Nitro’s Check Mark

I took my teenage niece, nephew, and their friend to Six Flags Great Adventure yesterday (August 10, 2018). My husband and I have given Niece and Nephew season passes to Six Flags Great Adventure for Christmas every year since 2015.

What I love most about our gift is that I also get a season pass, which allows me to spend time with them at the park several times a year. Each visit is special to me because it’s our thing, and it’s a great way to help provide a break for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. If I had a nickel for how many times we laughed together or for each memory we made or silly story we told, I’d be a millionaire by now.

Nephew knows more about Six Flags rides and parks than anyone I’ve ever met. He can tell you when a ride made its park debut, who built it, who designed it, and what park received the ride it might have replaced. He understands the physics and design elements that goes into building a ride and if you ask him what park in the United States had the first looping roller coaster, he will know the answer.

When it comes to actually going on the rides, Niece is fearless and she will go on anything.  Meanwhile, Nephew and I have a similar sense of moderate adventure and we tend to stick to the middle-of-the-road rides and coasters, then when we are ready, we’ll attempt riding a more extreme one.

Our favorite ride is Skull Mountain, which is a fun, little inside coaster that operates in the dark. Two summers ago, Nephew and I set a personal record for going on Skull Mountain 22 times in a row, which took a little over two hours. We only stayed on the ride when the ride queue was empty five times; the rest of the time we got out and walked around. It probably wasn’t my best decision, in hindsight, since I flew to Dublin the following day with a splitting headache.

Our last ride conquests were Superman: Ultimate Flight and Green Lantern at the end of last summer. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Superman experience, considering riders are face down to simulate Superman’s flight. We conquered Bizarro in April of 2017. Man, that one is fast! It’s like the Batman coaster after it had three energy drinks and a shot of super-charged espresso. Batman: The Ride has always been one of my favorites, and we conquered that one together in 2015 at Six Flags Great Adventure’s Holidays in the Park.

The coasters Nephew and I haven’t found the courage to ride yet are notoriously extreme, and we weren’t sure which coaster we’d be brave enough to conquer this year.

Enter Nitro.

Nitro, from the Six Flags Great Adventure website

When Nitro opened in 2001, it was the tallest and fastest roller coaster in New Jersey (Kingda Ka stole those honors from Nitro a few years later). While Nitro does not have any inversions, it is 230 feet high at its peak (which takes almost 60 seconds to climb) and reaches speeds up to 80 miles per hour in its two minute, twenty second mile-long course.

I went on Nitro once while chaperoning a school trip in 2005, thinking it would be like either Rolling Thunder and Scream Machine, two classic, now long-gone, coasters I loved.

I was completely wrong.

Nitro nearly killed me.

Well, maybe not killed, but the experience scared me tremendously.

I ended up uncontrollably shaking and trembling when I walked off the ride, my legs like jelly and my arm muscles sore for several days later due to how much I strained them as I held onto the restraint as tight as I could.

I vowed I was forever done with the infernal contraption known as Nitro.

I shared my Nitro story with Nephew on several occasions, including yesterday when we safely sat and waited for Niece and Friend to return from Friend’s first time riding the steel beast.

Nephew is older now, and I could see the curiosity twinkling in his eye as he told me what he knew about Nitro while he watched a car roaring along its track. “It was designed by B and M,” he said, “and they have a great safety record.”

There was no doubt about it. He was ready to take the Nitro leap and I wasn’t about to let my fear hold him back.

Niece and Friend returned rather quickly since the wait time was a few minutes at best, and Friend absolutely loved the Nitro experience.

Nephew said that if Friend could do it, he could too.

All three looked at me with pleading eyes but I stubbornly shook my head. “You guys have a great time!” I said as I bid them farewell, then I walked over to where people on the ground could see Nitro’s ride cars leave the loading area. Nephew was safely seated between Niece and Friend as their car passed by, their arms flailing in enthusiastic waves.

