Something to SEA: Thank You, 2015

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Hello friends!  It’s pretty hard to believe, but the time has come to say goodbye to another calendar year.

However, this one is different.

For the first time I can remember, I’m not bitter towards the year that’s about to end.  2015 wasn’t all that bad.  Sure, it was a year of adjustment for me, along with everyone in my family, as we got through the first full year without my father or father in law.  I did experience a good amount of work-related stress, which affected (and is still affecting) my Lupus and Fibromyalgia symptoms.  There were some low points at times, times of frustration that made me want to bang my head against a wall.

But overall, 2015 was a pretty good year.

It marked the first year in a long time that I decided to celebrate my birthday and say YES to life.

It was the year my words finally broke free, as I began SoulSEAker, as well as a number of other writing projects.

It was the year that I made tons of memories with my niece and nephews:  taking H to the aquarium and boardwalk three times, including once for the Sea of Lights; taking N to his first Six Flags experience and riding Skull Mountain 16 times in one day; taking E to Ron Jon’s in LBI for her birthday; taking N and E to Frightfest and to Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Great Adventure (and giving them season passes for 2016 for Christmas…perhaps I’ll conquer Nitro after all in 2016…after all, I got N to conquer Batman the Ride); and taking N and E on “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt 2015,” where I mapped out Christmas trees in local businesses, and we went into each business and took a picture with the tree…grand total:  50 trees in 3 hours, and a successful mission for Agent 101, Agent 202, and Agent 303.  Fireworks cruises, going to Target and the Comic Book store, going to the park, and more.  I hope that E, N, H, and I, the 4 most special people in my life, know how much I love them.  I’m a very lucky Auntie.

Instead of being a homebody, I got out there in 2015 and saw a number of pretty awesome places, many for the first time ever, with cherished friends and family: Flatiron Building & Strand Bookstore in New York City, Yankee Stadium (2 games!), Lucy the Elephant, Absecon Lighthouse, Strawberry Fields in Central Park, Columbia University Campus, New Jersey Vietnam Memorial and Museum, Monmouth Battlefield, many old cemeteries as I researched for an article I wrote, Mastoris, Tom’s Restaurant (the diner from Seinfeld), Walnford Park, Heritage Park in Allentown (NJ), Six Flags Great Adventure (4 times!), the boardwalk and aquarium right here in town, Cape May, Times Square/Rockefeller Center, Long Beach Island, Atlantic City Aquarium, Cattus Island Park, Hot Dog Johnny’s, Asbury Festhaus and Biergarten.  In addition, a 5-day clandestine getaway to Disney in November was a very special time with my husband.  We put ourselves first for once, and I’m so glad we did.

Besides the Disney trip, my favorite memory was seeing “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” with my brother on opening night, which was Thursday 12/17/2015.  From getting on line 2 hours early with my Boba Fett sweatshirt on, to sitting in the theater for more than 90 minutes just filled with excitement and anticipation (as was every other person there), to shared laughs and gasps, applause and tears, it was one of the most memorable experiences in my life.  Growing up “Star Wars” together, I couldn’t think of a better person to share the experience with than my brother.  I’m seeing it again today, and again in January with work friends…and probably a few more times after that!

2015 was the year I finally found my “direction.”  Direction was my word for the year, and I felt completely lost in early January of 2015.  But I am not lost any more.  It feels good to be on the right path and know I am worthy and I have a purpose…finally.

Deciding to live during my 44th year is the best decision I ever made.  I still have a few goals to cross off my original list, which you can see here, but I still have a little over a month until I am no longer 44.  Living 44 was my first writing focus that I shared as a blog, and was the precursor to SoulSEAker.

I am grateful for all of the wonderful gifts that 2015 gave me, most of all stronger bonds with my family and friends. I am also proud that I finally found the gumption to put my health conditions and symptoms at the forefront of every decision I make.  I’ve learned that it’s okay to say NO and to decide my course of action based upon MY health, not based upon the agenda of others.

I recently saw a post that read, “I’m not the same person I was when 2015 began.”  That’s true for me, and I am relieved to (for once) be facing a new year with positivity and optimism, versus sadness and dread.

I also have been seeing snarky posts on social media mocking the idea of becoming a better person with the new year.  Mock me all you want, but I am DETERMINED to become a better person simply by choosing to live and by accomplishing the goals I have set for 2016 (which I will write about tomorrow).  I can take your jabs and your insults, and if you feel better about yourself by making fun of me, go right ahead.  I am glad I can help improve your self esteem.  Not being snarky here…seriously.  I am glad I could help.

