Find Your Word Word and Unravel Your Year for 2017 Is Here!

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Today is a great day! I’m so excited because Susannah Conway released her Unravel Your Year 2017 workbook and her Find Your Word 2017 5-day email course registration today! I’ve written about Susannah before…she’s an inspiration and a role model to me. For the past two years, her workbooks and word course proved to be very instrumental in guiding me towards the future.

Both the workbook and the email class are free. If you’d like to join in the fun, head on over to her website here for all the details.

I’ll be sharing my word and some of my workbook answers throughout the month. Until then, I’m remaining OPEN to the rest of 2016 and to what it brings me.

Thank you, Susannah, for these wonderful gifts.

The Gingerbread Boy

This is written for my nephew, I, with love…

“The Gingerbread Boy” by Jill Ocone (Copyright 2016)

img_1366aThe Gingerbread Boy

Wearing his pointed hat of red,

His favorite,

Waited with all of the other children

As the crowd counted down

From five with delight,

Then the lights came alive

As the star shined brightly

From atop the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

 

The Gingerbread Boy

Received a red balloon,

His favorite…

He held onto its ribbon

As it danced in the air

While the band played “Let It Snow”

With snowflakes swirling in the light shining

From the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

 

The Gingerbread Boy

Climbed into the red carriage,

His favorite,

The clip clop

Of the horse’s feet

And the jingle jangle

From its bridle of bells

Rang out as the horse turned about

Near the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

 

Suddenly the sirens screamed

As the parade of red firetrucks,

His favorite,

Decorated in lights

Arrived to deliver

Their Christmas cargo

Who dismounted from his ladder perch

Next to the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

 

He belted a joyful “Ho Ho Ho”

The big man in red,

His favorite…

Then the Gingerbread Boy

Through his twinkley eyes

Watched in wonder

As he winked while welcoming him.

The magic was real and

The Gingerbread Boy believed

That night

By the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

What Coffee Beans MUST Want to Be When They Grow Up…

It’s no big secret that I love all things Peppermint.  My favorite is Peppermint Coffee.

NOT Peppermint Mocha.

Peppermint.

For years, my father-in-law would send me boxes of Publix’s Peppermint Frost coffee beans (sold under the name of Brothers Gourmet Coffee) after he and my mother-in-law arrived in Florida for the winter.

Poppy would literally buy out the three Publix stores near his Melbourne Beach home. When those boxes were delivered, it was like a little slice of heaven appeared on my doorstep, better than anything Santa could ever bring. I would immediately dump a bag into my grind and brew coffee maker, and as the aroma of the peppermint filled the room, my first cup would be ready to enjoy.

Pure bliss.

Poppy sent home enough beans to last well through the first half of the year. I am usually very seasonal with things, as I have issues with anything Christmas-related before Thanksgiving or after Christmas Day itself (*see Seasonal Acceptance Disorder below, which is a self-created and self-diagnosed condition).

However, THAT coffee was so good I made the exception and didn’t think twice about having a cup in May. I would always save enough beans in my freezer for the following season, just in case.

As Keurig brewers became the rage and replaced the traditional drip coffee makers, many retailers stopped selling flavored coffee beans, including Publix.

It was a sad day when, in 2013, Poppy told me he could not find Peppermint Frost coffee beans in any Publix. He probably visited every Publix within a 60-mile radius of his house in his valiant effort to locate them, but it was not meant to be.

It was just as well, since my grind and brew pot shut down around the same time and was relegated to the Cemetery of Faithful Coffee Makers after brewing its final cup.

Santa brought me a new-fangled K-cup brewer in 2013, but all I find was Peppermint Mocha pods, which wasn’t the same.

The allure of Peppermint coffee lost its luster when we lost Poppy in April of 2014.  For the last two holiday seasons, I had a cup here and there, but not regularly. I think it was the mental connection to losing Poppy that made reject any K-cup with Peppermint in it, even hot chocolate.

Until this year.

While shopping at Target earlier this month, I wandered down the coffee aisle, and I did a double take.

fullsizerender-3Candy Cane K-cups by Archer Farms (Target’s brand).

Could it be?

Peppermint, SANS Mocha?

My heart was ready to give this coffee a try.

I bought a box and waited until Thanksgiving to try it, so as to not upset my Seasonal Acceptance Disorder*.

With the anticipation of a wonderful Thanksgiving day ahead, I took the first pod out of the box and put it into my machine. I hit BREW, and as the machine worked its magic, I recognized that sweet elixir of a smell in the air.

When the coffee was ready, I added my stevia and cream. I sat for a moment and just let the aroma dance around my senses as it wafted through the kitchen.

Then, I took my first sip, and I almost fell to my knees.

Holy crap.

THIS IS IT.

These Archer Farms Candy Cane K-Cups brew a cup of coffee that is 98% the same as one brewed by those beloved Peppermint Frost coffee beans from Publix.

What is that missing 2 Percent?

Poppy. If Poppy had sent me these K-Cups, then it would be 100%.

Pure Bliss, yet again.

I’ve had four cups so far this season, with many more to come.

