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.

Something to SEA: Tomorrow Is Day 1 of 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016

Hello, friends!

Just a reminder that you can join me in celebrating my most favorite time of the year by participating in 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016!

For every day in July beginning with July 1, there is a one-word prompt relating to summer.  How you respond to that prompt is up to you, either through your words or your pictures. The goal is for you to slow down, and on each day, focus on one glorious aspect of summer. As a result, you will hopefully have a renewed appreciation for the little things that summer brings our way, as well as 31 days of fond memories to look back upon.

Here are some ways you can participate:

I’m looking forward to loving the Summer of 2016 along with you!

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Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 6/4/2016

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Hello and Happy June to you! In case you missed it earlier this week, my June newsletter was posted, and the best part of the newsletter was announcing my 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016 challenge that will be held this July. Click here to learn all about the challenge and how you can participate.

I’ve been thinking all week about those who are dealing with flooding, whether in Texas or in France, and hope that my friends and followers are all safe. There was no shortage of news either this week: late yesterday came word that we lost Muhammad Ali, there were over 250 dogs rescued from a local home, people became very heated and took sides in a gorilla versus human versus zoo incident, and the truth came out about Prince’s death (which was what I did NOT want to hear). It’s clear that we need to take care of one another in this world full of self-righteous yet meaningless dialogue.  Instead of bitching about issues or things that happen, let’s reach out to each other in empathy, compassion, and sometimes, disagreement. It’s okay to disagree with the person who might be holding your hand. What matters most is that you have a hand to hold.

A longer intro than normal, so thanks for sticking it through!  Here are some interesting links I found over the past week.

Create! By my friend and fellow blogger Masha – just what I needed to read!

5 reasons Travel Feeds Your Soul – I’m always “sea”king and nourishing my soul…travel must happen, and it will in August!

Improve Your Life With Simple Rituals – by Melissa Marshall at TowerLife. Good advice here…Melissa put into words what I’ve wanted to write for a while.

And on another ritual front… The Importance of Morning Rituals – by Bo Johnson. I saved this link to share with you this week, and ironically enough, Dani from over at Positively Present also included it on her weekly roundup.

5 Non-Apps To Boost Your Productivity – again, good tips I hope to try in 8 days (summer break is coming)…

My Weight is None of Your Business – by Tanya Eby. Excellently stated, Tanya. I’ve gained a significant amount of weight from my medications, weight that cannot be lost through physical activity or dieting. Like Tanya, I’ve struggled with negative comments from others about being heavier.  I also am in my mid-40s and I currently weigh 181 pounds, which is a size 12-14 (sometimes a 16). I’m thankful she wrote this and urge everyone to give it a read.

How to Life Your Dream Life – Maybe it’s not impossible after all?

Free Printable Bookmarks – recommended by Dani at Positively Present

and finally,

Just Say NO to People Pleasing! (again recommended by Dani) – Glad to say that this week I said NO several times, and the world didn’t end, I didn’t turn to stone, and I didn’t lose any friends. 🙂

Once again, think about joining me for 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ this July! It’s going to be fun!

Until next time,

Jill

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