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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Sea My Thanksgiving 2016 Wish for You…

As I wrote last year, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (you can read that post by clicking here).

A lot of what I wrote for last year’s post is the same exact thing I write in my journal year after year: all the things I love about Thanksgiving intertwined with memories and nostalgia. I am a true creature of habit.

I sat here pondering what to write for Thanksgiving 2016 because I wanted to mix it up a little this year and stray from that same old, same old. The movie “Animal House” was on the television, and as my words eluded me, I got completely lost in a train of memories made in a college dorm almost 25 years ago now with some of the best people I ever spent time with.

And then I entered into a thought spiral like this…

I’ll see a long, red dress and my mind will transport me to my cousin’s wedding which was over 20 years ago in California.  I’ll smell coffee brewing and I can see an old friend standing outside of her horse stable. I’ll hear anything by Billy Joel or Steve Miller and be reminded of concert days gone by. A Judy Blume book or the song “Copacabana” makes me recall my closest friends and our time together over the past 40 years. Other songs bring back recollections from Hawkapaloozas or “shows for seniors,” from bar days and the Bums, from times being silly at school or dancing in the middle of 13th Street wearing a skeleton mask.

On some days, when the sky is clear blue and the air is just the right temperature, I’m transported to recess on the playground in elementary school…to riding my bike with my friends around town during middle school…to driving with the car windows open during high school…to walking down the boardwalk drinking a cherry lemonade…to playing football on the beach or hanging on the hill or at the waterfalls or the inlet….

A telephone makes me think of an old boss. Say “McBoo” and I think of a high school friend. The word STAGE (pronounced STAYG) makes me hear the hysterical laughter of a spitfire. A baseball? Times at the stadium. A penguin? Times in Pittsburgh. I see all of the feet that walked alongside mine on the streets of New York City and in London, Florida, Pennsylvania, Kent State and Cleveland, the Bahamas, St. Thomas, Wales, and Dublin. Even the smell emanating from the local Burger King sends me back 38 or so years to an elementary school friend’s birthday party.

Then, there are days I can hear whispers in the wind, whispers of those who aren’t physically here with me anymore, but who are still with me in my heart.

I don’t believe in living in the past. However, I do believe it’s okay to look back every now and then to take an inventory of life, per se, and to realize what brought me here, to this time and place while letting the good times of yesterday make me smile.

Flashes of my childhood, middle school, high school, college, work places, my students, my community, and my path are whizzing through my brain right now, like a retrospective of sorts, filled with laughter and joy, and even some tears.

It comes down to this: It isn’t money, or fame, or possessions that make life meaningful.

It’s people.

People like YOU, who are the backbone of my memories and experiences. People like YOU, who left your footprints and heart prints along my path.

Even if you made me cry or filled me with angst, you ultimately had a positive effect by making me stronger and wiser. (Sidebar: To those I made cry or I might have filled with angst, please accept my apologies, for at times I know it was me who was the jackass.)

On this Thanksgiving 2016, I thank you for the role you have played in my journey so far, no matter how small or how big it might be…

To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

With my utmost gratitude, thank you for making me breathe easier. You are, indeed, appreciated.

I wish you and yours a very special and happy Thanksgiving 2016.

~ Jill

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Something to SEA: Free Thanksgiving Printable

thanksgiving-printableThanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year, is coming! To add to your festivities, I created a free Thanksgiving printable for you.  It is sized for 8 1/2 x 11.

You can download the .pdf file by clicking here.

If you right click on the image above, you can save the .jpg image to your computer.

I’d love to see how you incorporated your free Thanksgiving printable into your festivities this year! Please feel free to leave a comment with your picture below.

Enjoy,

Jill

Thank You, Chicago Cubs…We Need You SO Much!

This year’s MLB playoff season was the best that I can remember. As the first games began, I wasn’t necessarily rooting for any specific teams, although I had a soft spot for two of them. One was the Cleveland Indians, in part because of Andrew Miller (since the Yankees traded him and Ardolis Chapman, I was hoping for a World Series Ring for one of them), and as an 80’s teen, in part because of the movie Major League.

