My Reality Is Living…And Writing…

A secret little spot I discovered on one of my more recent walks. Others have discovered it, too.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I figure an update is in order. My lack of posts should not be interpreted that I am not writing. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. I’m working on editorial work for another round of deadlines, and I happily received three writing acceptances over the past month for three creative fiction/essay pieces. I’ll announce details as each publication is released. It felt great to sign my second official writing contract for one of the publications. The acceptances make the bitter pill of rejections easier to swallow, and believe me, there have been more of those than there have been acceptances.

I am also working on the draft of my second novel and a non-fiction book with my nephew, N. Research takes time, and the payoff will be our fact-finding research mission over the summer for our project, which will hopefully be ready to share near the holidays.

All of my nieces and nephews are the apples of my eye, and it’s been a month filled with birthday celebrations, graduation dress shopping, and baseball games. What a difference from a year ago when none of these events could happen. I relish the opportunity to support each of them and celebrate alongside them in person. Zoom birthday parties don’t cut it, and singing to each of them in person makes my heart beat the happiest. My monthly calendars have a lot more things written on them than they did a year ago, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

While my school has been open and I’ve been teaching from my classroom most of the school year (and days I was not physically present in my classroom I actively taught from my home), my students will soon return 5 days a week in a newly reconfigured classroom that can now fit them all safely. I am soooooo looking forward to welcoming them back while also teaching simultaneously to the students who will stay full remote. Sidebar: It drives me nuts when I hear the mantras “Open the schools!” or “Get those teachers back to work!” Ummmm, I HAVE been working the hardest I ever have, and my school HAS been open this entire time. To those who fling judgmental comments from your keyboard, please shut the hell up. Just shut up. I go above and beyond to do my job well (WITH health issues, I might add), so take your judgment and your diatribes elsewhere and find some other profession to hurl your hatred at. I’ve had it with you, and so have the countless educators who DO THEIR JOB just like me. JUST SHUT THE HELL UP and move on.

I am also fully vaccinated. No major side effects, even with a compromised immune system, but I’d rather deal with side effects than contracting the virus again. I chose to get the vaccine because want to have a life. I want to do things. I want to keep those I come into contact with safer than they would be if I didn’t have the vaccine. Getting it was the right choice for me, and I completely respect your choice, too. (See what I did there? I didn’t condemn you if your opinion differs from mine. I still respect you! Imagine that…civility despite disagreeing! It CAN be done!)

My daily walks provide me time to enjoy the present moment and either take in the wonderfully colorful scenery painted by spring’s vivid palette if the weather is conducive to walking outside, or to reading if I walk inside on the treadmill. My walks have become a necessity for my peace of mind, and while the weight is staying put because of my medication, the activity is still beneficial to my mental well-being and to strengthening my legs. I’m battling a bit of a flare, and forcing myself to walk on days I’d rather stay put on the couch helps keep some of my Lupus symptoms at bay.

As Qui-Gon Jinn said in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, “Your focus determines your reality.” Right now, I have two focuses. One is to be a good person who squeezes as much life out of each day as possible. That focus trickles down to making as many memories with the people I love as possible and to being the best teacher I can for my students.

My other focus is writing. Writing writing writing writing writing writing writing. And then some.

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“My Reality Is Living…And Writing…” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on April 18, 2021. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries

Letting The Light In

I’ve been writing little snippets of recollections on sticky notes all week long as I planned to post today about reaching the pandemic’s year milestone.

Yesterday, I threw them all into the trash bin.

Thinking about this time last year, as things rapidly developed and our lives changed minute by minute and the overwhelming fear that crippled me….well, it actually made me shudder with anxiety.

Instead of rehashing the traumatic truth about where we used to be and how we got here, I am celebrating the light that has entered through the cracks over the past year, cracks that were formally invisible to my eyes. 

Do I like our current situation? Absolutely not.

Do I miss everything that’s currently on hold? More than anything.

Did I think we’d return to “normal” by now? Of course I did. 

But over the past year, I realized that “normal” does not exist, nor does a “new normal,” which is one of the worst phrases to come out of this year-long reality.

The light, though…

Sun’s First Light – Taken September 2020

The light shines on the goodness that surrounds me, goodness I was formerly too blind to notice. 

The light beams on the moments I can safely spend in the company of loved ones and friends, and those moments have more meaning today than they ever have. The light will eventually beam and create more opportunities to make wonderful memories.