“Bye!” they yelled in unison.

They returned 140 seconds later with Nephew wearing the widest smile I’ve ever seen on his face. He gave me a thumbs up from up on high as he jubilantly shrieked, “It was awesome!”

Dammit.

I knew what I had to do.

A minute later, they surrounded me as they jumped around in sheer excitement and joy. A chorus of “please?”s rose up.  Nephew looked me right in my eyes and said, “You can do it. I did it, and so can you.”

I remembered a story told by a colleague who was in a similar situation. Her grandson wanted her to go on a thrill ride with him, and her outlook was, “I can do anything for two minutes.”

Realizing that I could too, I sighed then nodded my head as I said, “Okay.”

A whoop emanated from all three as Niece took my hand to lead me to certain death.

“You’re lucky I love you,” I grumbled as we walked through the air gate to the seats in Row 4.

My pulse raced as I sat down between Niece and Nephew, with Friend to Nephew’s left. The yellow restraints locked and were subsequently checked by the ride attendants. It’s a good thing mine was secure because at the last second, I cried, “I don’t want to do this!” and I honestly would have ran if I could.

However, it was zero hour and flight was not an option.

After the “visual scan” and “all clear” over the loudspeaker by what I was sure was the Grim Reaper disguised as Nitro’s head supervisor, our car was set free.

Nitro, from the Six Flags Great Adventure website

I closed my eyes and leaned my head as far back into my seat as possible. With each upward click, I squeezed Niece’s hand a little tighter. She, along with Nephew and Friend, found my reaction highly amusing. I think they were all laughing, but I can’t exactly remember because I was concentrating so hard on praying for redemption.

“Here we go, Aunt Jill!” Niece shouted as we reached Nitro’s summit.

This is it.

I. Am. Going. To. Die.

Within seconds, we were traveling down the 215-feet drop at the advertised eighty miles-per-hour.  I’m pretty sure my heart rate matched the number of expletives I let fly.

“I’m going to die! My eyes are closed! My eyes are open! No, they’re not! I’m going to die!”

Towards the end of the journey to my undeniable demise, Niece yelled, “Bunny hops!!”

I opened my eyes to see the blue and yellow hilly path we were on as we smoothly rode over each bump. It was surprisingly much smoother than the Runaway Mine Train bunny hops at the end of its path, that was for sure.

“Hold on!”

The car suddenly came to a halting stop.

And I was alive.

Sure, my legs were once again like jelly as we walked off the ride, and I felt a surge of electricity pulsing through my entire body.

But it was a good energy, and I did not die.

The sleek, wicked-fast roller coaster was one of the smoothest rides I’ve ever experienced, and the sensation of weightlessness was exhilarating.

I looked at Nephew, who threw his arms around me and exclaimed, “I’m so proud of you!” Niece and friend hugged me too. “You did it, Aunt Jill!”

Somewhere along the ride route, a remote camera snaps a photograph which is then displayed for about a minute or so on the monitors at the Nitro photo kiosk near the ride’s exit. The picture of our row featured three gleeful faces with arms up in the air and one red face screaming for mercy as she gripped onto the restraint for dear life.

We didn’t buy the photograph, but I’ll be able to picture it perfectly in my mind’s eye for the rest of my life.

The unspoken question hovered in the air around us as we regrouped outside the ride.

It was answered by all four of us walking together once again through Nitro’s entrance.

Three minutes later, a photograph with four delighted smiles in our row flashed upon the photo kiosk’s screen.

2018 Roller Coaster: Nitro. Check mark achieved.

 

Nitro’s Check Mark“: Copyright 2018 – Jill Ocone. This post originally appeared on both the Soulseaker blog (www.soulseaker.com) and the personal blog of Jill Ocone (www.jillocone.com) on August 11, 2018. Views and opinions contained in this post are solely those of the author, who was not compensated in any way by any entity, including Six Flags Great Adventure, the Six Flags corporation, or their affiliates. All rights reserved.

