Christmas in a Bottle? Keeping the Spirit of Christmas All Year Long

 

As my eyelids became heavy, visions of sugar plum fairies danced in my head. Within minutes I was lulled into dreamland, and into magical thoughts of Christmas.

What if you could collect all the good things about Christmas and capture them in a bottle?

Sort of like a ship in a bottle, or seashells and sand in a bottle…

But this bottle would capture the night baby Jesus was born, the smell of pine trees, Christmas carols, the way snow feels when it touches your face, kittens’ whiskers, Christmas lights…the feeling of Christmas in your heart.

And whenever you’re having a bad day, you could just open the bottle and sprinkle Kindness, Love, and Hope on yourself, or on all the Bob Cratchit’s of the world.

I thought to myself as I awoke from slumber, ‘Christmas in a Bottle’ is just a dream.

We need to remember to be kind, helpful and loving to others on a daily basis, especially to those we meet on the street.

It doesn’t take much effort or money to open a door, buy a coffee, start a conversation, give a smile or a hug to those you know, or even a perfect stranger.

So this Christmas, I’m challenging you to pay it forward every day.

Once you get in the routine, you’ll do it without thinking.

Merry Christmas!

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

Romans 2:10

“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.”

~ Eric Hoffer

“Keep your Christmas-heart open all the year round.”

~J. L. W. Brooks

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”

~ Roy L. Smith

Sheree K. Nielsen is the award-winning author of four books  –

Her newest poetry and photography collection, Mondays in October, recently won the Royal Dragonfly Book Award: First Place – Poetry, First Place – Fine Art/Photography, and Honorable Mention – Coffee Table Books. Mondays in October is Sheree’s love song for the beach, and her eternal companion water. She’s dedicated the book to the Siteman Cancer Center Nurses who helped her make chemotherapy more bearable.

Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets, based on her adventures (Chanticleer Semi-Finalist for Nonfiction Guides – Insight and Instruction)

Folly Beach Dances is her 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, a healing coffee table book inspired by her lymphoma journey

and coauthor of, Midnight the One-Eyed Cat, 2019 Chanticleer Little Peeps First Place Winner for Early Readers, Montaigne Medal Finalist, and Foreword Indies Review Finalist

 

My Sea Shell Life – A Poem for Women

Today, I’d like to share a poem I wrote, dedicated to women.

It’s titled, “My Sea Shell Life”, from my poetry and photography collection Mondays in October.

It’s about the changes that we, as women, go through in life whether it’s health issues, a loss of a loved one, a divorce, unfairness in the workplace, bullying at school, etc.

We begin our life innocent and wide-eyed. As we age, we gather wisdom and experience along the way, and hopefully we get better at weathering life’s storms. We appreciate the little things in life – a soft brush of whiskers from our feline friends, a hug from little children, a dragonfly that lights on our hand, or walks on the beach.

This poem is for women everywhere – please feel free to share.

You can read more poems in my book here: https://amzn.to/2NTp8Zu

(My husband captured this photo of me on Sunset Beach, Eleuthera in 2012, shortly before I was diagnosed with Waldenstrom’s lymphoma. I’m happy to say I’m in remission.)

Without further hesitation – My Sea Shell Life

 

Once,

strong, unblemished

like an

Angel Wing.

 

Then,

sandy,

gritty,

broken,

discolored,

stepped on,

crushed underfoot.

 

Now,

A mature conch –

seasoned,

weathered,

but not worse

for the wear.

My Sea Shell Life

Sheree K. Nielsen is the award-winning author of four books  –

Her newest poetry and photography collection, Mondays in October, is her love song for the beach, and her eternal companion water. She’s dedicated the book to the Siteman Cancer Center Nurses who helped her make chemotherapy more bearable.

Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets, based on her adventures (Chanticleer Semi-Finalist for Nonfiction Guides – Insight and Instruction)

Folly Beach Dances is her 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, a healing coffee table book inspired by her lymphoma journey

and coauthor of, Midnight the One-Eyed Cat, 2019 Chanticleer Little Peeps First Place Winner for Early Readers, Montaigne Medal Finalist, and Foreword Indies Review Finalist

 

Bridging Past with Present – Old Bridge Preservation Society changes its name to Old Bridge Historical Society – Sunset Beach, NC

DSC_0119 Karen and Ron standing on Old Bridge ramp in front of Tender House

Karen Dombrowski & Ron Lim, of Old Bridge Historical Society, photo by Sheree K. Nielsen

I’m embarrassed to say that over the past eight years, I’ve driven past the Old Bridge Preservation Society, Sunset Beach, North Carolina countless times while in the area, but never stepped foot inside.

