Something to SEA: Memorial Day Clicks for 5/28/2016

sQUARE Collage

It’s Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer. Many years ago, I was like so many others and looked at Memorial Day weekend as a celebration and a reason to party. I could probably have a down payment on a new car if I had all of the money I spent at that time on bars and drinks on Memorial Day weekends alone. I didn’t give it a second thought, but looking back, it’s not something I am proud of.

As I matured and as the world changed, I experienced first-hand loss from the Afghanistan conflicts as two of my former students heroically died while protecting others. A few years ago, my town used to have a Memorial Day parade, but because of low turnout, they switched to a ceremony at a town park. When I found out the reason for the parade cancellation, I was quite upset:  the street is filled with parents and children for the annual Halloween parade. Apparently costumes and candy are more important than honoring those who gave us the freedom to wear costumes and eat candy in the first place, and to me, that is…

Wait a minute. As I type this I realize that my comments might be misinterpreted as shame. That is not my goal.

My goal is to educate and inform so that more people will take the time to honor and remember while they are celebrating and having fun.

Not everyone has a connection to someone to honor on Memorial Day. If you don’t, please visit my links below so you can learn more about Sgt. Ronald A. Kubik and Cpl. Nicholas S. Ott.

Take a moment this weekend to honor what the day means and stands for. Educate the young people in your life about the true meaning of Memorial Day and about real heroes like Nick and Ron who gave their lives for the USA. Attend a local ceremony or service for an hour. Join in the National Moment of Silence at 3 PM on Monday, May 30.

Thank you to all the men and women who gave their lives while serving our country. I am grateful for your sacrifice and I honor your memory.

Read my letter to Ron and Nick from November 2015

Remembering Sgt. Ronald Kubik from Micromedia Publications

A Field of Flags, and Ocean County memorials including Nick and Ron from Micromedia Publications

Cpl. Nicholas S. Ott Memorial Fund

Hawks Hall of Honor

Free Memorial Day Printable from me

I’d also like to remember and thank Matthew Zegan for his service (1973-1994). Matthew is another graduate from the school where I work who was killed in a tragic accident at Fort Bragg.

Something to SEA: Free Memorial Day Printable

Memorial Day 2016

Memorial Day, the “unofficial” start of summer, will be here in a few days. As you enjoy your holiday weekend, please take time to remember why Memorial Day is a holiday in the first place. Perhaps attend a local Memorial Day parade or service. Teach the young ones in your life about the holiday. I’ve included some links to help you out if you are so inclined.

I created the image above that can be saved, printed, and displayed at your home or events. You can download a .pdf version here. The image and .pdf are both sized 8 1/2 x 11 inches.

Finally, please join me in remembering those who gave their all for our freedom and for our country by going silent for one minute at 3 PM on Monday, May 30 at 3:00 PM for the National Moment of Remembrance.

Thank you,

Jill

VA Office of Public Affairs Memorial Day Site

History.com Memorial Day Site

PBS.org Memorial Day Site

Timeforkids.com Memorial Day Site

 

 

Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 5/21/2016

2016AFDPosterToday is Armed Forces Day, and I would like to thank everyone who has served or is serving the USA.

It’s been a week filled with tissues, antibiotics, and doctors around here as I muddle through with a nasty sinus infection. Any sort of cold or infection I get is usually worse because of my immune system issues, plus the cold/infection, in turn, makes my immune system symptoms worse. One feeds the other, and so on.

There’s an awesome powerboat race in town this weekend, and I hope to go to the parade today and the race tomorrow, provided that the weather cooperates. Hope you find something close to your heart to enjoy this weekend too! The sickness has given me, if nothing else, time, and I’ve been able to collect some good sites for you to check out this week.

Blackbeard’s Ship Confirmed Off North Carolina – pretty neat! From National Geographic

Why You Aren’t Dead Yet – by Michael Hyatt

What Makes a Good Life – from Erin Congdon

Top 50 Inspiration Blogs – so glad to see some of my favorites on the list

I love this narwhal mug!