The light glistens on my watch and my planner to highlight the value of my time, and I’ve learned to decline requests for my time that do not enhance my well-being or serve my purpose.

The light coaxes the words out of my soul and onto my journal or my screen. Instead of fighting those words and holding them back, they flow and release me from my self-deprecating prison. Some are crap, and some aren’t, and I’m taking those that aren’t and creating what I hope helps others to know they aren’t alone.

The light brightens the sound of laughter coming from those I love most.

The light illuminates my purpose and my passion, and has allowed me to see meaning in and understand my journey here on Earth so far, especially the hardest times, the most difficult of days, and the failures and rejections. The light also illuminates a clear path to my future that’s full of experiences I want to have and dreams I will make happen. I’ll be sharing those experiences and dreams with you soon.

The light flashed on a vaccine opportunity that I originally believed was not an option for me because of my medical issues and led me to said opportunity with a smooth experience and limited side effects. My desire to have a life outweighs my aversion to the vaccine, and while my choice is right for me, I respect it might not be right for you.

The light radiates on my gratitude for those who have gone above and beyond to help us all and on my resolve to celebrate the lives of those who we’ve lost to this horrible illness.

The universe works in very mysterious ways. I know she guides me with breadcrumbs, most of which validate that I am in the right place at the right time and doing what I need to be doing at that moment. Case in point: when I sat down this morning to write this post, I put my music on shuffle. The first song to play was “Namaste” by Beastie Boys. A sampling of the lyrics:

…A cold chill of fear cut through me

I felt my heart contract

To my mind I brought the image of light

And I expanded out of it

My fear was just a shadow

And then I voice spoke in my head

And she said dark is not the opposite of light

It’s the absence of light

And I thought to myself

She knows what she’s talking about

And for a moment I know

What it was all about.

Songwriters: Horovitz Adam Keefe / Diamond Michael Louis / Yauch Adam Nathaniel / Nishita Mark Ramos. Namasté lyrics © Brooklyn Dust Music, Polygram Int. Publishing, Inc.

I know what it was all about.

As I said earlier, normal doesn’t exist. What does exist is change: Routines change. Circumstances change. Expectations change. Opportunities change. Schedules change. People change. Persevering while adapting to change is essential to survival.

I also exist, as does my purpose, and what hasn’t changed is my authentic desire to thrive despite change and to strive for my words to speak to others.

The fresh air and sunshine, the clouds and the snow, the singing birds, the ocean’s rollers and mountain’s peaks, and all of nature’s miracles, are still here a year later. They always have been, and they always will be if we allow the light in through the cracks.

And someday, we’ll be able to look back on all of this and celebrate our collective strength and victory over the pandemic with joyous light and fireworks, but you don’t have to wait that long…

Today, celebrate your light. Celebrate your perseverance. Celebrate your life. Celebrate you.

____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Letting The Light In” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on March 14, 2021. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries

You Are Loved

For those who are alone or feel alone…

For those with many friends or only a handful…

For those who are stressed or at peace…

For those who are tired or energized…

For those who are unsure of their place in this world or are where they belong…

For those with a dozen roses or none…

For those who received a thousand valentines or none…

For the young and the old and the in-between…

For every race and religion and size and every single human who reads this…

You are loved.

Happy Valentine’s Day, from my heart to yours.

____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“You Are Loved” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on February 14, 2021. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

So I Created Something…

Long-time followers and those close to me know that two of the many things I absolutely love are writing about the Jersey Shore and journals/notebooks/planners.

It’s Beautiful! And I Made It!

An idea combining those two loves has been brewing in the back of my mind for a long time now, and a few months ago, my intuition told me it was time to make this idea a reality.

As such, I am pleased to introduce you to the 2021 Shore To Be Awesome Summer Journal.

https://jillocone.com/2021-shore-to-be-awesome-summer-journal/The 2021 Shore To Be Awesome Summer Journal will help you take back your summer while you LIVE and THRIVE.

Just because we may still be living through a pandemic this year doesn’t mean you cannot have an awesome summer. It’s all about perspective, and the 2021 Shore To Be Awesome Summer Journal will help you focus on what you can still enjoy and the memories you can still make.

The journal has two main sections, as well as vision boards for the summers of both 2021 and 2022. You can bullet journal or record your daily memories on the monthly calendars for May through September and the weekly pages starting with May 24 and ending with September 12. My favorite section is the Living List section. Modeled after a bucket list, this section contains checklists and charts to keep a tally of the things you’ve done and enjoyed during the summer. There’s plenty of room for journaling and reflecting throughout the journal, too.

