Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Serendipity...The word makes me smile. It somehow just sounds unexpected and fun. Dictionary.com defines it as "the aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident." Desirable discoveries by accident--I like that! I am not, however, so sure that I like the word aptitude. It sounds limiting, like making desirable discoveries is for a select few. It is not! It is for anyone who chooses to be aware of the people and the world around them. Accidental, desirable discoveries are for those who look for opportunities to learn, to see little lessons beyond what lies on the surface of life’s everyday interactions. As I think about it, it seems more like an “attitude” than an “aptitude.”

Reflecting on that thought, there is something interesting and almost ironic about serendipitous experiences. Those inadvertent revelations don’t always come from pleasant experiences. Sometimes they do...but sometimes...well, sometimes we learn from what we in education call “productive struggle.” On occasion, the accident that produces the discovery requires a bit of intentionality to accept the lesson. (I am not talking about painful experiences that take time and effort from which to heal; rather, instances where we wish we could have a “do over” because we were not at our best.) Over the next few weeks, I want to write about several things that I have learned this year. Some from positive interactions and some from challenges, but they have all been valuable--and I don’t want to forget them. How about you? Would you share your experiences, as well?

Serendipity...May we all have the “aptitude” to be intentionally aware and the desire to accidentally discover truths that help us grow.
Drawing by Rachel Hill

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Simplicity...It is a goal of writers. Ernest Hemingway said, "My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way." It is not my nature to write simply, but I want to learn. There is beauty in simplicity--not only in words, but in art, design, mathematics...life. So Hemingway's goal is my goal for this blog: to put down what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way. That is the scariest sentence I have ever written. To claim Hemingway's goal as my own sounds presumptuous. I am a long way from where I need to be, but I have to start if I want to move in that direction. 

Let's begin with a simple introduction: My name is Cathy Hill (hence, the blog title My Hills and Valleys) and I am a life-long educator. I wanted to teach math from the time I was five, and I spent the majority of my life preparing for or doing that. I am married to a wonderful, supportive husband, and I have two adult children who are getting started on their own. We are not perfect--and I don't want to paint the picture that we are--but we are always trying to learn from our mistakes. 

We have intentionally evaluated and simplified our lives periodically throughout our marriage. As a result, we have focused on three primary things: family, education/work, and faith. Family is important to most people, and we are no different. However, we have moved multiple times in our married life, so maintaining a system of support and encouragement within our family has been important. Education and work are listed together because, although we are not all certified teachers, each family member works in schools. My husband, my son, my daughter, and I are invested in equipping others to achieve through impacting various aspects of the K-12 experience. Finally, our faith as Christians guides us daily. Again, we are not perfect, but we do hope that the fruit of the Spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control--is exhibited consistently in our lives.

Simplicity...According to Leonardo da Vinci, "[it] is the ultimate sophistication." I am not confident that anything in this blog will qualify as "sophisticated" in the sense that immediately comes to mind, but my hope is that it will go through the "process of becoming more complex, developed, or subtle"--which is the definition of sophistication according to Merriam-Webster. I like that thought: "Simplicity is the ultimate complexity." Please, join me on this journey and share your experiences.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


Beginnings...The word evokes emotions that run the gamut from excitement to anxiety. Fresh opportunities and unforeseen challenges await. A sense of purpose exists that must, through persistence and determination, remain in focus lest the excitement of the beginning fade into stress and exhaustion in the middle. Be intentional to keep the excitement! Find value in the process from beginning to end! Expect tiredness and frustration at times. Purpose in your heart ahead of time to overcome them. Realistically, they will be part of the journey--but they should not control the journey. For the sake of the joy of crossing the finish line, endure struggles, learn from every experience, celebrate accomplishments, and be grateful for the opportunity.

I write this because it is particularly relevant to my family at this time:

  • My son is beginning a new job.
  • Also, he married last week and is beginning an exciting journey with his new bride.
  • My daughter graduated from college and is beginning her career as a teacher.
  • I am beginning work on my doctorate, and I am beginning to write a little.
  • My husband is beginning work on a project that will impact an entire community.
Beginnings...Ponder them carefully. Count the cost. They are not to be taken lightly; they are to be undertaken with commitment.

 Drawing by Rachel Hill.