Nitro’s Check Mark

I took my teenage niece, nephew, and their friend to Six Flags Great Adventure yesterday (August 10, 2018). My husband and I have given Niece and Nephew season passes to Six Flags Great Adventure for Christmas every year since 2015.

What I love most about our gift is that I also get a season pass, which allows me to spend time with them at the park several times a year. Each visit is special to me because it’s our thing, and it’s a great way to help provide a break for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. If I had a nickel for how many times we laughed together or for each memory we made or silly story we told, I’d be a millionaire by now.

Nephew knows more about Six Flags rides and parks than anyone I’ve ever met. He can tell you when a ride made its park debut, who built it, who designed it, and what park received the ride it might have replaced. He understands the physics and design elements that goes into building a ride and if you ask him what park in the United States had the first looping roller coaster, he will know the answer.

When it comes to actually going on the rides, Niece is fearless and she will go on anything.  Meanwhile, Nephew and I have a similar sense of moderate adventure and we tend to stick to the middle-of-the-road rides and coasters, then when we are ready, we’ll attempt riding a more extreme one.

Our favorite ride is Skull Mountain, which is a fun, little inside coaster that operates in the dark. Two summers ago, Nephew and I set a personal record for going on Skull Mountain 22 times in a row, which took a little over two hours. We only stayed on the ride when the ride queue was empty five times; the rest of the time we got out and walked around. It probably wasn’t my best decision, in hindsight, since I flew to Dublin the following day with a splitting headache.

Our last ride conquests were Superman: Ultimate Flight and Green Lantern at the end of last summer. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Superman experience, considering riders are face down to simulate Superman’s flight. We conquered Bizarro in April of 2017. Man, that one is fast! It’s like the Batman coaster after it had three energy drinks and a shot of super-charged espresso. Batman: The Ride has always been one of my favorites, and we conquered that one together in 2015 at Six Flags Great Adventure’s Holidays in the Park.

The coasters Nephew and I haven’t found the courage to ride yet are notoriously extreme, and we weren’t sure which coaster we’d be brave enough to conquer this year.

Enter Nitro.

Nitro, from the Six Flags Great Adventure website

When Nitro opened in 2001, it was the tallest and fastest roller coaster in New Jersey (Kingda Ka stole those honors from Nitro a few years later). While Nitro does not have any inversions, it is 230 feet high at its peak (which takes almost 60 seconds to climb) and reaches speeds up to 80 miles per hour in its two minute, twenty second mile-long course.

I went on Nitro once while chaperoning a school trip in 2005, thinking it would be like either Rolling Thunder and Scream Machine, two classic, now long-gone, coasters I loved.

I was completely wrong.

Nitro nearly killed me.

Well, maybe not killed, but the experience scared me tremendously.

I ended up uncontrollably shaking and trembling when I walked off the ride, my legs like jelly and my arm muscles sore for several days later due to how much I strained them as I held onto the restraint as tight as I could.

I vowed I was forever done with the infernal contraption known as Nitro.

I shared my Nitro story with Nephew on several occasions, including yesterday when we safely sat and waited for Niece and Friend to return from Friend’s first time riding the steel beast.

Nephew is older now, and I could see the curiosity twinkling in his eye as he told me what he knew about Nitro while he watched a car roaring along its track. “It was designed by B and M,” he said, “and they have a great safety record.”

There was no doubt about it. He was ready to take the Nitro leap and I wasn’t about to let my fear hold him back.

Niece and Friend returned rather quickly since the wait time was a few minutes at best, and Friend absolutely loved the Nitro experience.

Nephew said that if Friend could do it, he could too.

All three looked at me with pleading eyes but I stubbornly shook my head. “You guys have a great time!” I said as I bid them farewell, then I walked over to where people on the ground could see Nitro’s ride cars leave the loading area. Nephew was safely seated between Niece and Friend as their car passed by, their arms flailing in enthusiastic waves.

“Bye!” they yelled in unison.

They returned 140 seconds later with Nephew wearing the widest smile I’ve ever seen on his face. He gave me a thumbs up from up on high as he jubilantly shrieked, “It was awesome!”

Dammit.

I knew what I had to do.

A minute later, they surrounded me as they jumped around in sheer excitement and joy. A chorus of “please?”s rose up.  Nephew looked me right in my eyes and said, “You can do it. I did it, and so can you.”

