Published in Jersey Shore Magazine’s Fall/Holiday 2022 Issue

I am pleased to share the Fall/Holiday 2022 issue of Jersey Shore Magazine with you. I proudly contributed two Beachcomber articles and two feature articles to the issue. You can read the articles below by clicking on the links.

It was my honor to profile two new friends. One is William Duffy, who tirelessly devotes his retirement to honoring local fallen heroes. “Answering the Call: Honoring the Jersey Shore’s Fallen Heroes” documents Duffy’s efforts, as well as plans for future memorials in and around the shore similar to the Brick Township’s Fallen Heroes monument.

My other new friend is debut novelist Katie Runde, whose novel The Shore was released in May to rave reviews. Anyone who grew up at the shore like Katie and I will relate to her moving story of how a family becomes fractured by tragedy. I loved meeting Katie and her mother, Kathleen, and found we had much in common.

Locals may recognize Bay Head boating enthusiast F. Slade Dale’s name, and learning about his connection to the Emma C. Berry boat was quite interesting for my article “F. Slade Dale and the Emma C. Berry.”. A recently restored model of the Berry is now a part of the Bay Head Historical Society’s collection in the Slade Dale Cottage at their museum. My innate love of ships and their tales found writing story fascinating, as was learning about the restoration process from acclaimed restorer Thomas Lauria.

Count Basie Center for the Arts is both a staple in Red Bank and planning for its next phase, having transformed from solely a theatre to a state-of-the-art Center for the Arts in just a few years. With lofty plans and goals, the Basie will continue to evolve as one of the world’s most premiere locations for the arts.

My other work for the issue included compiling the Campground directory, the Horseback Riding directory, the Calendar of Events, Theatre Guide, Fall Farm Guide, and Choose and Cut Your Own Christmas Tree guide.

You can check out the entire issue by clicking here or by visiting Jersey Shore Publications’ Website.

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

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Published in Jersey Shore Magazine’s Fall/Holiday 2022 Issue” was posted on jillocone.com on November 5, 2022. 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 of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Grace and Contentment

I’m enjoying a rare moment of solitude and peace on this lazy October afternoon, a throwback of sorts to my carefree summer routine. In between sips of coffee, I write while relishing the sound of the screaming blue jay outside.

Like every educator, my to-do list of professional responsibilities went from zero to 150+ as the calendar’s page flipped from August to September. It’s been 42 days of nonstop go-go-go, and I’m left wondering if September even happened because it came in like a ferocious, pouncing lion and was over before I could even breathe.

My annual autumn lupus flare has settled in for its yearly nuisance fester. Energy depletion, fatigue, and pain are unwanted side effects, but I’m simultaneously grateful this year’s flare isn’t as debilitating as it could be. 

I’ve struggled here and there with keeping the ghoulies in my head at bay, but they are quiet today, and my soul is feeling the most at home and grounded in my body than it has in months. 

It’s a good day.

Autumn’s late afternoon amber bars of sunshine reflect off the changing leaves and absorb an invisible yet oddly satisfying aroma of Earth and fall time sweetness intermixed with the crisp autumn breeze heralding the beginning of the end of the year. 

Speaking of endings, I made the tough decision last month to gracefully end my querying journey with Chapter One-A Novel. I’ve got one holdout still in the trenches, but based upon the 200+ responses (or lack of responses thereof) I’ve received from my queries, I already know the answer. 

I edited and revised both my manuscript and query letter countless times and tried my absolute best, but it’s time to wrap up this 8-year-long journey with pride and dignity. I wrote a novel, and nobody can take that accomplishment away from me. Maybe someday I’ll revisit it, but as Tony Stark said in Avengers: Endgame, part of the journey is the end, and it’s time for Chapter One-A Novel’s journey to end.

My writing journey, however, is not ending but merely shifting its course. I’ve begun working on my next novel (tentatively titled John Doe) while simultaneously researching and outlining three non-fiction books. Each project’s potential is infinite, teeming with unique possibilities, and will hopefully educate and inspire readers to see and think in new ways. 

At least, that’s my hope and the intention that fuels my progress.

I am walking in the JDRF One Walk this Sunday with my 11-year-old nephew who was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes a few years ago. It’s an honor to walk in his name and with a team comprised of treasured family and friends while giving back to The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, an organization that has helped and supported my nephew in numerous ways. Please support my quest with positive thoughts or a small monetary donation (if you are able to do so) by clicking here.

Thank you for joining me on my journey and for your support. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Grace and Contentment” was posted on jillocone.com on October, 2022. 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 of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

It’s Time for Peppers, Life, and Dolly

Oh, by gosh, by golly… August has been one exhilarating whirlwind, and I’ve relished every single moment. Electric pain radiates throughout my body and a shroud of fatigue lies heavy upon my shoulders, but I wouldn’t change a single thing.

The pain I feel means I am ALIVE and living my one wild and precious life.