A friend I met on Sunset Beach, about 6 years ago, Nancy, has a piece of the pontoon swing bridge, purchased from the Old Bridge museum. She cherishes it, as it brings backs memories from her childhood.

I noticed there were no stories written on the Old Bridge in the last nine years, so I asked my publisher at South Brunswick, if I could write one. It started out as just an online story, but later Justin felt that it ‘was too good not to print’ (his words), and ended up in the fall publication of the magazine.

I learned so much about the Old Bridge and its history from the Karen Dombroski, Ron Lim and Ann Bokelman. Thanks to their efforts, the spirit of the Old Bridge has been kept alive. The story made me fall in love with Sunset Beach, all over again.

Here’s the story in PDF form – BridgingPastandPresent

I hope you enjoy it. Drop Justin Williams an email at South Brunswick Magazine if you like it, or leave a comment on the shorter version online here.

_______________________________________________________________________

Sheree K. Nielsen is the award-winning author of four books  –

Her newest poetry and photography collection, Mondays in October, is her love song for the beach, and her eternal companion water. She’s dedicated the book to the Siteman Cancer Center Nurses who helped her make chemotherapy more bearable.  Many of the poems are about the Carolinas (Sunset Beach and Folly Beach).

Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets, based on her adventures (Chanticleer Semi-Finalist for Nonfiction Guides – Insight and Instruction)

Folly Beach Dances is her 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, a healing coffee table book inspired by her lymphoma journey

and coauthor of, Midnight the One-Eyed Cat, 2019 Chanticleer Little Peeps First Place Winner for Early Readers, Montaigne Medal Finalist, and Foreword Indies Review Finalist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children of the Gifted Network – The future Mary Oliver’s and Basho Matsuos of tomorrow

On Saturday, September 21, I taught a writer’s workshop for the children in the Gifted Support Network at Spencer Creek Library in St. Peters, Missouri.

My husband assisted me… nine and ten-year olds tend to be a little energetic.

The first part of the workshop dealt with the components of a picture book, developing a story, and using a storyboard. Some of the children chose to pen their ideas first, then draw. Others drew, then created. Some of them found this part a bit challenging. But by first break, six children completed six stories and offered to read them aloud.

After break, we dove into “What is a poem?”

I explained to them how a poem can be about anything – it may or may not have punctuation, it’s  how you feel, what you see, what you hear, or even what you touch.

I brought objects for them to help stir ideas for writing – a pearl, a seashell, a small piece of rope, a pebble from a lake, a building block, and an ink stamp. I spoke of different poetry styles – free verse, rhyming, Haiku, and shape poems.

Their creativity kicked into high gear with this exercise, all very excited to use their talents and imagination. As they finished their poems, they called me over to read their poetry. What beautiful masterpieces they produced. I asked if they would like to read to the class, and after they shared, they went on to work on another!

Sophia penned an emotional free verse poem about nature, adding illustrations to her words.

Jace chose to write two shape poems that rhymed – one inside of a mushroom cloud, the other inside a campfire. Amazed at how small he could write, the poems fit perfectly inside the shapes.

Anna wrote a very sweet free verse poem about pearls. I watched as she touched the pearl thinking about how to pen her thoughts.

Mya wrote a funny poem about getting rope burn, in keeping with her carefree personality.

Andrew wrote ten Haiku poems, many about nature and the sea. He loved reading to the class (and me).

Lucia designed an apple shape poem about an apple. She insisted on using markers, and the poem turned out very colorful and detailed.

On the whiteboard, my husband, designed a shape poem using the word L O V E. (I think he wrote it for me.)

Collectively, the children (and hubby) all created a poem, which I scribbled furiously on the whiteboard (because their minds were in overdrive). Each child recited the first thing that came to mind. I was moved to hear a poem about nature.

Using their words, I edited by placing only line breaks.

The final masterpiece is below  –

 

The wind is whistling

through the trees

and swirls through the grass

that sways.

The breeze

makes the waves ripple.

The smell of the ocean

has me in a daze.

 

The seagulls quietly murmur,

and soar

near the seashore.

Small

silver

fish

dart in the water.

 

In the far distance,

the water shimmers.

A dolphin catches my eye

and it appears

to glimmer.

 

Why is the tide never so high?