Each sip brings additional joy to my heart as I picture Poppy, the Purveyor of Peppermint, smiling down with that little smile he had, proud that he led me to the right coffee at the right time. Thanks, Poppy.

With each sip of my morning coffee today, I kept thinking that this heavenly flavor must be what each coffee bean wants to be when it grows up. Take that, Chock full ‘o Nuts!

I am not being paid for or compensated in any way for this raving endorsement of Target’s Archer Farms Candy Cane K-Cups. The Candy Cane K-Cups are available for a limited time, so hit up your local Target now before I channel Poppy and buy out their entire supply.

* Seasonal Acceptance Disorder: The inability to enjoy seasonal flavors, decorations, celebrations, or media outside of the regular calendar season. Seasonal Acceptance Disorder can cause mental anguish, the shakes, and the need for therapy. Most patients diagnosed with Seasonal Acceptance Disorder can only watch Christmas movies between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Such patients may experience undue stress and rage upon experiencing holiday displays six months before said holiday, usually taking to social media to express their extreme dismay, and cannot actively participate in events such as Christmas in July without severe side effects.

Sea My Thanksgiving 2016 Wish for You…

As I wrote last year, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (you can read that post by clicking here).

A lot of what I wrote for last year’s post is the same exact thing I write in my journal year after year: all the things I love about Thanksgiving intertwined with memories and nostalgia. I am a true creature of habit.

I sat here pondering what to write for Thanksgiving 2016 because I wanted to mix it up a little this year and stray from that same old, same old. The movie “Animal House” was on the television, and as my words eluded me, I got completely lost in a train of memories made in a college dorm almost 25 years ago now with some of the best people I ever spent time with.

And then I entered into a thought spiral like this…

I’ll see a long, red dress and my mind will transport me to my cousin’s wedding which was over 20 years ago in California.  I’ll smell coffee brewing and I can see an old friend standing outside of her horse stable. I’ll hear anything by Billy Joel or Steve Miller and be reminded of concert days gone by. A Judy Blume book or the song “Copacabana” makes me recall my closest friends and our time together over the past 40 years. Other songs bring back recollections from Hawkapaloozas or “shows for seniors,” from bar days and the Bums, from times being silly at school or dancing in the middle of 13th Street wearing a skeleton mask.

On some days, when the sky is clear blue and the air is just the right temperature, I’m transported to recess on the playground in elementary school…to riding my bike with my friends around town during middle school…to driving with the car windows open during high school…to walking down the boardwalk drinking a cherry lemonade…to playing football on the beach or hanging on the hill or at the waterfalls or the inlet….

A telephone makes me think of an old boss. Say “McBoo” and I think of a high school friend. The word STAGE (pronounced STAYG) makes me hear the hysterical laughter of a spitfire. A baseball? Times at the stadium. A penguin? Times in Pittsburgh. I see all of the feet that walked alongside mine on the streets of New York City and in London, Florida, Pennsylvania, Kent State and Cleveland, the Bahamas, St. Thomas, Wales, and Dublin. Even the smell emanating from the local Burger King sends me back 38 or so years to an elementary school friend’s birthday party.

Then, there are days I can hear whispers in the wind, whispers of those who aren’t physically here with me anymore, but who are still with me in my heart.

I don’t believe in living in the past. However, I do believe it’s okay to look back every now and then to take an inventory of life, per se, and to realize what brought me here, to this time and place while letting the good times of yesterday make me smile.

Flashes of my childhood, middle school, high school, college, work places, my students, my community, and my path are whizzing through my brain right now, like a retrospective of sorts, filled with laughter and joy, and even some tears.

It comes down to this: It isn’t money, or fame, or possessions that make life meaningful.

It’s people.

People like YOU, who are the backbone of my memories and experiences. People like YOU, who left your footprints and heart prints along my path.

Even if you made me cry or filled me with angst, you ultimately had a positive effect by making me stronger and wiser. (Sidebar: To those I made cry or I might have filled with angst, please accept my apologies, for at times I know it was me who was the jackass.)

On this Thanksgiving 2016, I thank you for the role you have played in my journey so far, no matter how small or how big it might be…

To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

With my utmost gratitude, thank you for making me breathe easier. You are, indeed, appreciated.

I wish you and yours a very special and happy Thanksgiving 2016.

~ Jill

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Something to SEA: “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt”

Last year, I started a tradition with my niece and nephew that turned out to be much more fun than I had ever hoped for.

I noticed just how many Christmas Trees were on display in business windows and in other public places around town, and I thought that it would be pretty neat to take a picture of every tree I saw.

Thus this new holiday tradition of “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt” was born.

My nephew is Agent 101 (he is now 11), with my niece as Agent 202 (is now 13). I am Agent 303, boss of the mission. I recycled our Agent names from a game we played several years ago when my nephew devised these names for each of us. Sidebar: Agent 101 didn’t give my husband (his uncle) an Agent name; rather, he named him Dr. Coconut.

Anyway, I kept a running list of the trees I saw, then added to it every day as my husband and I would make our daily rounds and beach runs.

slide7I then began to “tease” my two co-agents with cryptic messages after I set a date with my sister-in-law as to when our “Operation” could take place. I would leave messages like the one to the left in their mailbox (I know the images are a bit blurry-if you click on them, you will be able to read them better).

