16,801 Days

pilgrimAnother year down as I will celebrate the 17th anniversary of my 29th birthday tomorrow, As I look back, my 45th year was very good to me on many fronts.

There’s a song by Enya called “Pilgrim” that mysteriously presented itself this year with lyrics that guided me through each day.One of the lines goes as follows: “Pilgrim it’s a long way to find out who you are.” Indeed, my lifelong journey to find myself has been filled with more detours and doubts than straight routes and certainty. Thankfully, my days as a 45-year-old perhaps showed me who I am more than any other year I’ve lived. As my journey to find myself still has a long way to go, I can’t think of any better way to welcome my coming year than by remaining a pilgrim along the journey of life.

I am a writer, but the truth is, I always was but didn’t believe in myself. The words and stories inside me are finally seeing light as my voice is continually being refined and improved. There’s still a lot of work to make my voice exactly as I dream it to be as I look forward to continuing my journey as a writer.

Oh, Dublin…how I am in love with you! I followed my dreams and lived in Dublin for a week with a longtime friend, which was in itself life changing. I don’t want to continually talk about Dublin, but man…what an inexplicable connection I have to that simply wondrous city. The memory of my Dublin days are ever-present, and I can once again hear her siren song, luring me back to explore and to live and to write…

On the downside, many of my days as a 45-year-old were very difficult as I endured a severe lupus flare for over a year. I am extremely grateful that my last major lupus face rash was at the end of September, another sign that my new medication is working. If I’ve got anything to be positive about, I consider the daily pain and fatigue I experience a blessing because it makes me know I’m alive. As a result, I know the value of a good day and cherish each one now more than ever. I took the initiative of sharing my story on NewLifeOutlook: Lupus so that others with Lupus might be able to have hope.

There’s so much value in being an active participant in life, and with each day, I say YES to life more and more. I’m finally comfortable in my own skin, with my presence and living, my “I am here” statement more important than my skewed perception of how I think I look.

I wouldn’t be human if my 45th year didn’t bring with it the wistful longing for those who have passed on, such as my father, my father-in-law, my spirit guide, and other special people. But you know what? I’m at a point now where instead of mourning their loss, I celebrate their legacy and the fact that I was so lucky to have them as a part of my life, no matter how big or small their role might have been. When I consider that these special people can no longer see the sights I am able to see (at least from this dimension), I appreciate what I do see with my own two eyes more and more. Because I can, I now let the snow and cold hit my face instead of hurling expletives. I listen to the singing birds instead of yelling at them for waking me up. I touch the flower’s petals instead of walking on by. I let the waves break on my feet with a renewed appreciation, and I value the treasures left behind by the sea.

I am absolutely blessed with having family and friends standing by my side with unconditional love and support. img_8613And because of that little 2.75 year old best friend of mine, I finally know I am truly good.

And don’t forget, I got to meet Boba Fett in August! I’m still giddy over that!

The giggles, the memories, the tears, the sights, the guidance, the words, the insight…I wouldn’t change a thing. Words, stories, laughter, lessons, and life…the tenants whose lease will be renewed for the upcoming year. I’ve got a few exciting intentions and projects for my 46th year, which begins tomorrow.

But for the rest of today, I’m celebrating day 16,801 of my existence, the last day of my 45th year. Thank you, 45, for being so good to me.

My 45th Year in Facts and Statistics:

Number of Yankees Home Games I attended:  2

Number of Yankees games I got to watch on TV: 10. Thank you, Comcast, for bringing back YES this season!

Number of presentations I gave at conferences:  2

Favorite Summer Song: Encore by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Favorite Winter Song:  Bad by U2

Most played artists on my playlists:  Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, The Cure

Favorite Toys I Bought: My little wind-up sock monkey that jumps rope, my cricket driving car, and my Jyn Erso Funco figure

Number of times I saw “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” in the theater: 3. The best was on opening night (actually, the night before opening night) with my husband.