I traveled with my family to Nashville to help my niece move into her college dorm for her sophomore year. Not including too many details for privacy reasons, but her school is two miles from the heart of the city. Before move-in day arrived, we explored the area, including parts of her campus we hadn’t seen, parts of Nashville we hadn’t seen, and the adorable town of Franklin. 

Video I took on Broadway Street near Nudie’s. This goes on ALL NIGHT.

The Nashville highlight for me was walking over The John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge towards Nissan Stadium, the home field of the Tennessee Titans, and hearing my favorite band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers! No ticket needed for this concert! The full moon rose alongside us and I literally danced and sang under the bridge (pun intended) to about three-quarters of their show. And I also scored a tour shirt from the merch trailer to wear to their NJ show (more details about this below).

As we strolled away from the stadium and towards the Broadway Street area, the chaos of Music City drowned out Anthony’s voice, John’s guitar, Flea’s bass, and Chad’s drums. If you ever want to feel alive, I highly recommend ensconcing yourself in the Nashville scene, as I actually sensed the festive atmosphere pulsing within my bones and reverberating in my muscles.

Sidebar: Should you find yourself in Nashville, take the time to wait in line for Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. My goodness, it’s worth it. Best fried chicken and crinkle cut fries I’ve ever had.

My niece is a strong and independent young woman who chose to give up part of her summer to be an orientation leader, and every day, she inspires me to be a better person. Her orientation obligations resulted in moving in earlier than the rest of the campus, so we had more room in the parking area, elevators, hallways, and her apartment. Her jam-packed schedule also gave us all less time to dwell on the sadness of farewell, and instead of saying goodbye when it was time to leave, I said, “See you soon.” 

We stopped at Dollywood’s Theme Park and DreamMore Resort in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, on the way home for a day stay over. Upon walking into the theme park, we noticed with curiosity that Christmas decorations were hanging from just about everywhere. We happened upon a sign announcing that filming for a holiday special would be taking place in various areas of the park throughout the day and didn’t think too much of it, until…..

Dolly! Photo courtesy of my SIL.

drum roll please….

WE SAW DOLLY!

That’s right, folks! THE one and only, along with JIMMY FALLON!

Completely unexpected and truly an amazing. My sister-in-law snapped pictures of them as my roller-coaster-partner-in-crime nephew and I spied Dolly while seated on a coaster, of course, but would you expect any less from us? 

We rode every coaster in the park, two of them twice, and by the luck of the draw, we were seated either in the back row or front row on about half of the rides. Here’s my Dollywood Coaster Report:

We also rode the train, which was a restored World War II coal-and-steam-powered train, and got drenched on the rapids.

And did someone say, “Cinnamon Bread?” Named the best cinnamon bread in America by Travel and Leisure magazine, the iconic pull-apart bread made fresh at the Grist Mill melted in my mouth and was so good it didn’t need any icing, nor did I care about the carbs messing with my sugar levels.

After our park day ended, we enjoyed the pool and hot tub area before retiring to our room for the night, and yes, I happily slept in a bunk bed. Every item on the buffet breakfast at Song and Hearth the following morning was simply delicious. 

In my humble opinion, Dollywood’s theming, from the smallest of details to every single aspect of each ride and coaster, surpasses its Orlando and Anaheim big name competitors. Both the theme park and the DreamMore resort were clean and meticulously landscaped, and every employee we encountered pleasant and helpful. An affordable escape off the beaten path with less crowds and more value than its big name rivals, Dollywood quickly became one of my favorite places. In 2023, a new coaster called Big Bear Mountain will be added to the theme park, and the new HeartSong Lodge and Resort adjacent to DreamMore will officially open for visitors, so I have two good reasons to return to Dollywood!

We tooled around Gatlinburg for a few hours before heading to Virginia with a quick drive through Virginia Tech on the way to our hotel for the night, and we rolled back into the Jersey Shore on Tuesday with a suitcase of wonderful memories.

By choice, I didn’t have time to rest. The day I had waited far too long for had finally arrived, and I woke up on Wednesday, August 17, ready to pop with anticipation like a kid on Christmas morning.

I had never seen my favorite band in concert prior to hearing them perform from a distance while standing outside their Nashville venue five days earlier. The reasons for this no longer matter because I finally crossed off the number-one item on my lifelong bucket list:

I SAW THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS LIVE IN CONCERT AT METLIFE STADIUM, AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.

RHCP Set List from MetLife Show on 8/17/22.

The ones who have provided the soundtrack to my life since my high school years took the stage with explosive energy and sheer delight. I jumped, and danced, and sang, and screamed, and got lost in the joyous moment of every song they played, which was the absolute best set list of the tour, By The Way (again, pun intended). 

My concert comrades and I stood for the entire show, and it was just an electric, epic evening, everything I could have wished for and more. Anthony, and Flea, and Chad, and JOHN who returned for the Unlimited Love album and tour, playing their hearts out with a palpable intensity and exuberance, and constantly expressing their gratitude to the audience… it honestly couldn’t have been any better. 