You Are Free, Like it or Not! – from David at Raptitude.com

The Top 10 Reasons Warchild Should Have Backed Off. Seriously – by my good friend Johnny Utah

Watch Ya’ Mouth – from Joe Santagato. Once you have recovered from the hilarity of this video, you need to watch all 5 Mad Libs Madness videos he did with his brother Keith. I haven’t laughed that hard in a very long time (and I’ll be honest, I just watched them all again and my stomach hurts from laughing). If you find inappropriate language offensive, then I’d suggest passing on these gems.

and finally,

I’m Taking a Digital Sabbath starting tomorrow, as suggested by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Have a great week,

Jill

PS: Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of “Delicate Tapestries!” See my post here on how to enter. All entries must be received by 7 pm EST on Monday, 5/23/2016.  Good luck!

 

 

 

 

Something to SEA: A Butterfly Book Giveaway!

CoverHello, friends! Now that it is finally warmer, I would bet that you are busy getting your yard and plants ready for the upcoming season. Every year, I look forward to the arrival of birds and butterflies to my yard, where I have many feeders, host plants, and nectar flowers available for them.

It is critical that birds, bees, and butterflies (especially monarchs) have enough sustainable food and host plants to survive. Each year, the number of bees and monarchs diminish greatly, and humans need to do what they can to help by planting wildflowers or providing feeders.

What better way to bond with nature than by raising your own butterflies? It’s very easy to do. I authored a book titled “Delicate Tapestries: A Step by Step Guide to Raising Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies” in 2011.  My photographs document the process of raising the butterflies starting at the egg, through the caterpillar stage and metamorphosis, and then to emergence as a butterfly.  All you need are some parsley plants, a storage tub or aquarium with a screen lid (with very small screen holes), and some empty plastic containers with lids. That’s it! The entire process takes about a month from when the egg is first laid to butterfly, unless the chrysalis is formed after mid-September, in which case the butterfly will overwinter and emerge in the spring.

I also raise monarchs. I transplanted some milkweed along the back of my house a few years ago, and the first thing I love about milkweed is the beautiful smell of the flowers when it blooms. All different kinds of bees are attracted to them, which is good for pollentation. One year the flowers bloomed as early as mid May. This year, however, the plants are just starting to sprout. When the tiny caterpillars appear after the butterflies lay eggs, I’ll transfer them into my aquarium and watch them grow. Unlike the swallowtail caterpillars, which for some reason I don’t like to touch, I love letting the monarch caterpillars crawl around in my hand. If you would like information about how you can raise your own monarchs, check out the Monarch Watch website.

I’ve witnessed the number of monarchs that visit my home drastically diminish over the past few years. In the summer of 2012, I had over 50 caterpillars that became monarchs. Then, we were hit by Superstorm Sandy, which I personally attribute to a lot of the ecological changes around here, especially in regards to the sharp decline in Monarch numbers. The following summer, I only saw one monarch on my butterfly bush, and I only had two caterpillars. In 2014, I had roughly 8, and last summer, I had 17. Hopefully this summer will be a banner Monarch year.  I encourage you to plant butterfly friendly plants and flowers so that you can share in the joys of nature and in helping out our beautiful critters.

In celebration of nature’s wonderful creatures, I am giving away an autographed copy of “Delicate Tapestries” for free.  All you have to do to enter is comment below with your favorite spring or summer tradition. Comments must be posted by 7 PM EST on Monday, May 23. Good luck!

If you are interested in ordering a copy of my book, please visit Amazon or email me at soulseakernj@gmail.com.

Until next time,

Jill

 

Something to SEA: Banishing The 4 Most Dangerous Words

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On my 45th birthday in February of this year, I held a little ceremony where I wrote down all of the things I regretted, bad decisions from the past, everything that made me feel bad about myself…you get the idea. I put them in an envelope, which I then shredded.  It felt great to officially say “goodbye” to the past.

