“Sea” and Join The August Break 2015

Hello!  I hope you have been enjoying your summer.  The past week was filled with a lot of activity and I will be writing about some of the lessons I’ve learned and what I’ve seen.

However, before I do so, I would like to invite my readers to join me in participating in Susannah Conway’s “The August Break, 2015.”

From her website about this year’s August Break:  “This is a community project that has no real rules —  the idea is to simply take a photograph every day for the whole of August. That’s it. Pause, look around you and shoot what you see. Live inside each moment. Pay attention to what’s there. If it’s the summer where you are it’s a lovely way to be present to the moments that will be gone before you know it. If it’s the winter, what better way to liven up your day than with a creative project to play with? You can use any camera. You could shoot every day or every other day or just on weekends. You can share your photos or just enjoy taking them without sharing. You can start and not finish. You can join in at the end.”

If that has piqued your interest, please head on over to her August Break, 2015 page here for more information and to add your blog to her blogroll.

I will be participating and posting my images on both of my Instagram accounts, using the hashtag #augustbreak2015.

I hope you join me in recording “a month of mindful pleasures” this August, because if August is anything like July, it will be over before we know it.  If you are planning on participating, please comment below so I can make sure I follow you this month!

Until next time,


The Topics: A Month of Mindful Pleasures (From Susannah Conway’s “The August Break 2015” website)

“Sea” The 7 Sweetest Words I Will Ever Hear

“Will you play with me Auntie Jill?”

Every time I hear those 7 sweet words from my 4-year-old nephew H, my heart melts.

It brings back memories of when my niece and nephew on my husband’s side used to ask the same thing, years ago.  In my mind it was only last week, but in reality, there were two zeros in the year.  Now, both of their ages are double digits, and “play” has turned into hanging out, talking, gaming on the iPad, going places, and laughing, which is so much fun and makes for some of my favorite memories.  Definitely time well spent.

But there’s that childhood innocence in the word “play.”

And H still has it.

One of H’s characteristics that I have always admired the most is his love of play.  Toys, action figures, puzzles, books, cars, Legos…in today’s technology-saturated world, he would much rather use his imagination and play with one of his father’s (my brother’s) old robots, rescue cars or original Star Wars figures.  Playthings are strewn about, everywhere, and I would bet he has played with them all at some point in any given week.  H’s little brother studies his example and is beginning to explore the toys with his own curiosity, but watching H and his imagination is a true delight.

And I am so thankful when he says those sweetest 7 words and wants to include me in his 4-year-old world.

My answer when H asks me to play with him is…


Yes, H. I will play with you, for as long as you let me.  What would you like to play today?

Until next time,

Auntie Jill

Readers, what is a favorite memory with a young person in your life?  Share if you’d like in the comments.


20150727 Quote


Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 7/25/2015

20150725 Beach Photo

One of the weekly posts I intend to write will be a roundup of interesting pages and web finds from the week.  Save them for a rainy day, a weekend, or when you just feel like tooling around the Internet.

Mick Fanning is Superman

10 Beach Commandments

Learning from Robin Williams’ Characters

Mallika Chopra Also Embraces Her 44th Year

The Small Things Are the Big Things

Lucy the Elephant: A Bit of History

This Japanese Pufferfish

This Dakine Pattern

This Pinterest Board

and finally…

There’s no limits to Johnny Depp’s awesomeness

Did you find a meaningful site or post this week?  If so, please leave the link in a comment. Here’s hoping you SEA the opportunity to smile sometime today my friend.

Until Next Time,






“‘Sea’ What We Are”

Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” has been one of my favorite books ever since I first read it back in the dark ages of the mid-1980’s.  The story of Scout, Jem, Atticus, Boo, Tom and Dill always resonated with me, not so much because of the moral messages, but moreso because it brings back memories of childhood summers, when I didn’t have to have a care in the world.  In fact, when I used to teach summer school, I would save this book for the last book we would read, hoping that it would make the same impact on my students, but I could never read the last two pages out loud because they made me tear up.

Yes, that’s the sap in me.

But, that’s also the problem with me.