The Peppers’ music has been my constant companion since I was in my teens and carried me through some dark and dismal life episodes. There’s something about Anthony’s voice that simultaneously soothes and energizes me. Time and time again, their music helps me cope with whatever life throws at me, either as a result of my own choices or by happenstance, and on more than one occasion, I’ve felt like they wrote certain lyrics just for me.

And they are still here, rocking with as much fire and spirit as they did when they first came together as a band.

I cannot wait for the release of the Peppers’ SECOND double-album of 2022 titled Return of the Dream Canteen in October. I sincerely hope a tour to support Canteen album follows, and if one does, I will most definitely be there.

Special commemorative ticket from Paul O’Neill Day on 8/21/22.

Since the concert, I’ve enjoyed a jaunt to Six Flags Great Adventure with my brother, youngest niece, and two nephews, and witnessed the retiring of Paul O’Neill’s number before a much-needed Yankees victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at the house that Ruth built in celebration of my treasured friend’s birthday.

I’m still relishing my carefree summer days while trying my best to ignore my school emails and meet my upcoming magazine deadlines as summer’s end looms in the distance. There’s a time for everything, and I’ve learned to trust the seasons of both my calendar and my life. 

I will continue to wake up each day with a zest for living and an intention to experience something wondrous each day, no matter the date on the calendar, the temperature outside, or what’s on my to-do list.

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

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“It’s Time For Peppers, Life, and Dolly” was posted on jillocone.com on August 24, 2022. 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 of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

“Again! Again!”

July was an insanely busy month for someone like me who was looking forward to resting. In between querying my novel (no bites yet) and writing both personally and working on my upcoming magazine deadlines, I made the most out of my time and did something fun almost every day. I already shared about my trip to Boston and Nickelodeon Universe in early July (you can read that by clicking here), so here’s an update about the rest of my month.

Strong Family Ties

I haven’t seen my cousins from California in like forever, so I was delighted that my cousin D came to visit with his wife and two children I had never met for four days. It was like the time between when we last saw each other and now didn’t exist because we meshed and melded together right away. We spent a lot of time together checking out the local sites and visiting with my family. We ate, we swam, we saw, and boy, did we laugh! It was such a treat to be together, and I have made it an intention to get out to California in the next year or two to revisit him, my uncle and aunt, and my other two cousins and their families. I had a lot of fun playing “tourist” with them and looking through the local sites through their eyes.

Roller Coaster Palooza Take Two, With A Side Of Baseball

My oldest nephew and I traveled 915 miles in four and a half days as we embarked upon our annual “Roller Coaster Palooza” Road Trip summer tradition. Day One brought us to Adventure Park USA, about 45 minutes from Baltimore, Maryland, then we caught the baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. We were Orioles fans for the evening but kept our eye on the Yankees’ score. The Orioles were down most of the game and tied it up in the 9th but ultimately lost 6-4 in 10 innings. We took a walk down to Baltimore Harbor on Day Two, then headed to Six Flags America in Bowie, Maryland. That evening, we set up shop in a Stafford, Virginia hotel then visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg (Day Three) and King’s Dominion (Day Four). I rallied despite not feeling well and had a fantastic time. Our surprisingly traffic-free drive home allowed us to see the sights of Washington, D.C. along the GPS’s selected route. 

We rode 21 different roller coasters with a total of 24 roller coaster rides at the following places: 

From the outside of Intimidator 305 (I took this photo).

Our biggest coaster conquest both this trip and ever was Intimidator 305 for sure. Known as a “giga” coaster because its height is 305 feet (giga height is 300-399 feet), it was also one of the fastest with its 90 miles-per-hour speed and the first giga we experienced. Its height is quite intimidating, pun intended, and for a while I thought I was going to back out (and black out!). But I did it, and I”ve got the ride photo to prove it! What a rush! Now I feel like I can do anything!

Verbolten was our favorite coaster of the trip, and we intended to ride it several more times but the park shut down due to weather conditions. It is a multi-launch coaster impeccably themed as “an autobahn adventure through the Black Forest” that goes inside and outside with a lot of surprises and three different scenes. In fact, this post’s title stems from our first ride on Verbolten; when we pulled into the station, my nephew cheered with glee and cried, “Again! Again!” I will hear his voice cry “Again! Again!” in my mind’s eye forever.

Again! Again! Indeed!

My nephew listened to one of his required summer reading books and I’m hooked on it! I picked up my very own copy of “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell and resumed reading where we left off in the car with ideas about how to possibly infuse this piece into my journalism program. I think my students would get a lot out of it with regards to ideas and how to make them a reality.

Soothing The Scars

Das Festhaus from a postcard

I am not ashamed to admit that I have many quirks.

One of them is a fear of what I refer to as “forced fan participation,” which stems from an event when I was eight or nine years old. My family took us to Busch Gardens Williamsburg (my only other visit to this park before last week), and we ate in Das Festhaus, which is a large, German eatery with a stage in the middle of long rows of picnic tables on either side that fill the hall. While we were eating, performers from the German Oktoberfest-style show went through the aisles looking for kids to come on stage to be a part of the show. Well, a woman with long blonde braids took my hand and tugged me to get out of my seat. I did not want to, but my parents urged, “Go ahead! It will be fun!” These are all very vivid memories in my mind and I can picture everything like it happened yesterday… childhood trauma, much? Anyway, I did as they wished despite my apprehension, but when I got onto the stage and saw everyone looking at me, I turned and sprinted off the stage to the restroom, where I ducked into a stall and cried behind its closed door, the overwhelming humiliation like an anvil on my body. 