The 2021 Shore To Be Awesome Summer Journal sports a glossy cover and 88 beautifully designed, functional, full-color pages with saddle-stitched binding. The Journal easily fits in a small purse, backpack, or beach bag because of its convenient size of 8.5 x 5.5 inches and .5 inches thick.

You can learn more about the 2021 Shore To Be Awesome Summer Journal by clicking the links and joining the communities below.

2021 Shore To Be Awesome Summer Journal Website

ETSY Listing To Purchase With Shipping

ETSY Listing To Purchase With Local Delivery to 08723, 08724, 08730, 08735, 08736, 08738, 08742, 08750

2021 Shore To Be Awesome Summer Journal Facebook Page

2021 Shore To Be Awesome Instagram Page

If you have any questions about the 2021 Shore To Be Awesome Summer Journal, would like information about how to pay with cash or VENMO instead of using ETSY, or would like to offer it for sale in your local business, please email me at jillocone@gmail.com.

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“So I Created Something” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on January 23, 2021. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Become to Believe

I sit here facing the onset of a new year, much like I did last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and so on…

This time around, though, it’s different. 

Today, when I say that hindsight is 2020, that’s literally true.

Tomorrow, when I sing “20 20 24 hours to go…” as immortalized by The Ramones, that’s literally true.

When I wake up on Friday morning, my childhood fantasies about having a flying car by 2021 won’t be realized, but something better will have happened.

Together, we will have crossed the finish line from the most bizarre and unsettling year we’ve ever experienced as our next race through the calendar and around the Earth will begin.

Despite its challenges, 2020 also had its silver linings. My word for 2020 was BECOMING, and while it didn’t seem too fitting as the year unfolded and I felt so incredibly lost, the pandemic provided me with time: time to sit and be, time to think, and time to shift my priorities and appreciate what I formerly took for granted. I might not have been able to travel, but I felt the sunshine on my face and the rain hit my skin in my backyard. I wasn’t able to see loved ones and friends as much as I had hoped, but now I am more present when I am in the company of others. I experienced euphoria and sheer joy by witnessing the return of Boba Fett, my favorite Star Wars character since I was 9 years old, in Season 2 of “The Mandalorian” and enthusiastically look forward to seeing more of him “The Book of Boba Fett” series coming in 2021.

Most importantly, the pandemic provided me with time to write. Over the past year, journaling gave me the gifts of clarity, acceptance, and courage. I freed myself from the layers of self-perpetuated bullshit and scars and blindness and indecisiveness that essentially crippled me for years and realized I am meant to live and thrive, not just exist while unconsciously muddling through day after day after day like a lemming or a droid.

Words are my life raft, my passion and my purpose, and dammit, and I AM worthy of good things and fantastic experiences.

I am more ME today than I ever have been, and this time, without judgment and without shame. 

Wow, I can actually breathe now. 

My word for 2021 came to me earlier this month with unwavering certainty.

My word for 2021 is BELIEVE

This will be the year I wholeheartedly believe in myself and everything I do as I pursue my passion of writing with all of my heart and soul. 

I believe I can successfully market an exciting project that will come to fruition in early 2021. Teaser: It combines my love of the shore and summer with my passion of writing and thriving, and the universe suggested it was time to pursue making this idea a reality.

I believe I can finish the two novels I’ve walked away from over the past year and use my powerful voice to create two very different stories that each have a purpose and need to be told.

I believe I can be more active by walking, riding my bicycle, or practicing yoga at least five times a week. 

I believe I can learn to surf.

I believe I can overcome my terrible habit of pulling and clawing at my fingernails. 

I believe I can successfully weave words together about difficult topics and chapters of my life in hopes that others in similar situations or who might be battling similar demons will know they aren’t alone.

I believe I can build a life full of wonder and authentic experiences by getting out into our amazing world, whether close to home or on the other side of the globe (when the time is right). 

I believe I can trust both my intuition and the universe for guidance. 

I believe I can embrace my idiosyncrasies and celebrate my journey with delight.

I believe I can make my eyes shine.

I believe I can serve myself first while no longer disappointing ME.

I believe I can.

So I will.

May 2021 bring you good health and all that your heart desires. 

My love and light to you, as always.