There’s a difference in looking back fondly on wonderful, nostalgic memories and in letting the past having a hold on the present.  And that’s where my guilt lies.

I have spent too much time over the last 20+ years looking back in retrospect.  They say that “Hindsight is 20/20,” and I completely agree with that.  My problem, though, is that I wasted hours re-doing events from the past 20 or so years in my mind the RIGHT way, and wistfully wishing for the impossibility of a different outcome.  The bad decisions, the heartache, the burned bridges, the wasted money…all of it.

I am guilty of letting past failures overshadow present goodness and worth, which as a result negatively affected my PRESENT peace of mind and wasted time I could have spent in a more positive manner.

This ties in perfectly with what I found to be the most powerful three sentences in Harper Lee’s newly released and highly anticipated book, “Go Set a  Watchman.”  Since “TKAM” is one of my favorite books, and since I am a high school English teacher, I had to get the book the day it was released.  Once it was in my hands, I finished it in three days.

If you haven’t read it, this will not be a spoiler by any means, and I do not wish to discuss any praises or flaws with the book itself.

However, this one passage really hit home:

“Remember this also:  it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago.  It is hard to see what we are.  If you can master that trick, you’ll get along.” – Dr. John Finch/Harper Lee

When I read that, I stopped and re-read it at least 3o times.  I wrote it down in on a post-it to put in my planner.  And I really thought about it…

It is easy to look back and see what we WERE…it is hard to see what we ARE.

And it is so true.

For years, instead of seeing what I AM, I saw what I WAS, which as Dr. Finch said, was easy to do.

But, doing that took precious moments and time away from my PRESENT and my FUTURE, leading to stress and disappointment, to disillusionment and bitterness rather than to acceptance and peace.

But NOW…


I definitely haven’t mastered it like Dr. Finch advised, but I realize the importance of what I AM and of my place in the NOW.

I cannot change the past.  That is done.  And it took me this long to finally admit it.

I will no longer wish to change or apologize for the things I did or the choices I made.  I’ve done my time and asked for forgiveness for too long, most importantly, from myself.

Instead, the person I AM, who is a result of all of those things and choices, forgives me and will focus on and live in the PRESENT (while acting responsibly for my future self).

So, what am I?  Well, let’s “sea”…

I am a wife.  A partner.  A writer.  A photographer.  A teacher.  A student.  A sister.  A daughter.  An aunt.  A daughter in law.  A sister in law.  A friend.  A colleague.  A collector.  An observer.  A reader.  A thinker.  A doer.  An ambassador for kindness.  A traveler.  A woman.  A person.  An “endurer.”

And, most importantly, I am a human following Dr. Finch’s advice of mastering the art of seeing what I am, one day at a time.


20150722 Quote


So, what are you?  I’d love to know.

Until next time,



Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 7/18/2015

2015018 Beach Photo

This weekend is supposed to be very hot and humid here along the Jersey Shore.  As you find yourself seeking some relief inside, perhaps you might like to visit some of these interesting links from the week.

Some great words of advice from Wil Wheaton

Who are you and what do you want?

This Kit   |   This Necklace  |   These Lights

Inspiration from Mallika Chopra

How Susannah Conway shoots with her iPhone

Spread some kindness!

and something for fun:

Which Disney hat should you wear?

Enjoy your day, your weekend, and your life!

Until next time,





“Sea” My Top 5 July Moments So Far

Summer is, by far, my most favorite time of year.  Each day brings something new and special amid the sweet air and warm breezes.  This year, I am trying to live in the moment as much as possible, taking it all in, and just simply enjoying each memory that the Summer of 2015 gives to me.

For today’s entry, I thought I’d share the 5 best parts of July for me so far.  Obviously July 10 had it’s own significance, as I wrote about in my last entry, so I am choosing 5 additional things to focus on.  Half of July is over, and if I could slow down time, I certainly would, and I am so grateful for each summer moment.

1.  July 4:  I went up to the beach with my family and watched the fireworks for the first time in years.  It was wonderful to be with my brother, sister-in-law, nephews, mom and other family members, and hopefully a new, yearly tradition started this year.