The inside of Das Festhaus, just as I remembered it.

Ever since, I tense up in any situation where I could be forced to participate against my will, even at my own place of employment. If I am the one who makes the decision to participate or facilitate, I’m fine, but if it’s a situation where volunteers are sought from an audience or I’m put on the spot, I panic and tense up, and sometimes, I actually flee just like I did at Das Festhaus all those years ago.

As soon as my feet crossed into the Germany area of Busch Gardens Williamsburg last week, the anvil’s weight returned and prickles ran over my skin. My nephew and I navigated the pathways through the charming area, and my eyes fell upon Das Festhaus.

I stopped in my tracks and took a deep breath. 

We wanted to eat lunch here because of the variety of meals available… but could I do it?

Yes. The answer is: yes, I could.

And I did.

We ended up having the best meal of the trip inside the walls of the building that has never left my memory files, and it was exactly as I remembered, expansive and authentically decorated. And the food was amazing. Sidebar: Well worth getting the one-day meal plan if you go to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which has amazing options with big, delicious portions, especially at Das Festhaus.

Not by design but because of our schedule, we left before the 12:30 PM show began so we could continue our quest of riding every coaster in the park, which we accomplished just before a nasty weather front arrived. We sought shelter inside Das Festhaus due to the weather with my scars of forced fan participation smoothed and soothed. 

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll hang around to delight in the show at Das Festhaus on my next visit.

Published in American Writers Review 2022: The End Or The Beginning?

Now Available On Amazon!

I’m very excited to share that my story “Five South Thresholds” can be found within the pages of American Writers Review 2022: The End Or The Beginning?” alongside exemplary works from other talented writers, poets, and photographers. You can purchase the paperback or Kindle version of the book on Amazon by clicking here.

No Rest For The Weary

I’ll be hitting the road on another trip next week with family and intend to live each and every August day to its fullest. This morning, I went for an early morning stroll on the beach, and the sea lapping against my legs was exactly what my soul needed. I’ll be visiting her more often, both in the mornings and evenings, and allow her to continue guiding me through life.

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

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Again! Again!” was posted on jillocone.com on August 4, 2022. 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 of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Carpenter Builds Story After Story

Matt Carpenter during the curtain call from the Yankees/Red Sox game on July 16, 2022, as posted by the New York Yankees’ Twitter account.

If you aren’t an avid Yankees or baseball fan, you might not recognize Matt Carpenter’s name.

But you should.

Carpenter’s journey this season is the story that America needs as we collectively navigate a world filled with acrimony and discord.

The three-time All-Star went from riding the bench in the minors earlier this year to one of the biggest phenoms in Major League Baseball.

And Carpenter is no spring chicken. He’s a 36-year-old veteran with more than a decade of playing time in the majors.

Back in May, the Yankees placed three players on the COVID list, which left holes on the roster that needed to be filled. The team took a chance and signed Carpenter after he was released by the Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers’ minor league AAA-affiliate) in hopes he’d fill one of those holes.

That hole has not only been closed, but now overflows with sheer awesomeness.

When Carpenter, with his old school Mattingly-esque mustache, stepped up to home plate in Tampa during his first at-bat as a Yankee on May 26, many skeptically asked, “Who is THIS guy?” Yankees fans can be harshly judgmental, and I plead the fifth about my opinion of the recycled veteran in that moment.

Well, his two at-bat appearances in that game, which yielded two runs scored in the Yankees 7-2 victory, combined with slugging his first home-run of the season the following night that helped the Yankees defeat the Rays 2-1, answered that question:

He is MATT CARPENTER, and he has been the living embodiment of baseball magic since. As he crushes his bat and sets new records, baseball fans across the nation stand with their mouths agape.

As of this post, he has had 75 at-bats in 30 games so far this season, with 27 hits, 13 home runs, and 31 runs batted in. Remember, he didn’t play for almost two months, and those numbers are only since May 26!

Make that 31 games, 77 at-bats, and 32 RBIs-he added another as I am writing.

Those numbers don’t lie. Carpenter is the real deal.

In last night’s 14-1 trouncing of the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, Carpenter batted in 7 runs with TWO 3-run home runs, one in the first inning and the second in the fifth inning. Shortly after high-fiving his teammates in the dugout after home run number two, he answered the fans’ cheering for a curtain call with waves of authentic emotion riding his face as seen in the above image.

“You never know when the last time you’re going to put this uniform is or on what day that is and I felt like I might have had that a couple of times this year.,” Carpenter told FOX Broadcasting’s Ken Rosenthal after last night’s game. “To be here, and to be playing for this team, in this city, for this franchise, I don’t take it for granted. I come to the ballpark every day overwhelmed with joy and gratitude and, man, it’s just been a lot of fun.” 