I did it!

I apologize for my long absence from posting here on SoulSEAker, but I was among the missing for a good reason: I finished writing my novel! If you’ve been a long-time follower, you know that this has been a project for over two years in the making. Chapter One – A Novel by Jill Ocone is the result of opening my eyes and believing in the universe. There’s no doubt that two special spirit guides helped me along the way, and I am forever indebted to both of them.

What is most satisfying is that as I wrote, the story took its own shape and form. The original idea that came to me in August of 2014 is still the backbone of the story, but the plot took form as I typed, and things happened that I never expected. The story’s timeline just happened as I was writing. I am, indeed, a real author/writer now!

While I plan on still posting here, I will also be posting specifically about my journey as an author/writer over at jillocone.com. I invite you to visit me over there and check out my professional site. There’s a synopsis of Chapter One posted over there, as well as a form to request a sample copy if you are interested. If not, no worries!

My “mission from the universe”, however, is far from complete. I’ve begun querying agents and publishers in hopes that I am guided to the right opportunity to take Chapter One to the next level. If nothing comes of it, or if everything comes from it, I’m happy regardless of the outcome. I accomplished what I set out to do, even though I had no idea what that was two years ago. I’ve already reached the milestone of receiving my first rejection, and that excites me! Again, I’m a real author now!

Your support has made my journey all the more meaningful, and I am extremely thankful for YOU.

Today is a snow day here in the northeast, and I plan to use part of my day to plot out an idea that again came to me in a dream which could be my second novel.  Here’s hoping! Be safe, my friend!

 

Let’s LIVE This August!

Since I’m feeling almost exactly the same way today, I decided to reblog my post from the beginning of August 2016 with some minor updates…read on:

August is like the Sunday of Summer.

It sure is.

Don’t get me wrong…I still love every summer day. I just want to hold onto Summer so much. It’s my season, when I am my best self.

June is a new beginning, a giant sigh of relief. It’s full of opportunity and wonder, like January 1 kicks off every year. Anything is possible. It’s refreshing and reassuring. It’s also deceiving, leading us on to believe that there’s plenty of time to get our summer “to do” and “to enjoy” lists completed.

Then comes July, which is like my favorite pillow. I can hug it a thousand times, or play with it over and over, and it never loses its shape. It’s there when I wake, and when I say goodnight to the day. I can sleep soundly with that comforting pillow, free from worries and nightmares. It reassures me that tomorrow is another day when I can still start fresh, no need to really be concerned about the passing days…

As July wanes into August, things change again, ever so subtly. Each day is now filled with a little more urgency. Sunsets get earlier as the sun’s early evening slant changes its angle and becomes less intense day by day. Many of the bright summer flowers have lost their blooms, and nights become slightly cooler by the week. I look back at June and July, and wonder where the hell those days went. I then look ahead at what’s still on my summer goal lists, removing a few because there’s no longer enough time to accomplish everything I had hoped to do.

The lone cricket’s serenade that woke me early this morning affirmed that yes, it is indeed August already.

So, what do we do now?

Let’s live in the present and forget our lists.

Let’s turn off our notifications and stop being a slave to technology.

Let’s hold onto each moment, to each day, to each experience.

Let’s notice the breeze blowing through our hair and feel the rain on our skin.

Let’s put our feet in the salt water and find eternity in the waves.

Let’s savor the ice cream cone, the watermelon, the corn on the cob, the peaches and plums.

Let’s laugh and sing with family and friends.

Let’s be grateful for all that we have, for all that we are, for all that we do, and for all in our lives.

Let’s face each day without worry, without fear, and without strings attached.

Let’s soak up every single second of August without leaving any wasted time behind.

Let’s live.

Let’s live this August.

 

PART THREE OF “THE UNIVERSE IS AT IT AGAIN!”: Welcome to Family!

This is Part Three in a series of posts titled “The Universe Is At It Again!” To read Part One, please click here. To read Part Two, please click here.