I was set free.

Or so I thought…

Since then, I have been much better about not letting my past get me down. I’ve made progress towards living in the moment while planning for the future. In fact, I would guess that I am 93% successful in not letting my past affect my present.

Except when the 4 most dangerous words creep in.

When they do, and it’s usually when I least expect it, my mind starts playing its movie of imagined events.

Then my “head hamster”starts running backwards in his wheel, and my thoughts turn around and run towards the past.

And I’m lost again.  For a while.

When I regroup, I am very disappointed in myself.

Here I was, on my birthday, acting all tough when I said goodbye to regret and to the past, and what did I just do? Allow the past and my regrets back in, turning my good energy into bile!

Dammit, why did I let that happen?

Because I’m human, that’s why.

The truth is, with a self-estimated success rate of 93%, I’m doing a hell of a lot better than I have in the past (the past affecting the past…somewhat ironic!).

There was a time when I allowed the past to control me and bring me down all of the time. I couldn’t escape its poisonous grasp. I felt doomed forever, unable to break free from the chains of regret and remorse.

And it was all because of those 4 most dangerous words:

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

Those 4 words cause nothing but misery and sadness, and most importantly, they waste my time and energy.

While I might not be where I thought I’d be at 45 years old, I am where I SHOULD be.

Every path, every decision, every step has led me here.  There’s a lot more of life to be had and living to do, as long as I banish those 4 most dangerous words from my vocabulary, and replace them with

WHAT IS AND WHAT WILL BE.

For example, the old me would have said, “I might have been a writer.”

But you know what?

I AM A WRITER.

That IS what IS, and it’s what I WILL BE.

Living in the present, a.k.a. WHAT IS, will allow me to appreciate the moments of today. There’s no more worry, no more lost time, no more gloom and doom. Rather, it’s taking in each moment spent with nature, with family, with friends, and with myself. It’s allowing the rain to hit my face, to feel the ocean on my feet, and to experience LIFE and all of its grandeurs.

While there’s always a “to do” list, I will no longer allow anything that sucks my soul dry to be written on that list. That IS what IS.

I will be mindful today while striving towards what I want MY future to be, a.k.a. WHAT WILL BE.

And you know what? It’s okay if I don’t exactly know what or where that is yet.

I’m definitely on the right path.  I feel it with every part of my being. Each and every step makes the journey meaningful, adding richness and color to the quest of life.

The old me would have been filled with fear when looking at a future that was uncertain and shaped like a question mark.

Instead, I now see uncertainty as exciting.

I’m ready for the adventure of life and every experience it brings.

That IS, and it will bring me to WHAT WILL BE in the most glorious way possible.

Until next time,

Jill

To see my 45th birthday post, click here.

 

 

 

 

Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 5/14/2016

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Hello, friends, and Happy Day! I might be mistaken, but I think that’s the SUN streaming in my windows this morning! It looks glorious too, lighting all of the leaves up and shimmering off the dew. It is a peaceful and welcoming ambiance today. Just what I was hoping for.

Unfortunately, things around my 50 x 100 feet plot of the world have been a bit difficult this week due to health issues, but every day I hope and pray for a better day. Perhaps that day is today, perhaps not. Suffice it to say I’ve been doing a lot of journaling, and I am very thankful for two very close friends and my family who have provided a non-judgmental ear to listen.

Here are some interesting clicks I saved this week. DON’T, please don’t waste a beautiful day checking them out. Instead, go out there and enjoy. These will be waiting for you later. Have a pleasant week!

Mama, Ducklings Take Annual Walk Through School – this will make you smile!

Abandoned: The Rise, Fall and Decay of Disney’s River Country – for fans of Disney and of abandoned places. Interesting and detailed read. For some reason, I cannot link the article to the entire title, so click on the word Abandoned to take you there.

