Welcome, Summer!

Summer 2017-Day 01: Welcome, Summer!

Today is one of my most favorite days of the year! Memorial Day weekend signals the unofficial start of the summer season here along the Jersey Shore, but today it’s official. I’m celebrating the Summer Solstice by embracing and appreciating everything SUMMER and all that comes along with it.

The first day of summer, to me, is a bold reminder that anything is possible this season. Summer’s newness is a fresh start…time to begin anything again or for the first time. The only goals I have are to write and to live with appreciation while having fun.

Along my boardwalk walk this morning, I stopped frequently to take in the sights, the sounds, and the smells I encountered as my feet headed north. The aroma of the coffee brewing from the coffee house combined with the sweet smells of the sea air and the cotton candy that was being prepped for the day stopped me in my tracks…so delicious! The beaches were dotted with umbrellas here and there as they weren’t crowded just yet. Most badge checkers and lifeguards were still prepping the beach for the day. A local morning radio show was broadcasting outside of the Aquarium, with a few penguins, snakes, and a tiny alligator along with plenty of Aquarium staff as their on-air guests. I strolled along, stopping here and there to take a photo, and when I reached the Inlet end I was pleasantly surprised to find it empty. I sat in one of the new white, rocking chairs and relaxed there in solitude, rocking for about ten minutes. I took in all of the sights of the Inlet, from the west to the north to the east and observed the calm meeting of the current and the sea, quite rare for the mouth of the Inlet I can assure you. Then it was time to turn around and head back south down the boardwalk. One of the benches near the Inlet was decorated with red, white, and blue bows, and was dedicated in memory of Cpl. Kevin J. Reinhard from Woodbridge, NJ, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012. I paused for a moment of silence to honor his legacy. I once again took my time as songs from my summer playlist played quietly through my earbuds, but not too loud to hear the occasional hellos and “Good Morning!”s from passerbys. I made sure to reply to each well wisher with a smile and a kind hello. As I took a picture of the palm fronds with the blue sky as a backdrop, a small plane entered the viewfinder at just the right time. I turned around and took a few photographs of the empty ride area and thought about how full of activity it would be in a matter of a few hours with children and adults laughing as they soared into the sky or spun around and around. I am glad I moved at my own pace because it made for a more meaningful experience.

When I returned back home, I took pictures of each day lily that bloomed today and picked a handful of ripe blueberries to add to yesterday’s till. I spent almost two hours at the library researching my family history after receiving a few more emails from my new cousins with more details about my Grandpa C.’s side (stay tuned for that update!). We took two beach runs and I’m now writing this outside on my lounge chair as the goldfinches and the house finches and the sparrows eat while the catbird sings for me. The bees are busy at the clover flowers and there’s a stillness as a few storm clouds are approaching from the west. And with the Severe Thunderstorm Alerts I just received, it’s time to head back inside.

It was a glorious day this Day 01 of Summer 2017, rumbles of thunder and all. Truly glorious.

I hope your day was glorious, too.

Until next time,

Jill

PS: The deluge of rain that’s now wreaking havoc outside? I still find it glorious. ūüôā

A Letter to Two Heroes, Revisited On This Memorial Day

I have always remembered the reason for Memorial Day and Memorial Day weekend and have honored it by remembering those lost, going to a ceremony or two, putting flags in my yard, wearing red, white, and blue, or raising awareness through my writing. For me, the true meaning hit home twice, in 2010 and 2011, when two very special young men who spent time in my classroom paid the ultimate sacrifice, each with immense courage and bravery.

One is Sergeant Ronald A. Kubik, Army Ranger, and the other is Lance Corporal Nicholas S. Ott, United States Marine Corps.

Both are forever heroes.

On Friday, I taught my current journalism and English 11 students about these two heroes who sat in the same seats as them at some point in their lives. It’s important to me to keep Ron and Nick’s legacies alive with the hope that today’s generation can learn from them and possibly emulate something from each of their examples in their own lives. I am now toying with the idea of writing a curriculum unit for other teachers to use in their classrooms, not just necessarily focusing on Nick and Ron but on other New Jersey heroes lost in all conflicts.

Below is a letter to Ron and Nick that I originally wrote and posted in 2015. I updated it for 2017 as my thanks and tribute to both of them on this Memorial Day.