I remembered a story told by a colleague who was in a similar situation. Her grandson wanted her to go on a thrill ride with him, and her outlook was, “I can do anything for two minutes.”

Realizing that I could too, I sighed then nodded my head as I said, “Okay.”

A whoop emanated from all three as Niece took my hand to lead me to certain death.

“You’re lucky I love you,” I grumbled as we walked through the air gate to the seats in Row 4.

My pulse raced as I sat down between Niece and Nephew, with Friend to Nephew’s left. The yellow restraints locked and were subsequently checked by the ride attendants. It’s a good thing mine was secure because at the last second, I cried, “I don’t want to do this!” and I honestly would have ran if I could.

However, it was zero hour and flight was not an option.

After the “visual scan” and “all clear” over the loudspeaker by what I was sure was the Grim Reaper disguised as Nitro’s head supervisor, our car was set free.

Nitro, from the Six Flags Great Adventure website

I closed my eyes and leaned my head as far back into my seat as possible. With each upward click, I squeezed Niece’s hand a little tighter. She, along with Nephew and Friend, found my reaction highly amusing. I think they were all laughing, but I can’t exactly remember because I was concentrating so hard on praying for redemption.

“Here we go, Aunt Jill!” Niece shouted as we reached Nitro’s summit.

This is it.

I. Am. Going. To. Die.

Within seconds, we were traveling down the 215-feet drop at the advertised eighty miles-per-hour.  I’m pretty sure my heart rate matched the number of expletives I let fly.

“I’m going to die! My eyes are closed! My eyes are open! No, they’re not! I’m going to die!”

Towards the end of the journey to my undeniable demise, Niece yelled, “Bunny hops!!”

I opened my eyes to see the blue and yellow hilly path we were on as we smoothly rode over each bump. It was surprisingly much smoother than the Runaway Mine Train bunny hops at the end of its path, that was for sure.

“Hold on!”

The car suddenly came to a halting stop.

And I was alive.

Sure, my legs were once again like jelly as we walked off the ride, and I felt a surge of electricity pulsing through my entire body.

But it was a good energy, and I did not die.

The sleek, wicked-fast roller coaster was one of the smoothest rides I’ve ever experienced, and the sensation of weightlessness was exhilarating.

I looked at Nephew, who threw his arms around me and exclaimed, “I’m so proud of you!” Niece and friend hugged me too. “You did it, Aunt Jill!”

Somewhere along the ride route, a remote camera snaps a photograph which is then displayed for about a minute or so on the monitors at the Nitro photo kiosk near the ride’s exit. The picture of our row featured three gleeful faces with arms up in the air and one red face screaming for mercy as she gripped onto the restraint for dear life.

We didn’t buy the photograph, but I’ll be able to picture it perfectly in my mind’s eye for the rest of my life.

The unspoken question hovered in the air around us as we regrouped outside the ride.

It was answered by all four of us walking together once again through Nitro’s entrance.

Three minutes later, a photograph with four delighted smiles in our row flashed upon the photo kiosk’s screen.

2018 Roller Coaster: Nitro. Check mark achieved.

 

Nitro’s Check Mark“: Copyright 2018 – Jill Ocone. This post originally appeared on both the Soulseaker blog (www.soulseaker.com) and the personal blog of Jill Ocone (www.jillocone.com) on August 11, 2018. Views and opinions contained in this post are solely those of the author, who was not compensated in any way by any entity, including Six Flags Great Adventure, the Six Flags corporation, or their affiliates. All rights reserved.

It’s Summertime, and the living is fine!

The sunshine and humidity, the heat and the storms, the tastes and the feels…. man, summer is my time of year, but as the car commercials warn, it’s only available for a limited time. I composed a “Summer Bucket List” filled with experiences I hope to enjoy this summer as both a way of embracing the season and as a vain attempt to hold onto it just a little bit longer.  My list is fluid and has changed a bit since I first penned it as I have said yes to unexpected opportunities while realizing that others just aren’t going to happen. I am keenly aware of the importance of the present moment, and that includes saying yes on a whim and also to leaving technology behind. My intention in sharing this is to highlight some of the wonderful places here along the Jersey shore as well as perhaps inspire readers to comprise their own “Summer Bucket List.”

