Something to SEA: Thank You For Your Gifts, 2016

Yep, it’s almost here. The end of 2016. Many people will say that 2016 was cursed because of so many notable deaths, but I disagree. I’ll be honest and admit I cried a few times over Carrie Fisher and Prince. I think those are only two of the three celebrity deaths I ever cried over, number one being Chris Farley. Death sucks for sure, but 2016 was not cursed for me.

I usually write a retrospective of my year in February on my birthday, but I think 2016 itself deserves its own shout-out because of the wonderful gifts and experiences it gave to me, regardless of the highs and the lows.

The spring was rough for me as I experienced a very debilitating Lupus flare. There were some days that I literally could not even get out of bed, days that were filled with overwhelming defeat and sadness. However, those awful days made me put things into perspective and focus on what truly matters. I now aim my sight on the big picture without all of the little hassles or others’ priorities that might try to steal the show or detour my focus. Making my soul happy and MY priorities are now number one: living, laughing, loving, writing, and teaching the lessons my heart knows need to be taught.

Because I listened to the universe, I traveled abroad to Dublin not quite sure of the purpose of my trip, but now I see it as clearly as ever. I know what I want and need to do in 2017 to make my passions come alive. I am more confident now as a result of following my heart and kicking fear to the curb. I’m learning more about myself months after my trip, too, as I look back upon my experience while researching the life and works of James Joyce. In addition to Joyce, writers Paulo Coelho, Seamus Heaney, Declan Kiberd, and Jeff Goins provided an immense amount of encouragement and guidance.

I found inspiration in the lyrics of many songs by Red Hot Chili Peppers (Look Around, Goodbye Angels, Dark Necessities, The Longest Wave, Encore, Hey, Can’t Stop, The Zephyr Song, Midnight), The Cure (Treasure, Open, From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea), Coldplay (Midnight, Up & Up, 42, Death and All His Friends), 311 (Golden Sunlight, Beyond the Grey Sky, Never Ending Summer, Tranquility, Hey You, Something out of Nothing, Two Drops in the Ocean), Blackbird and Hey Jude by The Beatles and Pilgrim by Enya.

One surprise that 2016 provided was learning I might have Polish heritage through my father’s mother, not Russian or Austrian as we originally thought. I plan to continue exploring my family heritage in the coming year.

2016 gave me so many splendid memories filled with giggles and smiles, especially those made with my niece and nephews E, N, H, and I. I loved our Six Flags and Sesame Place trips, the tree hunt, boardwalk and aquarium days, Star Wars night at Yankee Stadium, going to LBI and Margate, lining up 120 Disney Tsum Tsum figures, playing games, and more. I’m a very blessed auntie, and I am lucky that E, N, H, and I are in my life. And #5 will be arriving in April, something more to look forward to in 2017! I’m putting my money on another niece, as H and I are both hoping for a sister.

Some of my favorite experiences were Star Wars Night at Yankee Stadium with my family, seeing the Yankees in July with my friend M and her family, random trips with my friend C (especially the NYC ones), seeing Rogue One on opening night, seeing The Cure with friends in June (bucket list!), the Wings of Freedom air tour, and seeing friends once a month again like we used to years ago. The holidays of 2016 (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays) were better this year, too. Despite my health in the spring, I said YES more to life this year than I have in a long time. I am glad I did.

I know my worth and that I am good because of my nephews, my niece, and some very special spirits and people in my life. I learned that being in a photo is more important than my ego, a lesson that will fuel part of my journey in 2017. Additionally, I’m eternally grateful for people like you who never gave up on me and continue to read what I write even though it might be self-indulging like this post.

My word for 2016 was DETERMINED. However, it was hard for me to be determined when I knew the goals I set at the onset of the year were not what my heart and soul wanted me to accomplish. Plus, feeling as awful as I did in the spring, it was hard to be DETERMINED about anything. In May, I changed my word from DETERMINED to OPEN and that made all of the difference. I went with the flow and allowed life to direct me through the rest of 2016, and what a ride it’s been…exhilarating and comforting and so much more! I have selected a new theme for 2017, one which I will post about tomorrow, but being OPEN will still play a pivotal role as I shift focus a bit for the new year.

A final lesson from 2016 is that I can MAKE time for anything, I don’t have to find the time. If something is truly important, the time is there. I just have to re-evaluate my priorities. With each day passing by quicker than its yesterday, I learned the colossal significance of NOW while allowing the light to shine ahead. I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday I wrote my farewell to 2015? No, it was 365 days ago. One year, not one yesterday.

I am a different person now than I was a year ago, and for once, I like myself a whole hell of a lot better now.