Agent 101 and Agent 202 accepted the mission, even though they had no idea what I was up to! All they knew is that they were going to spend the afternoon with their crazy aunt, and it had nothing to do with Six Flags or Artie Farty (yeah, my sister-in-law loves me for teaching the kiddos all sorts of inappropriate ditties like that).

On the mission date, each agent was dressed in black and all ready to go at the designated pick up time of 2:30 pm. I handed over their “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt” Classified Folders, which contained the mission instructions, a pen, a map of all of the trees I knew of, and a list in “route order,” so to speak, of the places we would be stopping.slide3

As they read the instructions, they were laughing and loving it:

Today’s Mission:

  1. Rapidly enter the buildings on the Map.
  2. Say NOTHING.
  3. Stand in front of the formal Christmas tree. 
  4. Smile for a photo. 
  5. Rapidly exit the building.

Agent 101 and Agent 202 had a lot of fun sneaking around and became more stealthy with each mission location. I was glad that none of the businesses gave us a hard time about going into their stores just for a picture with their tree. In fact, many of the people working at each spot laughed and loved the idea.

We ended up with photographs of 49 different Christmas Trees, most of them from my map, but we found others along our journey too. When they would find a new one, they would scream, “There’s one! Can we use that one too?” My answer was slide1always “Of course!” Both agents were silent for each business visit and neither uttered a word inside any of the stops along the way. Their poses in each picture are a crack-up, too (I didn’t include any so as to protect their privacy), and as I am looking at the pictures now, I am literally laughing out loud.

Photo 22 is actually a picture of the agents with Dr. Coconut posing as a tree; they wanted to stop by and say hi to their uncle to include him in our mission.

When Operation Christmas Tree Hunt 2015 was completed, I took them out to dinner to celebrate our successful mission.

I made a photo book for each Agent with the pictures I took. Even though the books didn’t arrive until January, they didn’t care. Agent 101 and Agent 202 loved their books just the same.

I’m already keeping a list of the trees I spot for this year’s Operation Christmas Tree Hunt, but I’m going to make a few changes to the mission parameters. This year, I am going to add riddles to some of the stops, where Agent 101 and Agent 202 will have to figure out the next stop along the way instead of plotting every location on the map. I’m also going to make “Thank You” cards for the Agents to hand to each business. Agent 303 (me) will keep some singles in my pocket, and if a business has a charity collection bucket, I’ll have Agent 101 or Agent 202 give a dollar towards the cause.  Maybe next season we can call up Agent 404 (my 5-year-old nephew) to the ranks of big kid Agent and have him join us for our adventures.

slide5Agents 101 and 202 might not remember the present I gave them last year or the year before. However, I know Agent 101 and Agent 202 will always remember Operation Christmas Tree Hunt and the many laughs they shared with mission boss Agent 303 along the journey.

I know Agent 303 will.

 

 

With Gratitude for Leonard Cohen…

Writer, Poet, and Singer Leonard Cohen passed away this week, but with the current state of unrest in news feeds, you might have missed that. I think we all need to just sit and be while listening to his performance below to help us see the bigger picture. He did not leave us in vain; rather, he left us something beautiful and moving, a song which will be guiding me forward. I hope it will guide you, too.

Thank you, Leonard Cohen.

 

Something to SEA: Free Thanksgiving Printable

thanksgiving-printableThanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year, is coming! To add to your festivities, I created a free Thanksgiving printable for you.  It is sized for 8 1/2 x 11.

You can download the .pdf file by clicking here.

If you right click on the image above, you can save the .jpg image to your computer.

I’d love to see how you incorporated your free Thanksgiving printable into your festivities this year! Please feel free to leave a comment with your picture below.

Enjoy,

Jill

Thank You For Your Service

veteransBack in the early 1990’s, before I made a mess of my collegiate academic record, I wrote letters. I mean, a lot of letters. Instead of studying, I would be writing and writing and writing to so many people, many of whom I never even met.

This was the time of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.

I saw it as my duty to write letters to every address printed in the local newspapers as a show of support. Some I knew from high school, some I did not, and most were about my age.

Regardless of their reasons for serving, I don’t think many of them, if any at all, ever thought combat would result during their service.

But it did.

And I know that each of their lives was changed forever.

I have led a comfortable life, so to speak. Sure, I have skeletons and demons in my closet…who doesn’t?

Mine, though, is no comparison for those I can only image that live in the closets of my friends who chose to serve our country during what turned out to be a very difficult time.

Friends like Joe, Matt, Tom, Jason, Jim, Bobby, Phil, and Rich, who in my eyes are brave and forever heroes. Each rises and perseveres every day, never giving in to the darkness that might be chasing them or to those demons that might live in their proverbial closets.

That’s the true definition of strength and courage. Persevering no matter what.

They served by choice. They became heroes by example.

I am honored to call each my friend, and I am thankful that after all of these years, we are still friends.

Happy Veterans Day to all who have served, especially those close to my heart, with my utmost admiration and gratitude.