Some Places I’ve Visited and Experienced:

IMG_6956Seaside Park Kite Night: Kite Night is held every Wednesday evening from 6-9 pm at J Street Beach in Seaside Park. What a sight it is to see the kites flying up and down the beach sky spanning both north and south from J Street in person. I went with my family and we brought beach chairs and Jersey Mike’s subs for dinner. The kids played in the sand and looked for treasures as kites of all sizes and types flew their long ribbons proudly or spun among the clouds. You can learn more about Kite Night here.

IMG_7121The Chicken or the Egg: A landmark for sure, Long Beach Island’s iconic eatery should be on everyone’s life “must visit” list. My niece’s birthday is in March but the Chegg, as it is locally known, is only open during the summer, so when she asked me to take her, I wholeheartedly obliged. We had to wait about half an hour for a table for two and it was worth it; friends told me about using the “No Wait” app afterwards, so I’m looking into that for my next visit. E and I didn’t mind the wait at all, and we were completely satisfied with our lunch. She had stuffed French toast with chocolate chips, and I had the fried chicken platter. My chicken and biscuit were both homemade and served with fries and a cup of honey. It was simply delicious. The kitschy surf culture/antiques décor complemented the tables that had comic book type prints on them. The Chegg is open 24 hours during the season. You can learn more about The Chegg here.

IMG_7117New Jersey Maritime Museum: I love Jersey Shore history, especially learning about shipwrecks, and I’ve been looking forward to visiting the New Jersey Maritime Museum in LBI for a long time. Did you know that there were over 3,500 shipwrecks off the coast of Monmouth and Ocean counties alone? Well, the New Jersey Maritime Museum has records about each and every wreck along the New Jersey coast, as well as a host of artifacts and historical information spanning back to the birth of New Jersey. There’s one room that is solely dedicated to the Morro Castle, which burned off Asbury Park in 1934, including artifacts from the ship. The only complaint I had was a result of my own planning: I didn’t give myself enough time to really delve into the wonderful displays, books, artifacts, and documents available to visitors (a second visit is already in the works). The New Jersey Maritime Museum is a non-profit organization and focuses on education, providing research, and To learn more about the New Jersey Maritime Museum, whether you plan to visit, attend their annual fundraiser (which will be held this year on September 8), make a donation, or become a volunteer, visit their website at www.njmm.org. The museum is open June-August daily from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and from September through May every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

IMG_6741Lakewood BlueClaws Game: It wouldn’t be summer without attending a Lakewood BlueClaws game, and as luck would have it, I went to their “Star Wars Night” with my family. The BlueClaws defeated the Hagerstown Suns 8-0 with their 18th shutout of the year and an action-packed six-run sixth inning including a home run by Josh Stephen.. The BlueClaws are the single-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, and over 75 BlueClaws players and counting have made it from the Shore to the Show, ultimately playing in the big leagues. The stadium is clean, food and souvenirs are reasonably priced, and the games are fun to watch. The BlueClaws offer a lot for kids and families, too. Last year, I wrote an article about the BlueClaws which you can read here. To learn more about the Lakewood BlueClaws or to purchase tickets, visit their website at https://www.milb.com/lakewood.

Love and Laughter: Summer gives me so many opportunities to spend time with the younger people in my life who matter in my heart the most, my five nieces and nephews. Whether they tackle each other as they try to climb up me or tell me a silly joke, I do my best to say YES to plans with them as much as possible. I also love spending time with my friends and other family members during my carefree summer days.

Books I’ve Read:

Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume (this is the first book I read every summer)

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Seven by Erin Shorosky (poetry)

What’s on my to do list?

I’m currently working on my assignments for the Fall/Holiday 2018 issue of Jersey Shore Magazine including articles and editorial work. I plan to post more here with the intention of positively highlighting life here at the Jersey Shore. I’m Dublin-bound on July 31 for a week, and I hope my jaunt this year provides me with the ability to communicate with words that Dublin feeling of awakening and rebirth I experience. Revising and editing my novel is very challenging, but I’m following the signs that are leading me to a better story with hopefully improved writing and character development.

What’s on your summer bucket list? What can you see and experience in reality versus through technology?

Remember, Summer is only here for a limited time…cross something off your Summer Bucket List today!