Last night wasn’t Carpenter’s first multi-hit home run game this season. During the Yankees’ 18-4 victory over the Cubs at home on June 12, Carpenter also batted in 7 RBIs with two home runs. His performance in that game made him the first player in Yankees’ history to hit six home runs in his first 10 games with the team.

I’ve always rooted for the underdog, but the humble Carpenter tops them all. He’s tenacious, unassuming, and gives his all, no matter what. And the first words listed on his Twitter and Instagram bios of Christian, Husband, Father, all before NY Yankee, speak volumes about the type of person Carpenter is. 

What hits home (pun intended) for me is Carpenter’s determination and authenticity. He’s never sacrificed his values for his career nor forgotten his roots or taken anything for granted. He’s nobly faced setbacks by bettering himself in whatever way necessary as he strove to bounce back. While many major leaguers his age call it quits after being demoted, he chose to stay in the game and reemerged bigger and better than ever, all the while exuding gratitude that his name is on the Yankees’ roster. 

Today’s young people desperately need an example like Carpenter, but you know what? 

So do I. 

Trade out the baseball for words, and I aim to emulate Carpenter as I face my own strikeouts while querying my manuscript as a 51-year-old aspiring novelist. Like Carpenter, I’ve celebrated many successes in my early life and career alongside unexpected setbacks, and writing is no exception. He may be 15 years younger than me, but Carpenter is living proof that I am not too old to pursue my dream of publishing a book, and eventually, transitioning to full-time writer. It will happen if I mirror his tenacity and drive, but if I’ve done my best and it doesn’t happen? I’ll follow Carpenter’s lead and roll optimistically towards another opportunity that presents itself.

And, surprise! Carpenter is ALSO a writer! Read his farewell to St. Louis here, which he wrote for The Players’ Tribute after electing free agency in November 2021. Who knew?!?!?

Last Sunday (July 10), while sitting in Fenway Park with my nephew and sister-in-law, Carpenter blasted a 2-run homer in the third inning which gave the Yankees a 6-2 lead. I jumped in joy and cheered as loud as I could despite the Sox sharks swirling around me as I relished experiencing one of his home runs firsthand. Unfortunately, the team absolutely imploded in the seventh inning, and Sox fans rejoiced in their 6-11 victory over the Yankees. 

Whatever the future holds for Carpenter, there’s no doubt his accomplishments and his contributions have had an incredibly positive impact on his teammates and on his team’s current 63-28 record, which is the best in the majors. 

Sometimes life imitates art, and what a storybook ending it will be if he and his teammates hold the World Series trophy high in the air come November. 

No matter the outcome, I’ll remember this season as the one where Carpenter built his foundation to become an inspiration to me evermore.

Thank you, Matt Carpenter. Just….thank you.

Matt Carpenter’s Stats and Notable Achievements

  • Born: November 26, 1985 in Galveston, Texas
  • Married to Mackenzie since 2011, father to daughter Kinley and son Kannon
  • Positions: outfield, third base, first base, second base, designated hitter
  • 2009: Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round of the MLB draft (399 pick)
  • June 4, 2011: MLB debut; started at third base for the Cardinals
    • 2013, 2014, 2016: MLB National League All-Star Selection
    • 2013: led MLB in runs (126), hits (199), and doubles (55); NL Silver Slugger; finished 4th in NL MVP award; played with Cardinals in postseason (NL Champs, World Series-lost to Boston)
    • 2013, 2013, 2015: MLBPAA Cardinals Heart and Hustle Award
    • 2014: led NL in plate appearances and base-on-balls
    • 2015: Led NL in doubles, 8th in NL in home runs
    • 2015, 2016, 2018 (twice): NL Player of the Week
    • May 7, 2016: First walk-off home run (6-4 win over Pittsburgh)
    • April 27, 2017: First grand-slam vs. the Toronto Blue Jays in the 11th inning of an 8-4 victory (walk-off grand slam)
    • July 2018: NL Player of the Month
    • 2018: 3rd in NL in home runs
  • November 2021: Elected free agency and penned a farewell to St. Louis which was posted by The Players’ Tribune
  • March 2022: Signed to minor league contract and invited to spring training with Texas Rangers; played 21 games with their AAA-affiliate Round Rock Express
  • May 19, 2022: Released by Round Rock Express
  • May 26, 2022: signed by New York Yankees. The rest is history!
  • Sources: New York Yankees, ESPN, MLB, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, NJ.com, The Players’ Tribune

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

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Carpenter Builds Story After Story” was posted on jillocone.com on July 17, 2022. 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 of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Riding Life’s Waves: The Dream Scream, Thunder, and Beantown Edition

The past week has been a thrilling adventure tenfold. I’ve been catapulted up the tallest indoor drop tower in the world, gone completely around in a 360-degree pendulum ride while harnessed to a spinning seat, quenched my thirst for new Marvel adventures, and walked 23 miles in four days while exploring one wickedly awesome city.