Number of Monarch Butterflies I raised from caterpillars and released:  26

Favorite Books I read:  Ulysses and Us by Declan Kibbard, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

Number of pins I added to my collection:  28

Favorite Sound: the laughter of my niece and nephews always, morning bird songs, and the lull of the traffic outside my window in Dublin

Favorite Christmas Gifts:  My iPhone 7-Plus from my husband and my Seinfeld 2017 Calendar, picked out by my brother-in-law.

The Best Part of the Year: Going to Dublin. Looking back with gratitude for the signs and for my spirit guide, I can’t believe I had the balls to do it. I loved every single thing about my experience, other than I had to leave. My feet will find Dublin again someday, undoubtedly led by my heart.

Town/Local Events I Attended:  Earth Day Celebration, Memorial Day ceremony, rode the town trolley, Seafood Festival before it was evacuated because of a coward’s actions, one Car Cruise, Xmas Tree Lighting/Candy Cane Hunt/Santa’s Workshop, Wings of Freedom Tour, NJ Run for the Fallen. My favorite: Point Pleasant Beach Offshore Grand Prix.

Some of my favorite memories:  seeing The Cure with treasured friends, the Point Pleasant Beach Offshore Grand Prix, Star Wars night at Yankee Stadium (Castro’s grand slam was super!), The Firefly at the Baseball Game, Yankees with M/D/D in 95+ heat, trick or treating dressed as a fairy godmother (at the request of nephew H), NYC and Navesink Lighthouse with C. (especially the Brooklyn Bridge, 9-11 Reflection Pool, Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building, and Bryant Park), the blindy-bird that visited me for a few days, finding my voice, riding my bicycle around town, the new opportunity for a wonderful classroom-mate and his successes, so many laughs with friends, the Gingerbread Boy, “My doggie guitar! And my Elmo letters!,” the little one who sits on my lap because I am his best friend

Special memories with my niece and nephews:  E’s mystery trip to LBI, N’s mystery trip to Lucy the Elephant/Rainforest Café, aquarium and lunch with both H and I on separate trips, the boat village with H and I at the Point Pleasant Beach Offshore Grand Prix, swimming, Skull Mountain 22 times in a row and the VR ride with N, playing with tsum tsums/Paw Patrol/Star Wars/the lollipop game/with the gears, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Sesame Place and Christmas train trip, riding in the horse and carriage and pulling my strings, Operation Christmas Tree Hunt

Places I Ate:  Frankie’s, Shrimp Box, St. Stephen’s Green, Mastoris, Applebees, Turning Point, Lubrano’s, Bubbakoo’s, Five Guys, Wharfside, Charlie’s, 709, Asbury Festhaus & Biergarten, Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar, Chipotle, Winward Tavern, OB Diner, Brick Diner, Cookie Lady’s Café, Chik-Fil-A, Simko’s, Captain’s Inn, Lobster Shanty, Mariner’s Cove, Friendly’s, Shut Up & Eat, Taylor Sam’s, PJ Sweeney’s, Vesuvio’s, Mustache Bill’s Diner, Shake Shack, Long Point Café, Bizzaro’s, Too Jay’s Vero Beach, Rainforest Café, Anderson’s Coffee Shop, Red Robin, Saladworks, Smashburger

