I Just Got Joy’d in Starbucks Drive-Thru!

Starbucks drink cake pop

As my Chevy Equinox rolled through the Starbucks drive-thru, I was reminded by two wide-eyed, whining, energetic dogs to order ‘puppacinos’. Checking my Starbucks phone app, I realized I had enough for a drink award.

“Welcome to Starbucks, what can I get started for today?”

“One venti iced cappuccino, non-fat, two pumps mocha, one extra shot of espresso, blonde roast, cold foam, please….and oh yeah, a chocolate cake pop and two puppy whips”, as I muttered to the person at the other end of the speaker box.  (I ordered cold foam because it was free. I never order it because it’s a dollar extra. In my estimation, the drink alone, came to about $7.50).

“Thanks, please pull around!”

Approaching the drive-thru window, two pups, with heads lunging out of the back-seat window, eagerly awaited their puppacinos.

Holding up my phone app to pay, the girl cheerfully stated, “It’s been paid for by the car in front of you.”

“Really?”  I said, as tears filled my eyes. It’s been a hard week, and this was a little glimmer of joy to fill my day.

Handing me my enormous drink, cake pop, and the puppy whips, I asked, “Can I pay it forward?”

“Absolutely!” she answered, with a grin that stretched from Florida to California.

As we drove away, I couldn’t help but think what just transpired – a simple random act of kindness.

We could all use a little more kindness in this world, couldn’t we?

I challenge you today to pay it forward, and let me know in the comments below how you Joy’d someone!

“Remember, there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”

~ Scott Adams

Peace, love, and sand dollars,

Sheree

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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

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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

More Peace and Laughter in Our Lives- Learning to Slow Down

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In September 2018, I was advised by my oncologist, chemotherapy would begin in November. Diagnosed with Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia in 2012, this would be the first time I needed treatment for my lymphoma. I wanted a diversion from life.

Last October, my husband surprised me with a trip to Blue Springs Ranch, a rustic retreat sprawling over acres of picturesque property in Bourbon, Missouri. Those golden autumn days were peaceful and serene…just the dogs and hubby in a tiny one-room cabin set atop a hilly, wooded piece of land. The only other souls at the resort were the ones that checked us in.

In the cool evening, we’d huddle around a crackling fire, barbeque burgers and brats on the grill, and listen to the sounds of the sleepy forest – saw whet owls, coyotes, song birds and crickets.

Days were spent exploring shorelines, clear creek beds, roaring streams, and meandering trails blanketed with leaves. The trees embraced us with their maizy yellows, burnt sienna, and caramels, while the menthol blue hue of the springs comforted our soul.

In January, we headed west to Burbank to visit our friend Colin, cameraman for the Big Bang Theory. He afforded us an opportunity to be part of the studio audience. During the taping, staff interacted with us, playing games and keeping us in stitches. It felt great to laugh deep and heartfelt.

After the show we were given VIP passes by Colin to visit the set. We plopped down on the brown leather sofa, and seated ourselves in Sheldon’s spot. We exchanged smiles and small talk with Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Kunal Nayyar, and Kal Penn (from Harold and Kumar) and snapped pics for our Instagram followers.

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Afterwards, hubby and I meandered the set with Colin, our shoes shuffling across the floor, all the while listening to his stories and memories – bittersweet for him, as the show was wrapping up its final season.

I remember looking up, and eyeing all the metal and wiring – the lights and equipment suspended from the ceiling, and just thinking ‘how amazing’!

As we made our way to the exit, I spun around one last time, and let out a big sigh. We thanked Colin for an opportunity to experience something unique.

The next evening, we visited the Rockwell Table and Stage where Jeff Goldblum was performing. Jazzy piano player, singer, movie trivia buff, jokester – Jeff Goldbum was the whole package. More laughter, more tears of joy. The thirty-something gals in their skimpy outfits loved him, and he, in turn, loved taking pictures with these women. More laughs.