Not today, fear!

I took my 8-year-old nephew to Nickelodeon Universe in the American Dream mall, and his fearlessness inspires me. He wanted to ride every thrill ride that was open as many times as possible. I set aside my own fear, and together, we achieved his goal while simultaneously screaming and laughing intensely. And you know what? I survived, and we had the BEST DAY EVER! Our stats:

  • Slime Streak: rode three times; steel family indoor roller coaster with a height of 70 feet and travels 37 mph over 1,263 feet of track
  • Skyline Scream: rode twice; spinning rotating drop tower, currently the tallest indoor drop tower in the world. You can see the New York City skyline from the top!
  • Shredder: rode four times; steel spinning indoor roller coaster that goes 36 mph over 2,247 feet of track.
  • Kraang Prime Pandemonium: rode twice; a pendulum ride that takes riders in 360° loops going both directions, similar to a pendolo ride but with full loops
  • Spongebob’s Jellyfish Jam: rode twice, quite possibly the fastest swings ride I’ve ever experienced
  • Aang’s Air Gliders: rode twice; several inversions on this flight-style ride
  • Jimmy Neutron’s Atom Smasher: I rode it once; nephew rode it twice. 
  • Legends of the Hidden Temple Challenge: nephew enjoyed this ropes course 

Much to our dismay, TMNT Shellraiser, Sandy’s Bronco Buster, and Timmy’s Half-Pipe Havoc were all closed. We had lunch at Popeye’s in Coca Cola Eats (his first time having Popeye’s) and we explored Toys R’ Us…yes, you read that right! It opened in December! The retro “Toys R’ Us” jingle and music playing brought me back to my childhood and made wandering the store with my nephew even more special. 

Love and Thunder’s Thunder

No spoilers here, I assure you. The intricately linked elements and quirks of the MCU are what I love the most. I took a lot away from Thor: Love and Thunder, including the importance of living a well-lived life, be the person I am supposed to be, and to love wholeheartedly. I literally laughed out loud many times while shedding many tears. My MCU tradition is to see the movie with my brother and nephews, and this go-around, we added dinner at Five Guys to round out our evening. Valkyrie is still my favorite character, by the way. Love that king! And negative reviewers, be gone! I loved this movie!

Womanchild in Beantown

I traveled to Boston with family and drove almost the entire way there and back, including over the George Washington Bridge twice and successfully navigating Boston’s labyrinth of confusing roads. Rewind a few weeks, and spending three days in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware with my fantastic niece inaugurated my summer edition of adding new places to my “visited” log. My list grew again with each of the 57,984 steps I took along our Boston adventure. My pin collection grew by 12 and my vat of memories grew exponentially.

  • Experiences: Fenway Park tour, Yankees vs. Red Sox game at Fenway Park, Duck Boat Tour, college tours. My favorite out of all of these was the tour of and the game at Fenway Park. What an amazing place in the history of baseball! Fun fact: I genuinely get excited for “The Wave” to come around stadiums. I raised my arms and yelled four times as it came by four times and relished being one of those idiots each time. The Duck Boat tour was very unique and gave us an opportunity to see Boston from both the road and the water.
  • Landmarks Visited and/or Seen: Fenway Park, Quincy Market, Prudential Center, Paul Revere’s House, Boston Harbor, Boston Tea Party Museum, site of Boston Massacre, Little Italy, Modern Bakery, Boston Fire Department Engine 33 Ladder 15, Boston Marathon Start/Finish Line, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern University, Harvard Square/The Coop, the Last Tenement House, Christian Science Plaza Reflecting Pool; saw from Duck Boat Tour: Bunker Hill Monument, various statues and parks, state capitol, Cheers. I didn’t have the opportunity to actually go into Cheers but next time, it’s on the top of my list. Another Fun Fact: When nothing is on TV, I watch Cheers on DVD, so I’m pretty adept at quoting the show. “Womanchild in Beantown” is, in fact, a reference to a Cheers episode when Diane Chambers makes a movie about Woody Boyd to convince his parents to let him stay in Boston.
  • Places we ate: Eataly (inside Prudential Center), Forty Dalton, Lansdowne Pub, Bread O’Life in Quincy Market, Pressed, Grendel’s Den, Fenway Park, Shake Shack (I love their fries)

And Speaking of Beantown…

I am incredibly excited for my treasured friend Mandi Bean because her second novel titled Moody Blue was released this week! Click here to buy it from Amazon…mine arrived today and I’m tearing its cover open as soon as I post this! Congratulations, Mandi! You inspire me to my very core!

I’m Still Standing

These experiences and related lessons wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t keep my health at the forefront. I’m still dealing with a nuisance Lupus flare, but a slow and steady mindset while drinking plenty of water and resting when my body tells me to has made all the difference in allowing me to keep up with the flow and create countless memories. There’s still a lot of summer left and places under the sky to see, and my passion for life is stronger than both my pain and fatigue.

