Day 08 of 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016: Light

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LIGHT is one of the recurring themes that the universe has been sending me for almost a year now. The signs come in various ways…quotes, song lyrics, memes, photographs, and more. To explain further would honestly take at least a day, and I’d have to verbally tell you everything versus writing it.

Trust me, I’m documenting everything, and that story will eventually be told. Suffice it to say that right now, at this stage of my life, the word LIGHT has many meanings:

  • I am, indeed, learning to turn on my light.
  • I must be the light to shine for someone special who cannot shine his or her own.
  • I must be the light that ignites others.
  • I must leave a light on, and when it gets dark, remember that the light IS on even though I might not be able to see it.
  • I must be the light when all of the others burn out.
  • Even though darkness may shine bright, light shines brighter.

These simple statements encourage me to be strong and persevere as the light is finally overcoming the dark. It is shining on the path I must take. Light is illuminating my ideas and words and will, ultimately, tell the story I need to tell.

The brightest light is yet to come and is being fueled by the brightest spirits of all.

Intentionally vague? Yes…but that’s because I don’t know the exact path, all of the words, or all of the meanings quite yet.

The only thing I do know is that it’s going to continue being an exciting ride, and I’m going to enjoy every single minute of it!

Shine on, my friend! Shine on!

Day 07 of 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016: Refresh

FullSizeRender (1)This. This right here is perhaps the most refreshing beverage I have ever had. Boylan’s Sparkling Lemonade. I love all things lemon, and when I saw this on the shelf of my local market, I immediately got excited. The lemon flavor is extraordinary, with just the right amount of sweetness. Boylan’s, you had me at Sparkling Lemonade. It’s a limited release and sold out almost everyplace. I hope my local market has one more bottle for sale when I visit later today.

Day 06 of 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016: Night

NIGHT

By day I wear my mask,

The light emitting a facade,

Plain conformity to

Blend in with the masses.

By night I wear my self,

The dark emitting the truth,

Colorful rarity to

Stand out from the masses.

Which is which,

I don’t know.

They all blend into

One black shapeless

Tumor

Fighting for

Victory.

 

I made a decision to write something different today. Copyright Jill Ocone, July 6, 2016.

Day 05 of 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016: Barbeque

When I came up with my list of prompts for the 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016 challenge, I didn’t realize how hard some would be. Take today’s prompt as an example: BARBEQUE.

It’s summer, and I love going to barbecues and food prepared on a grill, but how do I respond to this prompt?

I went through a library of images on my computer to see if anything fit. Search results: zero. I paged through old diaries to see if I had penned anything that might work. Search results: zero.

So now I am sitting here, trying to figure out how to respond, and I think the answer is to just type.

A memory from my childhood keeps appearing as I think of BARBEQUE (rather, GRILL), and it involves my father. His spirit has been around lately, felt by me, my brother, my nephews, and my husband, so I find it fitting to write about him.

Sausage sandwiches were one of my father’s favorite foods. He was even known to buy them at flea markets and automobile race events well before lunchtime. And he wouldn’t get just one, either. For a man with a normal to small appetite, he could easily put two or three away no problem.

One summer evening, we ate dinner outside on the deck. I’m thinking I was about 11 years old, but I might be way off. Dad grilled Italian sausages, along with onions and peppers, for sausage sandwiches. I vividly remember bean salad and cucumber salad as the sides prepared by my mother.

As we got ready to eat, Dad reached out for the vinegar to douse his sandwich with. I don’t remember if he put anything else on his sausage sandwiches besides vinegar, which doesn’t sound all that appealing to me but that was what he liked.

He turned the bottle upside down, and the “vinegar” came pouring out all over his sandwich, then his entire plate.

Well, he hadn’t grabbed the vinegar bottle…he grabbed his beer instead.

At first, I was afraid he was going to flip out because Dad could have a bit of a temper at times. I was frozen, waiting for the tirade to come…

Well, he picked up the dripping sandwich and took a bite, and then another, and another.

I remember all of us laughing as he enjoyed his dinner of a beer-marinated sandwich and salads.

A snippet of a 30+-year-old memory from my brain’s file cabinet, one of the few times I recall my father going with the flow.

Today’s lessons?