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Become to Believe” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on December 30, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

PUBLISHED IN “FROM THE SOIL: A HOMETOWN ANTHOLOGY”

From the Soil: A Hometown Anthology, Published on December 22, 2020

I am very excited to announce that my poem titled “Boro Kids” was selected for publication in From the Soil: A Hometown Anthology, published by Exeter Publishing.

From the Amazon Sales Page:

Our hometowns raised us all differently. Our roots absorbed different values and experiences that turned us into the people we are today. Whether we realize it or not, it influenced our art in some way. Our first anthology is dedicated to hometowns.

From the Soil-A Hometown Anthology is available for purchase on Amazon.com in Paperback for $15.00.

From the Soil-A Hometown Anthology is also available as an interactive .pdf version available for $5.

“Boro Kids” is a poem about growing up in my hometown of Point Pleasant Boro, New Jersey. I wrote it in early September 2015 as a tribute to my friend Roscoe, a fellow Boro Kid, who passed away after being dealt a bad cancer hand at the age of 43. The poem ended up resonating with many Boro Kids who grew up alongside us, so much so that several inquired about purchasing custom canvas prints of the poem over the years since. I reworked the poem for publication in the anthology so it differs slightly from the original version.

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Published in “From the Soil-A Hometown Anthology” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on December 27, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Published in “‘Tis The Seasons: Poems for Your Holiday Spirit”

I am very excited to announce that my poem titled “The Gingerbread Boy” was selected for publication in ‘Tis The Seasons: Poems for Your Holiday Spirit, published by Red Penguin Books.

From Red Penguin’s website:

“‘Tis The Seasons – Poems For Your Holiday Spirit” brings together poems by over thirty unique writers that celebrate the many facets of the holiday season. From the stuffing on Thanksgiving to the Christmas Carols we hold near and dear to our hearts, this collection is sure to put you in the mindset to give thanks, bake some cookies, light a fire in the hearth, and curl up with the words of our brilliantly talented and always moving authors.”

The book is available for purchase on Amazon.com in both Kindle ($2.99) and paperback ($4.99) versions.

The book makes a perfect holiday gift or stocking stuffer, and shipping from Amazon is very quick. I ordered copies on Saturday and they were delivered on Thursday. If you order, I hope you enjoy the poems by many talented writers, including “The Gingerbread Boy.”

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Published in ‘Tis The Seasons: Poems for Your Holiday Spirit was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on December 16, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Thankful for 2020’s Roller Coaster

2020: What a long, strange roller coaster ride it’s been for all of us.

We collectively entered the queue together in January and followed the long path that snaked through February. We stored our belongings and removed our glasses, hats, and shades and reached the front of the line in early March. We sat next to each other in neatly arranged rows and locked in our seatbelts and harnesses. After a quick safety check, the car pulled away from the loading zone and rounded the curve to ascend the first massive hill.

We didn’t realize each click-click-click upwards represented a faction of life as we knew it being left behind us.

It became more difficult to see what was ahead of us the higher we climbed.

We reached the top, looked down, and…..bam.

Insert appropriate expletive here.

The drop was immense, like nothing we ever experienced before. Our stomachs were left 230 feet above us as we screamed in futility. Some of us worried, some of us cried, some of us laughed, some of us got sick, and some of us were unimpressed, claiming the drop was nothing, no big deal. They taunted, “Is that all you’ve got?”

The closures, the orders, the face coverings, the scrambling for necessary items, new rules and regulations, the rise of the essential and front-line workers, honk parades, eating outside in tents, sanitizing the whole shebang…everything its own hill with its own form of up-and-down-and-loop-and-invert.

However, if we looked hard enough, we were able to find a number of hidden silver linings along the metal tracks.

The coaster’s trail evened out a bit during summer and briefly morphed into a straight line. Smooth sailing, but we had to scramble mid-ride to leave the seats to our left and our right empty.

We expected the ride to end, but instead, found ourselves at the bottom of another enormous steel-tracked hill that looms even higher into the sky.

This is our location right now, today, on Thanksgiving 2020.

We’re ascending speedily yet ever-so-slowly and are currently near what we hope is the middle of that second, massive mountain with no hand to hold on either side and the path ahead completely obscured.

It’s dark. It’s cold. And it’s no longer fun.

Everyone is screaming, but nobody is listening. We scream louder and louder until we drown each other out and all that is left is white noise.

Some are still worried. Some are still crying. Some are still laughing. Some of us are sick. And some are still taunting.