The other interesting feature on my report is that Ancestry matches my DNA up with others who have already had their DNA tested, and then provides links to possible family members with percentage probabilities that they are, indeed, a relative of some kind.

For instance, Ancestry was “extremely confident” the name on the top of my list was a second cousin. They were right. It is my mom’s cousin DM.

I have a very small family, so the large number of names on my list of potential “relatives” intrigued me.  I was going to wait until the end of the month to begin poking around, but last week, I showed a fellow teacher my report because he was interested in getting his own DNA analyzed and wanted to see what it was all about.

The second name on my list of potential relatives or matches, one that Ancestry had labeled “extremely high” that this person was my second cousin, is a gentleman, AT, from Minnesota. I clicked on his profile as I showed my friend how cool it was that this information was available, even though I had no idea who AT was. We didn’t have family in Minnesota, so who could this guy be?

I read the first few sentences of the AT’s profile out loud, then paused mid-sentence. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I then yelled, “Holy shit!” My friend looked at me, as did the others who were around us, as my mouth gaped wide open and my eyes became as big as saucers.

The man in the profile, AT, wrote that his mother, K, was adopted, and he listed her birth parents’ names and her original last name.

Her birth parents’ names were the same as my Grandpa C.’s, the one who I thought was Irish, and he and K shared the same last name.

Holy shit, indeed.

Grandpa had a sister I never knew about.

Mind blown. Literally.

I never would have expected this in a million years. Finding missing family members only happens in the movies or in books, or to other people who lead much more interesting lives. It doesn’t happen to little old me.

But here it was, right in front of me. K is my Grandpa C.’s sister, my Uncle G and my father’s aunt, my great aunt. The DNA confirms it.

I couldn’t contain my excitement and raced home after dismissal to write AT a message. “I think my grandfather was your mother’s brother,” I typed, along with some other details and my email address, then hit send with a ridiculous grin on my face.

I anxiously checked for a reply all day Tuesday, but none came. No worries, though, as I had an afternoon date with my nephew, I, for our annual early summer boardwalk excursion. We had a lot of fun on the rides, at the aquarium, and enjoying pizza and ice cream. By the time I got home, I was exhausted!

I drifted off to sleep rather quickly, slept right through the night, and hit snooze as soon as my alarm went off on Wednesday morning. On the alarm’s second ring, I hit snooze again, but something was nagging at me to check my email. I put on my glasses, opened my mailbox, and there it was.

A reply from AT’s sister.

Scratch that.

A reply from my first cousin once removed, KT.

KT is one of seven children born to my great Aunt K (including AT). That’s at least seven new first cousins for my Uncle G. KT said that her sisters and brother all live in various parts of the country, and that they have been looking for her mother’s brother’s family for a long time.

Man, my father would have loved all of this!

Grandpa C.

KT included three photographs with her email, one being her mother’s favorite photo of her brother from when Grandpa C. was very young. Aunt K kept it all this time.

At work, I held up that picture of Grandpa C. alongside my face, and almost everyone remarked at the resemblance between the two of us.

Before writing KT back, I knew I had to tell my Uncle G about this amazing discovery, so I headed over to his house after school. As I began to read KT’s email to him, I handed him the three pictures that accompanied the email.

Uncle G got up as I was reading and handed me a framed picture from his table.

It was the same picture of Grandpa that KT emailed to me, her mother’s favorite picture of her brother.

Uncle G and I talked about what he could remember Grandpa’s family.  He thought all along that Grandpa might have had a sister that was put up for adoption, but he was never sure if that was true or not. He knew Grandpa’s father wasn’t in the picture at all but doesn’t know anything at all about him, and that Grandpa had an older brother but he never met him (nobody knows where he ended up either; apparently my father was named after him). Uncle G told me what could recall about his grandmother, S, who was Grandpa’s and Aunt K’s mother, but it wasn’t very much.