 

By Jace, Andrew, Lucia, Sophia, Mya, Anna and Russell

——-

I’m proud of them thinking so quickly and working together as a team.

At times, some of the children lost focus, with half of the group erupting into a giggle fest. Once they understood their time limits, they pushed pencils to paper.

I can definitely say that some of them may even grow up to be future Walt Whitman’s, Mary Oliver’s, Barbara Kingsolver’s and Basho Matsuos.

Peace, Love, and Sand Dollars,

Sheree

______________________________-

Sheree K. Nielsen is the award-winning author of four books  –

Her newest poetry and photography collection, Mondays in October, is her love song for the beach, and her eternal companion water. She’s dedicated the book to the Siteman Cancer Center Nurses who helped her make chemotherapy more bearable.

Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets, based on her adventures (Chanticleer Semi-Finalist for Nonfiction Guides – Insight and Instruction)

Folly Beach Dances is her 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, a healing coffee table book inspired by her lymphoma journey

and coauthor of, Midnight the One-Eyed Cat, 2019 Chanticleer Little Peeps First Place Winner for Early Readers, Montaigne Medal Finalist, and Foreword Indies Review Finalist

Mondays in October – My love song for the beach, and her eternal companion water – dedicated to the St. Louis Siteman Cancer Center nurses

Mondays in October….Happy Book Birthday Baby!

July 30 – published by Shanti Arts, Maine

For me, this collection is about time, nature, art, movement, and learning to slow down. During the creation of this book, I was forced to take a step back and look at life differently. In November 2018, I began chemotherapy for Waldenstrom’s lymphoma.

At the end of April 2019, chemotherapy was finally over. As for life, well, I imagine things in a simpler light. I’m in remission. I’m grateful for a publisher like Christine of Shanti Arts who was both patient, understanding, and kind, throughout the book’s journey.

I’ve dedicated Mondays in October to my husband, my fur babies, the tango dancers Elise and Marco who I met on the beach that Monday in October, and the St. Louis Siteman Cancer Center nurses who aided in my longest days of treatment with a smile, a kind word, and even a joke.

The photographs and poems are places, people, animals…and nature….that I hold most dear. They are my gift to you…..my love songs for life.

“Like the cricket’s song serenading a marsh at sunset, the wind’s harmonies causing waves to lap to shore, or two lovers dancing the tango in the sand, Sheree K. Nielsen’s Mondays in October’s collection of poems and photographs suggests easy movements in nature, and a time for us to slow down… like October…and imagine a simpler life.

Mondays in October are Sheree’s unmistakable love songs for the beach and all things water – vulnerable, blissful, and sensual.”

Here’s a page from the book titled Red Dog’s Observations at the bottom of my blog page.

Red Dog was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his heart on Monday. We are cherishing our days with him….however many sunsets he still has….

This post is for him.

Peace, love, and sand dollars,

Sheree

ALL DOGS SAY THEIR PRAYERS – PART TWO

My husband started a cute routine with the dogs awhile back – a prayer before their meals. When the pooches spot him with their food bowls, they know it’s time for dinner, but importantly, it’s time to be silent and listen to what Daddy has to say.

I tried my hand at this concept again this week at the beach. Food bowls in hand, I say a prayer at each meal. On a couple of occasions, our mini Aussie who knows how to ‘say her prayers’ even bowed her head in reverence.

My original blog post from May 2014 focused on the dogs being thankful for special things in their lives. However, I left one important element out. How could I? Let’s see if you can figure out what I left out.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this food.

Thank you for everything you do for us.

Thank you for CHICKEN!

Thank you for long walks on the beach,

new canine friends,

long rides in the car over the intracoastal waterway,

and CHICKEN!

Thank you Lord for the screened in sun porch at the beach house

to observe passersby on Main Street,

and CHICKEN!

Thanks to Mom and Dad for the trip to the beach.

Thanks for letting us lick the bottom of the cappuccino milkshake cups.

And most importantly,

CHICKEN!

Sincerely,

 

Ms. Brina and Mr. B

Salty Dogs Morning

Well I hope this little dog prayer brightened you day. I know it did mine.

We’ve got a few more days at the beach, and I’m sure the dogs won’t let me forget to put some chicken on their Purina dog food.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Sheree is the author of three books –

– Chanticleer nominated Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

– Montaigne Medal Finalist Midnight the One-Eyed Cat

– 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner Folly Beach Dances

Her work can be found here:

https://amzn.to/2NDanYo
https://amzn.to/2zLgqFm
https://amzn.to/2zNuoq9

 

The River – Going With the Flow (Ethel + Robert Mirabal)

 

 

20190224_205925My long friend Tina, surprised me with tickets to see The River performed by Ethel + Robert Mirabal at the Blanche Touhill Performing Arts Center on February 24 at UMSL. I really had no idea what to expect as I’d never heard of the group before, so I settled into the comfy theatre balcony seats.