Wonders of Life: The Sad (But True) Story of Epcot’s Abandoned Pavilion – another one…learned a lot!

Operation Gratitude: With Memorial Day approaching, check out Operation Gratitude to see how you can support our deployed troops.

Listen to 2000 voices sing Prince’s “When Doves Cry” – a moving tribute

These three made me smile the most:

Bartolo Colon Hits His First Career Home Run, and it was Unbelievably Glorious! SO AWESOME for the 42 year old Mets pitcher! Incredible moment in Baseball!

The Cure debut two new songs this week at their concert in New Orleans. Can’t wait for June 19 to see them at Madison Square Garden!

LOVE this new song from Justin Timberlake! I’m normally not one to like current music, but this song has me dancing right here in my chair (since my legs haven’t cooperated all week)! Give it a listen! It’s infectious. I can’t wait to feel better and dance with my niece and nephews to this song.

Until next time,

Jill

PS: I’m working on a 31-Day Prompt Challenge for July. More to come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something to SEA: Learning about Lupus

Logo_High_10mayToday is World Lupus Day. When I began SoulSEAker nearly a year ago, I vowed to focus only one blog entry a year, on May 10, about Lupus. While I have mentioned it at times, I do not want SoulSEAker to be a depressing place or an outlet to vent about the daily difficulties and issues I face caused by Lupus and Fibromyalgia. No sir.

This entry is, in no part, a call for sympathy or attention. My goal is to help you understand what Lupus is, to be honest and matter-of-fact about how it affects me, and what you can do to help spread awareness.

The first question a lot of people ask me is, “What is Lupus?” Well, the textbook definition of Lupus is a chronic and disabling autoimmune disease that causes, among other things, inflammation throughout the body.

The second question that follows is, “What the heck does that mean?” Let’s see if this can help you understand what Lupus is.  The body’s immune system normally produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. Autoimmune means the immune system cannot tell the difference between invaders and the body’s own cells (“auto” means “self”) and creates autoantibodies that attack and damage healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.

Symptoms vary from person to person, and it is very difficult to diagnose since symptoms mirror so many other diseases and tests can be unreliable. In fact, no two cases of Lupus are alike. It can be hereditary: my mother also has Lupus and we both have completely different symptoms. It can strike anyone male or female, of all races and ethnic backgrounds.  I was officially diagnosed when I was 37 years old (and my blood test didn’t turn “positive” for Lupus until I was 40), but looking back, I realize I actually had symptoms appear as early as in my late teenage years.

The most prevalent symptoms that I have every day are:

  • Extreme fatigue. I am mentally drained by 6:00 pm at the latest (sometimes earlier) and cannot complete any sort of mental tasks once I hit my “shutdown time:” I can’t write, read, grade, etc. Usually, about half an hour after my “shutdown time,” my eyelids become very heavy and I need to go to bed, which can be as early as 6:30 pm. It is very frustrating when it is a nice, warm, spring day and I’d much rather be enjoying the outdoors instead of shutting down from complete exhaustion and falling asleep before sunset. Signs and Symptoms of Lupus
  • Low Energy. There are days when my energy is completely used up before 7 am. Those days are rough. Even something as simple as going from classroom to classroom or making my lunch will render me winded, and I will need to sit and rest to recharge if possible.
  • Muscle and Joint Pain. Specifically, my legs and hips. Most of the time the muscle pain in my legs is what I would describe as “electric current pain.” If you can try to pretend that there’s a current of pain radiating like electricity up and down your leg muscles, that’s what I experience on a daily basis. My rheumatologist thinks that both Lupus and Fibromyalgia are working hand-in-hand with the leg pain. The joints that usually throb every day are my knees (left worse than right) and hips (right worse than left). Nothing helps alleviate my muscle or joint pain; I don’t even bother taking pain medication like Advil or Aleve anymore. I also experience pacing & mobility issues related to the pain, and I often walk very slow, like a turtle or a sloth (glad that both turtles and sloths are cute!).
  • Headaches. Every day I have a headache. Some days Excedrin Migraine helps, some days not. They are always different and vary in intensity from dull to sharp: all over the top of my head, throbbing across my forehead, a sharp pain like an ice pick going through the left side of my head behind my eye, etc. You get the picture. Like Mama Gump said, “you just don’t know what you’re gonna get” on any given day.
  • Face Rash. I have the typical “butterfly” rash, but most of the time, people don’t realize it’s a Lupus rash. On me, it looks like sunburn. Some days it burns a bit and it can be hot.
  • Other random symptoms I have a few times a week include noise sensitivity, fevers, concentration/comprehension issues, and light sensitivity. Stress exasperates my symptoms.