My LIVING 45 Bucket List

  • Watch a sunrise in all 4 seasons.COMPLETED!
    • SPRING 3/26/2016
    • SUMMER 8/31/2016
    • FALL 11/27/2016
    • WINTER 12/24/2016
  • See at least 1 new place a month.
    • MARCH: Twin Lights, Mount Mitchell Scenic Overlook, Farias Surf in LBI, DeAngelos on the Beach.
    • APRIL: Renaissance Faire at Smithville. I’ve been to Smithville once, but never to a Renaissance Faire.
    • MAY: Brookdale Community College (conference)
    • JUNE: Brooklyn Bridge, Madison Square Garden (first time), 911 Memorial, Freedom Tower, Red Robin
    • JULY: Double Trouble State Park, PJ Sweeney’s
    • AUGUST: Too many to list! Most are in Ireland.
    • SEPTEMBER: Cookie Lady Cafe
    • OCTOBER: None but I made up for it in November. See below.
    • NOVEMBER: NY Public Library, Grand Central Terminal, Bryant Park, top of the Empire State Building
    • DECEMBER: Smashburger
    • JANUARY: None, unfortunately.
  • Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge: COMPLETED on 6/22/2016.
  • See The Cure in June at MSG: COMPLETED on 6/19/2016. See blog entry here.
  • Have firm plans to travel to Ireland and/or Iceland by the end of 2017.
    • Completed! 8/14-8/22/2016. See blog entries.
  • Go to the Point Pleasant Beach Grand Prix powerboat weekend and race in May: COMPLETED! 5/23/2016
  • Take each one of my 3 nephews and niece on a “mystery day” with Auntie Jill as well as spend time with each and make them laugh a million times throughout the year.
    • DAY WITH EM 3/12/16 (LBI)
    • DAY WITH H 6/9/16 (Aquarium, Rides, Diner)
    • DAY WITH I 6/16/16 (Aquarium)
    • DAY WITH EM & N 6/17/16 (Six Flags)
    • DAY WITH EM & N 7/21/16 (Six Flags)
    • DAY WITH N 7/27/16 (Absecon Lighthouse, Lucy the Elephant, Rain Forest Cafe
    • TIME WITH H & I 8/5/16 (Yankees Game…Star Wars Night!)
    • DAY WITH N 8/10/16 (Six Flags): We rode Skull Mountain 21 times in a row.
    • DAY WITH N 10/9/16 (Six Flags)
    • HALLOWEEN PARADE & TRICK OR TREATING WITH H & I 10/30-31/16
    • DAY WITH I 11/8/16 (Aquarium, Diner)
    • DAY WITH H 11/11/16 (Aquarium, Diner)
    • BEACH TREE LIGHTING WITH H & I 11/25/16
    • CANDY CANE HUNT WITH H & I 12/2/16
    • SANTA’S HOUSE & WORKSHOP WITH H & I 12/11/16
    • 2016 TREE HUNT WITH EM & N 12/20/16
    • SESAME PLACE WITH H & I 12/26/16
    • TRAIN WITH I & BROTHER 12/28/16
  • LIVE! Just life and enjoy life without taking it too seriously. Some of what I did:
    • Florida in March with my husband
    • Visited my friend Lynette before she left for her 50 State Tour with her MotivateMe! Team
    • Visited my friend DP in May
    • Honoring my friend RB at a celebratory gathering 6/24/16
    • Celebrating Nephew H at his pre-school graduations
    • Spending time with family at the beach for fireworks on July 4
    • Double Trouble State Park & Batsto Village with my friend C 7/14/16
    • Summer boat rides
    • Thursday lunches at Frankie’s with my uncle all summer long
    • Seeing Finding Dory for our anniversary
    • YANKEES on July 23 with friends: Military Appreciation Day, extra innings loss
    • YANKEES on August 5 with family: nephews’ first game, Star Wars night, getting my picture taken with BOBA FETT, Starlin Castro’s GRAND SLAM, an all around awesome time

Something to SEA: My “Living 45” List

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As you probably already know, I started an annual tradition last year of listing 10 things I want to accomplish within my birthday year.  The decision to make this list stemmed from deciding to live versus watching life pass me by. After much thought and careful consideration, I present to you my list of things I intend to accomplish while I am 45:

