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.

 

My Ordinary Playlist of Extraordinary “To Live List” Sentiments

It’s here! It’s here! The second day of 2017 already has a different feel for me. I was hoping to catch the sunrise up at the beach this morning, but the weather gods thought differently. Instead, I sit here listening to the raindrops hit my windows, satisfied that fate had other plans for me.

After making my daily cup of peppermint coffee, I looked over my goals and my schedule for the week and the month. I then refined a few of the penciled-in daily tasks I will complete as I move towards making my future happen. I already was able to cross a few items off that I completed yesterday.

This is not my to-do list. Rather, it’s my To Live List.

That got me thinking…my To Live List needs a little more oomph, something that will help me stay positive and on the right path. Something to accompany it.

And there it is: My To Live List needs its own playlist.

I already had an idea of two songs to guide me this year, but two is not enough. I need a compilation of songs that are special to me: songs that hit MY chords of inspiration that are meaningful and exhilarating to my heart and my soul…songs that guide my journey and give me chills when I envision my future path, some of which actually make me tear up.

…ok, I’m a tad bit weepy here…shake it off, you’ve got this…Pardon this pause of being human…

Onward!

I would like to share with you the first 10 songs on my list, and explain why each song will be a part of every single day in 2017. On the surface, the songs might seem common and ordinary.

Nope. That’s the farthest from the truth.

My connection with each song, who now has a coveted and loved home on my Amazon music app, is very personal (yep, one way I put my Prime membership to work for me!). I carefully selected each song for a specific reason.

My goal in sharing these songs with you is not to “toot my own horn,” per se, but to hopefully inspire you to find the songs that will be the soundtrack to your 2017 life, songs which will make you come alive this year and fuel your passions as these songs fuel mine.

I present to you my Onward, Writer! My “To Live” Playlist.

img_0951Song 1: “Blackbird” by The Beatles. “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…Yes, I have been waiting for this moment my entire life, and instead of waiting, now I am living and doing.

Song 2: “Gonna Fly Now” by the Rocky Orchestra. Hokey and stereotypical, but nonetheless important to me. There will be a moment later this year when I run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Instead of laughing, consider joining me! Let me know that you’re in and I’ll keep you posted about plans to make this happen!

Song 3: “Look Around” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This upbeat song is a reminder to take a look around every day to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. You might find me happily jumping around like my 2.75-year-old nephew while listening to this song.

Song 4: “Rey’s Theme” from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens soundtrack. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. The character Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, is one of my heroes because she’s strong and brave. Even though she doesn’t know what path to follow at first and wants to stick around at home, life (and the Force) has other plans for her. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I look up to her a lot, despite being more than half her age.

Song 5: “Training Montage” by Vince DiCola from the Rocky IV soundtrack. No explanation for this one is needed.

Song 6: “The Jedi Steps and Finale” from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens soundtrack. This one is hugely personal. Hugely! I cannot put into words the massive symbols and meaning this song has for me. Maybe someday, but not yet. You can read a blog post I wrote last January about that scene in the movie and some of my connections to it.

Song 7: “Can’t Stop” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Can’t stop the spirits when they need you…this life is more than just a read through… The spirits? Yes, especially SHE who is still guiding me. It’s time to LIVE as this is my one and only LIFE. Time to make my dreams come true!

Song 8: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. I am not a fan of Eminem at all. However, I think you’ll agree with me that this song is legendary, one that will put my ideas into action and give me the kick I might need at times.

Song 9: “The Longest Wave” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The wave is here, my friend. The wave is here, in more ways than one. Did I tell you I intend to learn to surf this year?

Song 10: “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles. These lyrics are wrought with meaning for me and this part of my life’s journey: Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting…Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear…Here comes the sun, here comes the sun…And I say it’s all right…

wordThere are 93 other songs on the list, ones that I know will provide me with encouragement and guidance when I randomly shuffle the playlist. The universe is pretty good at selecting just the right song I need to hear at a particular time, and I wholeheartedly believe it still will guide me this year.

I’d love to hear what songs you have selected to be a part of your To Live Playlist for 2017! Please leave me a comment and tell me about one and what it means to you!

Until next time, 

Jill

 

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

 

 

Live Life to the Fullest

20160131 Blog Photo New Fonts

A classmate that I went through middle and high school with passed away earlier this week at the age of 44 from a long illness.  He was on my mind all month as I saw various posts on social media about his situation.  We had a lot of classes together from 7th grade through senior year, but we never ran with the same crowds.  I haven’t seen him or talked to him since we graduated in 1989.

He didn’t know that I admired his intense love of the ocean and his unique spirit.  He was a very avid surfer and skilled skateboarder.  It came as no surprise to me that he led a very interesting life, splitting his time between New Jersey and Costa Rica, living on his own terms with a focus on experiences versus material possessions.  He followed his passions intently and did his best to bring harmony and love to those around him.  He accomplished more in his 44 years on Earth than most who live twice as long do.  As many are mourning his loss, I send my condolences to his wife, his mother, his brothers, his family, and his friends and pray for their strength and peace.