2.  Watching my niece during her surf camp.  I’ve always loved surfing and have wanted to try it since I was young.  I actually hoped to learn to surf this summer, but recent surgery and medical issues made me postpone this goal until next year.  Watching my niece ride the waves with no fear and sheer joy was amazing, and I don’t know whether she, at 12 years old, realizes how much she has inspired me to cross this off my bucket list.

3.  Summer fruits, especially blueberries!  I have picked about 10 quarts of blueberries from our bushes.  I have also enjoyed the nectarines, pluots, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew that summer brings.

4.  Sand between my toes, and a shell in my pocket.  Just a quick 5 minute stroll on the beach as day morphs into evening is enough to recharge me.

5.  Time spent with people I care about, laughing with and enjoying each other’s company.  Whether I was at a bridal shower, lunch, walking downtown, or breakfast, I am thankful for the awesome people in my life.

I would love to SEA your favorite memory from July, so please comment and tell me all about it.

Sometime today, stop for a moment and take it all in with a deep breath.

20150716 Beach Photo

Until Next Time,



“Sea” My Perfect 4 Hours

I woke up on Friday, July 10, filled with excitement.  I marked the box for July 10 in my planner with colors and stickers back in March.  It has been 7 years since a day like today happened.  Notoriously early for things, I eagerly packed my bag with water, sunscreen, my journal, some snacks, and my camera, and was showered and ready by 8:45 am.  I kept looking at my watch and kept thinking, “10:30 am will never get here.”  In a way, I didn’t want 10:30 to arrive, because that would mean my day will have started and it would be over sooner than I’d like.

Finally, it was time to leave.  I loaded the truck with my bag and my beach chair, and I was off to experience what I now call “my perfect 4 hours.”  Thankful that I didn’t have to find a parking spot, my husband dropped me off on time, right at 10:30 am.  I exited the truck, lugged my chair and bag towards the wall, and set up what would be my little zone for the next few hours.

I sat looking to the north, with the salt water rushing in and out of the Inlet, Manasquan on the other side, Carlson’s Corner on the left, the surfing beach entrance and pavilion on the right.  I was surrounded by people who were fishing, to the left and to the right of me, hauling in nothing but masses of sea weed and an occasional short fish, which would be thrown back into the water.  Other people were standing around too, talking with friends, watching the fishermen.  In a way, we were all, as Otis Redding so simply put, “Sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away…”

The Inlet has always been a special place for me, as it is for many people who grew up here. In high school, we were allowed to leave school for lunch, and when we were old enough to drive, many a lunch period was spent getting our food and eating in our cars at the Inlet.  Every time I went away, for school or trips, one of the first places I’d go when I got home was the Inlet.  I wish someone would figure out how to bottle that sweet smell of salt air and make a candle or a room freshener with it, because that’s the smell of home, and there’s no other smell in the world like it.

I’ve probably taken over 5,000 photographs at the Inlet: so many types of boats, the jetty, the mouth end, the west end, the rocks, the graffiti (unfortunately) and the landscape; in wind, sunshine and rain; at sunrise, at high noon, at dusk.  The most difficult photos I ever took was about 3 weeks after Superstorm Sandy, when the public was finally allowed back into the one-way circuit to see the devastation first hand.  I’ll save that post for another time, for that’s a story in itself.

Anyway, by know you might be wondering, “What was so special about Friday, July 10?” and why I was filled with excitement.

Some of my most vivid and happy, summer memories from being a kid are the yearly powerboat races (while the race name changed over the years, locals affectionately refer to the powerboat races as the “Benihana”).  My brother and I would go with my uncle to see the boats up close on land in wherever “Race Village” was held that year (and I remember the Clydesdale Horses would occasionally make a visit).  We’d watch the parade of boats down Arnold or Ocean Avenues.  And we would stand shoulder to shoulder at the Inlet to watch the race boats go out to and return from their respective races on the ocean.  Even when we weren’t able to attend the races, we could hear the boats in the distance from our house.

Due to sponsorships and schedules, the races eventually moved on to other locations throughout the USA.  For years, there were no area races, then a race would be scheduled here and there, but nothing turned out to be a yearly tradition.  The last race I remember was the Miss Geico Grand Prix in September of 2008.