Anthony Kiedis sang, “…this life is more than just a read through” on the song Can’t Stop. And he’s right.

Thank you, 2016, for all of your gifts, lessons, experiences, and blessings, all of which will fuel me through 2017 as I march onward. This life is, indeed, more than just a read through, and I intend to make it extraordinary.

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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

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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.

 

 

 

The December Night’s Magic

A quiet blanket of new fallen snow covers everything as the lighted snowman and his candy canes brightly shine in the darkness, waiting to greet the arriving day. It is dark, save for the Christmas tree and the Santa and Snowman lamps keeping me company. With each sip of my peppermint coffee, I embrace this tranquil moment, which is an experience in itself.

There’s no sound except for the ringing in my ears and the keyboard clicks as I type in a vain effort to preserve this moment of seasonal peace.

It is devoid of worries, stress, and doubt, this experience of now.

I just sit and be as each strand of silver tinsel on the tree dances in the breeze from the heat, shimmering and shining and swirling and twirling just like the snowflakes on the other side of the windows.

Night gradually evolves into morning as streaks of light appear in the eastern sky.

Little by little, I hear a different sound coming from outside as the delicate snowflakes transform into rain. Each droplet strikes with a resounding wet “plunk” alongside the new day’s advancing brightness.

Working together, the drops intentionally erase their own night’s masterpiece. The quiet blanket slowly dissolves as the whiteness bleeds into nothing.

The rain picks up pace as each drop falls from its height with more urgency in the light of full morning.

And just like that, the December night’s magic disappears with a swift twirl of its wand.

Abracadabra.

~ Written on December 17, 2016 by Jill Ocone. Author’s note: I intentionally did not include a photograph so that you could imagine the scene based upon my description.  

Celebrate the SEAson!

20161211-blog-photo-new-fontsThree nights ago, the first flurries of the season swirled around in the air, illuminated by the street lights as they danced in the darkness.

I stopped for a minute and let a few snowflakes hit my face like cold zaps of electricity.

Earlier this month, I held the little hands of two of my nephews as we walked around a neighboring town in search of very elusive candy canes, mirroring how we walked around the week before at a local tree lighting. Later today, I’ll get to hold those little hands as we visit a hometown tradition at a local park.

Yesterday I opened our first holiday greeting card of the season (from my cousins M, J, A, and B) and put it our new card display on top of our television center.

A friend gave me a candy cane last week, and I savored each taste of that peppermint sweetness.

When I come home late, I take my time walking in so I can enjoy the sights of our lighted snowman and candy canes, of our red and green laser lights shining along with swirling candy canes on our house.

I take a picture every day of our perfect tiny 2-foot tall real table top tree, decorated in white and blue lights with tinsel and special ornaments.

As we drive around town, I take in each holiday display that I see while keeping track of the trees for the upcoming Operation Christmas Tree Hunt for 2016 with Agents 101 and 202.

We begin Secret Santa at work tomorrow, and I’m excited to give my Santa all of the trinkets I’ve been collecting with clues to throw her off as to who I am. Likewise, I’ve been finding the perfect little presents for people in my life who are so deserving of gratitude.

I listen to my favorite seasonal songs every day. Each song brings back a wonderful memory or two while simultaneously creating new memories with 2016’s cosmic time stamp.

I’ve been quoting my favorite Christmas movies…”Hello, everybody? I should say it?” “Fra-Gee-Lay…it must be Italian!” “Ho HO ho…You are a sad, strange, little man!” “SANTA! I know him!” “You smell like beef and cheese.” You get the idea…

December has been a difficult month for me over the past few years, and there are times this year when it’s been a little trying. However, I’m appreciating every little thing this season, more than I ever have.

The wonder is outweighing the struggle, with joy and peace winning.

And it’s the damndest thing…

I’m actually loving each and every moment of this warm December.

I hope you are, too.

 

The Gingerbread Boy

This is written for my nephew, I, with love…

“The Gingerbread Boy” by Jill Ocone (Copyright 2016)

img_1366aThe Gingerbread Boy

Wearing his pointed hat of red,

His favorite,

Waited with all of the other children

As the crowd counted down

From five with delight,

Then the lights came alive

As the star shined brightly

From atop the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

 

The Gingerbread Boy

Received a red balloon,

His favorite…

He held onto its ribbon

As it danced in the air

While the band played “Let It Snow”

With snowflakes swirling in the light shining

From the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

 

The Gingerbread Boy

Climbed into the red carriage,

His favorite,

The clip clop

Of the horse’s feet

And the jingle jangle

From its bridle of bells

Rang out as the horse turned about

Near the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

 

Suddenly the sirens screamed

As the parade of red firetrucks,

His favorite,

Decorated in lights

Arrived to deliver

Their Christmas cargo

Who dismounted from his ladder perch

Next to the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

 

He belted a joyful “Ho Ho Ho”

The big man in red,

His favorite…

Then the Gingerbread Boy

Through his twinkley eyes

Watched in wonder

As he winked while welcoming him.