We have no idea when we’ll reach the summit or accelerate at top speed on the downside while descending towards terra firma, or how many bumps we will encounter along the way to this bizarre ride’s finish line.

For me, the paradoxical roller coaster of 2020 has certainly had its ups and its downs, pun intended. Love and loss, gathering and isolating, fear and calm, laughter and tears, beginnings and endings, empty and full, lost and found… the full gamut of the human experience is thriving in 2020, that’s for sure.

In all honesty, I am most grateful for those ups and downs this Thanksgiving, for they have shown me what truly matters:

  • My loved ones…family, friends, colleagues, students…staying connected and relishing the time I am able to safely spend in everyone’s physical presence, especially my nieces and nephews.
  • My daily life and the glorious moments of sheer awareness and indescribable beauty that I’ve experienced as a result of slowing down. I am no longer a slave to a “to do” list but mindful, awake, and enlightened.
  • My true self… embracing the person I am becoming and becoming the person I am meant to be. I don’t believe I would have found her if the coaster was closed for maintenance or never constructed at all.

I am most grateful for the wisdom to never again take anything for granted, especially my health, and for all that I have and all that I am.

Hopefully, we will soon reach the end of this unsettling ride and emerge from its tunnel as unharmed as possible. I don’t know when that will be, but I DO know that next year’s Thanksgiving is going to be one hell of a shindig.

Wishing you good health and the happiest of Thanksgivings wherever your table may be this year.

 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Thankful for 2020’s Roller Coaster” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on November 26, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Forty Years Between

It’s November 15, 1980.

I am nine years old.

I listen to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown for the week on my radio while I play in my bedroom. It’s yellow and green, my bedroom, with flowered, embossed wallpaper and a yellow shag carpet. My uncle had just given me the hottest toy of the year, my very own Rubik’s Cube, and I’m twisting and turning it in an attempt to make at least one side a solid color.

Song number 30 is the theme from the television show, “The Dukes of Hazard.” Waylon Jennings sings of those good-old boys as I put aside the cube in frustration and turn to my Fashion Plates. I am a kick-ass designer.

The song “Guilty” by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb is song number 29. For some reason, I mentally return to walking through the interior of Tampa Airport then around my grandparents’ Florida community, “Hawaiian Isles,” located in Ruskin off Cockroach Bay Road. We were there in May, when Mount St. Helen’s volcano erupted. I feel the warmth of the Florida sun and smile at the fiddler crabs who wave to me with their enormous claws in unison from the little sandy beach along the Tampa Bay.

General Foods International Coffees Print Advertisement

The long-distance dedication is from Steve in Boonville, Indiana to Pam, because “this was the only way he could say how he felt.” The evocative notes of “Could This Be Magic” by Barry Manilow follow Kasem’s narration of Steve’s letter. I think of the advertisement I noticed in the latest issue of “US News and World Report” for General Foods International Coffee and fantasize about drinking the classiest of coffees with my future love next to me, undoubtedly just like Steve and Pam must be doing at that exact moment. I bet they chose Mocha Mint over Café Vienna. After all, isn’t that what being an adult is all about, sipping International Coffees and going on cruises aboard the Love Boat with Captain Steubing at the helm and Isaac the bartender serving up Mai Tais with a smile?

I need to leave the countdown for a while because I eagerly want to help my mother clean the bathroom. She bought a can of Scrubbing Bubbles at the Grand Union earlier that week and I cannot contain my excitement. I look over her shoulder with anticipation as she aims the can then covers the blue porcelain tub with the magical white foam. I expect to see the bubbles racing each other around the perimeter like they do on the commercial, but the bubbles just sit there and drip. Some of them evaporate before she even has the chance to wipe them up with her sponge. Maybe the tub was too big, maybe they need a smaller racetrack. “Try the sink!” I urge, and she does likewise after she’s rinsed out the tub. I am left disappointed yet again as none of the bubbles have giant eyes or a brushy bottom, and they most certainly do not race each other.

I skulk back to my room, pack up my Fashion Plates, and set up to play teacher as Kasem announces song number sixteen, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar. I dance around my room, recreating the little routine my friend and I made up to the song while roller skating a few days prior. We choreographed the routine in the street facing my house and perfectly hit each move, popping out our hips then skating left-then-right-then-roll with our arms punching out as we mimic the Aerobics craze sweeping the nation but on skates.  

Crack that Whip!