The good news is that Lupus is not contagious. There’s no way you can catch it from me if we spend time together. The bad news is that, at this time, there is no cure for Lupus. I am on a number of medications, including steroids and chemotherapy drugs, which have made me gain weight. Ironically enough, I had West Nile in 2012, and it was the steroids I take for Lupus that saved my life and prevented my fever from going higher than it’s peak of 106.8. When I look at the big picture, I’d rather have a little more weight on me than not be here at all. I manage the best I can every day. My best days are ones with as little stress as possible and time to rest versus go-go-go activity.

The Burden of LupusPlease do not misunderstand my explanations for complaints. I treasure each good day I have, and no matter how bad a day is, I know it could be a LOT worse. I count my blessings and am grateful, no matter what.

There are an estimated 1.5 million Americans and 5 million people worldwide with Lupus. Despite its prevalence, research has been relatively unfunded. Celebrities and notable people who reportedly have Lupus include Selena Gomez, Seal, Nick Cannon, Toni Braxton, Flannery O’Connor, Paula Abdul, Ray Walston (Mr. Hand for fellow Fast Times at Ridgemont High fans), and Lady Gaga.

What can you do to help?

Know Lupus SquareHow can you learn more?

Thank you for taking the time to read this very personal post. I hope you learned something new, and that you will help spread the word about Lupus awareness. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or to reach out by email: soulseakernj@gmail.com.

With gratitude,

Jill

*** Information from Lupus Foundation of America and World Lupus Day

 

 

Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 5/7/2016

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It’s been dreary all week here in New Jersey, and today doesn’t look to be any different. That’s okay, though. Sometimes I like dreary days. It will become brighter this afternoon for me because we will be celebrating my nephew’s 5th birthday. I was summoned to “come over and play” this week by the 2-year-old, and it was the best two hours of the week. The 3 of us played with connecting gears, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and Paw Patrol cars, and I had a lot of fun making them laugh by making my duck sound and by hitting balloons into the air. I hope you find time this week to spend time with the cherished people in your life. There’s nothing better than making memories and being with those you love.

Here are some interesting links for the week. Hope you enjoy!

May is Lupus Awareness Month – I will be penning a blog entry on Tuesday 5/10 about Lupus to commemorate World Lupus Day, which will be the only day each year I focus on my illness here at SoulSEAker. If you’d like to learn more about Lupus, please see the .pdf fact sheet linked here.

A Call for Kindness – by Susannah Conway. All women, regardless of your age, should read this.

Dan Pallotta: The Dream We Haven’t Dared to Dream – excellent Ted Talk recommended by fellow author and my friend Mandi Bean

2 Minutes Watching the Northern Lights Over Norway Proves the World is Still Beautiful – by Joe Carberry over at The Inertia

Say It Loud! I’m a Writer and I’m Proud – by Gayle Fleming

Why Do Some People Go Out of Their Way to Help Others – great video posted by No Limits

And Finally…

Even the Obamas celebrated Star Wars Day!

Have a splendid day and week!

Until next time, 

Jill

PS: If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, here’s a link to the May issue.  Take a look, then sign up! You know you want to! 🙂