What is your favorite memory from 2015?  I’d love to know!  Please share in the comments section.

Until tomorrow,

Jill

 

 

 

 

Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 12/26/2015

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And just like that, it’s Christmas past.  I have been doing a lot of reflecting and preparing for the new year, anticipating great things and creating a vision for myself.  This week’s roundup of links include several sites to prepare for 2016, including my favorite from Susannah Conway.

In the coming week, I will be sharing my own reflections about 2015, as well as my word and vision for 2016.

I hope you have the chance to spend the last days of 2015 making memories with people you care about, and that your heart is filled with serenity, peace, and excitement for a new year.

Susannah Conway’s Unravelling the Year Ahead – 2016

Danielle Dowling’s “Make It Happen Yearly 2016”

Reflection Worksheet from Holstee

Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges – one a day for the new year

Journaling Exercise: End of Year Reflections

A Year With Rumi (not free but worth checking out)

Deepak Chopra’s Personal Goals for the New Year

If you ever doubt that you can make a difference, see what Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, Cheryl Strayed, Rob Bell and Glennon Doyle Melton accomplished in less than 48 hours with The Compassion Collective…and why not make a small donation like I did?

You can never see too many Surfing Santas

The White Envelope – put this idea in your 2016 December “To Do” file!

2015 Highlights from Nomadic Pursuits

Xavi’s Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs recipe from my friend Keith over at The Kitchen Palatable

What makes a good life?  Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness – a Ted Talk from Robert Waldinger (thanks Cortland for sharing!)

2015 Best of Star Wars Light Show – worth the 5 minute watch! Awesome!

and finally,

Danielle LaPorte’s #Truthbomb App is free through 12/27/15 (tomorrow).  Get it now!

Looking forward to sharing my reflections and vision with you this week!

Until next time,

Jill

 

Sea My Christmas Wish For You

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So.  This IS Christmas.

My retrospective of what I have done this year is forthcoming.

But today, today is for making memories.

I hope your Christmas is a good one, and I hope you have fun.

My wish for you is an endless abundance of peace, love, and joy.

Merry Christmas, my friend.

With much gratitude for your support and encouragement,

Jill

Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 12/19/2015

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Hello friends!  With less than a week to Christmas, and only 12 days left in the year, it’s a whirlwind of “to do.”  While my body is not happy and rebelling because I have been pushing myself, the memories I have made with my niece, nephews, brother, and friends are worth the pain and discomfort.  Here’s some interesting sites I found this week…if you find yourself tooling around, check them out.  Stay sane and try to enjoy every moment that’s left in 2016 my friend!

How to Use a Journal to Remember More of your Christmas – from Kenzie at Helloneverland

Harper Lee: My Christmas in New York

Farewell to the G.O.A.T – Abby Wambach Tribute by Christie Rampone and Megan Rapinoe

Macro Photos of Snowflakes Show Impossible Perfect Designs – so awesome

The 12-Day Plan of Simple Writing Exercises

January 2016 Creative Challenge – Hosted by Sara Waters (and it’s free)

This BookThis AdviceThis Narwhal

and finally,

the video of Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, and the Star Wars Cast A Capella Theme Song is super (and Star Wars Episode VII-The Force Awakens was simply fantastic!  No spoilers…just see it!)

Have a super day!

Until next time,

Jill

 

 

Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 12/11/2015

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Hello friends!  This week was filled with laughter and memories, setting and reaching goals, and a little bit of stress along the way.  With only  3 weeks left in 2015, it is a great time to prepare for 2016.  Whether it is preparing a planner, finding your word, unraveling the year, or getting some new mittens, this week’s roundup of interesting links has something for everyone (hopefully!).  Enjoy!

Unraveling the Year 2016:  Susannah Conway’s free workbook is back and updated for 2016.  It’s a great way to reflect upon 2015 and prepare for the new year.  Also included on this page is the link to her Find Your Word for 2016 5-day email program.  I will be writing about my year for 2015 before year’s end, and having a word was more meaningful for me than having a new year’s resolution.

13 Ways to Slow Down this Christmas – from Hello Neverland’s Kenzie

12 Simple Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer – from Becoming Minimalist’s Joshua Becker

Seafoam & Salt – from Linda over at Spiritual Dragonfly

My Favorite 2016 Planners:

Passion Planner

SELF Journal

Spark Planner

Some fun items…

These Hand Warmers – And TheseAnd this dinosaur melts my heart

Some interesting news…

Century Old Shipwreck Unearthed Under NJ Jetty

Star Wars to put Skelligs on the map (and it’s only 5 days until the premiere! I’m going on Thursday 12/17 with my brother!)