Well, on Friday, July 10, 2015, the Offshore Powerboat Association sponsored the 2015 Manasquan Veterans Offshore Grand Prix.  And back in the cold months of winter, when I saw the race announcement, I was excited like a little kid, and the same excitement that filled me all day on race day.  There were two races scheduled, one at noon and one at 2 pm.

My excitement was fueled by nostalgia and by anticipation.

During the first few minutes at my Inlet zone, a few crew/course boats made their way out to the ocean.  It was easy to tell these from regular boats, as they each flew a flag of some kind, and most people on the boats wore neon yellow shirts.  I tested my camera settings on these boats, and was ready for the onslaught of powerboats that would soon appear for the first race, scheduled at noon.

Not long after arriving, another photographer sat by me and we talked about the old races.  Then, who comes up but my uncle, the same uncle who took me to all of the powerboat events as a kid.  It was so fitting that he was there to share this experience with me.

More spectators arrived on both sides of the Inlet, and a few gentlemen behind me were talking about the old Benihana races.  As I turned and looked around at the crowd, I wondered how many of these same people were here many years ago, year after year, waiting for the boats then as they waited for the boats now.  A big difference, though, was the amount of people waiting.  Back in the heyday, people would honestly stand shoulder to shoulder, 4-5 rows back as they waited for the boats.  Now there was plenty of room to stand and catch a glimpse of the boats en route to the course.

We all kept checking our watches, and finally, it was NOON.  The scheduled time of the first race.  With my camera in hand, I jumped onto the sea wall and looked west.  I could hear the engines in the distance, and knew they were making their way to the Inlet.  I saw a number on a black boat, and then the neon yellow of the Geico Caveman pace boat through the crowd of other vessels.

It was coming!  They were almost here!

A Coast Guard boat turned on its light, sounded its siren, and then………here they came!

Here They Come!

Firing their engines and led by the Coast Guard and Geico Caveman pace boat, each boat came racing through the inlet, barreling like a bat out of hell, and my camera shutter had a hard time keeping up with how many images I was taking!  Some of the racers waved or gave a “thumbs up” to the crowd as the boats created quite a wave wall in the Inlet.  Their adrenaline fueled my adrenaline, and the moment was quite spectacular.

90 seconds of sheer intensity and awesomeness passed, and then, the last race boat, a small yellow one, rounded the corner at the Inlet’s mouth north to the course, which was along the Manasquan beach.

I absolutely loved every thrilling second of it, and was filled with elation and pure joy.

The crowd dispersed, but a few of us stayed and took turns standing on the benches to see the boats round the south end of the course across the Inlet in Manasquan (note: if this race happens next year, BE on the Manasquan side so I can see!  The boats raced right along the beach!).  One or two race boats returned and headed back through the Inlet to Manasquan River Club (the race home base), seemingly having some sort of equipment problem.

After the race, the boats came back through the Inlet to return to headquarters at Manasquan River Club..  This time, the boats were a bit slower, and it was easier to take photos because they weren’t all bunched up.

We Haul Boats

The boats named Aquaholic and Typhoon each won their respective divisions, as each boat returned waving a checked flag.  Spectators on both sides of the Inlet cheered for them.


Between the races, I was able to take photos of some of the party boats headed in and out for a day’s fishing, and I enjoyed talking with my new race friends.  My uncle pedaled home on his bicycle to have his lunch, and returned right on time at 2 pm for the second race.  Spectators on both sides of the Inlet, most of who had dispersed after the first race boats came through the Inlet, gathered again.  All of us waiting, waiting, for the boats in the bigger classes to appear.

Party boats passed by with their afternoon customers, and a trawler came into port with his harvest, but activity to the west (where the race boats would come from) was quiet.  Second after second passed, and still, nothing.

We realized that the boats must have caught the railroad bridge and been halted for a while as a train made its way over the waterway.  When that happens, it not only holds boaters up from the closure, but creates a second delay of boaters trying to navigate through the small opening on the water from both directions once it reopens.