Until next time,

Jill

*** This entry is cross-posted on my blog at jillocone.com. I was not compensated in any way for my positive comments about establishments, events, places, or people mentioned in my post.

Back to the Drawing Board

July 5, 2018

Dear friends,

After a long period of soul-searching, reflection, and tears, I have decided that Chapter One-A Novel needs a major overhaul. As such, my manuscript is currently in revision and will not be available. Should you have received a copy, please delete/destroy it as all versions that existed prior to July 5, 2018 will no longer be correct. I am also withdrawing all queries and submissions effective today.

I had to make a choice: either give up and walk away, or to coin a phrase from my childhood, I needed a”do over.”

I chose a “do over” because I am not a quitter. I will not give in to the rejection-dejection demons who have been chattering in my brain as I’ve invested too much to walk away. Kelly’s story deserves to be told, and I accept the challenge of making it more dimensional and interesting while simultaneously making it less personal.

I will announce when the new and improved Chapter One-A Novel is available to peruse.

My eternal gratitude for your understanding and continued support.

Thank you,

Jill Ocone

Note: this post also appears on jillocone.com. 

Radio Days: American Top 40

Radio music provided the soundtrack to my life as a youngster. Remember those long-distance dedications and waiting to hear what song would be number one for the week? Well, a local radio station plays original broadcasts of American Top 40 with Casey Kasem countdowns every Saturday morning, and listening to it has become one of my favorite parts of the week.

This week’s countdown from March 26, 1983 is a literal time machine, and I’m allowing myself to travel back as I listen to Casey Kasem’s quintessential voice and the top hits from 35 years ago on this chillingly sunny March morning…

I was twelve years old and in sixth grade, and man, was life simple back then. The only stresses were math homework and figuring out what route to take as I aimlessly wrote my bicycle around my neighborhood. Saturday morning cartoons and Battle of the Network Stars were still the things to watch, and the patchouli-reeking maze of stores called Peddler’s Village over in Wall Township was still the place to wander on a rainy weekend day to buy stickers, feather clips, and pencils with fuzzy toppers.

Whatever happened to Christopher Cross and Joe Jackson? In retrospect, I realize I like both of them and just added a few songs by each to my playlist for the upcoming week.

Ronnie Milsap, Eddie Rabbit and Crystal Gayle, and a dash of Anne Murray and Barry Manilow thrown in here and there…these artists were on constant rotation in our olive-green shagged-carpet family room that hid many a Star Wars figure’s small blaster within its threads…never thought those soft voices could ever be a trigger, but I digress….

Are the songs Little Red Corvette, Down Under, Allentown, and Stray Cat Strut really this old? Sidebar: I distinctly remember receiving Down Under as a 45 record for my birthday in February 1982. In fact, I think I still have it somewhere in my John Travolta record case that is buried deep in my attic.

Der Komissar! I’m creeping around dancing to this one like a secret agent. Not sure what that means, but that’s what I’m doing…don’t turn around…Der Komissar’s in town!

We didn’t have MTV yet in my house in 1983, but NBC aired a two-hour long show called Friday Night Videos. Knight Rider and Friday Night Videos were the first two shows we taped on our brand-new VCR, and I’d watch those videos over and over. I always believed the story about the video for Michael Jackson’s Beat it casting real gang members, but my father tried his best to set my warped thinking straight. “Look at how they dance. Gang members wouldn’t be able to dance like that,” he said, or something along those lines. Guess what? I just looked it up and apparently, I WAS RIGHT!!!! They WERE gang members! I also wanted to go to that diner in the video because, for some reason, I thought the food would be really good.

The zombies in the video for Jeopardy by The Greg Kihn Band freaked me out. I can picture them in my mind as clearly as if I saw them yesterday.

And speaking of my dearly departed father, he loved the song Come On Eileen, but in true dad fashion, he did not have a clue about what the lyrics really were (you in that dress, my thoughts I confess verge on dirty). I would cringe every time he’d sing the main chorus of Come On Eileen and the ‘to ra loo ra too ra loo rye eye’ part to a young girl named Eileen in Sunday church. I fear thinking about the possibility of ramifications gone viral if he did such a thing in 2018.