Heaven knows we need more peace and laughter in our lives…a chance to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life that we don’t often notice like….

  • the woman and her retriever playing fetch on a Malibu seashore
  • a howling coyote that blended into the hillside of Griffin Park
  • the quirkiness of the shops along Topanga Canyon Road
  • sunsets with rainbows at seaside restaurants
  • stepping in Gene Kelly’s footprints in front of Grams Chinese Theater
  • the Danish girl in the audience of the Big Bang set who worked in Finland and Sweden, lived in Denmark, and who had to ask her mom how to get to work every day

 

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These are snippets of life I remember…the feel-good, unexpected surprises and memories I never tire of, guiding and helping me through my chemo treatments.

My newest book, Mondays in October, a poetry and photography collection, my love song for the beach, and its eternal companion water, is a feel-good book on how to slow down.

Releasing July 23, it embraces art, movement, time, water and solitude. Won’t you hop over to my book page, and read all about it?

Oh yeah, I’m in remission!

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Offering a Seed – Cardinals Feeding Rituals

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While preparing my Irish oatmeal this morning, gazing out the window, I noticed a sweet sight that brought me to tears.

Two cardinals, one male – crimson berry red, and one female, pale reddish-brown were perched on the deck rail. The male selected a pecan bit that I scattered on the rail, hopping back to her, offering her the snack – beak to beak. He repeated the process seven or eight times. Before he offered her the sustenance again, her tail feathers shook and ruffled. I couldn’t detect if something was wrong – was she sick, blind, unable to care for herself?

The resident squirrel hopped up on the deck rail, which startled the male cardinal, causing him to take flight, abandoning the female. She seemed agitated and upset – her head tuft was at attention. Looking around, she flew to a magnolia tree branch for refuge. Eventually the male returned, snatching a few pecan pieces from the deck rail, feeding the female.

I was concerned about the female, so I did some research online, and this is what I found  –

One the website http://www.sciencing.com, I discovered the male cardinal offers the female cardinal a seed (or in this case a nut) as part of the courtship ritual even before the two establish a nest. He will continue to bring her food before, and after she lays eggs. Males are especially attentive, and have even been seen feeding their young, in addition to other species of birds.

After the female lays the eggs, the male continues to bring her food, so she can remain on the nest. After the chicks have hatched, the male may continue to feed the female, and the young for almost two months.

The male cardinal just happened to be feeding a juvenile cardinal! I have never seen a baby cardinal before! (Compare my photos to this link of a juvenile)

Both parents continue to feed the young, until they can forage for themselves. This way mom can keep an ever-watchful eye on the nest. Cardinals are monogamous, and typically have two broods during their lifetime, building a new nest each time, when mom is with child.

I find this fascinating, nurturing, and so sweet. Shortly after this scene unfolded, mom hopped up on the deck rail, and daddy and baby bird flew off.

Wouldn’t that be lovely if our mate prepared dinner for us every day during pregnancy, and for two months after? Just a thought.

(Full disclosure – I have animal kids.)

What do you moms and dads think?

Peace, love, and sand dollars,

Sheree

Hop on over to the books tabs on my blog, and check out my publications! I’m in the midst of editing my fourth book!

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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.

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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

 

A Gift From a Stranger – A Valentine’s Day Random Act of Kindness

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Typically, if it’s a warm winter day (over 45 degrees), I like to walk the dogs at one of their favorite parks. This Valentine’s Day was perfect for getting out of the house – almost 60 sunny degrees.

After visiting the post office to drop off a package, I steered the car in the direction of Heartland Park in Wentzville. This sweet park boasts a peaceful lake with walking paths, pavilions, a bridge, hens and drakes swimming, great white herons, and a waterfall dedicated to children who have passed on.

As we strolled past the ballfields, Bordeaux, aka Red Dog, decided a particular patch of grass was in need of fertilization. After collecting his ‘specimens’ in my designated ‘perfumed poop bag’, I tied a knot in the bag, and we headed to the nearest trash receptacle.