Fields of Fireflies

Two nights ago, I dreamt of seeing thousands of fireflies flying and lighting up against a darkish background. The only thing I remember from the dream is the magic of the fireflies. I interpret my dream as a message to light up others by shining my own light, and to be the light in the darkness. I hope that by sharing insight from my recent experiences has sparked a light in you to find meaning along your day’s encounters.

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

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Riding Life’s Waves: The Dream Scream, Thunder, and Beantown Edition” was posted on jillocone.com on July 14, 2022. 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 of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Angling With My Query

I experienced its first visions eight years ago, and my life has never been the same since. 

My eight-year voyage on Chapter One-A Novel’s waters has been full of ups and downs and I’ve been sailing by writing through calm currents and tempest-fueled tides. Along its course, I’ve had to search for meaning in unexpected places and destined coincidences, make tough decisions about what path to follow, and wade through seas teeming with ghoulies and doubt. 

But now I stand firm on the shore with the finished manuscript of Chapter One-A Novel gleaming in my hands.

I know you’ve heard such proclamations in the past, but I assure you I am not crying “wolf” this time. 

This version is the real deal, and I am announcing it out loud and proud to the universe: CHAPTER ONE IS DONE.

To borrow one of the novel’s themes and visions, I have written Chapter One, so everything will fall into place as it stands steadfast as an intriguing work of fiction in its own right.

The novel, MY novel, is done, but my journey is just beginning.

I have reentered the tidepool of the publishing world by seeking representation and/or publication by dangling my authentic and heartfelt query letter addressed to agents and publishing houses as bait. No nibbles yet, but I know the universe will lure the right opportunity to bite my hook, which reads as follows:

Kelly Lynch navigates the ebb and flow of life’s tides on her fortuitous journey of self-discovery in my approximately 64,000-word novel titled Chapter One-A Novel.

As Waterville High School’s newest English teacher, Kelly Lynch befriends fellow educator and James Joyce enthusiast Shannon Moran. While Kelly grapples with deep scars from her past, she struggles to balance her active life as a teacher and her stagnant marriage to shiftless alcoholic Wayne Coopersmith. Shannon’s encouragement resurrects Kelly’s innate fervor for writing, while Kelly inspires Shannon to pursue her lifelong dream of studying in Dublin, Ireland.

A double-dose of tragedy fractures Kelly’s life, and in the aftermath, she throws caution to the wind and follows the mysterious path of breadcrumbs scattered by the universe from coastal New Jersey to the grandeur of Dublin.

Chance unites Kelly with Jame Flaherty, a Dubliner who guides her along the footprints left by Joyce and his characters while sparking a raging inferno inside her heart. Her experiences on the Emerald Isle hearten a keen awareness of the present moment’s tremendous value and fortify Kelly’s awakening. Upon returning to the Jersey Shore, she begins her next Chapter One anew by pursuing her calling as a writer.

Kelly’s profoundly moving story of enduring the waves spurred by the tribulations and the triumphs of the past, the present, and the future while searching for a sense of purpose in the face of grief will resonate with readers long after they turn the last page.

Please keep in mind I am the author and not the main character of Chapter One – A Novel, which is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either products of my imagination or used fictitiously. 

In between querying and making progress on my assignments for Jersey Shore Magazine’s Fall/Holiday 2022 issue, I am already working on my next writing project. Stay tuned for updates, because I intend to be more active with sharing my ideas and my writing life right here on the blog.

Spoiler: I’ve hidden a few Easter eggs about my future project(s) within this post’s words.

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

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Angling With My Query” was posted on jillocone.com on July 4, 2022. 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 of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Smashing the Boulder

I’ve been battling an unnecessary existential crisis, one of the many free gifts bestowed upon humans like me who are authentically human.

What began as nuisance funks the size of small pebbles rapidly combined to create one giant, overwhelming boulder. 

Innumerable legs, each with a different origin, protrude from this particular boulder, and they have been kicking me nonstop from every direction while the boulder’s crushing weight has squashed my sense of purpose. My futile attempts to defend myself or fight back provoke a harder and faster pummeling, and I end up reduced to a steaming pile of doubt and defeat.

The debilitating boulder, however, has now rolled into sacred soul territory by triggering a case of the summertime blues. 

I’ve waited all year for these two glorious months, dammit, and today, I wallow no more.

The only way around it is through it. 

As I crawl forward on my elbows, the megalith’s tentacles slightly loosen their grip around my ankles.  

Inch by inch, I will escape the squidmonster of stone’s grasp, then smash it to pieces. 

I will rise and stand victorious within its ruins, and my light will shine brighter than ever.

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

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Smashing the Boulder” was posted on jillocone.com on July 1, 2022. 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 of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Harbingers, Legacies, and Chapters

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I’m one of the first to arrive at my building, usually by 6:05 AM, because I write for at least 30 minutes in my classroom before I prepare for my school day. My writing mind is at its peak of fluency and creativity in the morning, and I’ve successfully used that time for its purpose on most days this year. Arriving so early provides me with a different vantage and experience than my fellow colleagues who roll into the parking lot later than me.

