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,


“Grace and Contentment” was posted on 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 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….


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:


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,


“It’s Time For Peppers, Life, and Dolly” was posted on 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 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,


“Angling With My Query” was posted on 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 with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Harbingers, Legacies, and Chapters

Image Made with Canva

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,


“Harbingers, Legacies, and Chapters” was posted on 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 with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.


The pressure,

It cripples 

My shoulders.

The anguish,

It crushes

My heart.

The long dormant

Scars that are

Too deep to


Fire and 

Itch something



I’m fourteen


With the 


Red dread 

In my head


The Day After.

Summertime boycotts.






Creed’s loss.

Drago’s victory.

Wolverines become 

Targets of

Helicopter ambushes 

While we

Devour the


Red apples and

Pray for 

Happily ever

After and



Same as it ever was.


But this time,


It’s heavier,

With iron-clad threads 

Of clamoring dissonance

And pandemic fatigue

And the injustice of justice

Interwoven with


Frayed strings

And compassion’s

Colorless fibers.


But this time,


It’s for real. 

The bombs

And the tanks

Purposely target

The beings 

Whose only crime

Is an address

On a certain street

In a certain country. 

The missiles

Pierce the heavens

As the bullets

Pierce the skin

And the screams

Pierce the silence,

The lives of

The innocents

No consequence to


Who values





All and

Lives his

Happily ever

After no


The Ukrainian/Galician/Balkan heritage in my lineage and in my soul called me to write “Heavy.” I stand with my ancestral brothers and sisters wherever their feet may touch the Earth but especially those in Ukraine.

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

With love and gratitude,


“Heavy” was posted on on February 26, 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 employer. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

‘22-03 Fortnightly Focus: Receptive

2022 is truly a brand new year, and I have been very receptive to all the positive changes I’ve been experiencing since the calendar turned its page. I’ve returned to both yoga and meditation, and I am making a regular practice of writing and connecting with my soul. I’m learning more about reiki and am developing a 30-minute “Semester Reset” Mindful Session for my fellow educators. By being receptive to change, especially change in the right direction, my attitude and mindset have vastly improved. Another example is being receptive to things I know I cannot change, case in point is yesterday’s blizzard. I am most definitely not a winter person, but instead of complaining about the snow, I was receptive to accepting the forecast and enjoyed a rather peaceful and cozy day writing and watching Marvel and Star Wars movies. I couldn’t change the fact we got slammed with drifts higher than two feet in some spots, so why waste my energy barking about it? I made do by being receptive, and today, we move on.

I invite you to join me in embracing the word “receptive” over the next two weeks. The word “receptive” has many definitions, but for the purpose of our focus, I suggest using the definitions below, courtesy of Merriam Webster:

receptive: adjective. Willing to consider or accept new ideas

Being receptive to what is has allowed me to become excited about what can be. I’m no longer at war with my past. I have more energy at the end of the day, and while I still battle the occasional Lupus issue such as one hell of a butterfly rash across my face yesterday, overall I feel less fatigued. My soul tells me the positive improvements in my health are a result of being receptive to changing up my routines and going with the flow. 

The ocean is the perfect metaphor for going with the flow. She doesn’t care about the “to-do” list of others, such as the woman who booked a surf lesson or a wedding on her sands. She rages when she feels like raging, and calms when it’s the right time for her to be calm. She’s receptive to the influences of the moon, to weather systems, and to her changing tides, but to hell with us humans. She can cradle us or destroy us, coddle us or drown us, and we’re the ones that need to be receptive to her. 

I invite you to embrace the word “receptive” over the next two weeks and allow it to guide you. Consider new ideas and accept what comes your way. 

As always, if the time is not right for you to be receptive, it’s okay. No shame and no beating yourself up for having a bad day or for not making progress towards your goals, whatever those may be. All vibes matter in this space, as the human experience is made up of ALL vibes, not just good vibes. Embrace your reality and feel what you feel without guilt.

Wise Words About RECEPTIVE 

“You always have something to learn from people who have been through more than you. Be open and receptive to what they know.” – Zac Efron

“You can keep the body as well-oiled and receptive as possible, but whether you’re actually going to be able to go for the long haul is really not your own choice.” – Leonard Cohen

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

With love, light, and gratitude,


‘22-03 Fortnightly Focus: Receptive” was posted on on January 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 employer. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

The Value of a Soul

One of my students recently asked me if I would sell my soul for $50 million. 

I emphatically replied, “No, I most definitely would not.” 

They gasped wide-eyed, “But it’s FIFTY million dollars! You could buy anything you wanted!”

“My soul is worth far more to me than money,” I answered. “It’s not for sale at any price.”

“I’d sell mine! I need the money!”

“Do you know what kind of life you’d have afterwards?” I questioned.

“A rich one.”

“But another entity or person would own you and dictate your every move. You wouldn’t be YOU anymore, you’d be the pawn of someone or something else and your life as you know it would cease to exist.”

“That’s ok by me! My soul, it’s nothing, but money, money is everything!”

Our exchange left me disheartened, and I am struggling to find a way to show this student the immense value of their soul before our time together ends in a few short weeks. I’m even more disillusioned at realizing this is certainly not the only student in my classroom who believes his or her soul has no value.

As both a teacher and a lightworker, it is tremendously difficult to relate to such a mindset when my soul suggests I help when I can and to build someone up instead of tearing them down. I cannot grasp our culture’s ever-growing glorification of jackassery and shaming over compassion and empathy, nor the empty value placed upon “likes,” “followers,” and “influencers” who are driven by the almighty dollar instead of altruism.  

But this is what our world has become and the world our young people are growing up in.

What is another way my soul can model kindness and generosity when the mantra I repeatedly hear is, “What’s in it for me?”

How can I empower others, especially young people, in a society where perseverance or trying one’s best in the classroom are seen as detriments and the benefits from personal accountability and learning from failure are no longer revered? 

I’m sharing this with you today because I am confident that by putting it out there, I will attract a way to help my students be freed from the shackles of societal expectations and ego, and instead, spark their light so they can appreciate even a sliver of both their enormous potential and the abundant value of their souls.

I’m not giving up on any of them, for each has a uniquely vital and valuable light to shine in our world.

Please note that I intentionally used the pronouns “they” and “their” for confidentiality reasons. Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With love and gratitude,


The Value of a Soul” was posted on on January 23, 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 employer. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.