Introducing “Sweet “16”

Posted by on Jan 4, 2016 in About me, Giveaway!, Gratitude | 25 comments

Sweet-16_600I am going to give away stuff here on my blog on the 16th of the month for the whole year of 2016.

Here’s Why:

On March 3, 2015 I had open-heart surgery to repair an aneurysm I had no idea I had. The week before I stood in my kitchen and told my husband something was very wrong with me. I felt off, my “electrical” system felt jumpy and I had a deep cough. I made back-to-back appointments with my allergist and my primary care physician. Within an hour of the last appointment, I was Life-Flighted to a cardiac ICU. I spent five days there before the surgery and was restricted in my movements, diet, and visitors. I have never been in the hospital before, never been hooked up to a room full of machines, never been told I might die, and soon.

My daughter and husband posted on Facebook and in emails to close friends. Cards came, many of them, from all over the world, and about half from people I do not know. A chain of handmade prayer flags arrived, which hang in my family room still. An afghan landed on my porch in a big ass box from my friend Aimee. Love kept coming, and coming. I just found some unopened cards last week, there were so many and I cannot begin to thank all of you who sent them. I asked you to leap for your own health, and so many of you actually did and sent pictures! I was not alone, not one day.

It has been 10 months today since the surgery. I have spent that time in treatment by many kinds of doctors, since I was also diagnosed with a few other unpleasant things, which I think happens when you spend 10 days in the hospital like a lab rat, hooked up to every fact finder that can be inserted into your body. A few things went very wrong, but the biggest thing, my heart repair, went right. I am still here.

In the last ten months I have cried more than I ever have. I have had many nightmares, and many days of pain and discomfort. For four months I went to cardiac rehab and worked as hard as I could to gain back all the strength I lost on the operating table. The biggest thing I lost was my confidence, and that was the hardest thing to battle. The trauma of it all terrified me to the core. I felt faulty and weak. Decisions were made that did not help; classes and articles were cancelled for me without me being asked, which is the last thing a person in this situation needs. I felt written off, disregarded. I let it get to me.

Many personal things also happened this year that upped the ante on a monthly basis. When I finally had enough I found assistance from a wonderful therapist who has greatly helped with my PTSD diagnosis and other issues. My insides, both my head and my heart, are finally racing each other to that contented finish line. I am healing.


Part of healing in my mind is giving back, and that is what I am going to do for a solid year. I am calling this year “Sweet ‘16” in the hopes that it truly is, for all of us.

On the 16th of the month I will have a free download, giveaway or project on my blog. You do not have to sign up, just show up and take it! I want you to feel like I felt when your cards and gifts arrived; noticed and cared for. That is what I wish for you.

So come back on the 16th of each month and take the offering. Some things will be material things you will have to leave a comment to win, some will be downloads that will be available for a few days. I will try to give you gifts that are cheerful and creative.

Thank you for sharing this journey. Thank you for pulling me along when I needed pulling. Sweet ’16 to all of you!


  1. I have been dealing daily with a health challenge diagnosed in 2015 as well. The mental is just as challenging as the physical. May both of us meet these challenges with renewed strength each day.

    Thank you for this inspiring post, Jill.

  2. I hope you are feeling stronger and healthier every single day! Keep up the hard work and all of your wonderful art! You are an inspiration to many and I know I’m happy that you’re back!!

  3. You have been through an incredible journey.Thank you for sharing as it often helps others. I love your generous spirit and I feel so lucky to know you! You have a deep kindness that shows in everything you do!

  4. Big fat squishy hugs from me to you! x

  5. Jill, this is such a kind and great idea. Sending much love and joy for a super great sweet 16.

  6. Wow, thank you for sharing your story. 2015 was a rough year for me too. I suffered a brain aneurysm out of no where. 2 weeks in the hospital was no picnic but like you, I was working hard to get better. Everyday I too get stronger and pray for all who have aneurysms. Ruby

    • Ruby, I hope you are doing well and I am so sorry you had this as part of your journey. Mostly I hope you are surrounded by loving people who care for you while you heal from this ordeal. I know we are both lucky to be alive, we also have the rest of the burden of trauma that comes with it. Hugs to you.