Finally about 2:20, I could once again see the neon yellow Geico pace boat, among others, in the distance, and I heard the revving of the engines.

Inlet traffic was stopped, and the small Coast Guard boat once again fired up its siren and light, and Round 2 began!

Behind the pace and course boats, the totally awesome Batman racing boat led the field out of the Inlet.  Again, engines screaming, waves crashing, pure speed gusting through the channel, 90 seconds of power and fury, and again, my shutter had a hard time keeping up with the pictures I was shooting.

Bat Boat Leads the Way

Some boats were repeaters from Race 1.  My heart pounding, I again watched until the last boat rounded the corner north to the race course.

Shortly after, my body sent me signals that it was time to leave.  I packed up my belongings, said goodbye to my uncle and new friends, and walked up the road to wait for my husband to pick me up.  I could hear the boats racing to the north, and even though I was completely content, part of me was wishing I was on the other side of the Inlet watching the boats battle it out on the ocean.

As I waited for my husband, I remembered completing an exercise recently that asked me to describe my perfect day.

I realized those 4 hours I spent at the Inlet were, indeed, part of my perfect day, and thus resulted in “my perfect 4 hours.”

I share my story with you because, for one, I want to preserve my perfect 4 hours in my memory forever, while keeping the shore tradition of offshore boat racing festivities alive.

On Thursday, the day before the race, I joined my sister in law and 2 nephews at Race Village, and it was so meaningful to watch them get excited upon seeing the race boats for the first time, just like my uncle watched my brother and I get excited when we were younger.

Those memories are precious, and the circle of tradition continues.

It doesn’t get any more perfect than the weather, the sounds, the sights, the smells, and the company of my uncle while watching the race boats en route to the Offshore Grand Prix course, so many years after we watched the boats for the first time.

Hopefully I can hand the same traditions and memories down to my nephews.

I also hope you SEA that my perfect 4 hours is most likely very different from yours, and that’s okay.  I am unique and different, as are you, and while we might share some similar characteristics, each of us has different interests and passions.  At another time in my life, I might have been reluctant to share such as story, fearing embarrassment by admitting that I like watching the powerboats.

But now, I am proud of my interests, because that’s what makes me ME.

My perfect 4 hours.  I will forever be grateful for this experience and cherished memory.

Whatever yours might be, I hope you plan AND experience your perfect day, or few hours.  Do what makes you YOU, and be proud of it.


If you made it this far, thanks for reading my lengthy and detailed post.  I appreciate you sticking with me until the end.  My intention in writing this is to inspire you, and I hope I have.  Some links for you to check out, if you are so inclined…


To see all of my images from the race, please click here.

If you click this link, you will see a photo taken by photographer Tim Sharkey of the Batman boat heading out of the Inlet for Race 2.  To the right in the background, the man in the red shirt is my uncle, and I am standing next to him holding up my camera.  http://sharkeyimages.zenfolio.com/oparacing_2015_manasquan_class_2/e4e87e6d5

For a great photo essay about the winners of each class, please click here.  All images are copyrighted by photographer Tim Sharkey, of Sharkey Images.

All of Tim Sharkey’s incredible photos from the 2015 Manasquan Veterans Offshore Grand Prix can be viewed by clicking here.

Something to Sea: Rainy Day Clicks for 7/11/2015

One of the weekly posts I intend to write will be a roundup of interesting pages and web finds from the week.  Save them for a rainy day, a weekend, or when you just feel like tooling around the Internet.

When in NYC, eat here


100 Words for Now

This is 40

Color These

From Local to National

Have the Courage

The Importance of Responsibility

and finally

I feel exactly the same way!

Did you find a meaningful site or post this week?  If so, please leave the link in a comment.  I wish you a relaxing and wonderful weekend (or rainy day, whenever you may read this entry.)

Until next time,







“Sea”ing Direction

I was going through an old journal and this is what I wrote on March 28, 2010:

“I’m sitting at the beach, sand covering my feet, listening to and watching the waves roll in.  What is my place in this world?  I’m lost.  No idea about what my purpose is.  Somehow, I expect the answers to come rolling in on one of the waves, but no answers, yet.”