Now Whip it, Into shape, Shape it up, Get straight, Go forward, Move ahead, Try to detect it, It’s not too late, To whip it, Whip it good! Song number fifteen makes me think of my most-recent sleepover at my roller-skating friend’s house. Her older sister is so cool, I want to be like her when I grow up. It’s in her rec room that we watch many episodes of “The Smurfs” and would witness the second-biggest televised wedding ever when Luke would marry Laura a year later.

John Lennon’s voice croons it’s just like starting over at song number ten of the week’s countdown. My dad recently bought John Lennon’s much anticipated new album, “Double Fantasy,” but he is only allowed to play it when my mother doesn’t have her favorite albums by Anne Murray or Rita Coolidge spinning on the record player in our olive-green family room.  

“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen is song number four. My mind turns to those poor kids in Atlanta I heard about on the news, and I shudder while wiping away the tears from my eyes. Some of those kids are my age. I cannot understand evil or why anyone would want to take someone’s life away, let alone the lives of a bunch of children, and as a result, both my naivete and belief in goodness are forever bruised. I don’t yet realize why my young brain connects that song to those children.

Kenny Rogers. His hit, “Lady,” is song number one. I close my eyes and daydream about dancing to the song at my future wedding when I marry Boba Fett.

The countdown is over. I grab my diary and write about some of the songs. Later today after lunch, I’ll lace up my skates and roll along the newly paved street from my house to my friend’s house where will we make up yet another routine before getting ice cream without a care in the world.

……………………………………………………………………………..

It’s November 14, 2020.

I am forty-nine years old.

I listen to a replay of Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown from November 15, 1980, on my local radio station. Forty years have passed since it originally aired. I sit in the living room and write while the songs replay in succession. It’s brown and temporary, the living room, with paneling and ringed oval area rugs in all shades of browns and rusts. My uncle passed away almost two years ago, and it’s his living room I sit in. I’m twisting and turning and still try to come to grips with his passing.

Song number 30 is the theme from “The Dukes of Hazard.” Waylon Jennings sings of those good-old boys, now taboo and culturally inappropriate, as I put aside my grief and, instead, respond to a text message from my brother. I know nothing about fashion.

The song “Guilty” by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb is song number 29. I picture with extreme clarity the baggage claim area of Tampa Airport and my walking route around my grandparents’ Florida community, “Hawaiian Isles,” in Ruskin off Cockroach Bay Road. I check Google Earth and it is still there. The eruption of Mount St. Helen’s is nothing compared to the events of 2020, but the fiddler crabs still wave to me in unison.

The long-distance dedication is from Steve in Boonville, Indiana to Pam, because “this was the only way he could say how he felt.” The evocative notes of “Could This Be Magic” by Barry Manilow follow Kasem’s narration of Steve’s letter. I wonder if Steve and Pam lived happily ever after, then I wrinkle my face at the recollection of the utter grossness of every single flavor of General Foods International Coffees I finally tried when I was in college, especially Mocha Mint. Being an adult is, in reality, all about avoiding cruises and the company of others in this COVID-19 world we are currently living, with both Captain Steubing and Isaac the bartender relegated to collecting unemployment.

I leave the countdown for a while because I am eager to spray the inside of my birdbath with FlexSeal. It’s a handyman in a can, and according to Phil Swift, it can fix anything. I spray the inside of the birdbath with the miracle-fix, eventually coating the crack with five layers while allowing for the proper drying time between applications. I expect the leak to magically be fixed, but the water ultimately still drips through it. I am left disappointed yet again as FlexSeal is most certainly not a handyman in a can.

I skulk back to my living room and unpack what I need for planning this week’s lessons, as I am a teacher, when Kasem announces song number sixteen, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar. I dance around my living room and recreate the little routine my friend and I had made up. I remember it step-by-step complete with the hip-pops and the skating left-then-right-then-roll with my arms punching out like the Aerobics people we now laugh at when we see them posted in our Facebook feeds.

Crack that Whip!

Now whip it, Into shape, Shape it up, Get straight, Go forward, Move ahead. Try to detect it! It’s not too late, To whip it, Whip it good! Song number fifteen makes me think of sleeping over at my roller-skating friend’s house, where we watched “The Smurfs” and the wedding of Luke and Laura. Our friendship has spanned trends, years, decades, and countdown after countdown. It was through this friend I met my husband, and that old house of hers is still standing. In fact, I walked past it on Halloween while trick-or-treating with my nephews and niece last month. I hope the pandemic won’t force my friend to cancel her and her family’s annual Christmas Eve get-together, where I get to see her cool sister, and her cool sons, each year.