The other team I was hoping would do well was the Chicago Cubs for a number of reasons. One was pitcher Jon Lester. If you know his story, you know how he survived Lymphoma only to come back less than two years later and pitch Game 7 of the 2007 World Series, which he won for the Red Sox. That alone is just amazing, and a true story of victory amid a terrible hand dealt by life. However, Jon Lester earned my utmost respect in 2014 when he appeared in Nike’s “Resp2ct” saying farewell to Derek Jeter. Lester, in his Red Sox uniform, was seen ready to pitch to Jeter, and Lester was the first one to tip his hat, which led to many other greats also tipping their hat in a show of respect and thanks to the Yankee Captain. Lester didn’t let his uniform or fandom define his loyalties.

Of course, the 108-year drought and the stories accompanying the Cubs history made each and every victory more amazing. The Indians, in their own right, were hoping to erase their own 68-year drought.

Unfortunately, my bedtime was not conducive to watching the games in their entirety, but I did my best to watch what I could before my eyelids went on strike.

If you are interested in reading a recap of the 2016 MLB Playoff Season, there are plenty of other sites to help you do that. These are some of my simple observations and reactions to the 2016 World Series, things that I will remember, and things that gave (and still give me) hope.

Seeing the individual stories of each team, each player, and fans from both sides hoping for a victory were a lesson in loyalty and in perseverance. From a man who drove to his father’s grave to listen to game 7, to the stories of fellow humans well into their golden years, each snippet of a glimpse into the lives of these people when combined is the true definition of loyalty. The anthems performed by John Vincent and the Cleveland Orchestra, alongside “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” sung by Bill Murray, Vince Vaughan, and Eddie Vedder unified us and brought us all together, regardless of stadium or team.

108 years versus 68 years is historic in its own right, but seeing individual feats of history during the series, especially in Game 7, was equally momentous. Corey Kluber’s amazing pitching in games 1 and 4 was a force to be reckoned with. Kluber broke a record in Game 1 with 8 strikeouts in the first 3 innings. Dexter Fowler hitting the first lead-off home run in Game 7 history…David Ross becoming the oldest MLB player to ever hit a home-run in the world series, and accomplishing this in his final MLB game ever…Game 7 with a tie, and a rain delay, and a 10-inning hit by Ben Zobrist, ultimately clinching it for the Cubs…the crowds outside of Wrigley waiting for that final out, then erupting with sheer joy as did the players…the class of the Indians fans and players who realized that even though victory wasn’t theirs this year, that they were witnessing history and demonstrating true sportsmanship…the raising of the W…I could go on, and on…

And after the Cubs victory, the tributes on the wall of Wrigley to those who couldn’t witness this historic moment?

How about the one that read, “We Did Not Suck.”? That one got me, especially considering my last blog post titled “Because You Are Good.”

The parade, the images of school late sign-ins with the reasons being CUBS or INDIANS, the skits on SNL…

All in all, the Chicago Cubs, along with the Cleveland Indians, have brought joy and good to the American public now, a diversion when we need it the most, during this awful time of animosity, judgment, and hatred caused by the election.

Thank you for bringing us that joy. Thank you.

Congratulations David Ross! Linked to the Chicago Tribune.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wave Is Here

I am happy to say that my pain and fatigue seem to be check, which makes each day better than the last. Here’s hoping that the “good day” streak continues…it will, because like I wrote in a previous post, my purpose is stronger than my pain, and I must believe that.

I’d like to share something else with you, something pretty extraordinary that I’ve alluded to in previous posts, but now it is most certain…

Imagine that you’ve lost something very special to you. It doesn’t matter if has sentimental or monetary value. When you realize you cannot find it, that it’s truly gone…that sick feeling in the pit of your gut begins to churn. It starts out small but gets worse by the second.  It feeds a frenzy of worry as you search for it, lifting up cushions, throwing clothes all over the place, making a colossal mess. As you retrace your steps, that sick feeling almost becomes unbearable. Part of you wants to vomit, while part of you wants to curl up in a ball and cry. You pray to Saint Anthony, hoping that it is returned to you, or to a higher power as you ask for help. Through the tears, you drop to the floor and admit defeat.