May 29, 2017

Dear Ron and Nick,

It’s been 15 and 13 years, respectively, that you were students in my English class. ¬†You both sat at a desk for 180 days, Ron during 9th grade and Nick during 11th grade, and spent¬†50 minutes every day writing, reading, learning vocabulary, completing assignments, and earning your grade. ¬†And during those 180 days, each of you made a lasting impact and taught lessons to someone who was supposed to be teaching you.

Ron, I will never forget how you read “Of Mice and Men” aloud in your best British accent, yet you read your part in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” with a thick, southern accent. ¬†Laughter, that’s what I remember. ¬†Pure laughter. ¬†I remember you enjoyed writing, but as a freshman, you didn’t want to admit it. ¬†How I wish I kept some of your essays and reflections, for they were good…much better than a typical 9th grader’s writing. ¬†I remember your pride in your hometown, your blue mohawk, and your incredible effort on the football field, playing each game like it was the super bowl. ¬†It wasn’t the same when you moved away, and there was a huge hole of missing spirit that couldn’t be filled by anyone else. ¬†I am aware of the legacy you left at Manasquan High School and how you are still an inspiration in that building. Through the magic of social media, we caught up after you graduated and I enjoyed seeing the pictures of you in your band, and then as an Army Ranger. ¬†I am sure the United States Army immediately knew that they were getting one of the best of the best. I know that you absolutely loved it when some of my students called you a badass merely from my verbal description of you. Then when they saw your pictures? Yeah. You loved every minute of their reactions and are still basking in that glow.

Nick, your smile and your work ethic are what I most remember about you. ¬†No matter what it was you were doing, you always your best…in the classroom, on the field, on the stage…and you never, ever complained. ¬†More often than not, you surprised even yourself by doing better than you ever expected, even though at times you weren’t a fan of what we were studying. ¬†And that smile…that big, wonderful smile, with that impish spirit behind it…there’s no other smile like it. ¬†I fondly remember your part in The Varsity Lettermen’s TWO acts for Hawkapalooza, working hard to perfect each routine, and selecting that¬†perfect dress for your costume, the powder blue shift with the rhinestone broach. ¬†That moment of greatness and sheer joy has never been matched on the Hawkapalooza stage since, except maybe the secret, surprise return of The Varsity Letterman the following year. ¬†One of the best days in my life was the last time I saw you, when you were home on leave and stopped by the school for a visit after classes let out. ¬†I was having an extremely bad¬†day and wanted nothing more than to go home, and I got a call from the main office that someone was here to see me. That was the last thing I wanted, but my anguish was quickly replaced with excitement and happiness as¬†I saw you round the corner of the hallway with that smile beaming as you walked down to my classroom. ¬†We spent about 90 minutes catching up and talking, and those are the best 90 minutes I ever spent in my life. ¬†While I don’t have a photograph of that moment, the picture in my mind’s eye is crystal clear, like it happened yesterday.

Words cannot express the extreme heartache and sadness that I, along with so many others, felt upon hearing the news that each of you had passed away.  In fact, I remember exactly where I was standing when I got the news about each of you.  Yet, upon learning that so many others were saved because of each of your actions, I had two new heroes to look up to for the rest of my life.

Not a day goes by when I do not think of both of you. ¬†Several times every year, but especially on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, I share your stories with my students who sit in the same desks that you did…stories of heroism, of bravery, and of courage.

I am forever grateful for the lessons you, the students, taught me, the teacher:

  • Actions, not words, matter.
  • Make your dreams a reality.
  • Put others before yourself.
  • Have an amazing life.

Thank you, Nick and Ron, for your lessons, for your sacrifice, and for leaving footprints along my life’s journey that can never be erased. ¬†I will do my best to continue sharing your legacies and your stories for as long as I can.

With my utmost admiration, gratitude, honor, and respect.

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. You can also pick someone to learn about by visiting the NJ Run for the Fallen Honor Wall and the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial & Museum Wall of Faces.

Regardless of your politics, I urge you to 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 and the thousands of others who gave their lives for the United States of America. Attend a local ceremony or service for an hour, and/or join in the National Moment of Silence at 3 PM Tomorrow.

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.

Until next time,

Jill

Image from NJ Run for the Fallen
Image from NJ Run for the Fallen
Image from Her Beautiful Monster - Mandi Bean
Image from Her Beautiful Monster – Mandi Bean

My Theme for 2017

I don’t think I have ever looked forward to a new year with such excitement and anticipation before.  Man, am I full of over the moon silliness as I wait to greet 2017, just like I was as a child waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve!

I think the reason is the word, scratch that, theme I’ve adopted for the upcoming year. It’s personal and powerful. It’s invigorating and exciting. And I find it so overwhelmingly awesome that I created a logo for it (sidebar: The logo was a vision in my dream the other night. Seriously, another breadcrumb from the great beyond!).

Take a look, then read all about the symbolism contained in my theme and logo that will guide me through 2017:

word

My SLOGAN for 2017: Onward, writer! I will march forth and write my novel and then some. I have created a personal writing schedule that is in harmony with my professional responsibilities and my health issues.  My goal is to finish my first novel draft by the end of Spring, then to use the summer to revise, edit, and hopefully find an agent or publishing house that might be interested in it, my first of many stories. I also have a vision/idea to emphasize the mantra that today is everything, but I need to focus first on completing my novel. My schedule and plan can be adapted as needed due to unforeseen circumstances, but I will not allow myself any excuses for not writing. It is, indeed, time to follow my dream and to march forward, pen in hand.

My ADVICE for 2017: Look around! I intend to take full stock in each and every moment, and to see what is both physically and symbolically present. I will continue to be open as life guides me through each day as I find the extraordinary in the ordinary. The song “Look Around” by Red Hot Chili Peppers will be the first song that I will listen to every morning, followed by Blackbird

The black bird with the pen is an allusion to the song Blackbird by The Beatles:

Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
Yes, I have waited for this moment my entire life. It’s time, and I will write with enthusiasm, focus, and vigor.
The heart with the three icons represents my heart and soul:
  • The top left Triskelion, or Celtic triple spiral, is the symbol of my spirit guide as I still yearn for her guidance while I continue to be her light. Interesting fact: This is the first symbol that appeared in a dream/vision over a year ago, much like my theme’s logo. While in Ireland, I spotted it all over the place, even inside the tomb at Newgrange. Suffice it to say that this symbol, which is more than 3,000 years old, is significant on numerous levels (past-present-future, spirit-mind-body and more).
  • The two waves in the top right represent my goal of learning to surf in 2017. I have always wanted to learn how to surf, and 2017 will be the year I cross this off my bucket list. I have created a schedule and a plan to physically prepare my body with exercises and strategies for surfing each week until mid-summer when I plan to take private lessons. I do have some obstacles to overcome, such as hating my eyes to be wet and muscle stiffness from Lupus, but my desire to surf is stronger than these obstacles. I plan to document my experience through words and photos, and I don’t care if people laugh at me. My connection to the sea is strong, and I want to surf, dammit!
  • The heart inside the heart is a reminder to keep my soul and my heart happy and at the forefront of every decision. I will balance my priorities of living, learning, loving, laughing, writing, and teaching the lessons that need to be taught while keeping what matters most in perspective and in my heart.

Finally, the ghosted CLOCK FACE is a reminder about how quickly time is passing by. I will stop wasting time on things that do not make my soul or heart happy, or things that divert my focus from my true purpose. With this practice in place since mid-December, so far, so good.

I plan to hold myself accountable for all of my 2017 goals by setting firm intentions and reflecting upon my progress at least twice a month, if not more.

I want to sing and dance as the seconds tick towards 2017 while screaming my excitement from the rooftops!

Welcome, 2017! I’m so excited to meet you!

Onward, writer…let’s do this!

Until next time,

Jill

 

 

What Will Your 2017 Verse Be?

We are once again standing on the horizon¬†of a new year’s birth.

I bid a fond farewell to regret, to bitterness, to floundering, and to negativity.

I say hello to living, to positivity, to happiness, and to making my dream a reality.

I will continue to make marvelous memories with those I cherish, experiences full of smiles and laughter.

I will accomplish that goal I have had for years, the one that I kept buried underneath the cloak of insignificance and the mask of unworthiness, the one that used to just collect nothing more than dust.

As Walt Whitman wrote,

YOU ARE HERE.

LIFE EXISTS, AND IDENTITY.

THE POWERFUL PLAY GOES ON.

AND YOU MAY CONTRIBUTE A VERSE.

So, the question is my friend,

What will your verse be?