As I approached the receptacle, I noticed what appeared to be plant stems on the picnic table bench inside the quaint gazebo.

Upon closer inspection, a bunch of long stem ruby red roses lay on the bench. Surprised, my heart skipped a beat! For a minute, I thought about taking the entire lot of roses, but settled on two – one for my soulmate and one for me.

What a nice gesture, I thought. The stranger must have spent a pretty penny for these roses!

I gently picked up the fragrant beauties, protecting them from the wind by cupping my hands around the buds, while navigating two frisky pooches across the bridge and the lake path, and back to the Chevy Equinox.

After a stop at Starbucks for lattes, we headed home. The pups bounded inside the kitchen door, and I hand hubby his caramel-vanilla latte and a rose.

He was surprised, thinking I actually bought him something for Valentine’s Day. (chuckle)

I told him the story, and his comment was, “What if a man left them for his wife that had passed, and that bench was her favorite spot in the park?”

“Highly unlikely,” I said, explaining that “the stranger just wanted to bring a smile to people’s faces.”

I carefully trimmed the rose stems, and placed the lovelies in a nautical blue porcelain vase with white starfish embellishment atop my favorite beachy white chest of drawers to admire.

I recalled how seeing the roses filled me with joy – all as a result from a random act of kindness.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

Remember to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Every. Day.

The hubster and I celebrated Valentine’s Day at a Great River Road winery admiring a magenta and cornflower blue sky as the sun’s reflections danced on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

Peace, love, and sand dollars,

Sheree

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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

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The Spirit of Aloha – The Lei Tree of Maui

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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.

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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

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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

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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? 

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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…

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Uncle Willie’s Farm – An Excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirit about Heritage

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Today, on this brisk autumn day in the Midwest, I’d like to share a story from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits about my family heritage titled “Uncle Willie’s Farm”. The essay recounts memories of my first and only visit to the family farm. It’s by far, one of my favorites.

“Grateful for this experience with my family, I understand a little better this place called Uncle Willie’s farm. I can only envision the playground this farm provided for my mother when she was a young girl full of dreams.

I have come full circle with my heritage. As the noonday warms me from the inside out, an overwhelming feeling fills my body. My throat starts to close an tears well in my eyes. Generations have passed, yet I feel the spirits of those that came before me. I am walking on precious ground. Oh, how I wished I had been around during that era, even just for a day.”

“The ornament of a house, is the friends who frequent it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Hope you enjoyed the excerpt. I welcome any comments below. I’ll be at Main Street Books on November 3 from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. signing copies, and doing a giveaway. If you liked this sneak peak, my book is available on Amazon, and your local bookstore Main Street Books.

A Star is Born – Keeping it Real

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Last evening, I ventured out with friend, Dena, to the local theatre. I was eager to see “A Star is Born.”

The film, (a remake of three previous films), starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, was one of the best movies I’d seen in awhile.

Without giving away the plot, Jackson, a popular country western singer, is played by Bradley Cooper. Ally, (played by Gaga) a server at a restaurant by day, moonlights as a nightclub singer by night. The two meet, and well, you’ll just have to watch the movie for the rest of the info.

I loved Bradley Cooper’s character. His raw vulnerability and honesty is appealing, despite obstacles he’s facing. And dang, what a voice! Not to mention, he’s a easy on the eyes.

Gaga is amazing in this movie – her voice, her role, how she loves the people in her life. I’ll be honest, I didn’t care for Gaga when she first started out, many years ago. Even with a tremendous voice, the weird costumes, makeup, and stage props were too much for me. But the more Gaga stripped down and evolved, the more talented, and naturally beautiful she became. I even pondered if “A Star is Born” could be her story?

Two messages stuck with me throughout the film.

  • Hold close your loved ones.
  • Sometimes it takes time to find yourself/your dream, just to lose yourself, just to find yourself again. And sometimes, you lose yourself again.