  1. Watch a sunrise in all 4 seasons
  2. Learn to surf by taking lessons with my niece
  3. See at least 2 new places a month. These places are on my “hope to visit” list: Grounds for Sculpture, the Liberty bell, the NJ Balloon festival, Red Bank, 9-11 Reflection Pool/Memorial/Museum, Sea Girt Lighthouse, Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, Old Barracks, Belford Docks, Tuckerton Seaport, Sayen Gardens, NJ Vintage Automobile Museum (it’s right here in town!)
  4. Finish writing two books
  5. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
  6. See The Cure in June at MSG
  7. Have firm plans to travel to Ireland and/or Iceland by the end of 2017
  8. Go to the Point Pleasant Beach Grand Prix powerboat weekend and race
  9. Take each one of my 3 nephews and niece on a “mystery day” with Auntie Jill, and spend time with each and make them laugh a million times throughout the year
  10. LIVE! Just life and enjoy life without taking it too seriously. Included here will be trips to Six Flags, hopefully a NY Yankees game, return visits to other special places, laughing with friends, etc.

I will be making this list a stand-alone category in my menus.  I plan on updating my progress throughout the year, so please check back!

If you’d like to see my 44th year List and Stats, please click anywhere in this sentence.

 

365 Days Later…

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…is now over.

Effective today, I am now 45.

365 days ago I turned 44, and I started blogging at what I called Living 44, which was a way for me to write about what I accomplished during the year (including 10 specific goals).  SoulSEAker morphed out of Living 44 and will be my blogging focus from today forward.

My 44th year was different in many ways.  Sure, I endured happiness and sadness, laughter and tears, but we all do.  It’s part of life.  However, turning 44 was the first time in over a decade that I actually looked forward not only to my birthday, but to the year as a whole.  I embraced each day and tried my best to be positive, albeit difficult at times.  I began a Gratitude journal, which has given me an appreciation for things I formerly took for granted.  I began writing again, both professionally and for myself, and I found my voice, the voice that has been missing for far too long.

I found inspiration through Susannah Conway, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mallika Chopra, and others; as a result, I aim to inspire others the way these wonderful people inspire me.

Most of all, I shared many memories with treasured family and friends.  Instead of sitting at home by myself and living vicariously through others, I chose to see new places and to make memories.  At times, I had to scale back and take it easy due to Lupus and Fibromyalgia.  Sometimes it was tough to manage my symptoms and plug along, but I did the best I could.  I still do the best I can every day, and some days are better than others.  Regardless, each day is a gift, one which I value and welcome with open arms, no matter what.

I accomplished most of my 10 Things I Wanted to do While 44 (list at the bottom), and then some.

Here’s my 44th Year in Facts and Statistics:

Number of new places I saw: 42

Number of mystery trips with my niece and nephews:  6. I began a tradition of spending the day with each of my 3 nephews and niece, just the 2 of us, destination a secret.  My niece’s surprise days were to Ron Jon’s in LBI and to the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island.  My nephew’s secret trip was to Six Flags Great Adventure.  The 3 of us went to Six Flags two more times, and we all have season passes, so next year will be filled with fun trips.  Perhaps I will conquer my fear of Nitro and other big rollercoasters…we will see.  On the other side of the family, I took my 4-year-old nephew to the aquarium, rides, and to dinner 3 times this year.  We enjoyed our special dates very much.  I have a few places in mind for each’s mystery trip this year…places they will never be able to guess!

Number of Yankees Home Games I attended:  2

Number of times I saw the Core 4 in person:  1

Number of places I went with my treasured friend C: 22

Number of presentations I gave at conferences:  2

Number of GSSPA meetings I attended: 7 plus two conferences

Number of photos I took: More than 20,000

Number of weddings I attended as a guest:  2

Number of weddings I photographed:  0

Favorite Summer Song: I Can’t Feel My Face

Favorite Toy I Bought: My stuffed dinosaur named Monk

Number of times I made work friends laugh:  too many to count

Number of times I saw “Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens”: 4. The best was on opening night (actually, the night before opening night) with my brother.