I brought the picture book he gave me last summer with me.  We slowly paged through it and found two old black and white pictures of a light-haired little girl, each with Aunt K’s name written in pencil on it.

Grandpa had kept his sister’s pictures all along, too.

Uncle G couldn’t believe all of this and loved learning he had cousins. He hates technology and has never used a computer or a smart phone at all, so seeing my Ancestry report on my phone and how I could click on the links blew his mind.

Me Holding Grandpa C.’s Picture

I took a picture of Uncle G and of me holding that framed picture of Grandpa that KT had emailed to me, as well as some other pictures of Grandpa from his life. When I got home, I wrote KT back and emailed her all of the photos I had, including the two pictures of her mom.

On Friday, AT sent me an email, so I am now in contact with two new cousins. Of course, both sides have a lot of questions, and we all wish that Grandpa and Aunt K could have connected with each other before they passed on. Underneath all of our excitement, there are some threads of sadness interweaving with this miraculous story. Consider that Aunt K and Grandpa lived two towns away from each other in the early 1940s but never knew it.

This is the stuff novels are made of, and I’m living it!

I’m looking forward to staying in touch with my new cousins and to learning more about my family heritage. One of the first places I am going once school is finished is to the library to continue researching my background.

If it weren’t for my spirit guide, I’d never be on this path in my journey in the first place. Thanks, TG, for leading me to family. And thanks to the Universe. You never cease to amaze me.

All I wanted to know is if I was truly Irish.

With the payoff from that originally disappointing less-than-1%-Irish being a whole new lot of cousins that I never knew existed, I’ll gladly take it.

Welcome to Family.

Serendipity Times Infinity Going On Over Here….

This is a pretty interesting time in my life. I am content and reassured that I’m in the right place at the right time. I’ve been in a pretty jovial mood, too.

And then, there are the “coincidences” I have been experiencing lately, some of which have to do with boxes of my old stuff from mom’s attic that I retrieved on Monday (3/20/17). Keep in mind I didn’t go to my mom’s just to get these boxes. Rather, there will soon be construction going on and the attic had to be cleaned out. I was only hoping to retrieve Star Wars glasses and forgot that these boxes even existed.

Here are just a few instances of serendipity running my show lately…

  1. On Monday, 3/20/17, the subject of naps came up in one of my classes. I told my students that I always hated naps because I could never fall asleep, and that I envied anyone who could nap. I said that I vividly remember the animals on the shelves that were near my ceiling when I was two or so and how I’d talk to them instead of taking a nap. Later that day, when I got to my mom’s, my brother handed me a bag from the attic, and inside were those animals. What are the odds that the day I mention those animals I actually get them back after they spent 40 or so years in the attic?
  2. I pulled out an autograph book from second grade and looked at the signatures from my classmates, many of whom I am still friends with on Facebook. This was on Thursday. Thursday’s date was March 23. Inside the cover, I wrote the date my classmates signed it: March 23, 1979. 38 years to the date.
  3. On March 15, I found a bunch of 3.5 floppy disks that had some of my old writing stored on them. We actually have a computer in my classroom that still has a 3.5 floppy disk drive, and I was interested to see if I could get anything back. I couldn’t remember at first what program I had used to type them. I recalled it was a competitor of Word, and then it came to me: WordPerfect, circa 1995-1998. I was able to convert the non-password protected files in Microsoft Word on Thursday, March 16. 5 days later (Tuesday), I looked at the “Take a Book, Leave a Book” shelf at work, and there was a tutorial book for WordPerfect from 1997 on the shelf. Sidebar: I referenced one of the files in the novel I am writing last month.
  4. I was talking with a colleague last week about my senior Health teacher from high school (senior year was sex ed). She was always nervous and uttered so many “umms” and “uhs” in class that we counted them each day. There were a few days when she topped 100. I actually found a tally in one of the boxes yesterday. How is it that I go years without thinking of this memory, then shortly after I reference it, I find one of the tallies written on a small piece of cardboard in 1989?
  5. I had the Jawa Funko Pop figure in my Amazon cart but I was saving it. Something was holding me back from buying it. On Monday, a former student visited me and gave me that Jawa. I didn’t tell anyone about wanting it.
  6. Earlier this month, I was talking with my niece about the book “The Outsiders.” It’s her favorite, and I told her it was always one of my favorites, too, but I don’t know where my original copy was. I sent her a link to an article about the book’s 50th anniversary. Well, guess what? I found my copy on Monday in one of those boxes from the attic. Seriously.
  7. This one’s just weird and probably means nothing, but still….honest to God, on Tuesday into Wednesday, I dreamt about the characters from the NBC Show “The Office” for some reason. The first thing on my Instagram feed on Wednesday when I opened the app after I woke up was a Dwight Schrute video posted by someone I follow.