It’s funny how some people hide their talents because they’re either too shy, embarrassed, or not confident enough. Sometimes we hide under a ‘costume’, whatever that might be, when all we really need do is ‘be ourself’.

In keeping it ‘real’, we’re transparent, raw, humble, and vulnerable with everyone we encounter along the way.

When we love ourselves first, it’s easy to love others.

Then maybe we can be honest enough to write our own story, with some help and trust from above.

Hope you liked this post. If you did, please feel free to leave your comments. In the meantime, get out and go see this movie!

Peace, love and sand dollars,

 

Sheree

What’s On Your Bucket List, Some Sweet Ladies, and some ‘healing’ books

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Kelly and me, at the PEO luncheon

Last Friday I had the opportunity to speak to the PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization) women’s group at a church in Ferguson, Missouri. I was invited by author and friend, Deb Marshall and event organizer, Kelly Mazzacavallo.

After a lovely lunch of chicken and ham salad, the women gathered in a cozy lounge and settled in comfortable chairs to listen to me talk about “What’s on Your Bucket List” and the story behind my ‘healing’ coffee table book, Folly Beach Dances.

I shared with the ladies, that in preparation for the talk, hubby handed me a paper I gifted him a few years ago. The paper’s first words were “Do you remember when?” and reflected on all the crazy and unexpected bucket list items achieved in our travel adventures…like seeing the excitement in my husband’s eyes when we dove Bloody Bay Wall in the Cayman Islands, sailing a hobie cat from Sandals Negril to a deserted island, or even observing a ten-foot pregnant black tip reef shark on a dive in the Abacos.

Aptly named for the definition as well as the movie, The Bucket List, stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Complete strangers, fate lands the two men in a hospital room together. The men discover they have things in common – their desire for adventure, and a need to come to terms with their lives. After they are released from the hospital, they set out to check items off both their bucket lists.

At the end of the movie, Edward (the billionaire), living to age 81, has his ashes carried to the top of the Himalayas by his assistant Matthew. As Matthew gently places the container of ashes alongside Carter’s can of ashes, he takes a pen and crosses the last item off the Bucket List (which is to ‘witness something truly majestic’). Finally, Carter (Morgan) states, “I’m pretty sure he (Edward) was happy with his final resting place. Because he was buried on the mountain, and that was against the law.”

So, someone’s idea of a bucket list item, may be totally different than someone else’s.

That’s how it was for me when Folly Beach Dances was just an idea. In 2014, my idea came to fruition. I was able to cross ‘publishing a book’ off my bucket list.

As I spoke about the book’s mission of self-care, healing and positivity, the women listened intently.

I selected some of my favorite poems to read.

“Circle Dog Dance” written by Pat Wahler, reflects on three dogs laying in a circle on a beach relaxing, not a worry in the world.

“The Drifter” penned and photographed by me, reminisces about memories of days gone by and lazy days spent on the beach.

“The Fandango” – An old seagull (sporting grey hair on this wings, face, and body) who lives to fly, soar and dive, is penned by Marcia Gaye.

“The Twist”, about how often times life seems to be a mess of knots and twisted rigging (by Marcia Gaye). The Twist brought tears to the women’s eyes.

After time had run out, the women stepped forward to purchase books. I quickly ran out of Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits, my newest release, and Folly Beach Dances.

One woman stepped forward and shared how “The Twist” touched her heart, reminding her of a family member going through tribulations. We spoke for awhile, and I offered hopeful suggestions on how to make things better. Our conversation ended with a hug.

I thanked Kelly and Deb for allowing me to take part in this quiet gathering. The women where particularly sweet and seemed genuinely interested in my writing. My wish for the day was to stir some emotions, touch some hearts, and be positive.

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Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

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Sheree K. Nielsen is the author of 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, Folly Beach Dances; coauthor of Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat, and Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets.

 

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