A rush of images from walking home from middle school flooded my brain when One on One by Hall and Oates began to play. The mood quickly switched to wanting to victoriously punch my fist in the air to the beat of Separate Ways by Journey, and before I knew it, I’m back in my friend Susan’s closet eating Smurfberry Crunch listening to Mr. Roboto by Styx. Ironically, I live on her street now, but she moved away a long time ago.

Yes! Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran! I still write this down on any and all school dance/prom song request lists that appear in my classroom, but for some reason, it’s never played.

The number two song is Do You Really Want to Hurt Me. Boy George’s voice is simply entrancing, and Culture Club is scheduled to perform this summer at a local outdoor concert venue. I really wish I could go but I’m going to be in Dublin.

And the number one song for the week is….drum roll please….

Billie Jean by Michael Jackson. As soon as the opening note drops, the highlight reel from one of my best moments as a teacher begins to play in my mind’s theater. How is it possible that the secret closing number during the December 2007 fund raiser happened more than ten years ago? The quote “In life, there is no five-minute intermission” was born that evening by a young man named Matt, and it’s morphed into one of my mantras for life. Special times and special memories with special people who walked through my journey for sure, and the value of this memory is worth millions.

It often blows my mind that while I might have trouble remembering what I did yesterday, I can recall, no problem, the words to many of these 35-year-old songs. This trip down memory lane today was a good one, and today’s soundtrack surely helped form the person I am today.

Here’s the full list of American Top 40 Hits from March 26, 1983 as per Casey Kasem’s countdown.

40: So Close – Diana Ross

39: I Don’t Care Anymore – Phil Collins

38: Winds of Change – Jefferson Starship

37: I Like It – Debarge

36: My Kind of Lady – Supertramp

35: I Won’t Hold You Back – Toto

34: Even Now – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

33: Dreaming is Easy – Steel Breeze

32: Just You and I – Eddie Rabbit and Crystal Gayle

31: She Blinded Me With Science – Thomas Dolby

30: Lies – Thompson Twins

29: Make Love Stay – Dan Folgelberg

28: Change of Heart – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

27: Little Red Corvette – Prince

26: Allentown – Billy Joel

25: Poison Arrow – ABC

24: Down Under – Men at Work

23: Baby Come to Me – Patti Austin and James Ingram

22: Breaking Us In Two – Joe Jackson

21: Stray Cat Strut – The Stray Cats

20: Little Too Late – Pat Benetar

19: All Right – Christopher Cross

18: I’ve Got a Rock and Roll Heart – Eric Clapton

17: Fall In Love With Me – Earth, Wind, and Fire

16: Der Kommisar – After the Fire

15: Beat It – Michael Jackson

14: Jeopardy – The Greg Kihn Band

13: I Know What’s Going On – Frida

12: Shame on the Moon – Bob Segar and The Silver Bullet Band

11: Come on, Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runners

10: Twilight Zone – Golden Earring

9: One on One – Hall and Oates

8: Separate Ways – Journey

7: Mr. Roboto – Styx

6: We’ve Got Tonight – Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton

5: Back on the Chain Gang – The Pretenders

4: You Are – Lionel Richie

3: Hungry Like the Wolf – Duran Duran

2: Do You Really Want to Hurt Me – Culture Club

1: Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

I did it!

I apologize for my long absence from posting here on SoulSEAker, but I was among the missing for a good reason: I finished writing my novel! If you’ve been a long-time follower, you know that this has been a project for over two years in the making. Chapter One – A Novel by Jill Ocone is the result of opening my eyes and believing in the universe. There’s no doubt that two special spirit guides helped me along the way, and I am forever indebted to both of them.

What is most satisfying is that as I wrote, the story took its own shape and form. The original idea that came to me in August of 2014 is still the backbone of the story, but the plot took form as I typed, and things happened that I never expected. The story’s timeline just happened as I was writing. I am, indeed, a real author/writer now!

While I plan on still posting here, I will also be posting specifically about my journey as an author/writer over at jillocone.com. I invite you to visit me over there and check out my professional site. There’s a synopsis of Chapter One posted over there, as well as a form to request a sample copy if you are interested. If not, no worries!

My “mission from the universe”, however, is far from complete. I’ve begun querying agents and publishers in hopes that I am guided to the right opportunity to take Chapter One to the next level. If nothing comes of it, or if everything comes from it, I’m happy regardless of the outcome. I accomplished what I set out to do, even though I had no idea what that was two years ago. I’ve already reached the milestone of receiving my first rejection, and that excites me! Again, I’m a real author now!

