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.

 

Something to SEA: “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt”

Last year, I started a tradition with my niece and nephew that turned out to be much more fun than I had ever hoped for.

I noticed just how many Christmas Trees were on display in business windows and in other public places around town, and I thought that it would be pretty neat to take a picture of every tree I saw.

Thus this new holiday tradition of “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt” was born.

My nephew is Agent 101 (he is now 11), with my niece as Agent 202 (is now 13). I am Agent 303, boss of the mission. I recycled our Agent names from a game we played several years ago when my nephew devised these names for each of us. Sidebar: Agent 101 didn’t give my husband (his uncle) an Agent name; rather, he named him Dr. Coconut.

Anyway, I kept a running list of the trees I saw, then added to it every day as my husband and I would make our daily rounds and beach runs.

slide7I then began to “tease” my two co-agents with cryptic messages after I set a date with my sister-in-law as to when our “Operation” could take place. I would leave messages like the one to the left in their mailbox (I know the images are a bit blurry-if you click on them, you will be able to read them better).

Agent 101 and Agent 202 accepted the mission, even though they had no idea what I was up to! All they knew is that they were going to spend the afternoon with their crazy aunt, and it had nothing to do with Six Flags or Artie Farty (yeah, my sister-in-law loves me for teaching the kiddos all sorts of inappropriate ditties like that).

On the mission date, each agent was dressed in black and all ready to go at the designated pick up time of 2:30 pm. I handed over their “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt” Classified Folders, which contained the mission instructions, a pen, a map of all of the trees I knew of, and a list in “route order,” so to speak, of the places we would be stopping.slide3

As they read the instructions, they were laughing and loving it:

Today’s Mission:

  1. Rapidly enter the buildings on the Map.
  2. Say NOTHING.
  3. Stand in front of the formal Christmas tree. 
  4. Smile for a photo. 
  5. Rapidly exit the building.

Agent 101 and Agent 202 had a lot of fun sneaking around and became more stealthy with each mission location. I was glad that none of the businesses gave us a hard time about going into their stores just for a picture with their tree. In fact, many of the people working at each spot laughed and loved the idea.

We ended up with photographs of 49 different Christmas Trees, most of them from my map, but we found others along our journey too. When they would find a new one, they would scream, “There’s one! Can we use that one too?” My answer was slide1always “Of course!” Both agents were silent for each business visit and neither uttered a word inside any of the stops along the way. Their poses in each picture are a crack-up, too (I didn’t include any so as to protect their privacy), and as I am looking at the pictures now, I am literally laughing out loud.

Photo 22 is actually a picture of the agents with Dr. Coconut posing as a tree; they wanted to stop by and say hi to their uncle to include him in our mission.

When Operation Christmas Tree Hunt 2015 was completed, I took them out to dinner to celebrate our successful mission.

I made a photo book for each Agent with the pictures I took. Even though the books didn’t arrive until January, they didn’t care. Agent 101 and Agent 202 loved their books just the same.

I’m already keeping a list of the trees I spot for this year’s Operation Christmas Tree Hunt, but I’m going to make a few changes to the mission parameters. This year, I am going to add riddles to some of the stops, where Agent 101 and Agent 202 will have to figure out the next stop along the way instead of plotting every location on the map. I’m also going to make “Thank You” cards for the Agents to hand to each business. Agent 303 (me) will keep some singles in my pocket, and if a business has a charity collection bucket, I’ll have Agent 101 or Agent 202 give a dollar towards the cause.  Maybe next season we can call up Agent 404 (my 5-year-old nephew) to the ranks of big kid Agent and have him join us for our adventures.

slide5Agents 101 and 202 might not remember the present I gave them last year or the year before. However, I know Agent 101 and Agent 202 will always remember Operation Christmas Tree Hunt and the many laughs they shared with mission boss Agent 303 along the journey.

I know Agent 303 will.

 

 

Something to SEA: Free Memorial Day Printable

Memorial Day 2016

Memorial Day, the “unofficial” start of summer, will be here in a few days. As you enjoy your holiday weekend, please take time to remember why Memorial Day is a holiday in the first place. Perhaps attend a local Memorial Day parade or service. Teach the young ones in your life about the holiday. I’ve included some links to help you out if you are so inclined.

I created the image above that can be saved, printed, and displayed at your home or events. You can download a .pdf version here. The image and .pdf are both sized 8 1/2 x 11 inches.

Finally, please join me in remembering those who gave their all for our freedom and for our country by going silent for one minute at 3 PM on Monday, May 30 at 3:00 PM for the National Moment of Remembrance.

Thank you,

Jill

VA Office of Public Affairs Memorial Day Site

History.com Memorial Day Site

PBS.org Memorial Day Site

Timeforkids.com Memorial Day Site

 

 

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

20151205 Beach Photo

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