Number of times I went to Six Flags Great Adventure:  4

Number of Monarch Butterflies I raised from caterpillars and released:  17

Favorite Book I read:  Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Number of surgeries:  1

Number of things removed during surgery: 3

Most played artists on my playlists:  311 and The Cure

Number of postcards I mailed:  226

Number of postcards I received:  237

Number of Seinfeld references I made on a daily basis:  At least 3

Favorite Winter Song:  Adventure of a Lifetime by Coldplay

Favorite Sound: the laughter of my niece and nephews

Favorite Christmas Gifts:  My Jedi Alex and Ani bracelet and my 13” Boba Fett talking figure from my husband

Town/Local Events I Attended:  Earth Day Celebration, Memorial Day ceremony, Seafood Festival, Car Cruise, Xmas Tree Lighting, Chowderfest, Wings of Freedom Tour, NJ Run for the Fallen, Manasquan Offshore Grand Prix, Postcard Show

Places I Ate:  Frankie’s, Shrimp Box, St. Stephen’s Green, Mastoris, Shore Point BBQ, Olive Garden, Revolution Café, Cool Beans, Applebees, Turning Point, Lubrano’s, Surf Taco, Bubbakoo’s, Five Guys, Lava Java, Wharfside, Luigi’s, Emilio’s, 709, Asbury Festahus & Biergarten, River Belle, Holiday Inn Manahawkin, Holiday Inn Clark, Toms River Hotel, IHOP, Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar, Tom’s Restaurant, The Dublin House, Chipotle, Winward Tavern, OB Diner, Brick Diner, Chef Mickey’s, Hollywood and Vine, Biergarten (Epcot), The Wave, Cape May Café, TRex Restaurant

People Who Passed Who Left Footprints In My Heart and In My Journey:  Roscoe, Tom S., Neighbor Lorraine, Neighbor Mike, Melvin, Denasia, Kesse, Scott

Some of my favorite memories:  Disney, Deepak with Hannah, the Manasquan Offshore Grand Prix, grave hunting and NYC with C, starting the Hawks Hall of Honor, Yankees games, eating at Tom’s Diner, picking a quart of blueberries a day for about two weeks this summer from our bushes, getting the waves around my ankle, writing Boro Kids, starting SoulSEAker, getting tickets to see The Cure this June with some pretty awesome people, spending time with family and friends, Teacher of the Year celebrations, walks with Laura, laughing with Jen, And Then LIFE Happened, laughter in the Batcave, and any time spent with the 4 most special people in my life, my niece and nephews.

Here’s a short slideshow of memories made during my 44th year. Thank you to everyone who played a part, no matter how big or small, in my 44th year.  I will continue enjoying each day even more during my 45th year.  My 45 list is forthcoming…until then, I am going to enjoy celebrating the 20th anniversary of my 25th birthday.  This year will be like no other.  45 Alive…here I come!

 

Living 44: My Goal List, as published on February 13, 2015 – one day into my 44th year: There were a lot of great ideas about things to do during my 44th year, as suggested by friends, family, students, and colleagues.  This is my final Living 44 Goal List and notes about each goal.  I think I did pretty good.

1.  Go to Central Park and see Strawberry Fields. COMPLETED on 12/7/15.

2. Go to the State of Liberty and look out of the crown. COMPLETED on 8/12/15.

3.  Do 3 things I never did before.  COMPLETED! 1:  Meditation (March).  2: Yoga (June).  3:  Hear an author lecture (February-Deepak Chopra).

4.  Sit at the Inlet for a day and photograph all of the boats that come in and out.  COMPLETED on July 10, 2015!

5.  Get my passport stamped at least once, or have travel plans that will have it stamped in 2016.  KIND OF.  This one, so far, did not happen and I’m okay with it, since my husband and I went to Disney together in November, which was a surprise and time just for us.  Our trip meant more to me than seeing someplace needing a passport.  But wait…we DID have a passport for Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival.  SO I DID ACCOMPLISH THIS GOAL!  🙂

6.  Go to a Yankees game:  COMPLETED on May 9, 2015!

7.  Go to Grounds for Sculpture.  This one did not happen, and I’m okay with it.  I have seen so many other new places this year in place of Grounds for Sculpture that I’m happy.  Perhaps I’ll make it there during my 45th year.