Your support has made my journey all the more meaningful, and I am extremely thankful for YOU.

Today is a snow day here in the northeast, and I plan to use part of my day to plot out an idea that again came to me in a dream which could be my second novel.  Here’s hoping! Be safe, my friend!

 

A Manifesto for 2018

We are once again standing on the cusp of a new year.

It’s a time every year when my failures each ring their own bell and demand my attention. “Look at me,” they each scream. “Look at me! Don’t forget the detour I created! You suck and are teeming with regret at the sight of me!”

Frigging bastards.

When looking ahead to a new calendar, I’ve tended to play the victim and blame my failures and shortcomings on my self-perceived inadequacies, half of which are undoubtedly formed by unrealistic societal expectations.

I’ve also blamed time: there’s not enough, or there’s too much.

Either way, I’m continually thrown off the path that I believed would lead me to attaining my goals, yet while I paved it with good intentions, I also paved it with excuses chock full of my own bullshit.

The cycle of getting nowhere very quickly happens every year because I allow it to.

That stops now.

There’s no resolutions for me this year.

No, sir.

Instead, my goal from today forward is to live the hell out of every minute of this extraordinary life and truly cherish the miracle that is the present moment.

Whether I am writing, swimming, driving, exploring, laughing with family and friends, teaching…whatever I am doing, I will give myself fully to that miraculous moment.

The fact that I’m sitting here all snug and warm, with a cup of hot coffee to my left and quiet music playing as snowflakes delicately dance down from the clouds to the ground…there’s so tiny miracles right here in this present moment, miracles that I always took for granted or overlooked.

What matters, I mean what truly matters, is this moment.

I am alive.

And so are you.

This is a time of rebirth, a time to take those lessons from past failures and regret, be thankful for them, and apply their wisdom while moving forward.

No more bowing down to society’s expectations or to feeding the trolls of self-deprecation. I am not inadequate and I do matter, if only to myself.

It’s time to live the hell out of this one and precious life I’ve been given, because I am not promised a tomorrow. Wasting time is no longer an option, either.

I will live with those who are alongside me in real life and for those who are alongside me in spirit.

I will be a beacon of kindness and empathy as I look to stand alongside my fellow humans with understanding and compassion.

I will be grateful for everything I experience and for everyone I interact with.

Most importantly, I will embrace and celebrate the moments extraordinary that fill my days with joy and with purpose as I pursue my passions with conviction.

Let’s do this, 2018!

With gratitude and joy,

Jill

Note: This was also posted on jillocone.com. 

Runnin’ Down A Dream…

It was two months ago today that my feet touched ground in Dublin for the third time.

It feels like a hazy illusion and so long ago that I almost question whether or not it really happened.

Since returning, life has thrown continuous curve balls at me, and many more have hit me than I’ve hit. I’m zero for 1278 and counting.

Teaching has become a tornadic whirlwind this school year, and twice now fighting whatever two-week long -itis that’s set up shop here at the Jersey Shore combined with some Lupus-related health issues and the change of the seasons has left me completely spent.

At the end of every school day, I seriously feel like I just came up for air after almost drowning. There’s nothing surrounding me but a thousand papers all over the place, and as I look around my classroom figuring out how to hell make sense of the day that just passed, I feel like Patrick Star. Nothing computes, nothing registers, and even when I write things down, it’s a struggle to even remember to look at that list during the school day because it’s GO GO GO GO GO with no down time. I’m often left so spent that I need to isolate myself in my car and listen to nothing but silence for a while before heading home. Once I am home, I physically and mentally crash, then I wake up the following day in a panicked frenzy over what I wasn’t able to complete and how the hell I’m going to prepare for my class that begins in less than two hours.

That cycle repeats every single day.

I am professionally and personally going nowhere fast because I am simply sinking like I’ve got cinder blocks tied to my feet.

And damn, my bones hurt, and I am exhausted.

Add the lack of empathy and compassion in our awful state of affairs as a society and that I constantly receive news alerts about someone calling someone else a moron or about a sicko killing fellow humans for no reason whatsoever…that’s the proverbial knife twisting further and deeper into my heart.