So…….yeah. There’s at least 10 more, but these are the good ones.

I tried to obtain winning lottery numbers using this serendipitous foresight I am experiencing, but it’s not meant to be, I guess, as not even one of the numbers came up. Rats.

The other strange thing is that as I am writing the novel (this week I surpassed 23,000 words), I’m basing some of what the main character goes through on events and feelings from my own life. As I think of what to include, I’m brought back to those specific memories. Some are good, but a lot aren’t, and it’s been a little challenging to mentally revisit the difficult times and to decide what I should use. Enter the boxes: Honestly speaking here…there are journals and items in the boxes, actual physical items from these memories, that have been allowing me to get more into the mindset of the main character. Again, not all good, but it’s the journey I need to take right now. I need to revisit the past and perhaps make peace with those troubling memories and with the person I used to be in order to move forward.

This feeling is inescapable and hard to describe. Surreal and reassuring, confusing yet understanding, heartbreakingly soothing, and one big emphatic YES all at the same time.

I’m thinking that maybe I was on the right path all along, but I just didn’t realize it until now.

Until next time,

Jill

High Tide Low

img_2702“High Tide Low”

Wave after wave

The ocean sweeps the shoreline clean

Leaving nothing for scavengers like me…

Not a trinket or a shell

Or those ever elusive answers

I expect to come rolling in with the tide

But never do.

I’m left floundering

With questions again

As I sit and stare blankly ahead

At the breaking seacrests,

Pondering why I am

Reassured yet simultaneously confused.

There’s no footprints to follow

As my heart walks in one direction

And my brain in another,

Never converging on

The enigmatic path

To me.

– Written by Jill Ocone, 2/25/2017

May 46 Be With You

boba-fett-birthday-2-square-balloonAnd just like that, I turned 46.

When I saw how a work friend was planning a Star Wars themed party for her son’s first birthday, I asked myself, “Why do kids get to have all the fun?”

I wanted a Star Wars party, too.

So I had one.

I designed my own invitations and mailed them to my close family members who typically attend birthday dinners. I bought as much Star Wars birthday partyware as the local discount store had for sale on its shelves. I made goody bags filled with Star Wars trinkets and favors. My husband agreed to make homemade manicotti and my sister-in-law said she’d make a cake. I didn’t want presents. I just wanted the hearts closest to mine to celebrate with me.

It turned out to be my most favorite birthday ever.

The dinner was scrumptious. My cake was awesome. And even though I didn’t want any gifts, the ones that I opened were simply wonderful and thoughtful.

The best part of my birthday was having my niece and nephews surround me/sitting on my lap while everyone sang “Happy Birthday,” then all four helping me blow out my candles. Such a blissful moment filled with absolute joy and love.

I also had a surprise for everyone: their very own bag of rocks.

What you ask? A bag of rocks?

Absolutely.

One of the intentions I set for my 46th year is to let others know that they matter to me. The 13 hearts at my birthday party were the first ones I honored with what I’ve dubbed The Pebble Project. I’m going to share a separate post about the project details, but in a nutshell, I wrote words/memories/adjectives that I associate with each recipient on the pebbles, thanking them for their role in my life.