Pandora to Launch Festivus Station (let the airing of grievances begin!)

and finally,

This is what 28,000 teddy bears on a hockey rink looks like (pretty awesome video)

Hoping today brings you some smiles!

Until next time,

Jill

 

 

 

 

Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 12/2/2015

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We are getting down to the wire for 2015 friends!  It’s the last month, and it will hopefully be filled with cherished memories.  I have several interesting shares for you today, many with a December-type feel.  Hopefully you will find something you like, a new writer to follow, or an idea to try.

Don’t forget…it’s not too late to join December Reflections!

Love and Family through Tough Times:  A video from Fox Football’s Thanksgiving Pregame about Philadelphia Eagles DT Bennie Logan.  I’m not an Eagles fan, but after watching this, I am a Bennie Logan fan.

Christmas in the 1970’s versus Christmas Today by Victoria Fedden…awesome and hysterical…yet true

A Town on Top of a Fish – by Marc Jordan

Countdown to Christmas Kindness Calendar

A Lighter, Simpler, More Meaningful Holiday from Becoming Minimalist

Making Christmas Magic (with Free Printable) from Vicki, the Moxie Girl

To plan for 2016, you might be looking for a “reading” or a “writing” prompt per day.  Check out Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year by Demi Lovato and Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges by Lori Deschene

Christmas Lights by Coldplay

Zoella’s Christmas Haul – I love her accent!

Peppermint Bark K Cups – so good!

“Right Here, Right Now, We are doing it!” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Some of my favorite vendors for photo books, cards, and canvas prints at this time of year are Mixbook, Shutterfly, CG Pro Prints, and Minted.

And finally, on a personal note, I am very troubled by the state of our world and our society…the arguing, the hatred, the blaming, the slanted media, the agendas…the list goes on and on.  It is hard to shut off the outside world, but I am doing just that and limiting my time spent checking news feeds and social media.  Our world is changing, and perhaps it is naive of me to just ignore it for right now, but I’d rather have my nephew’s little hand in mine, hear my niece laughing, explore a new place with a friend, or create something with my words and photos than engage in a never-ending war of comments on social media.  I am choosing to focus my energy on having a wonderful holiday season, because isn’t that what this season is all about anyway?

Peace, love, and joy people…peace, love, and joy.

Until next time,

Jill

 

 

 

Something to SEA: December Reflections is Back!

I was so excited to learn that Susannah Conway is once again hosting “December Reflections,” a photo-a-day challenge based upon her daily prompts.  It’s a wonderful way to end the year, both by reflecting upon the past 12 months and looking forward to what’s ahead in 2016.

I included her prompts and a link to her “December Reflections” page, which tells more about the event and how to participate.  I have a few friends participating this year along with me, and would love for you to join us.  I’ll be posting my daily images on my SoulSEAker Instagram and Facebook pages, and when time permits, will also post them here with perhaps some more detail and insight.  #DecemberReflections

It was just about this time last year that I happened to stumble upon her work, and I am so glad I did.  She has proven to be an insightful and inspirational role model, and while I have no idea how I was brought to her website in December of 2014 (I think it was the hands of fate), I am not the same person I was then simply because of her gift of words.

I am certainly entering the last month of 2015 with more confidence, joy, solace, and optimism about the future than I entered December 2014.  Susannah helped me find “my tribe” and “my voice,” and is one of a few influences who led me to learn so much about myself over this year.

I look forward to what December brings, to enjoy each and every moment possible, and to continuing to grow and learn about myself.

 

 

Sea Why I Love Thanksgiving

20151126 QuoteIt’s here!  It’s here!  Today is Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. I feel the same on every Thanksgiving, and I think I write almost the same thing every year too in my journal, but this is the first time I am sharing it publicly.  I love Thanksgiving for so many reasons.

First and foremost, I love spending the day with my family. I miss my four grandparents, but their legacies are still present at each Thanksgiving through the sugar coated dates on the buffet and the marching bands and balloons in the parade. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is cheesy and corny, and I am not a fan of musicals or performances, but I have to watch the parade every year from start to finish because it is like my grandfather is sitting next to me as I watch it.

I was trying to explain the importance of Santa arriving at the end of the parade to my journalism students this week, and I don’t think many of them understood. When I was young, I was told that the Santa in the parade was the REAL Santa, and that he only came down from the North Pole for the parade and for Christmas deliveries. Because he was the REAL Santa, I couldn’t wait to see him in the parade. And when I was young, after he appeared, that was when the Christmas commercials would start. His appearance was the harbinger of the Christmas season. Now, Christmas commercials start running in the beginning of October, which takes a lot of magic out of the season. I know that when Santa appears later today, I’ll once again have a tear running down my cheek as I remember about the magic of childhood and wish to have a little of that lost magic back.