John Lennon’s voice croons it’s just like starting over at song number ten of the week’s countdown. When this countdown originally aired in 1980, nobody had the foresight that the song’s lyrics would prove hauntingly poignant with Lennon’s life less than a month away from being tragically cut short. Forty years later, and I can still picture exactly where I was standing when the special report first broke on December 8, 1980.

“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen is song number four. My mind turns to those poor kids in Atlanta I heard about on the news, and I shudder while wiping away the tears from my eyes. Some of those kids were my age at the time. I still cannot understand evil or comprehend why anyone would want to take someone’s life away, let alone the lives of a bunch of children, and as a result, both my naivete and belief in goodness were forever bruised. I understand now why my brain connected that song with those children, who I still think of every time I’ve heard it since.

Kenny Rogers. He just passed away in March 2020 from natural causes at 81 years old right as the pandemic shut down our everyday life. His hit, “Lady,” is song number one. I cringe at hearing it and am incredibly thankful that my husband and I did NOT dance to this song at our wedding. What an awfully cheesy yet quintessential melodic auditory representation of the early 1980s. And speaking of Boba Fett, he didn’t turn out to be my husband after all, but….HE LIVES, DAMMIT!!!! Thank you, Jon Favreau!

The countdown is over. I grab my laptop and write about some of the songs as I reminisce about the simplicities of being a nine-year-old. Later today, after lunch, I’ll don my outdoor clothes and wield an electric blower as I form piles of fallen leaves and pine needles in my yard before doing laundry and paying the bills.
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 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Forty Years Between” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on November 8, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Having a Great Fall

It’s been a while since I’ve updated, and that’s by design.

This cartoon of Humpty Dumpty has resonated with me all season, especially his genuinely content smile.

With the current political acrimony, the societal climate that teems with apathy and an overwhelming lack of compassion, the pandemic’s fatigue and ever-changing orders, and the days speeding past one after another with little time to catch my breath, it’s been a challenge to keep my head above the water line.

So I did the irresponsible, especially for a journalism teacher, but my peace of mind matters more to me than current events.

I tuned everything out and, determined to have a great fall, I channeled the smiling Humpty Dumpty.

It might not seem like it because of my lack of recent posts, but I am writing every day, and I am writing a lot. I’ve already completed two of my articles for the Spring 2021 Jersey Shore Magazine issue and penned over 12,000 words on my next novel (I’ll call it JD for now). I’ve also filled up two journals since September and I’m almost done with the third. At the end of each day, I have a small pile of scrap papers and post-its filled with ideas or one-liners or insights and I’ll tape them into my journal, my idea notebook, or my planner.

Outside of writing, I’ve been relishing the season by watching the leaves change and feeling the temperatures wax and wane. Instead of looking at news feeds, I’ve looked at my surroundings. Instead of posting everything I’m doing on Twitter or Facebook, I’m more present in what I am doing, whether it is taking a walk, raking leaves, or sipping a cup of tea in the afternoon. I’ve read more this fall and fallen in love with new authors and unique voices who inspire me to be a better writer.

This time of year always produces a Lupus flare, and 2020 is no exception. However, making time to rest and saying “No” when I need to has had a notably positive effect on my well-being. I’m still flaring and nodding off to sleep heinously early, but this go-around is different. I ironically feel more grounded despite 2020’s tailspin of mayhem.

This bizarro-world we’ve lived in for eight months and counting now has been difficult it is true, but hidden inside the chaos are little pearls of wisdom and enlightenment.

Go with the flow.

Tune out the shouting.

Seek out the good.

Put my peace of mind at the forefront.

Be in the present moment.

Hone my voice through words, oh the words!

Words, my goodness they are flowing, nonsensically fluent words and lists and sentences and paragraphs of blather yet rife with meaning, words of liberation and enlightenment and passion-filled lyrical cacophony composed just for myself or for a future audience, thoughtlessly penned stream-of-consciousness diatribes of both nothing and everything at once…

Words. Glorious words.

In spite of 2020’s disorder, parts of me WERE put together again like letters put words together, and words have helped me keep order.

Words have made all the difference.

Like Humpty Dumpty, I had a great fall, and will continue to do so.

I hope you do, too.
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 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Having a Great Fall” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on November 8, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.