My verse for 2017 will be filled with writing, learning, and living. I will follow my dream while I impart the lesson that this moment is everything. I will be focused as I rise in 2017.

Why? ¬†Because…

I AM HERE.

My life exists.

I finally know my worth.

And I will contribute my verse with enthusiasm, confidence, and most of all, love.

Let Robin Williams’ character John Keating fill you with inspiration with Whitman’s words as we explode into 2017.

Happy New Year, friend!

With love,Jill

Jill

What Will YOur Verse Be Full Square

Hey, You…

oc1_16ire_0817_0752Hey, you…

It’s been three long years since you transcended to another dimension, yet I can still hear you say “Hey, you!” in my mind as clear as ever.

I absolutely love that you are with me every single day in some way, shape or form. I know some people think I’m crazy, but I know it’s true and that you are sitting beside me more often than not. While I might not ever understand why you have chosen to tag along with me for this part of my journey here on Earth, I am so very thankful that you are my spirit guide.

With your sneaky easter eggs and more obvious messages, you’ve guided me through an absolutely incredible year. My life has changed for the better this year, mostly because of your magic. I know the story I have to tell, and because of your guidance, those words that have been buried for years and years and years are finally emerging. After years of floundering, I know my purpose and I know what I want my future to be.

I am doing my best to honor your amazing legacy by following your breadcrumbs. I hope I am making you proud and that I’m seeing the places you wanted to see but never had the chance to look upon with your own eyes, and I hope I am learning the lessons you intended for me to learn.

Please, please, please continue showing me my path and sending me the signs I need to follow. I’m counting on your strength and sass as I march through 2017 with determination and enthusiasm to accomplish my goals.

My friend, thank you for guiding me. Thank you for giving me hope and confidence. Thank you for making me excited about life and about the future. Thank you for showing me my purpose. And most of all, thank you for your friendship, which is stronger than ever.

me-and-my-friendThree years ago, my life was torn apart as a result of losing you. Three years later, my life finally makes sense because of you.

I love you, my friend, with my utmost gratitude.

 

 

 

“Sea” My Season’s Wish for You

20161224-photo-new-fonts

It’s Christmas, once again, and it’s time to embrace each moment before it becomes a memory.

Let’s vow to take care of each other, no matter what our differences might be.

I hope the magic of the season brings you joy, peace, love, and hope.

Merry everything, my friend.

 

 

 

Something to SEA: Celebrating SoulSEAker’s First Birthday

20160627 Blog Photo New Fonts

Exactly one year ago, I published my first post here on SoulSEAker, thus beginning my¬†online writing life. Looking back, the year was filled with ups and downs, laughter and tears, but what’s most important is how much I have grown over the last 365 days.

I definitely am still “sea”king my soul. That is something I will never be able to cross off my “to do” list, because I will be continually evolving as a human being until my last breath here on Earth.

I thought it would be an easier process to find who I am and what I am meant to do, figuring the answers would just come. No, sir. By being present each day, by leaving the past in the past and living for the present moment, instead of a final product of who I am emerging, an ever-changing version of myself greets each new day.

And I’m totally okay with that.

The most important lesson I have learned over the last year is to be OPEN. I earmarked the word “determined” to be my word of 2016, but have changed it to OPEN for many reasons. While I have accomplished many of my goals for not only 2016 but also for my 45th year, one thing is certain:¬†I must be OPEN to the new directions on my life map that are continually appearing each day.

What the end result will be¬†I don’t know, but I am determined to be OPEN¬†and to see what each sign, each clue, and each day brings. These new directions will result in a revising of my year and my life goals when the time is right. And when the time is right, I know I will abandon fear by taking a leap of faith and doing what’s right for my soul, my heart, and me. It’s coming. I not only feel it, I know it.

I believe the next year will be filled with excitement, new beginnings, and life-changing experiences because I will put my soul first, no matter what.

I can’t even imagine what I will be writing about or looking back on when I pen a post for SoulSEAker’s second birthday, but whatever I write, I know my soul will be content.

Many thanks to you for sharing my journey over the past year. You are what give my words a purpose, and I hope that I’ve been able to reassure and inspire you. Special thanks to my regular¬†followers C.M., D.C., M.W., R.C., S.T., C.T., M.M., D.K., L.F., S.T., K.C., R.Y., B.K., E.H., D.S., M.B., and M.E.

