks and gorgeous sweeping meadows. To get the best glimpse of this wonder, you must visit just as the sun begins to fall below the mountains. You’ll find this little wonder in Colorado. It is home to incredible, ancient cave etchings as well as fire rings from 3000 years ago. If you take a trip here, you’ll also be journeying deep into the past.


Take That Niagara Falls

If you have your heart set on visiting a beautiful, monstrous waterfall, you might plan a trip to Niagara Falls. Instead, you should head to Washington. There you will discover Palouse Falls. It is a truly stunning waterfall with a 180 ft drop that plunges deep into a bowl-shaped valley. Truly stunning, daredevils have been known to take the plunge down the falls into the lake below. We wouldn’t recommend it though. 🙂

Are you ready to go out and explore some of these gems of America? We hope so. Add yours to the list in the comments below. 

flag photo above (sourced here)


Help Me Choose My Short Story Subject & Enter to Win a Gift Card

So those Cubs won the World Series. Can you believe it? 

I wrote a young adult book titled, Caught Between Two Curses, which is actually a novel about a teenage girl who is caught between two boys and between two curses. One of those curses happens to be the Curse of the Billy Goat on the Chicago Cubs, and the other, well, I made up. Recently, my book went out of print and I retain the rights, so I’m thinking about re-branding it/marketing it and getting back in love with writing and marketing.

So I’ve decided to add some material to CBTC and self-publish it as a 2nd edition with a new cover. I am most likely including an alternate ending, book club questions, how I got the idea, history about curses–you know really pack it full of content, so teens and adults get their money’s worth, and my best friends will buy another copy. 😉 Oh, and I want to write a short story to include that is somehow based on the characters in the novel. This short story will ONLY be available in the 2nd edition of Caught Between Two Curses. I know, I know, the pre-Amazon sales will be amazing. 😉

But here’s where you come in. I am having trouble deciding on what the short story should concern, and so I would like you to help me. All you have to do is comment below after reading the three choices. And I am giving a $10.00 Amazon gift card to one person I pick randomly from the comments. Plus you can get an extra bonus entry if you sign up for my newsletter or to get posts emailed to you by looking in the sidebar and filling out the appropriate form. The gift card contest ends on Friday, November 11 (Veteran’s Day).

Now on to the choices:

  1. Julie (the main character) has a grandma who is very eccentric. As a matter of fact, it is this grandma who brought the curse on the family by falling in love with a man who was already spoken for. I could write a short story about the day they meet at the Cubs game, and the curse is put on the family. So this would be set in the past–grandma and grandpa as teenagers/new adults.
  2. (spolier alert if you haven’t read the book) A sequel of sorts–what happens once Matt and Julie get together. This would be a short story about some event in senior year and some problem the two of them have in their relationship, and how they solve it.
  3. A spinoff–Gus (the boyfriend who is pressuring Julie to have sex) has his own story about how he handles his life after Julie says no. So “the villain” becomes the hero in his own story–or does he? Will he always remain the bad guy or will something happen to change his life?

Okay, so those are the three short story ideas–which would you want to read?  


How Journal Writing Can Change Your Life and Find Your Inner Child

I am very excited to host Mari L. McCarthy on her blog tour for her new book, Journaling Power: How To Create the Happy, Healthy, Life You Want to Live . I am lucky enough to have edited this book and read it twice, and I’m telling you the story that Mari tells of how journaling changed her health–physically and emotionally–is amazing. I have used some of Mari’s books before and taken part in her journaling challenges. They are always well-written and useful, but I actually think Journaling Power is her best yet. Please check it out on Amazon after you read this guest post she wrote . Best news of all, I am hosting a giveaway for Journaling Power. All you have to do is leave a comment below to be entered to win. You can say something as easy as: Please enter me, or you can tell us about your journal experiences.  I will randomly pick a winner on Halloween night (Oct. 31) at 11:59 pm. 

Discovering and Recovering Your Inner Child

by Mari L. McCarthy

Expressive writing, particularly when it involves a daily, pen-to-paper discipline, has powerful healing effects–and it’s official! A growing body of research confirms its holistic healing power.

Expressive writing is an effective self-therapy. It helps our brains process emotional issues, boosts the immune system, and helps to neutralize the potentially lethal effects of stress.

Pioneering research by Pennebaker and Beall in 1986 revealed that writing about traumatic events has a positive knock-on effect for many months, reducing the need to visit the doctor by more than 40%.

Later studies indicate that writing therapy helps a variety of long-term health problems, including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, liver disease, lupus, chronic pelvic pain, and irritable bowel syndrome. It helps some cancer patients to improve their quality of life significantly.

So it’s time that this completely free-of-charge, non-invasive therapy had a higher public profile.

journaling-power-cover-w-badgePeople need to know that it changes their lives, just as it changed mine.

I was badly disabled until I started journaling. Multiple Sclerosis had stolen my life, and I’d been forced to close my successful management consulting business. But my daily writing practice had a regenerative effect on my body, mind, and spirit.

I regained much of the function I’d lost on my right side and was able to launch a new (creative journal writing) business.

So if I’m evangelical about journaling therapy, it’s because I know from personal experience that it really works.

And I’m in good company when I promote expressive writing. Top science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa also recommends it as a tool for healing. Nakazawa has spent years researching the lifelong consequences – both emotional and physical-of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

She has examined the long-term effects of early stressors, such as being emotionally and/or physically abused or neglected, losing a parent, living in a dysfunctional or very poor family, witnessing parents going through a divorce, or living with a severely depressed parent. She argues that ACEs shape our biology and seriously affect our physical and emotional resilience as adults.

Nakazawa’s solution is to “re-boot” the brain and create new, healthy neural pathways, using a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. This involves disciplines like meditation and yoga, along with dietary and other lifestyle improvements––and very importantly, therapeutic writing.

If you feel that you had a hard time as a child or young person (I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t), grab your Journal and your Inner Child and start exploring. You both will love this new adventure and the happy ending you come up with. #WriteON!

Journaling Power Prompt:

What does your Inner Child really, really, really want to do on your next play-date?


About the Book:

Journaling Power teaches you how to put the ultimate self-healing tool right at your fingertips–journaling. Through Mari L. McCarthy’s moving personal story, you’ll discover how pen-to-paper journaling leads to self-growth and life-changing transformation. You’ll also learn that numerous medical studies prove journaling literally unleashes a healing agent that empowers your life in ways you’ve never imagined.

About the Author:

Mari L. McCarthy is The Journaling Power Guide and founder of CreateWriteNow.com. Her blog (http://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog) provides journaling for personal transformation and healthy living ideas, information and inspiration for keeping a daily pen-to-page Journaling for the Health of It™ Practice. You can also download the FREE e-book, How to use Your Journal to Cure Writer’s Block Now (http://www.createwritenow.com/download-free-writers-block-tips). More life-changing e-books (http://www.createwritenow.com/journaling-ebooks) can be found in Mari’s Personal Transformation Journaling Library and in CreateWriteNow’s store (http://store.createwritenow.com/).

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ndtMtUfs5s