Going with the flow makes life’s caution and penalty flags more memorable, and choose laughter over anger.

Sausage Sandwiches the way Dad liked them. Photo from The Food Network.

Day 04 of 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016: Red, White, Blue

Happy Fourth of July, friends, and Happy 240th Birthday to America! If you know me personally, you know that I love my country and I am an advocate for those who choose to serve. Yes, I AM a Yankee Doodle Dandy, and proud to be one!

With that being said, I would like to share something special to honor today’s prompt of RED, WHITE, BLUE. However, there will be photographs to accompany my story other than a meme at the end. I hope my words convey to you what I feel in my heart.

In June, I was asked by my 5-year-old nephew H to go to his preschool graduation ceremonies. “Please come to my graduations, Auntie Jill!” Of course I would go…how could I turn him down with his pleading brown eyes and his dazzling smile?

The two ceremonies were a week apart. As I sat in the audience of the first ceremony with family, we all looked for him during the processional, and there he was! Once he was on stage, he saw us all and waved. All of the little boys and girls wore red and blue graduation caps and gowns. The ceremony was lovely, and the children did a great job with their performances.

Towards the end, the children sang one more very special (and very secret) song. Each little hand held out a small American Flag as the song began, and together sang “God Bless The U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood. Immediately the tears welled in my eyes, but I was able to keep control because H’s little brother had fallen asleep on my lap. Part of me wanted to record this moment, but replaying in my mind’s eye versus on a device is more memorable. Those little voices singing about pride in their country while waving their little flags…I was immediately flooded with mental images of flags on every house after 9-11, of a country pulling together, of those who chose to defeat evil by serving, of those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving…I could hear crowds yelling “USA” at sporting events and concerts, and our nation’s anthem sung at the top of everyone’s lungs…I could taste the unwavering pride for our country that we shared so strongly, a pride that has, sadly, since waned….

After the children finished their song, the graduation concluded and the red and blue gowns walked through the audience one last time. As H came by us, he had his little flag in front of him in one hand, his preschool diploma in the other, and a huge smile of accomplishment on his face. We went outside after pictures and cake.  I picked up H and told him how special that song was to me and how proud I was of him for singing it so wonderfully. He just looked me in the eyes, cupped my face, and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Fast forward to one week later for the second ceremony. The little graduates came out on stage at the beginning, and each was wearing red, white, and blue. Some had on patriotic hats. And what song do you think they opened the ceremony with? That’s right…”God Bless The U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood. The tears welled again as the angelic voices joined together in harmony, but once again, I was on little brother duty and tried to keep him quiet as he yelled, “My brother up there! My brother up there!” Another moving and special tribute excellently done by the graduates.

I was recanting this story for someone recently, and he said, “What a way to indoctrinate those little kids. Propaganda.”

Instead of responding, which would have been useless, I just looked at him in disbelief.

That is when I realized that THAT’S what’s so wrong with our country. The belief that everything’s a conspiracy, that everything is someone else’s fault, that people pass judgement so quickly without being open to all sides and are so quick to dismiss because of their own elitist views.

Here were two groups of children, showing pride in their country through song with no ulterior motive. It was a simple performance. I do not have children, but if I did and if my child took part in these ceremonies, I would have thanked the teachers and the staff for educating my child about pride and about our country.

I have never forgotten how much my world changed on September 11, 2001. I will never forget the first baseball game and NASCAR race televised afterwards. I will never forget seeing each victim’s name engraved at the 9-11 Memorial. I will never forget names like Nicholas Ott, Ronald Kubik, Christopher Duffy, and Vincent Frassetto, who demonstrated ultimate bravery while making the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

The only good thing I took away from that awful, horrid day in 2001 was a renewed pride in my country, no matter what. Regardless of the many acrimonious political/social/religious views and strife among us, the United States of America is our homeland. No, everything’s not perfect here in America, and improvement is needed in so many ways, but we can still come together and join hands. We can unite and support each other.

We can take pride in the RED, WHITE, AND BLUE.

Just as those little children weren’t embarrassed to sing “God Bless The USA,” I am not embarrassed to respect my country. I thank H and his preschool friends for reminding me of that.

I am proud to be an American every day, not just today.

Happy 240th Birthday, America!