To help guide my writing, I’d appreciate you taking a brief reader survey, which can be accessed by clicking anywhere in this sentence. It will only take a few minutes and you can remain anonymous. Many, many thanks in advance.

Happy First Birthday to SoulSEAker!

With my utmost respect and gratitude,

Jill

Something to SEA: Polar Vortex Clicks for 2/13/2016

20160213 Blog Photo New Fonts

Yes, that Polar Vortex is showing his ugly face again here in the Northeast. ¬†I find it funny that the media is freaking out about it…don’t they remember it visited the last two winters, just like the Groundhog? ¬†It’s winter…it’s cold…it might snow…it might be frigid. ¬†No need to get in a tizzy! ¬†Anyway, as you are bundling up and staying inside this weekend, here are some links you might find interesting.

Gangster Crab – I find this hysterically funny

The Short, Tragic Life of the 8-Ball Jacket – Made famous by David Puddy

February on Fire – some awesome waves this month already!

Essential Guide to Maritime Dun Laoghaire – boy do I want to go back

30 iPhone and iPad Tips and Tricks to Make You More Efficient – I didn’t know about some of these.

Destined for Failure? – don’t listen to the voices in your mind

51 Things I Wish I Knew in High School – on target, but something tells me the young ladies I teach wouldn’t listen

The Cost of Traveling in Iceland – someday

You Don’t Need to Fix the Past In Order to Have a New Future – post coming this week about this very topic

Last Ride – by Joe Loftus. ¬†Grab your tissues…this one is wonderful.

The Extreme Love Experiment – by Elizabeth Gilbert

And finally…

Be Your Own Valentine – by Dani DiPirro backed up by…

5 Alternative Holidays For People Who Hate Valentine’s Day – I always hated Valentine’s Day. ¬†My husband and I have been married for 13 1/2 years and we still don’t celebrate it.

Happy International QuirkyAlone Day, friends!

Until next time,

Jill

 

 

 

 

Let’s Dance and Laugh in the Rain


Last summer, I took my 10-year-old nephew to Six Flags Great Adventure on a mostly overcast and muggy July day. It was his first time there, and it was the first time the 2 of us had ever done something together without anyone else. It was a special day and we had an awesome time. There was the chance for thunderstorms in the afternoon, which kept a lot of people away from the park.

That was a bonus, resulting in hardly any wait for the rides. The most we stood in line was for 10 minutes. Our tally for the day ride-wise: 16 times on Skull Mountain, 8 times on Runaway Train, two times on the Sky Ride, 1 time on the Safari, 1 time on the Log Flume, and 2 times on Congo River Rapids, which completely drenched me from head to toe and made him laugh.  In fact, the day was full of laughs.

The most memorable part of the day happened about 4:30 pm. Thunderstorms, indeed, pummeled us, and we stood outside under the locker overhang by Skull Mountain. It was absolutely pouring. As we stood there, I watched people running past us in the rain, and every single person was screaming yet laughing at the same time, with a huge smiles as they tried to make it to dry land. ¬†The park had music playing, and the song “1, 2, 3, 4” by the Plain White T’s came over the PA system.

A family of 5 (mother, father, and 3 children between the ages of 6 and 12 I would guess) was running in the rain, then they stopped.  Each of them then jumped in the puddles in unison, almost as if they had planned it. They were laughing and smiling, and I was witnessing a moment of pure joy.

It was the perfect song for this perfect scene, a folksy song with the phrase “I love you” repeated several times. ¬†This family clearly loved each other.

I completely forgot about this moment until I recently heard the song again in CVS. The faces on that family came flooding back to me, their smiles, their sheer happiness playing in the pouring rain, and I could picture it as if I saw it yesterday. A simple moment of fun, of togetherness, and of love.

It got me thinking. That’s what life is all about…learning to laugh and dance in the rain. The rain didn’t ruin this family’s day. Instead, the rain made the day better. And that’s a much better attitude to adopt.

The next time it rains in my world, I vow to laugh and dance. I will embrace the rain and relish with delight in its deluge. I hope you will, too.

 The Approach of the Storm


The Family who Dances and Laughs in the Rain…thanks for the lesson in this small yet profound moment! ¬†(The young man to the left in the yellow shorts is an interloper here.)