8.  Watch the fireworks on July 4th.    It’s been a long time since I have done this. COMPLETED on July 4, 2015!

9.  Watch a sunrise during each of the 4 seasons: COMPLETED!  Spring:  Completed on April 6, 2015.  Summer: Completed on August 2, 2015.  Autumn:  Completed on November 27, 2015.  Winter: Completed on January 26, 2016.

10.  See 3 new places a month.  95% COMPLETED!  New places for March: Ron Jon’s in LBI, Surf City 5 and 10, St. Stephen’s Publik House in Spring Lake.  New places for April:  Flatiron District in NYC, Strand Bookstore in NYC, Heritage Park in Allentown, NJ.  New Places for May:  The Record store in Howell, NJ, Yankee Stadium, D-Train Subway in NYC.  New Places for June:  Due to medical appointments, surgery, and recovery, I was unable to attain this goal for June; however, I did go to Six Flags Great Adventure on a school trip, and Jenkinson’s Aquarium and the rides with my nephew (awesome places, just not new places).  New Places for July: Turning Point, Shore Points BBQ, Lava Java, Cattus Island County Park, Atlantic City Aquarium, Absecon Lighthouse, Lucy the Elephant, Panda Express. New Places for August: Monmouth Battlefield, NJ Vietnam Memorial & Museum, Smithville, Topanemus Burying Ground, Middletown Church.  New Places for September:  Surf Taco (Manasquan), Winward Tavern, Crown & Anchor Tattoo.  New Places for October: Seaside Park Beach at 4 Street, Frightfest, Chowderfest.  New Places for November: Stroudsburg PA, Hot Dog Johnny’s, Chef Mickey’s.  New Places for December: Asbury Festhaus and Biergarten, Tom’s Restaurant, Central Park, Book Culture.  New Places for January: Marquee Cinemas, Monmouth University Polling Institute, RWJ Hospital, Plastic Surgery Center in Shrewsbury (last 2 are due to husband’s surgery..lame, yes, but nonetheless are new places). February: Count Basie Theater, the Dublin House.

44 Thanks

Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 1/30/2016

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Hello and welcome!  It’s been a long week here, digging out from last week’s blizzard and dealing with other factors of life that are a bit messy right now.  Today I am thankful to be able to finish writing several articles because I am under deadline, but I had a moment to share this week’s roundup of interesting links for you.  Once my articles are complete, I look forward to writing here more, and to putting my list of goals for my next birthday year together.  Have any ideas?  Please share!  Hope your day is a good one!

My List of 10 Things I Will Do While I’m 44 – 13 days left, then I am transitioning my “Living 44” site into SoulSEAker.  Any suggestions as to what should be on my big 45 list?  Please leave your ideas in the comments section.  Please remember that finances are very limited and that I have Lupus/Fibromyalgia (which are pretty active right now).

7 Positive Ways to Deal with Regret – perfect as my birthday is approaching.

“Mean” Joe Green and Coke Kid Reunite Almost 40 Years Later – I remember the original commercial very well.

Exactly The Right Words, Exactly The Right Way: Reagan’s Amazing Challenger Disaster Speech – We were home on a snow day and I remember seeing the explosion live on a grainy console television.

Mayim Meets a Human Rights Hero – I teach a George Orwell essay set in Burma (now Myanmar) and this is an excellent site from Mayim Bialik featuring a young person who is making a difference there.

How I Learned to Write Every Day – some good advice for fellow writers like me who have difficulty finding time to write

8 Things to Look For in “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” – contains spoilers, but hopefully you’ve seen it by now.

When Dreams Change: It’s Okay To Let Go And Move One – been there…

Feeling Sad?  Try These Quick Pick-Me-Ups – from Dani at Positively Present

and finally…

Susannah Conway’s new book “Londontown” is available for preorder!  And if you haven’t read her book “This I Know,” here’s a link for that book…it honestly changed my life and I am grateful to have stumbled across her work.  Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic is another book that had a very big influence on me.

Have a swell week my friend!

Until next time,

Jill