Thanksgiving also means family and football. I’ll be spending the day at my mother’s home with my family. Everyone contributes to the meal, which includes turkey, corn, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, brussel sprouts, turnips, stuffing, apple and pumpkin pie, and more. We will eat and laugh together, and enjoy each other’s company. I’ll play with my nephews, and perhaps take them for a nature walk around the neighborhood.  And I’ll root for the Lions, as I do every Thanksgiving.

Last year, we had to adjust to a different Thanksgiving after losing my father in law.  I missed making Poppy laugh and his kind smile at the table.  It was just as difficult as when we had to adjust in 2007 after losing my brother in law, Michael, to cancer.  One of my favorite memories with him was his last Christmas in 2006, when we both stood at the counter and ate our dinner together, as the table was too crowded.  Like many important moments in my life, I can picture it in my mind like it happened yesterday, yet I didn’t realize the importance of it at the time.  I am so thankful for that memory and for Michael’s encouragement and advice, which ultimately changed my life.

This year will again bring another adjustment for our family, as this is the first Thanksgiving without my Dad.  His 74th birthday would have been tomorrow, and we usually celebrated his birthday on Thanksgiving.  Last year, it WAS his birthday on Thanksgiving.  I will miss watching football with him, and hearing his laugh.  It will be different without him at the head of the table this year, but my brother thought of a great idea.  His 18-month old son, who happens to be my Godson, will take Pa’s place at the head of the table.  He will share our childhood memories and traditions of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Santa with his two sons so they can continue the customs our parents began for us.

This year, I am going to bask in every moment and take it all in.  I hope to absorb every sight, sound, smell, and taste, and cherish every memory, as my brother so wisely advised. I hope that next year, when I am writing my Thanksgiving retrospective, that everyone is still with us, and that we will gather together again for a celebration of gratitude.

I am thankful for the people in my life:  family (especially my niece and 3 nephews), friends, colleagues, and students. I am thankful that my health isn’t worse than it is, and that I can get through each day with Lupus and Fibromyalgia (even though both are flaring and I’ve had to make many adjustments to my schedule to deal with these “service disruptions,” as I like to call them…but it could be so much worse). I am so very thankful for my husband, who is my best friend. And I am thankful for every laugh, smile, tear, and moment along the way.

May you have a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving.

SEA What I’m Thankful For – Day One

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We are approaching my favorite week of the year.  Thanksgiving is, and has always been, my favorite holiday.  To honor this very special week, I am going to write each day about something or someone I am thankful for.

For day one, I am thankful that my husband and I put ourselves first for once.  Last week, we lived life by our terms and were able to escape with each other.  I limited my technology use and checking of social media, and instead, focused on the present moment while taking in what I saw, what I heard, what I smelled, and every possible detail of where I was.

Our escape was one of the most peaceful weeks I have had in several years.  We were able to live in the present, in the future, in the past, and in a fantasy world like no other.  We laughed a lot and made so many memories.  It was the best time we have ever spent with each other, despite the terrible pain and fatigue caused by a severely active Lupus flare (yes, Lupus is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates…on any given day, you never know what you’re going to get.)

Based upon what I’ve seen and read since I’ve returned to reality, it was a good week to unplug.  So much hatred, judgement, terror, fear, anger, arguing, hypocrisy.  Everyone is right, yet everyone is wrong.  I agree with everyone, yet I disagree with everyone.  It’s quite the societal paradox at the moment.

There’s an episode of “Family Guy” where Peter Griffin says,  “Well, sir, while I may not agree with what you say, I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”  Various forms of this quote has been attributed to Voltaire, Oscar Wilde, and others.

To kindly put it, to those spending so much energy and time arguing, remember that we are all in this together.  We have the right to our own opinions and to state those opinions.  However, we have to remember to respect the opinions of others, even though they might be vastly different from ours.

Take care of each other.

Elizabeth Gilbert sums it up much better than I can in her post from November 17, 2015.

By focusing on gratitude and unplugging, perhaps you can have a more positive peace of mind while taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and wonders around you, ones you might not notice if you are scrolling through your Facebook feed or writing an anger-filled comment.  It’s a great week to do so.

Choose gratitude.  Choose to live in the moment.

I’m so glad I did.