  7. Hugs to you Jill!! So glad things are getting back on track for you and thanks so much for sharing with us! I will look forward to checking in and seeing what is up for each 16th! And I love your new photo…you look so happy!

  8. Lots of Love to you, I am so glad you are healing physically and emotionally. You are such a generous woman, teacher and friend, Thank you!

  9. Lots of love <3

  10. So sorry you have to go through all this! It will continue to get better. Just go to your “happy place” for a short time each day and before you know it, you will be there all the time. Take care.

  11. I’ve been keeping up with your progress on your blog and your FB and I’m sending you Big Creative Hugs and Lots of Good Vibrational Energy… and seeing you in golden sparkly Light for the new year! loveLoveLOVE you JKB! ~Hobby

  12. What an inspirational post! I am so glad that you are here and you’ve persevered through it all (and that the right people have been there when you needed them). I’m ready to celebrate 2016 with you 😀 and I’m looking forward to your Sweet Sixteens 🙂

  13. Happy that you are ok and what a fantastic idea from you…thank you and looking forward to see the first artwork etc from you

  14. So glad you are feeling so much better. Hugs to you.

  15. You look great!!!! Happy healing :/)

  16. glad you are doing well. As a map lover I have been inspired by your art and now I am inspired by your healing journey too.

  17. Hi Jill, I love your blog and your work – best wishes for a 100% recovery!

  18. What a great idea!

  19. Oh my, Jill, you have been through so much. I am glad that you seem to have come through it–I had no idea. Thank you in advance for your generosity!

  20. So proud of you, Jill! You show us your vulnerability, and now you’re a victor. 2015 was the year from hell for me, too, and I was determined that 2016 was not going to be the same. Lots of love, support, counseling, medication, art and writing and reading (PTSD here, too). I love that you’re better. Kick it, girl!

  21. Dear Jill, I had NO idea of what you have gone through and how ill you’ve been this past year! So glad i received an email regarding your blog and book. Prayers and loving thoughts are sent your way. Love and support means so much. I am SO excited about your new book as I have the other two and just LOVE them! Just signed up for your newsletter too so i don’t miss anything:) Hugs!

  22. It’s heartbreaking to me that someone I admire so very much has had to deal with this. It’s a wonderful thing that you’ve come out on the other side with such light and joy, but it sure isn’t a surprise. Your resilience is astonishing and inspiring. Here’s to you!

  23. Dear Jill,

    You may not remember me, but I took a wonderful book making class with you during one of Gwen Fox’s artist retreats in Taos. I was just reminiscing about it yesterday and was smiling as to how much fun I had.

    I am so very sorry to hear all you’ve been through, but am so glad you are doing so much better. It is such a trauma to have a long-term illness, being in the hospital, and having to see so many doctors. Although my experience was not like yours, I understand after going through a 3 year journey of being sick everyday and seeing doctors everywhere. I had a minor out-patient shoulder surgery and ended up contracting a deadly bacterial infection that cost me two weeks in the hospital and 3 years of locking myself in because I felt like my life ended.

    I am incredibly happy for you. I often tell people not to take their health for granted. Everything can change in an instant. I lost so many friends who just didn’t understand, but like you, I’ve come out with light and joy. My spirit of creating has been gone since 2009, but I look at art every night and work on getting inspired again. I, too, lost my confidence.

    I don’t think I’ve met anyone who explained this type of situation better than you. When I read your story, I felt like you said everything I’ve wanted to say.

    I hope to be in one of your classes again sometime. The two books I made in your class are like treasures to me.

    Wishing you blessings of good health always!

  24. So sorry for all you’ve gone through, but how inspirational your attitude is. We all need to do this when life events come along.


  1. Artist Interview with Jill K Berry - […] Sweet 16 Monthly Giveaway by Jill […]

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