As a result of this whirlwind, my life and my words have been forced to take a back seat to chaos and disheartened disillusionment.

That stops now.

I’m waving my white flag of reality and surrendering to the fact that there’s no way I will ever be able to complete every single one of my professional responsibilities as an educator this year.

I accept it.

The list is far too long, and there are only so many hours in a day. The bold truth is that if I cannot meet all of my expectations, so be it. If something is left undone, it is not because I’ve intentionally refused to do it or that I’m irresponsible, it’s because time has run out. At the end of the day, I know in my heart that I’ve done my absolute best.

It’s almost immediate…I honestly feel a little relieved right now, but I’m not stopping there…

The people who make my heart happy and my words will be my two most important priorities moving forward, no matter what.

There’s a lot of memories to be made with the people I love, and I can no longer afford to put paper before these people. Life is too short, and I refuse to miss out on spending time laughing and playing with those who fill my heart and soul with joy.

As for my words, I have a dream that has been pushed aside and left stagnant for far too long now. That dream matters to me. It’s a part of my heart, my soul, and my entire being. It’s led me to understanding, to locations literal and symbolic, to old and new friendships, to inspiration and healing, and to finding myself. It’s something I must pursue and nurture. I must move forward and make progress, now, before it’s too late.

In the immortal words of Tom Petty, one of my favorite musicians,

“…There’s something good

waitin’ down this road,

I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine.

Yeah, runnin’ down a dream

that never would come to me,

workin’ on a mystery,

goin’ wherever it leads,

runnin’ down a dream…”

It’s wake up time. It’s time to move on. I am runnin’ down my dream and I won’t back down.

It will happen,

No

Matter

What.

Post Script 1: I cried when I heard that Tom Petty died. I’m grateful for the memory of seeing him perform in one of the best concerts I ever attended, and for the gift of his music that provided much of the soundtrack of my life, most importantly the songs that got me through a particularly difficult time. Thank you, Tom Petty.

Post Script 2: I just did something that’s very difficult for a journalism educator. I’ve disabled all of my news alerts on my phone because my peace of mind is more valuable to me than “being in the know.”

Let’s LIVE This August!

Since I’m feeling almost exactly the same way today, I decided to reblog my post from the beginning of August 2016 with some minor updates…read on:

August is like the Sunday of Summer.

It sure is.

Don’t get me wrong…I still love every summer day. I just want to hold onto Summer so much. It’s my season, when I am my best self.

June is a new beginning, a giant sigh of relief. It’s full of opportunity and wonder, like January 1 kicks off every year. Anything is possible. It’s refreshing and reassuring. It’s also deceiving, leading us on to believe that there’s plenty of time to get our summer “to do” and “to enjoy” lists completed.

Then comes July, which is like my favorite pillow. I can hug it a thousand times, or play with it over and over, and it never loses its shape. It’s there when I wake, and when I say goodnight to the day. I can sleep soundly with that comforting pillow, free from worries and nightmares. It reassures me that tomorrow is another day when I can still start fresh, no need to really be concerned about the passing days…

As July wanes into August, things change again, ever so subtly. Each day is now filled with a little more urgency. Sunsets get earlier as the sun’s early evening slant changes its angle and becomes less intense day by day. Many of the bright summer flowers have lost their blooms, and nights become slightly cooler by the week. I look back at June and July, and wonder where the hell those days went. I then look ahead at what’s still on my summer goal lists, removing a few because there’s no longer enough time to accomplish everything I had hoped to do.

The lone cricket’s serenade that woke me early this morning affirmed that yes, it is indeed August already.

So, what do we do now?

Let’s live in the present and forget our lists.

Let’s turn off our notifications and stop being a slave to technology.

Let’s hold onto each moment, to each day, to each experience.

Let’s notice the breeze blowing through our hair and feel the rain on our skin.

Let’s put our feet in the salt water and find eternity in the waves.

Let’s savor the ice cream cone, the watermelon, the corn on the cob, the peaches and plums.

Let’s laugh and sing with family and friends.

Let’s be grateful for all that we have, for all that we are, for all that we do, and for all in our lives.

Let’s face each day without worry, without fear, and without strings attached.

Let’s soak up every single second of August without leaving any wasted time behind.

Let’s live.

Let’s live this August.