The River embodied the ritual of the Native Americans gathering near the water for events – the the birth and baptism of a child, a celebration, washing their clothes and bathing, among others. The river forged a sense of community among the people, as they would always return to the water, creating an essential spiritual role in the Native Americans lives.

Mellifluous sounds expressed through violins, flutes, and spoken word about how the river connects people throughout their life, was blissful solitude to hear. Robert Mirabel shared stories about his Native America heritage as well.

Their performance overwhelmed me with gratitude, and brought me to tears. For me, I felt connected, just being an audience member. At times, the music was so meditative, my eyelids felt heavy with slumber. I identified with The River’s concept that water is life – holding close to my heart trips to the ocean and the Great Lakes.

Waiting patiently until the audience had left, Tina and I were able to meet and speak with the group in the performing art center hallway.

I expressed thanks to Robert that the music brought me peace after recent chemotherapy treatments.

As tears welled in my eyes, Robert placed a colorful braided necklace over my head. The coral, crimson, maize, and burnt umber strands highlighted a pendant in the shape of an animal carved in wood.
20190311_110900
“This is Mama Bear. Mama Bear protects,” Robert smiled.

He lifted his left hand and interlocked his fingers with mine.

“Go with the flow of the River.”
_____________________

Peace, Love, and Sand dollars,

Sheree

___________________

Sheree is the author of three books –

– Chanticleer nominated Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

– Chanticleer and Montaigne Medal nominated Midnight the One-Eyed Cat

– 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner Folly Beach Dances

Her work can be found here:

https://amzn.to/2NDanYo
https://amzn.to/2zLgqFm
https://amzn.to/2zNuoq9

The Spirit of Aloha – The Lei Tree of Maui

DSCN1560 The Lei Tree crop copy

Last April, my husband surprised me with an anniversary trip to Hawaii. The second leg of our trip we spent eight glorious days on the island of Maui. Honua Kai Resort, on Kaanapali Beach’s north coast, served as our home base.

Each day, we’d venture out and explore a different part of the island. One of my favorite drives was to the breezy south coast. I adored the winding curves, the scenic overlooks, the wild surf, effervescent beaches, and aquamarine sea. Every so often, hubby and I would stumble upon a beach where driftwood washed ashore. Majestic trees, barren and seasoned by the radiant island sun, told their stories.

One such tree, I fondly named the “Lei Tree” , spotted near Ukehame Beach Park. Reposed on the western shoreline, her resilient, sinewy neck lay adorned with colorful leis – each represented a victory she’d won, a battle she’d conquered. She was a true, Hawaiian warrior princess.

DSCN1561 lei tree copyr

I often reminisce about that statuesque lady. Her memory makes me smile.

She represents the true ‘Spirit of Aloha’ – arms open, ready to love…ready to give.

According to the Hawaiian people, Aloha also means love, compassion, kindness and grace. Its literal Hawaiian definition is “The presence of (Divine) breath.”  Taken from Alo = presence, front, or face and Hâ = breath. …

In Hawaiian culture, the spirit of aloha goes well beyond a simple greeting.

It is a way of life.

At this time of year (and maybe even every day), let’s try and spread the Spirit of Aloha to those around us. Every one we meet on the street, in stores, our friends, our family…

Maybe our lives would be that much fuller, if we accepted people for who they are…..

Aloha, and Merry Christmas !

Peace, Love and Sand dollars,

Sheree

_______________________

Sheree is the author of three books – Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits, Midnight the One-Eyed Cat, and Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, Folly Beach Dances.

Her work can be found here:

https://amzn.to/2NDanYo
https://amzn.to/2zLgqFm
https://amzn.to/2zNuoq9

 

 

Staying in with Sheree K. Nielsen – An interview with Linda’s Book Bag

So honored to be featured on Linda’s Book Blog today in “Staying In with Sheree K. Nielsen” with my inspirational essay collection, Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits. Read the entire essay on Linda’s site.

Linda's Book Bag

Ocean Rhythms eBook Cover Large

As we are now in that frantic run up to Christmas when time seems short and we can all begin to feel slightly stressed, it feels the perfect moment to be staying in with Sheree K. Nielsen for the evening to chat about one of her books.