Last night, several classmates shared a status that he posted on January 22, 2014, which really struck a cord with me:

“We really take the small things in this life for granted and forget how amazing and fragile our bodies and this planet is! Tomorrow begins the sixth week of my suffering, after 104.7 degree fever, then waking up 3 days later unable to use my legs, I sure have learned to appreciate even the most simplest things that each day presents, the sun, a hummingbird, the feel of grass between my toes, and I could go on… I don’t want people to feel sad, want to help, try and cheer me up, say they are sorry, there is enough sorrow in the world and we all have to play the hand we are dealt. What I Want people to do is not take life for granted!! Go outside, take a deep breath, kiss the ground, touch the snow, ride a bike, have a swim, catch a wave, or many, walk around the block, jump up and down, spin around, just do something, BECAUSE YOU CAN!!! “the man who lives life to the fullest has the least fear of death”.’ – Scott Domanic.

Thank you, Scott, for your wise words.  May the light continue to shine on in all of our journeys, illuminated by your example.

 

 

 

Inspiration Surrounds You

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Take a look around you.

Right now.

You are surrounded by inspiration.

There’s Hope…Faith…Perseverance…Joy…Determination…Endurance…Peace…and Love.

You might have to look beyond the surface, but it’s there.

It might be found in the person sitting next you.  Or behind you.  Or across from you.

Or inside you.

Thinking about all you have overcome, all you have seen, all you have endured, and all you have learned…

You’ve come so far.

You might not see it.  But I do.

It’s there.

Right there, in your heart.  In your eyes.

You are strong.  You are important.  You matter.

Yes.  You do.

Sea What I’m Thankful For – Day 4

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, and I’m sitting here remembering what this day was like when I was in high school.  The bonfire was the tradition of my home town.  I would escape the insane cooking frenzy in my house and go to the bonfire with friends. After the fire was put out, we’d tool around town on our bikes to see what everyone else was up to, or if it was too cold, we’d just go to someone’s house to hang out.  On Thanksgiving, we’d go to the Thanksgiving football game at our town high school (or at the rival school, if it was an away game), then head home for our individual family Thanksgiving feasts. I don’t think Black Friday even existed back then (and quite honestly, I wish it didn’t exist now).

In 1989, the Thanksgiving-eve bonfire was extinguished rather early by our local fire department.  The trucks left quickly and went screaming up to the boardwalk, sirens blaring, to a multi-alarm fire that ultimately destroyed the Jenkinson’s Pavilion building.  It was lightly snowing as we all headed up to the boardwalk to watch the fire, and we could see the eerie orange glow in the sky from over a mile away.

I can remember tearing up as I saw the massive flames leap into the sky, consuming the building minute by minute.  I wasn’t only just watching a fire…for me, it was personal.  I was witnessing the destruction of many memories.  You see, I worked for a little over 4 years in the arcade (from when I was 14 through my high school graduation in June of 1989) that was now fully engulfed and ablaze.

I can see that fire as bright in my memory as what I did earlier today.  I can still smell the burning wood, and that burned and musty smell hung in the air for a long time around here.

As I reminisce, I am brought back to center and the focus of my blog entry for today…

Today, I am thankful for you.  You, who are reading this.  I am so grateful that you spend a part of your very valuable time to read my words.  Without you, I wouldn’t have an audience, and my words would not have any meaning.

As a thank you, I have made a free Gratitude printable for you, which is below.  It is suitable for framing and is sized for 8.5 x 11…it should fit exactly in a document size frame.

You can download the .pdf file by clicking here, or you can right click on the image below and save it to your computer as a .jpg file.

My thanks to you for your support, and my best wishes that you have the most memorable Thanksgiving ever.

Free Printable Thanksgiving 1

Sea What I Am Thankful For – Day 3

20151124 Day 3 QuoteToday I am going to keep it short but poignant.  I have food, shelter, a vehicle, clothes, and heat.  How often have I overlooked these basic necessities as blessings?  When I look at the big picture and actually realize that there are so many without a hot meal, without heat or a place to call home, without transportation, and without clothing, I clearly see how blessed I truly am.

In addition to just being thankful for these necessities, I aim to help those less fortunate by donating food and clothes not only this holiday season, but as a regular practice every month.  Please join me in doing something to help others; no matter how small or how big your gesture is, you can do something to ease another’s burden.

Something to SEA: A Letter to Two Heroes

sQUARE CollageNovember 11, 2015

Dear Ron and Nick,

It’s been 13 and 11 years, respectively, that you were a student 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.  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 US Army knew immediately that they were getting one of the best of the best.

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.  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.  There hasn’t been a routine like both of those since.  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 knowing that so many others were saved because of each of your actions, I now have two 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 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.

Happy Veterans Day.

With my utmost admiration, gratitude and respect, 

Your Teacher