The magic was real and

The Gingerbread Boy believed

That night

By the town Christmas tree on Main Street.

What Coffee Beans MUST Want to Be When They Grow Up…

It’s no big secret that I love all things Peppermint.  My favorite is Peppermint Coffee.

NOT Peppermint Mocha.

Peppermint.

For years, my father-in-law would send me boxes of Publix’s Peppermint Frost coffee beans (sold under the name of Brothers Gourmet Coffee) after he and my mother-in-law arrived in Florida for the winter.

Poppy would literally buy out the three Publix stores near his Melbourne Beach home. When those boxes were delivered, it was like a little slice of heaven appeared on my doorstep, better than anything Santa could ever bring. I would immediately dump a bag into my grind and brew coffee maker, and as the aroma of the peppermint filled the room, my first cup would be ready to enjoy.

Pure bliss.

Poppy sent home enough beans to last well through the first half of the year. I am usually very seasonal with things, as I have issues with anything Christmas-related before Thanksgiving or after Christmas Day itself (*see Seasonal Acceptance Disorder below, which is a self-created and self-diagnosed condition).

However, THAT coffee was so good I made the exception and didn’t think twice about having a cup in May. I would always save enough beans in my freezer for the following season, just in case.

As Keurig brewers became the rage and replaced the traditional drip coffee makers, many retailers stopped selling flavored coffee beans, including Publix.

It was a sad day when, in 2013, Poppy told me he could not find Peppermint Frost coffee beans in any Publix. He probably visited every Publix within a 60-mile radius of his house in his valiant effort to locate them, but it was not meant to be.

It was just as well, since my grind and brew pot shut down around the same time and was relegated to the Cemetery of Faithful Coffee Makers after brewing its final cup.

Santa brought me a new-fangled K-cup brewer in 2013, but all I find was Peppermint Mocha pods, which wasn’t the same.

The allure of Peppermint coffee lost its luster when we lost Poppy in April of 2014.  For the last two holiday seasons, I had a cup here and there, but not regularly. I think it was the mental connection to losing Poppy that made reject any K-cup with Peppermint in it, even hot chocolate.

Until this year.

While shopping at Target earlier this month, I wandered down the coffee aisle, and I did a double take.

fullsizerender-3Candy Cane K-cups by Archer Farms (Target’s brand).

Could it be?

Peppermint, SANS Mocha?

My heart was ready to give this coffee a try.

I bought a box and waited until Thanksgiving to try it, so as to not upset my Seasonal Acceptance Disorder*.

With the anticipation of a wonderful Thanksgiving day ahead, I took the first pod out of the box and put it into my machine. I hit BREW, and as the machine worked its magic, I recognized that sweet elixir of a smell in the air.

When the coffee was ready, I added my stevia and cream. I sat for a moment and just let the aroma dance around my senses as it wafted through the kitchen.

Then, I took my first sip, and I almost fell to my knees.

Holy crap.

THIS IS IT.

These Archer Farms Candy Cane K-Cups brew a cup of coffee that is 98% the same as one brewed by those beloved Peppermint Frost coffee beans from Publix.

What is that missing 2 Percent?

Poppy. If Poppy had sent me these K-Cups, then it would be 100%.

Pure Bliss, yet again.

I’ve had four cups so far this season, with many more to come.

Each sip brings additional joy to my heart as I picture Poppy, the Purveyor of Peppermint, smiling down with that little smile he had, proud that he led me to the right coffee at the right time. Thanks, Poppy.

With each sip of my morning coffee today, I kept thinking that this heavenly flavor must be what each coffee bean wants to be when it grows up. Take that, Chock full ‘o Nuts!

I am not being paid for or compensated in any way for this raving endorsement of Target’s Archer Farms Candy Cane K-Cups. The Candy Cane K-Cups are available for a limited time, so hit up your local Target now before I channel Poppy and buy out their entire supply.

* Seasonal Acceptance Disorder: The inability to enjoy seasonal flavors, decorations, celebrations, or media outside of the regular calendar season. Seasonal Acceptance Disorder can cause mental anguish, the shakes, and the need for therapy. Most patients diagnosed with Seasonal Acceptance Disorder can only watch Christmas movies between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Such patients may experience undue stress and rage upon experiencing holiday displays six months before said holiday, usually taking to social media to express their extreme dismay, and cannot actively participate in events such as Christmas in July without severe side effects.