Staying in with Sheree K.Nielsen

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Sheree. Thank you for staying in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

Ocean Rhythms eBook Cover Large

Linda, I have brought along Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits– An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets. It is the most recently published of my three books, and shows how tender and positive adventures and experiences can be in life, if we just keep our eyes open to our surroundings.

(I think we all need a book likeOcean Rhythms Kindred…

View original post 856 more words

Seventeen Days Since My Veins Were Filled with Poison

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I recently went though my first round of chemotherapy for Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia (lymphoma), and I was prepared to dump on the world six pages of my experience and disparity. I decided no one wants to read that much content. Instead, I wrote a poem that reflects my feelings on the chemotherapy process. Cancer sucks. No doubt about it.

Seventeen Days Since My Veins Were Filled with Poison

 

Seventeen days

Since my veins were filled

With

Poison.

 

Funny how you need

Poison

to kill

poison.

 

Chemotherapy –

The Mother

Of all

Duckers.

 

Thirst,

Sweat,

Heart palpitating,

Throat closing,

Vomiting,

Gut wrenching,

Belly swollen,

Cracked lips,

Crashing,

Unrecognizable

Self….

 

Hopeless,

Tears,

Zombie skin,

Sunken eyes,

Anxious,

Dehydrated,

No taste.

 

Lifeless.

 

Crawling back

To reality….

Slowly,

Steadily.

 

A magenta-hued sky

over a bronze meadow,

The soft brush

of a cat’s whiskers,

The aroma of a caramel-scented

sugar cookie candle,

The gaze of a

saw whet owl

penetrating your soul,

The Snoopy and Woodstock

animated mailbox –

 

These are the medicines

of life…

The Dolphin’s Dance – A gift from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits book release day

jb040702 (1) The Dolphins Dance Spot and Craig

Spot and Craig, photo copyright by Jason Belport

It’s book release day for Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets, and I couldn’t be more excited. In the coming days, there will be giveaways for free books and Starbucks gift cards.

Writing this book was a labor of love. It was a difficult decision which essays to include in the book. That’s where Trina Sotira came in. An early content editor, she organized the book into sections for me, advising what worked, and what didn’t. Although, I removed some of my favorite essays, there’s always another book to be penned.

So here’s a sneak peak at one of the best days in my life, the inspirational individuals, and special friends I met that unforgettable day.

This excerpt is taken from “The Dolphin’s Dance”.

“Following a second morning dive, Big Sister revved her engine, and steered a course to our afternoon site – The Wreck of the Kissimmee, a Cayman energy tugboat well past her prime, deliberately sunk in 1982 to aid in the reef system. As the boat killed her engine near the northern shore, we recognized a familiar face portside.

Spot had returned for an encore. I clapped my hands in delight. The dolphin patiently waited at the surface for our group to re-enter the ocean’s warm embrace.

We dropped quickly to the sea bottom, where visibility was excellent – as far as one’s eye could see. While exploring the wreck’s nooks and crannies, Spot lingered in the sand flats close by.”

If you enjoyed the sneak peak, you can order the book here or request it at one of your local bookstores. Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits includes complementary photographs and Emerson quotes for each essay.

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

In Search of My Kindred Spirit – An excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirit

DSCN0299 Sea Dog Dance

Today my thoughts are with those affected by the hurricane. My friends in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, seemed to have fare a little better than the other coastal towns like Wilmington. So in honor of them, here’s an excerpt from my book, Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits, to be released Tuesday, September 25, 2018. Hope you enjoy it.

The essay is titled, Finding My Kindred Spirit, and it talks about finding a perfectly inspirational place some search for all their lives. I was lucky to find this place of calm about 7 years ago. So drawn to this spot, I return year after year…

“Two days later, on a radiant Carolina morning, with canteens and cameras in-tow, hubby, the dog and I, made our journey down the beach to the Kindred Spirit Bench from the 40th Street beach access. Along the way, we took time to soak in the sights and sounds – seagulls soaring overhead, driftwood wash ashore, and children building sandcastles.

Arriving at our destination, my carefree animal child with the ice-blue eyes hopped up on one of the two weathered benches aside her Earth Mother. We cast a gaze onto the flat hard sand watching passersby carefully select seashells from the shallow tide pools.”

Hope you enjoyed the sneak peak. The quote below precedes the essay in the book.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

Emerson

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

DSCN0300 Russell, flag, Kindred Spirit blkwht copyr