So, yeah. It’s a bag of rocks. But I hope these will be the most important rocks the recipients will ever hold along their journey here on earth.

“May 46 be with you” will be my closing for all posts I write while I am 46. The phrase is filled with hope, joy, love, and appreciation for each moment and every heart I meet during my 46th orbit around the Sun while I find the light in each and every day.

46 is going to be an awesome year.

May 46 be with you.

wordOnward, writer!

Jill

What’s That You Say? I’m Embracing the Winter? No way!

20170107-blog-photo-new-fonts

Winter. A whole lot of cold and yuck. I’ve written before about my utter disdain for cold and that I’m 100% a summer girl.

I thought about something last week, though, that led to another thought, then another, then they morphed into a whole train of thoughts, one right into the other, like a hamster running in a wheel.  He starts slow and then gets going at a pretty good clip and just runs and runs and runs and runs and……..

That’s exactly how my brain works. It starts slow and then snowballs into the one giant mass of what-ifs and connections. While writing this, in fact, I have decided to name my brain hamster Dave. An entity that’s been with me for almost 46 years deserves a name and its own identity.

Now that Dave has fallen off his wheel, let me return to the point of my post…

I see the snow outside my windows, and I no longer cringe. I feel the coldness by the windows, and I no longer hurl expletives. Those who know me are probably asking, “Who IS this person, and where did Jill Go?” She damns the winter every chance she gets!”

Surprise! It’s still me, but I am no longer that cranky winter-hating curmudgeon. I have a better attitude about this winter for three reasons.

Number One: I finally know I am on the right path, one that coexists with a natural progression of life. I’m where I need to be right now, and with that, comes winter. I can’t do anything to speed up the seasons, and while I prefer summer over winter, this is where I am, in the beginning of January with a whole lot of winter ahead of us. I think about the line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “The night is long that never finds the day.” Well, despite how long it might take to arrive, that day is coming. It’s in my plan to march forward not despite the seasons or the weather, but because of the seasons and the weather, and along with that, comes the experience of living. Besides, winter will give me time to focus and write without the wonderful distractions summer provides.

Number Two: The cold and the snow make me feel ALIVE. I recall a classmate of mine named Scott, who passed away almost a year ago. We were never close friends by any means, but I learned a valuable lesson from the way he lived his life. In one of his final posts, he urged readers to embrace every moment and to experience all that is possible. From that post: “Go outside, take a deep breath, kiss the ground, touch the snow, ride a bike, have a swim, catch a wave, or many, walk around the block, jump up and down, spin around, just do something, BECAUSE YOU CAN!!!” I’ve never forgotten his empowering words since I first read them. As a result, I definitely have not complained as much as I did before about weather and things I cannot control. I went outside this morning as the snowflakes dance down from the sky and let them hit my face. Each one left an imprint of vitality on my face. I am, indeed, alive.

Number Three: It’s time to be cozy! I’ve recently become familiar with the Danish term Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) which is a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special. I am taking each day’s gifts and embracing them while making life as cozy as possible with blankets, gloves, twinkling candles and lights, slippers, and a warm latte or tea while I write, read, and live. It’s a way of life that accompanies my desire to find the extraordinary in the ordinary this year, and a much more positive way to exist through the season that I least prefer. Plus, I love learning about new things, and since I am embracing something Danish, I know my very good friend M will be pleased (I know you are reading this, M! And thanks!).

Yes, I am embracing the winter with no more complaints or curses, no more banishing the season or hissing at the snowflakes or temperature.

I see how each ordinary moment in my journey is extraordinary, and so far, life has become much more grand.

wordMaybe you can join me?

Until next time,

Jill

PS: Dave (remember him? my brain hamster) is cozily cuddled up with his blankey and his beverage as he fuels up to accompany me in some serious writing output today. Good boy, Dave. Good boy.

 

 

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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