I probably have written the same type of journal entry at least 50  times in my life.  While I might have been distracted at times throughout my years and made more terrible decisions than I’d like to admit, I have led a pretty simple life, comparatively speaking.  But there, always lurking in the background, was a map without any path laid out.  The one constant has been the refuge of the beach and the sea.  Ever since I was young, I looked to the sea to find the answers…answers to guide me on the right path to find my true calling and purpose on this earth.  I expected the voice of the sea to literally SPEAK to me, time after time.

I’ve always felt as if I should be doing something MORE than what I do, that my purpose was something more, but I have never been able to find what THAT is.  For a while I thought it was photography, and I jumped into that arena with my heart and soul.  However, long story short, that detour ended up being a dead end for many reasons (I will elaborate on this at another time).

Prayer after prayer, good decision after good decision, setback after setback, life change after life change, I’m still here, trying to find what THAT is.

Just as I was 5 years ago.

Just as I was 10 years ago.

Just as I was 20 years ago.

Just as I was as I graduated high school.

And just as I was as a kid.

At the end of 2014, a few clicks on a Facebook page I follow brought me to a website I had never visited before, and I found a wonderful writer named Susannah Conway (please check her out, as she is such an inspiration).  She offered a free workbook called “Unraveling the Year Ahead 2015.”  I completed the workbook, and the word I chose for me this year was DIRECTION.  A summary from what I wrote (which looks so similar to what I wrote in 2010):

“For years, I have felt lost.  There are things I want to do, but I do not know what to focus on or how to do them…I need direction on so many levels.  Direction will help me nurture me. Direction will help me nurture my relationships with others. Direction will help me see where I am going, and how I will get there. Direction will help me see the world. Direction will help me focus on a purpose for my writing. Direction will help me find my purpose in life. Direction will lead me there. Direction is my word for 2015.”

2015 happened, and I was once again ready to find my path, looking for direction everywhere…clues to guide me, signs to direct me.  Looking again to the sea for answers, for some whispering just a little louder than the surf, something to show me the way, even just one word to move me forward just one step.

This year I made it a point to be more involved with life.  I embraced my birthday in February and started a blog to document what I do during my 44th year, and have since made progress on my goal list.  I have said “yes” to more invitations this year.  I began meditating and reading books by a lot of new authors to me, such as Mallika Chopra, Brene Brown and Eckhardt Tolle.  I read Susannah Conway’s “This I Know” 3 times. I take a lot more notes and reflect a lot more about my daily happenings and observations.  My planner is a rainbow of “me,” filled with ideas, snippets and thoughts on multi-colored post-its with coordinated ink.  I’ve made great memories with great people and seen a lot of new places, some which were right around the corner all along.

However, through the daily ins and outs, I saw nothing leading me in the right “direction,” if you will.  No clues, no signs, nothing leading me to what THAT is.  Just the same old, same old to do list, meeting agendas, responsibilities and the like.

In June, I began thinking about how half of 2015 is almost over, and I have not found my direction.

And then, out of the blue, it hit me…the idea for this blog.  And hit me it did, like a ton of bricks, in my semi-sleeping subconscious.  And for the first time in what I can remember, I felt like I made it over the proverbial hump of life.

Now, I don’t know whether this (SoulSEAKer) is THAT, my purpose or calling, but what you are reading right now IS my direction.  I do not know where my words and photographs will take me, but what I do know is that I feel a little less lost these days.  I feel like I am ON the right path on my life’s map.  I know that I am headed in the right direction.  And if the answer is not my words and photographs, I firmly believe that my words and photographs will lead me to THAT.  The answer.

When I look towards the future, I am excited, yet filled with calm and peace.  I am right where I am supposed to be, and instead of looking back and wishing “what if”, I am looking forward and saying YES to what might be.

I will continue to listen to the sea’s voice for guidance, because at the every least, it will provide me with solace and a sense of renewal.

And I plan to embrace every opportunity that is good for me with open arms.

While the path of my future is still unknown, my compass is finally pointed in the right DIRECTION.

I’d love to know your reaction to this entry, or something that helps you find direction in your own life…please comment if you’d like.