“It’s gone,” you say, crestfallen. “I’ll never have it again.”

If you imagine the above scenario with losing something physical, like a piece of jewelry or a $100 bill, you might consider posting a picture of your lost item on social media. Whether or not you find it again, life will almost certainly return to normal as you go about your days.

If it is a person you lose, it will undoubtedly be a longer grieving period. You might never recover from that absence in your life.

In my case, the thing I lost is very personal to me.

It’s my soul. Or at least, part of it.

There’s been a huge hole there for so long, a missing piece of the puzzle per se. My whole purpose in starting this blog was a way to “sea”k my soul so I could maybe find my focus, find my purpose, to fill that soul hole with what’s been eluding me for so long.

I’m sure you have sensed the longing in my posts over the past year and a half.

The best way I can sum up that feeling is to describe how I feel when I listen to the song “Encore” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Anthony Kiedis sings some very poignant lyrics, each line with a very personal meaning, almost like it was written just for me. The music is an escape, while simultaneously, a trap. It makes me look around curiously at what physically surrounds me on the external, and also go introspective and look at what is internal, what surrounds my soul.

When I listen to “Encore,” I think of times past for a fleeting second. I’m reassured I’m in the right place even though I am adrift and incomplete…”Hey, you’re fine…hold my hand…results are gonna vary now…”

At the end of the song, I feel a longing so large, but no idea what I am longing for. I am empty, yet content. I am safe and secure, while simultaneously uncertain and vulnerable.

One big, giant, bewildered, unfulfilling yet satisfying sigh…the best way to describe that feeling of longing.

Don’t get me wrong…there have been many extraordinary times in my life filled with adventures and laughter, accomplishment and happiness and wonder.

All the while, that hole is there just under the surface, surrounded by pieces from every single experience thus far on my life journey that fit together as one.

I prayed to St. Anthony in a feeble attempt to find what’s missing. He usually helps me when I’ve lost something, even though I’m not Catholic or overly religious, and when he does I am very quick to thank him. But when I asked him to come around so I could find the missing piece that would make my soul complete, his answer was an emphatic NOPE. “You are on your own,” he said.

I stare at a blank page when I have so much to get out, so many words and stories to share, so many lessons to teach, so many laughs to enjoy, all on top of the urgency to live this crazy and wonderful life…

Words.

Stories.

Lessons.

Laughter and Life.

I think I see something here.

I know I’ve improved over the past year on finding the right words, and more importantly, in getting those words out of my head and onto a screen or paper. And I know I have a few stories currently living rent free in my mind that need to be told…it’s time they start earning their keep.

my-soulJust like that, I finally know my purpose.

  • Writing
  • Teaching
  • Living

Instead of feeling bewildered, I am wrapped in a blanket of assurance and certainty.

Why did it take this long to figure it out? It’s so simple and obvious. Again, I am the chump who fought seeing the truth, when all along, it was right here on the surface.

The wave is here, and today, I rise.

Instead of “I think” and “I wish,” it’s now “I know” and “I will.”

I will write a book (or two or three). I will write for my blog. I will write for my assignments from my magazine publisher. I will teach my lessons, both in the classroom and through my writing. I will laugh while living every single moment of every day.

I will use my time more wisely as I pursue my purpose and calling while completing my mission from the universe.

Being OPEN actually brought me clarity. I waited so long for it, and here it is, unwavering and true. As I was determined to be OPEN, now I am resolute to be FOCUSED.

I am already transformed.

And SHE says, “It’s about time.”

Time to write, with a focus on my stories.

Time to teach, with a focus on my lessons.

Time to laugh.

And time to LIVE.

It’s finally time for my “Encore.”