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Day 03 of 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016 – Beach

The Beach
Taken in March 2016 in Melbourne Beach, Florida. This is the beach across the street from my inlaw’s Florida home.

The beach. I absolutely love the beach, and I know how fortunate I am to live in a place where the beach is one mile from my house.

However, I hate going to the beach. I bet you were surprised to read that! Let me explain…

I’m not someone who can sit on the beach for hours doing nothing. Lying on the beach surrounded by others in the hot sun listening to music I don’t like and ignorant conversation all day…no, that’s not for me. Plus, my brain cannot sit and do nothing either. I’ve had friends day, “But what about reading? You like to read, so why don’t you read at the beach?” Again, my brain isn’t wired like that. If I try to read at the beach, I become easily distracted with what’s going on around me. I turn into an observer, watching everything…even if there’s no people and I’m by myself, I just cannot concentrate on reading when I am at the beach. I’d rather watch the waves crash, or the gulls fly.

However, I like heading up to the beach in the mornings before the crowds and badge checkers to sit for a few minutes, to walk in search of a shell, or to write a bit in my journal (and even then, I cannot write too much because I’m distracted). I usually last about an hour or two at most, then I’ll go home to begin my day as the crowds arrive. Same for after hours…a quick walk on the beach before dinner is all I need to recharge and relax. My favorite time to go to the beach, believe it or not, is in September. Those who live in NJ I am sure will agree. September is the best beach weather month, and even though I’m back at work, I’ll go up for a few minutes before I head to school, until sunrise is too late. It’s the best way to start the day.

The beach is my therapist. It understands me, advises me, comforts me, and accepts me. It is filled with mystery. Time stops when I simply get lost while walking on the beach by myself. The ocean is strong, and at times, can be scary, but it always comes back to its calm.

The salt water is in my veins and in my soul, and the sand is my blanket of comfort.

Yeah, I love the beach.

Day 02 of 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016: Bloom

File_000Bloom. There are so many ways I interpret this word, but they all have the same action in common: coming out of a shell in order to live while displaying beauty. I’ve been awed by how many orange day lily blooms I’ve had bloom this summer…so many more than usual! Sadly, this beautiful orange display is ending its short exhibit, as I only have two buds left, and both should open today. But that’s nature, all in its own time. I tried to mirror the photography technique of my friend C when I took this picture the other night; this bloom was lit by the evening sun and stood out from the rest.

My sweet-smelling milkweed is also in full bloom today. In the past, I’ve had full milkweed blooms in the middle of May, but this year’s blooms didn’t open until this week…the latest ever. Additionally, A few years ago, I had a rogue tiger lily appear in my garden, and since, it has multiplied into several plants. This year, most of them are already taller than I am, and I’m 5′ 5″! They should be the next perennials to bloom.

I’m finding that I, myself, am undertaking the progress of blooming. I am coming out of my self-imposed shell of solitude in order to live, and my hope is that my words will be what displays the most beauty.  We’ll see.

Day 01 of Summer Lovin’ 2016: Outdoors

File_001Outdoors. The best part of summer. I love spending time outside, whether it is taking a walk on the boardwalk or through my neighborhood, riding my bicycle around, or just sitting and writing. Funny thing that if I am writing, I become easily distracted by the outdoors, and will sit and stare like David Puddy of Seinfeld fame. There’s no reason for me to stare…I’m just “be”ing.

Unfortunately, I’ve been battling a Lupus flare since the fall.  I’m beginning to think that the sun is playing a role, something that I absolutely hate to admit. I’ve had the trademark malar rash across my face almost every day for the last two months and counting. It comes and goes, and is most severe when I wake up in the morning and after any physical activity such as mowing the lawn or walking. Some days it is so severe that my entire face is lobster red, and the rash itself is hot and burning. Then, as mysteriously as it appears, it will just disappear on its own. Most of the time family and friends mistake the rash for sunburn. I wish it was…

I have been using sunscreen and wearing a hat with a large brim when I’m outside to see if that helps alleviate the rash. So far, it hasn’t.

The lesson here?

I will never take the outdoors for granted again.

Today’s photo is from an early morning Boardwalk walk I took earlier this week. So beautiful and so peaceful.