On Monday, I knew a yearly milestone I look forward to every year would happen this week, so I kept my sunglasses next to me on my ride into school instead of packing them away in my school bag.

With about five minutes left in my drive yesterday morning, it happened! I left the dark in my rearview mirror by sliding my sunglasses out of their protective case and onto the bridge of my nose! From this point forward, I’ll walk into school in the light.

It’s a simple turning point, but that harbinger delights me to no end. I can now breathe a bit easier knowing that summer dangles right in front of me.

But let’s back up a bit…

On the way from my house to my car yesterday morning, I listened to the sweetest singing coming from somewhere above me, a sound I haven’t heard since mid-September. I looked up to see a silhouette from high on my roof against the morning’s first light. 

The catbirds have returned, and their melodies are simply my favorites.

Spring is here, and it’s incredibly sweeter this year because it feels and looks more like how it is supposed to, like it did back before….. well, you know, the Thanos of our existence for the last two years.

I absolutely love spring after it’s done teasing us, as well as every single inch of summer. Having two events that usher in the spring actually occur on the same day was exceptional, especially since I haven’t been feeling all that great lately. Nothing to fret, just a nuisance lupus flare with associated fatigue and pain. I know it could be a hell of a lot worse, but it’s still frustrating to feel so depleted in the middle of the afternoon. I’m hopeful the flare is nearing its end and that things soon balance out for me.

On a positive note, this time of year also brings another celebration: the day when my students complete the yearbook. The legacy they build fills my heart with joy, especially when students from years past recognize the accomplishments of current students that I post in my social media because they remember the feeling of coming together to accomplish a common goal.

My students recently finished designing “The Chain” legacy board in our classroom, which includes photographs and staff yearbook spreads from years past along with a chain link for every student who has been a part of the program since the 2007-2008 school year. The chain drapes halfway around the classroom from the ceiling and is a visual symbol of that legacy. Each student is unique, each year is a different experience with a different book, but together, that chain is strengthened and lengthened by an experience like no other.

One of the chain’s names from the 2013 graduating class surprised me with a visit yesterday, and talking with him was medicine for my soul. Off the record, in my mind he just graduated despite being out of high school for almost 10 years already! Time is truly a thief and never fails to deceive me.

This young man’s story inspires and encourages me, as the foundation he built while within our school walls for four years served as stable blocks to build an extraordinary life of purpose while living each moment to its fullest. Another instance of the student inspiring the teacher, and I admire the hell out of him.

In fact, his incredible influence is like gasoline fueling my already fantastically flaming fire as I am actively revising my novel, which I’ve worked on every day since deciding to dust the manuscript off. In between work and home responsibilities, meeting deadlines for my magazine publisher, submitting smaller works for possible publication, and managing my health issues, I am taking my time by dissecting each word to improve every sentence while refining my voice and making the plot more engaging for readers. 

This go-around has already been rewarding and enlightening because I can finally distance myself from the circumstances surrounding the manuscript’s birth. It’s no longer a means to cope with grief, but rather, my undeniable purpose: to write the story I am meant to write with passion and with love. To quote a line from my original vision from the universe, once I write chapter one, everything will fall into place. For those who don’t know the back story, I titled my novel Chapter One-A Novel, and I know without the shadow of a doubt that everything will fall into place when I am finally finished crafting its narrative. The wave is here, and I’m riding it full-out to create the very best novel I can. 

I’ve got several other ideas in the hopper, but finishing my manuscript needs to happen before I can wholeheartedly devote myself to other pursuits.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, and Smashing Pumpkins, along with Sirius’ Lithium channel, provide the soundtrack to my life right now. And check out RHCP’s new album Unlimited Love if you haven’t already done so. It’s deliciously captivating, a lyrical masterpiece, and the return of John Frusciante’s signature guitar riffs brings us full-circle back to the band’s early iconic sound.

Sublime spring, you’ll never know how joyful I am to see you arrive in all your glory. I’ve waited so long for you, and my heart beats with fervent anticipation about what your chapter will bring and what celebrations await me.

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

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“Harbingers, Legacies, and Chapters” was posted on jillocone.com on April 30, 2022. 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 of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

A Hole for Everlong

Taylor Hawkins, 1972-2022

I cannot do better than that thousands of other tributes out there, for each is spot on.

But I cannot fill the hole that now exists in my heart and soul, a hole I never expected or can explain.

I never met you.

I never had the opportunity to see you on stage whaling on your kit with infectious energy or belting out your favorite Queen songs with passion and sheer joy.

And I never expected to feel this gutted and empty after we’ve lost you.

The value of a single life cannot be weighed, cannot be summed up in succinct numbers or data or percentages.

The value of a single life, however, can be felt in my heart and in my soul, through its presence and through its absence.

We’re all better off because your feet walked our earth at the same time as ours, but now, we’re all left with a hole inside us that will remain Everlong.

I don’t know what else to say, except this:

Thank you, Taylor.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With love and gratitude,

Jill

“A Hole for Everlong” was posted on jillocone.com on March 27, 2022. 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 of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved.