Molly In My Heart

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Image Via Shutterstock

When I was about nine years old, I went to a classmate’s birthday party. For confidentiality, I will refer to that classmate as Molly.

I remember it was a cold, grey early December day, probably around three in the afternoon when my mother dropped me off at Molly’s house.

Molly greeted me at the door and I said, “Happy Birthday!” I handed her my present: Holly Hobbie Colorforms, stickers, and a new sticker album gift-wrapped in brightly colored paper and a red bow.

I looked around the living room and there wasn’t one party decoration, no balloons or streamers hanging anywhere. The house was dingy and dark and it smelled like stale cigarette smoke. Her father didn’t say hello. Instead, he stared at Howard Cosell on the console television set complete with a big rabbit ear antenna.

“The backyard, Molly! You and your friend need to play outside!” her mother yelled from a room somewhere in the back of the house before I could even take off my coat.

Molly looked at me with unhappy eyes. “I have to listen to Mommy,” she said as she took my hand and led me through the house and out a back door that had a ripped screen and a broken window. The back yard contained a dilapidated swing set, barren of any swings or slides, and was littered with empty bottles and rusted cans.

Molly and I played outside for the entire two hours of her party.

No other classmates or friends came.

It was just me, and I was frozen to the bone under my coat and my mittens.

All Molly had on was a striped long-sleeve t-shirt, stained jeans, and torn navy-blue sneakers. She told me she didn’t need a coat and wasn’t cold despite her chattering teeth.

There were no snacks.

There was no soda or ice cream.

There were no favors or goody bags.

There was no cake for Molly, and no singing of “Happy Birthday.”

It was dark when my father picked me up. Christmas lights twinkled from all the houses on Molly’s street except hers.

When I got home, I couldn’t stop shivering. My mother was livid when she found out I was outside for two hours in the cold and in the dark.

“What kind of people have a party outside in the freezing cold like that!” she yelled. She called Molly’s house to complain, but nobody answered the phone.

I understood a little more about why Molly’s clothes were always dirty and why she never brought a lunch to school. For the rest of the year, I was extra nice to her. She was absent a lot, but on days when she was in school, I’d share my lunch with her and reach out to her because Molly was my friend.

I wasn’t allowed to go to her house ever again to play with her, and her parents would not drive her anywhere so she never came over to my house to play, either. The following year, I didn’t see much of her because we had different teachers, and we consequently lost touch.

That party was 40 years ago.

I’ve been haunted by it ever since.

It makes me incredibly sad that nobody else came to Molly’s party.

It makes me even sadder to think about how hard life must have been for her.

Molly ended up dropping out when we were in high school, and I have no idea where she is now.

However, Molly never left my heart.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for Molly to be loved and to have enjoyed a real birthday party like she so deserved.

I really hope God answered my prayers.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Molly In My Heart” was posted on jillocone.com on January 12, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

2020: Planning for Progress

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Left Top: Planner 2. Right Top: Planner 3. Left Bottom: Planner 4. Right Bottom: Planner 1.

I absolutely love planners, stickers, and journals/notebooks. Always have and always will.

To me, writing is innate. I’m forever jotting down my wishes, hopes, and dreams, and things I see and thoughts I have and tasks I need to complete.

This is especially true for tasks I have to complete because, at times, I can become easily distracted. If I don’t write it down, there it goes, flying away just like that pretty little butterfly flying past me…wow, look at the bright colors in her wings! Lemon yellow and black with a hint of bright sky blue towards the bottom of her wings. I think it’s an eastern black swallowtail. Where is she going? How old is she? I wish I could flutter along in the air like she does….

Get the idea?

I have to write things down or I’m left with a vapid mind and a “What was I doing again? What do I have to do today? Where am I?” type of confusion.

I definitely remember better when I write something down. For instance, “Glasses on Route 70” is written on my list of “one-liners” from 2019. I read it today and can immediately picture that late spring morning drive into work when I was stopped at a red traffic signal with the day’s sunrise shining in my side-view mirror. Through the sun’s rays streaming off the mirror, I noticed to my left a pair of mangled eye glasses next to the innermost concrete barrier in the highway’s median. I immediately wondered whose they were and how they got there…what a story starter! That’s what my list of”one-liners” is, a list of random things I’ve seen that could start a story. I can take you right now to the exact spot where I saw those eye glasses simply because I wrote down “Glasses on Route 70.”

Last summer, I unearthed my treasure trove of planners and journals of old in my attic Those archaic thoughts and plans provided a portal to my past lives. I’ll be honest that revisiting those calendars and writings reopened some old wounds with a bout of  the “coulda shoulda wouldas,” but isn’t hindsight 2020 (pun intended)? I’m extremely grateful that the only remaining visions from those crazy nights and past disheartening anguish-filled moments exist in pen and paper only and are available only to me, rather than by digital posts on social media that could be viewed and shamed by anyone in the world.

The advent of 2020 has led me to admit I have become a full-fledged planner addict. I have four active planners for the year, each serving a different purpose. I look forward in anticipation to the two hours every Sunday I set aside to plan for my week ahead by prepping my planners, replete with stickers, and stickers, and even more stickers!

Planner 1 is an Erin Condren Life Planner with daily hourly format which contains my agenda/schedule/task/”to do” list. This is the one I carry with me everywhere I go. I’ll list my work schedule and daily focus, then appointments and meetings I might have along with items I need to complete in a checklist format (pay bills, take attendance, mow the lawn, etc.). I’ll also slap a blank post-it on the page to jot things down that I want to remember (like the Glasses on Route 70).  This year, I am purposely scheduling time blocks during each day/week for progress towards my monthly and yearly goals. For instance, I have a two-hour block each day for “writing and research,” and on Sundays when I’m prepping, I indicate what project I will focus on during each day’s writing block. I will fill most of January’s daily writing blocks with work towards my magazine assignments, but I’ll mix it up with “New Novel Work” or “Surf Book Research” on off-days. I’ll also schedule time to walk, meditate, query, read, beach sessions, household tasks, and laugh. Once I have scheduled my week in my planner, I’ll set up schedule alerts in my phone as another way to keep me accountable and on task. Dedicating time for my goals, my responsibilities, and my writing has helped me to stay focused without becoming distracted by the temptation of social media or butterfly fly-bys.

Planner 2 is my daily diary from The Happy Planner (8.5 by 11 format, vertical daily layout, health and wellness theme), which is where I compose a diary-type entry each night. Most of the time I write things I want to remember or highlights of my day in incomplete sentences, like my niece’s laughter or the color of the sunset. If I’m too tired at night to write, I make sure I do it first thing the next morning. I also keep a running list of places I went, places I ate, and one-liners I recopy from Planner 1 in my daily diary. Sometimes I’ll tape in pictures I took or things I picked up throughout my day.

Planner 3 is new this year, a 7 by 9″ planner from The Happy Planner (classic format, horizontal format for each day, beautiful Coastal Good Vibes theme). Inside its pages, I mapped out my daily/monthly/yearly goals for 2020 with its purpose to keep me more accountable for making progress towards what I hope to accomplish this year. Each goal is color coded, and I use the daily day blocks to log what I accomplished each day. I also complete a “skeleton schedule” for the upcoming week which I transfer into Planner 1’s schedule after I see my open time slots for each day. This planner has helped me to focus on all of my goals (the “big picture”) while breaking each down in manageable chunks of progress for the week. Both Planner 1 and Planner 2 have a monthly goals section, and Planner 3 helps me to refine what I declare on those pages as my monthly goals.

Planner 4 is the Irish Get Up & Go Diary 2020. I stumbled upon this beautiful little diary on my 2016 Dublin trip in Eason (my favorite store ever) and I’ve bought it online every year since. With colorful spreads and the right amount of encouraging quotes and motivating sentiments, I use it for my daily gratitude reflections as the space available for each day is the perfect size.

Stickers and planners go hand in hand, and I just love sprucing up my week with color and positivity. I have a large sticker tote, and I’m not exaggerating when I say there must be over a million stickers in that tote. I’m a huge fan of The Happy Planner’s sticker assortments and selections because they offer more variety and a better quality product for the price versus competitors. On Sundays, when I’m planning for the week ahead, I am surrounded by stickers that will help motivate, inspire, and add a little bit of seasonal charm and colorful fun to my days.

In addition to Planner 1, I also carry a plain journal/notebook with me wherever I go to free-write, plot out ideas, and dump my brain. I use this notebook for daily “morning pages” in Julia Cameron style, but I usually write only a page or so. When I complete my daily diary entry into Planner 2 each night, I also review my notebook to see what I need to transfer to my planners (i.e. list of things I have to buy, ideas for a character in my next novel, etc). Planners 2, 3, and 4 stay at home unless I am traveling, then all of them will be in my carry-on.

To some, it might seem like all of this is a waste of time.

I beg to differ.

My system helps immensely with NOT wasting time by keeping me on task while keeping the distractions at bay.

Besides being easily distracted, sometimes my Lupus will cause what’s known as “brain fog.” There’s nothing worse for a writer than sitting at a keyboard or with a pen/paper and having NO thoughts coming, especially when there’s a deadline looming, then in frustration, wasting time scrolling on social media. Even in a fog, or when a beautiful butterfly flies past me, my planners help me focus on the big picture and redirect me to making headway, no matter how small, towards one of my goals.

Planning is progress, and for me, time well spent as 2020 is the year I will become the person and the writer I’m meant to be.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“2020: Planning for Progress” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on January 5, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

 

 

 

New Year’s Morning

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“New Year’s Morn. “Taken January 1, 2020 at sunrise in Melbourne Beach, Florida with my iPhone (no filters). Copyright Jill Ocone, 2020.

It’s quiet and calm

At the beach before dawn

As the sun peeks its head

Over the horizon.

Slowly yet deliberately,

It casts joy and hope

Masked in its first light

On a new day,

A new month,

A new year,

A new decade,

A new me.

Its grows and ascends

As it magnificently

Ignites every cloud in the sky

And shell on the sand

With its splendor of colors

And radiant light.

As it says,

Good morning, world.

Here’s a brand new day,

Another fresh start

Created just for you…

and if this one doesn’t work out,

I’ll be back around

Same time tomorrow,

With another new day,

Another fresh start,

Teeming with a new batch of

Joy, hope, and faith,

Waiting just for you.

 

Happy new day. Happy new month. Happy new year. Happy new decade.

And Happy New You.

 

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

 

“New Year’s Morning” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on January 1, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with licensing and publishing inquiries.

 

 

Endings Are Beginnings Are Endings And So On…

20160314-blog-photo-new-fonts-use“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Seneca, also quoted in “Closing Time” by Semisonic

Today is December 28, 2019.

It’s the end of the month, the end of the year, and (gasp), the end of the decade.

Boy is that a mouthful!

As the clock’s hands tick forward to time’s trifecta of the beginning of a new month, a new year, and (gasp), a new decade, I’m straying from the trend of making insert-appropriate-ending-here reflections and listing insert-appropriate-ending-here accomplishments that ultimately do nothing more than feed my ego.

Likewise, I’ve lived long enough to realize that resolutions are nothing more than lip service, so I’m not going to waste my time setting myself up for future disappointment by making empty resolutions just because that’s what society expects of me.

Instead, I’m approaching 2020 with practicality, honesty, and authenticity as it will be a year of enlightening discovery.

My word for 2020 is “becoming” and it’s just deliciously exhilarating knowing I am evolving into both the person and the writer I’m meant to be. As I approach 50, I am still getting to know myself as I continue to learn and grow.

As such, I have selected five projects to complete in 2020 which will help me become just that person and that writer, and each project will serve my fellow humans in some way, shape, or form. More details about each project are forthcoming and I sure am glad you’ll be accompanying me on my journey.

My intention for 2020 is to live every day better than its yesterday, no matter where I might be or what is on my planner for the day while honoring my core values of kindness, generosity, and compassion. I will help when I can and endure when I must.

“Becoming” is certainly fluid and I am eager to chart my course and explore the compass of me.

May the new month, the new year, and the new decade lead you to YOU with an abundance of health, happiness, and joy.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Endings Are Beginnings Are Endings And So On…” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on December 28, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2019, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with licensing and publishing inquiries.

A New Hope, Indeed

opening_crawlI’m in full preparation mode for Thursday, which includes purchasing as much Kleenex stock as possible and buying tissues by the boxful.

That evening will culminate 42 out of my 48 years here on earth, and I’m not being melodramatic in the slightest.

As a little girl in the 1970s, I wasn’t a tomboy, but I also wasn’t a “girlie girl.”

I fell in the middle, a misfit of sorts, and always sympathized with those toys relegated to the Island of Misfit Toys in the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” especially the polka-dotted elephant.

Toy options for little girls like me in the 1970s included various models of Barbie dolls including Cher and Farrah Fawcett, Shrinky Dinks, Easy Bake Oven, paper dolls, Holly Hobbie, Fashion Plates, Spirograph, and baby dolls.

While the Spirograph and Shrinky Dinks were okay, the rest?

No, thank you.

My little brother, on the other hand, always received the coolest toys for Christmas and his birthday, so I played with them instead.

I spent hours creating highways out of the plastic, orange track that my brother’s die-cast cars could take back and forth to work or use to race their nemeses. I took pleasure in building cities and creatures out of his collection of hard, plastic interlocking blocks in all shades of primary colors. I could pretend and use my imagination to create stories that didn’t have females conforming to the societal stereotypes of the era when I played with toys marketed to boys.

Especially in 1977.

That’s the year when my beloved uncle and grandfather took my brother and I to the movies to see some two-hour-long space-type flick that was all the rage.

I was six years old, and I remember it.

My brother was two, and he remembers it.

The characters and vehicles and lands from this so-called “space opera” were top-billed requests on letters addressed to Santa from all over the country that year, and believe you me, I raided my brother’s treasure trove of vehicles and figures from said “space opera” every chance I got.

That blockbuster movie, known today as Star Wars: A New Hope, has coursed through my veins for 42+ years and positively impacted my life in several ways.

At first glance, many are surprised that this blonde-haired, blue-eyed beach-loving writer and educator has had Jedi dreams and a desire to join the rebel alliance surging through her blood since childhood. I am not ashamed about my love of Star Wars, which began the minute I first heard the London Symphony Orchestra blare the main title while I read the quintessential opening crawler announcing that it was a period of civil war and that “rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.”

Star Wars was deliciously different and provided me with a new way of seeing things. It was the first time I was exposed to a strong woman who wasn’t being molded into a future wife or mother. Leia was a princess, that’s true, but she had a purpose much greater than her title. She wasn’t searching for a prince or seeking admiration. Instead, she was fighting for a cause she believed in with fierce determination and ultimate fearlessness.

Leia was my inspiration, and I adored her.

I still do, now more than ever.

Star Wars offered me new hope at an age when I so needed it.

And it wasn’t just Leia.

I loved all of the characters and their idiosyncrasies. This most interesting band of misfits and their missions transported me to exciting worlds as they defended their cause with 100% effort and dedication for what they believed was the greater good.

And Boba Fett is the baddest-ass misfit mercenary ever to travel to the Outer Rim and beyond. He’s got swagger and an aura of cunning dauntlessness, and is the coolest cat I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

Star Wars lands like Tatooine, Hoth, Bespin, Endor, and Yavin 4 were so different from the other lands of suburbanite make-believe I was exposed to as a child. Who would have ever thought that now, thanks to the magic of Disney Imagineers, I can actually board and ride the Millennium Falcon and walk through lands inspired by those in the Star Wars franchise two- score-and-two-years after seeing them on the big screen for the first time? Shameless plug here for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which is out of this world, pun intended, and Shangri-La for the millions of people like me who have Star Wars in their bloodline.

Three trilogies with nine movies and two spinoffs spanning 40+ years in both space time and reality… I’ve loved every single one of them.

Let me loudly repeat that for the fanboys in the back: I unconditionally loved every single movie.

Now, the saga featuring the story of the Skywalker lineage is ending with the ninth installment, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which premiers on Thursday night.

Sure, there will be new Star Wars series and films in the future, especially on Disney+, but THIS saga, the Skywalker three-three-three trilogies, has reached its end.

This saga’s threads spans generations and have run deep through my life tapestry inspiring me, exciting me, and providing me with a sense of acceptance and a love of story I might never have found otherwise.

More importantly, this saga has provided me with hope, time and time again, and I’m eternally grateful for its lessons.

Carrie Fisher taught me to follow my heart and age authentically, that it’s okay to be broken, and honest writing can be therapeutic. George Lucas taught me to write what my soul tells me to write in spite of the naysayers. Princess Leia taught me to be a strong and independent woman while fighting for what’s right, and also that I never have to conform to society’s norms. Han Solo taught me that scoundrels aren’t all that bad. Luke Skywalker taught me to believe in what I cannot see. Chewbacca taught me the value of friendship. C3PO taught me the importance of wisdom. Anakin Skywalker taught me the perils of giving into darkness. Darth Vader taught me that family ultimately comes first. Padme Amidala taught me to serve when I can. Lando Calrissian taught me to let bygones be bygones. The Emperor taught me the importance of balancing the dark with the light. R2D2 and BB8 taught me to keep rolling when things get difficult. Kylo Ren taught me to focus on the lesson instead of the outcome. Finn taught me that anyone can be a hero. Poe Dameron taught me the importance of teamwork but to recognize when it’s time to work alone. Rey taught me to seek my destiny and to believe in my journey, no matter where it takes me. Obi-Wan Kenobi taught me to trust the Force because it will always guide me in the right direction.

Boba Fett taught me that there’s nothing cooler than being a bad-ass misfit, and to answer requests made of me with, “As you wish.”

Finally, Yoda taught me to do instead of try, and that there’s a time for everything to end.

And, so it is.

If you see me on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s opening night bawling like a baby, it most definitely isn’t only because of what happens in the storyline, not that I know anything that’s going to happen, mind you.

Those heartfelt tears will be flowing because the curtains will have closed on a very special part of my life as the double suns set for the final time while the credits scroll among the stars.

Cue the John Edwards fanfare.

The force will be with you.

Always.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“A New Hope, Indeed” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on December 14, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2019, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with licensing and publishing inquiries.

The Message

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No, I’m not talking about the marvelous old school, classic rap song by Grandmaster Flash.

I’m talking about another message which recently revealed itself in a very mysterious manner.

My story takes place at the local food market, where I violated societal convention by going there the afternoon before Thanksgiving.

I know, I know, it’s utterly insane of me to think of doing such a thing, but we desperately needed potatoes for our family’s Thanksgiving feast.

I’m the kind of person who is easily distracted by shiny things, which is a blessing because this quality has made me more aware and appreciative of the details I might otherwise overlook.

However, I threw my awareness to the wayside on this particular trip as I seized control of a wagon and prepared to do battle in the produce section. I assumed my visit would be a quick in-and-out, absent of anything out of the ordinary, then I’d be finished with public interactions for the day.

But sometimes, the universe has other plans.

I sped past the outdoor displays of table-top trees and cinnamon-scented cornucopias when something shiny and blue caught my eye right before the market’s automatic door sensed my presence with its force-like capabilities.

I moved out of the traffic flow so the other day-before-Thanksgiving-food-market-thrill-seekers wouldn’t trample me, then I backtracked to the metallic blue beacon.

It was a little, painted rock with a beautifully scripted message in gold sitting all by itself on top of a garbage can. It read, “You have the power to change things. – God.”

Woah.

Every hair on my arms and legs stood at attention as I re-read the small rock’s massive message.

I thought about putting it in my pocket, but my inner voice guided me to leave it be.

I snapped a picture of the rock and went about my business, my preparations for a produce-aisle skirmish unnecessary as there were plenty of potatoes available.

When I left the store, the rock was still there on top of the same garbage can but in a different spot.

Someone else had picked it up and moved it. Maybe this person also considered keeping it, but in the end, he or she thought it better to leave the message for others as I did.

The rock hasn’t left my mind.

Obviously, a human made the rock, but the universe placed that message for some reason along my path on the day before Thanksgiving, which coincidentally would have been my father’s 78th birthday.

The universe works like that. 

A message from God adorned in gold on a lovely metallic-blue rock placed on top of a garbage receptacle, of all places, on my Dad’s birthday.

What does it mean?

I have faith the answer, or answers, will come in time.

Until then, I’m grateful I slowed down to see and receive the message.

Please join me in slowing down, especially during this time of year, to truly experience the season’s wonder and majesty and to appreciate the details and the messages along our path that might go unnoticed.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“The Message” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on November 30, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author who was not compensated in any way by any entity. All rights reserved.

As One Chapter Ends, Another Begins…

It’s been a pretty busy week over here, a week filled with a range of emotions consistent with the human experience. The arrival of the autumn of summer has quite a different feeling this year, and that’s GOOD! It’s brimming with hope and promise as more than one chapter has simultaneously ended and started over the past seven days…

Of course, summer’s end is eminent as the calendar pages forward to September and Labor Day weekend. For fellow educators, parents, and children alike, our carefree summer days will soon transition to schedules and classes with pumpkin spice everything replacing lemonade-this and watermelon-that.

I’ve been squeezing every bit of life out of each summer day with special “Auntie Jill” niece and nephew days and having fun at local events such as the Wings of Freedom Tour (6 years strong now for my brother and I!). I’m savoring every minute I can spend with my husband before I return to reality.

But this year, I’m not dreading the return to the grind. Instead, I’m excited and ready to begin a new school year (my 19th year teaching). I hope to inspire my students and my colleagues by doing the best job I can without complaint and negativity. I’m looking forward to see how September’s white pages turn into June’s masterpieces by becoming filled with masterpieces created by my students in the Journalism program.

img_8029On a much larger scale, an 80-year-old chapter ended this week as our home, built in 1949, came crashing down in glorious demolition. Formerly known as “Pop Tittle’s House,” our garage apartment served us well for the twenty years we lived under its roof. We decided late last year build a new home with more living space and fewer stairs at our current location because it has a lot of history and we love our neighborhood. Other residents of “Pop Tittle’s House” (the first owner…now read that right, it’s “le” not “ie”!) included my parents when they first got married, my Uncle, and my mother’s parents, who rented the house from my father’s parents. It was cool to have both sets of grandparents living next door to each other for much of my childhood until they all passed away in the late 1990s, which is when I purchased the home. I freely admit that I shed a few tears as I watched the first drag of the excavator’s claw down the house’s front (my nephews called it “the ultimate claw game”). The tears are proof that the house was, indeed, a home.

Now the home is in pieces at the county dump and the lot is waiting patiently to support a brand-new forever home which should hopefully be completed around this time next year. It’s exciting to think about what it will be like to sit on a porch, and a deck, and be able to do laundry on one floor, and have enough room to actually have a birthday dinner in our very own home! In the meantime, we are staying at my dear Uncle’s home as we finalize his estate and carry out his final wishes. And for those who received the local Nixle message about wires down, our demo guys didn’t do it! Honest!

 

Another chapter that is now beginning anew is my novel, aptly titled Chapter One-A Novel. I’ve finished recrafting and will send to beta-readers and begin querying in early September after I finish my article and editorial assignments for the Fall/Holiday 2019 issue of Jersey Shore Magazine. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to interview some very interesting and inspirational people for the issue, and I’m busy as ever making sure that four guides I am responsible for are accurate. Once my work is complete, and once I’ve made it through the first-week-of-school-hysteria, I’ll be casting Chapter One-A Novel out on a line, and I hope that an agent or a publisher bites!

One of my favorite moments from the past week was celebrating with my high school classmates at our thirtieth reunion, which I helped organize. I absolutely loved seeing everyone, and I think my classmates feel the same.  At least I hope they do. It was a pleasure to organize the night and simply wonderful to laugh along with my friends and classmates, some whom I haven’t seen since we graduated thirty years ago…time is truly the biggest thief of all.

A final moment of reflection as I think about change and chapters ending…we never know when our final chapter will end. Join me in making your remaining chapters filled with laughter and fun and meaningful memories. Not all endings are bad, and not all beginnings are good…and vice versa. What matters is persevering no matter what and being able to smile in the face of adversity. We’re all in this together, and I’ll always have your back, my friend!

If you’re local and looking for something to do this weekend, I’m doing my first-ever reading at Neptune Library, where I’ll join other contributors to the 2019 American Writer’s Review in reading our works aloud from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Saturday. I’d love to see you there!

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

With gratitude,

Jill

Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone“As One Chapter Ends, Another Begins” was cross-posted on both jillocone.com and SoulSEAker.com on August 29, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author who was not compensated in any way by any entity. All rights reserved.

My Whirlwind Week Of Triple Bs…

I am coming down from one of the most action-packed and fun-filled weeks I’ve ever experienced. I set personal records for daily steps and saw new places close and far while taking in each and every moment in its entirety.

img_6503The first leg of My Whirlwind Week of Triple Bs brought me to Baltimore for three days/two nights with treasured friends. Despite living a little over three hours away, I had never been to Baltimore before. Major fail on my part, because Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was lovely and filled with history. We toured the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, built in 1855 and moved to the Harbor as a museum exhibit in 1988. We spent hours strolling the Harbor, and wouldn’t you know it, we encountered my very good friend James Joyce at the James Joyce Irish Pub and Restaurant! He always finds a way to show up, most often when I least expect it, to validate that I’m on the right path.

I didn’t know whether or not to believe the exhibits and displays at the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium (another place I had never been before…I’m surprised my dad never took us to a Ripley’s, because it was right up his alley!). I laughed when I picked up the ringing pay phone in the ladies room and learned bathroom trivia: Did you know the first bathroom stall is usually the cleanest because it’s rarely used?

img_6618I have a new appreciation for “The Star Spangled Banner” after visiting the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. Forgive me for my ignorance of Baltimore’s role in The War of 1812, but hearing how Francis Scott Key penned the anthem after the United States won the Battle of Baltimore moved me. Should you be in the Baltimore area, I highly suggest a visit to Fort McHenry to experience firsthand the importance of the battle and the flag.

No trip to Baltimore would be complete without a visit to Camden Yards, and we got toimg_6674 see the Yankees win their first of three games in the best seats I’ve ever had for a professional baseball game. Camden Yards is an absolutely beautiful ballpark, and if I wasn’t a Yankees fan, I’d have no problem cheering for the Orioles. We ironically ran into two other people from the Home of the Hawks at Birdland and enjoyed some of the best barbeque I’ve ever had at Boog’s.

On the way home we stopped at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. I learned a lot about Ruth the legend and Ruth the person, and my visit made me appreciate his story even more, especially as a Yankees fan. Ruth was a regular person like you and I who had an extraordinary talent for hitting a ball with a wooden bat, but it wasn’t just his talent that made him a legend. He was a pretty neat guy who never forgot where he came from with his off-field exploits overshadowing his charitable work at times, and that’s what makes a legend.

The second leg of my 3B Whirlwind Week? Seeing Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band at PNC Bank Arts Center with my husband. I had won two tickets from a local radio station when I was “called ten” back in February (sidenote: I’ve waited my whole life to be caller ten)! Jimmy didn’t disappoint in his long-awaited concert return to Holmdel, and it was just like I was 20 years old again as I danced along with other Parrottheads to his classics, my favorites being “One Particular Harbor,” “Holiday,” and “Son of a Sailor.” Jimmy put on a great show, and I’m so glad I went.

The third B in my 3B Whirlwind Week overwhelmed my emotions more than once. If you really know me, you are aware that I am a pretty big Star Wars fan. I’m not on the level of dressing up or going to conventions (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not for me), but the Star Wars thread has run through my life since I saw the first movie in the theater at six years old. It’s always been there, and I know that when I see Episode 9 in December, I’m going to be an emotional mess, but that story will be written later.

Anyway, when I received a text from a former student (now friend) who works at Walt Disney World in Orlando inviting me to be her guest for the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge cast member preview, I nearly died. Me? Getting a sneak preview of Batuu (the land of Galaxy’s Edge)? Yes, please! I flew down to Orlando Thursday morning and my friend picked me up. We hooked up with another friend (also a former student) and hit the Magic Kingdom first. I stood on line for the Jungle Cruise and was in awe…I’m in Disney! We next went on Space Mountain twice and Peter Pan’s Flight, then it was time to head over to Hollywood Studios for our preview.

img_7066I videotaped as I first walked into Batuu, but I had to stop. I free admit to you that my emotions got the best of me and I had to take a minute for myself. I just couldn’t believe it! I don’t want to give many spoilers away because I want you to experience that same feeling, so I’m not going to go into details about Batuu. What I can say is that, in my opinion, Disney did Batuu right, and except for a short glimpse at times of the Slinky Dog Coaster from Toy Story Land, Batuu’s visitors are completely immersed in the land. Everywhere I looked there were details and details, even in the corners and inside displays. The staff were clearly well-trained with their mannerisms and lingo (for example, you pay with CREDITS, not money). The size of Batuu surprised me because I didn’t think it would be that big. And the Millenium Falcon? PERFECT! It’s the REAL THING, inside and out! We rode the Falcon ride five img_7038times, and it is an amazing experience. Except for December’s opening of The Rise of the Rebellion ride, Batuu is open for business! We enjoyed our Blue Milk and had a blast in Oga’s Cantina. The worst part? Having to leave at 9:00 PM. You don’t have to have any Star Wars knowledge to visit Batuu, so if you have the chance but are hesitant because you aren’t a Star Wars aficionado like me, GO. You will enjoy yourself. I am still in awe about my Batuu opportunity and will be forever grateful to my friend for inviting me to accompany her.

I stayed at my friends, and on Friday, we went to Animal Kingdom to ride Avatar: Flight of Passage in Pandora. Again, no spoilers, but if you ask me, “Is it worth the three-hour wait to ride Pandora?” my answer is an emphatic: YES. It is. After you ride it, I believe you’ll agree with me. It’s not just a ride, it’s an undescribable exhilarating experience. Trust me when I say to add Avatar: Flight of Passage to your bucket list. After Avatar, it was time to head home then return to Orlando International Airport for my flight home.

For those who are into steps, here are my numbers: Baltimore Day 1: 14,172 steps/5.7 miles; Baltimore Day 2: 13,463 steps/5.4 miles; Baltimore Day 3/Buffett: 7,052 steps, 2.8 miles; Disney Day 1: 21,361 steps/8.6 miles; Disney Day 2: 8,737 steps/3.5 miles. Total steps Sun-Fri: 64,785; Total miles Sun-Fri: 26 miles (isn’t that a marathon?).

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My Whirlwind Week of Triple Bs Represented in Pins I Purchased for My Collection.

Believe me when I say my legs told me how much I walked with the radiating electricity-type pain at the end of each day. However, the pain and its hangover into this week are both worth it. My desire to live and to experience moments like these in their entirety is stronger than my pain. I said YES to life without hesitation or any reservations, and the pain validates that I am, indeed, alive.

When life presents you with similar opportunities, I hope that you say YES, too.

I’m forever grateful for the experiences, the memories, the laughs, and the company I enjoyed during my Whirlwind Week Of Triple Bs.

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

img_4287With gratitude,

Jill

 

 

Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone“My Whirlwind Week with 3Bs…” was cross-posted on both jillocone.com and SoulSEAker.com on August 14, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author who was not compensated in any way by any entity. All rights reserved.

 

 

Status Update for “Chapter One-A Novel”

cropped-triskeleA few friends have asked me lately what’s going on with the novel I’ve been working on for four years now and counting.

My answer is: A LOT!

My keyboard has been working almost three hours every day as I re-craft Chapter One-A Novel‘s entire story with my fifth major revision/overhaul, which is, by far, the most complicated revision task to date.

I had a massive existential crisis teeming with frustration when my heart realized C1 needed and deserved both a completely different point-of-view and a much stronger voice.

Melt-down?

Yes.

Crying?

Absolutely.

Walking away?

Thought about it, but not a chance.

I’ve learned through the workshops and conferences I’ve attended that revising (sometimes five to ten times) is all part of the process. With the insight, suggestions, and encouragement from fellow writers and teachers, I can finally see the light, no pun intended, as I re-craft C1 with the reader as the focus.

And as sung by the immortal James, Brown, I feel good. I know that sounds hackneyed and trite, but I do.

I’m more confident and sure about my writing and can’t wait to see where it takes me. I never would have trusted my voice had it not been for the wonderful support I received from my Yale colleagues and know that the universe sent me there to learn from not only the best but from like-minded fellow storytellers. I’m also lucky to have close friends who provide me with honest feedback and the inspiration I need to keep moving forward.

The development and re-crafting of both Kelly Lynch’s story and her strong yet funny voice has taken even me by surprise, and I’m more in love with my main character now than ever, who is NOT me, by the way.

I expect to resume querying agents and publishers with a completed manuscript in early September, and will be looking for some beta readers once I am finished. Please let me know if you are interested!

img_6414In other news, I am pleased to announce that I will join other contributors to the 2019 American Writers Review and read my published poems on August 31 in Neptune, New Jersey. It’s the first time I will take part in a public reading of my published works, so I’m pretty excited about achieving this milestone.

We’re finally settled in our temporary home and I don’t have to box or unpack anything for a while. In between writing and moving, I attended both the summer Teacher Ambassador Workshop for ProjectWriteNow and a board meeting for the Garden State Scholastic Press Association last week. I’ve enjoyed becoming acclimated to my new neighborhood and to laughing and making memories with my nieces and nephews. I’ve got some side project going on too, including creating an updated writing portfolio with all of my published newspaper and magazine pieces from the mid-1990s which surfaced in the attic purge from my soon-to-be demolished former abode.

I intend to enjoy each August day, especially next week when I am traveling to Baltimore with a treasured friend, seeing Jimmy Buffett with tickets I won (I waited 48 years to be “Caller 10!”), and a super-secret, surreptitious 36-hour trip to the south…more to come about that soon!

I wish you an awesome August and a splendid rest of the summer. Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

Copyright 2019 – Jill OconeThis entry was cross-posted on both jillocone.com and SoulSEAker.com on August 1, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author who was not compensated in any way by any entity. All rights reserved.

The Treasures of Kid-hood

My husband and I are moving, and we’ve got two more days until we have to be out of our house. It’s hot, he’s sick, and my muscles are screaming as they sporadically stiffen and cramp up.

Those who have moved know just how much the process of boxing up your life SUCKS, and when you’ve got an attic like mine, it SUCKS times INFINITY.

My attic has been a catch-all for an almost half-century of life that wouldn’t fit within four ten-by-ten rooms over the last 20+ years. In fact, every classroom I’ve ever taught in has been bigger than the living space of my house, which is one of the many reasons a backhoe will work overtime later this summer to demolish the house as we begin a new chapter.

But, the attic…

Or should I say, the Post-Apocalypse of 2019….

What a nightmare.

I like to save things. I like little toys. I like scrapbooks. And I like to write.

As such, I knew there were four or five boxes and my old footlocker full of such relics I had to rescue from the attic’s abyss. I also knew those boxes and footlocker were buried deep from throwing things up there that we just didn’t have room for with such a small living space, or things we wanted to hold on to “just in case.” Year after year, I intended to attack the attack during my summer off, but the attic was so far gone and the task was too daunting because I didn’t know where to start.

So I didn’t start at all.

Smart move on my part.

Since the spring, I’ve made small progress with packing here and there, but with the timer ticking double-time towards the “have to be out” day, I now had no choice but to fire up the fan and ascend the stairs into hot, steamy hell to do battle.

Ascending into hell…shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Anyway, yesterday was the second full day of my onslaught as I fought my way through boxes of outdated kitchen tools and old college syllabi and bags of clothes labeled as “too small but I might fit in them again someday.” Who was I kidding, holding onto that pipe dream?

Anyway, I dug deep into the mountain formed by life, and a few hours later…pay dirt!

My memory boxes and footlocker.

I precariously carried each one down the rickety, pull-down stairs while a steady stream of sweat dripped from my forehead like a faucet.

I intended to put everything right into the “this goes to the storage unit” pile and continue my assault on hell upstairs.

However, if I was a cat, I’d be dead right now from curiosity.

The packing tape from one of the late 1980s Tops paper boxes had lost its stick, probably eons ago, and the corner of the box was open just enough for me to glimpse a small part of a red tote bag with a rainbow on it.

I remembered that rainbow bag. I got it in 4th grade from the local Hallmark store. And I also knew what was inside it.

img_5980I slowly opened the cardboard flaps, removed the rainbow bag, and took out five binders of stickers.

And I mean STICKERS!!!!

Hundreds of scratch-and-sniff that collectively lost their scents, Pac-Man stickers that lost their stick and flew out all over the place, prism and puffy stickers, Garbage Pail, Shirt Tales, and Lisa Frank stickers … you name it, even issues of the failed magazine aptly called Stickers.

My heart’s desire to see more overpowered my mind’s common sense to obey the ticking clock. I img_5981removed the scrapbook under the rainbow bag and slowly opened its now-cracked and partially disintegrated cover. Inside was my kid-dom: letters from pen-pals and cousins written during the late 1970s, invitations to classmates’ birthday parties (which I took pictures of and shared with them on social media), an old newspaper clipping of neighborhood friends playing with a hose on a warm, summer day in 1980, boarding passes from an Eastern Airlines flight to Tampa with two unused child Key tickets from Walt Disney World.

[Sidebar: It’s fitting that I’m listening to the Sirius-XM Yacht Rock channel as I write this, “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan just segued to “Cool Change” by Little River Band.]

I carefully turned the aged page to reveal a momentous page from my life, pun intended: the concert tickets and program to my first concert EVER.

Hold on to your hat, friend…

The Date: August 18, 1979

The Venue: Garden State Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ (now known as PNC Bank Arts Center)

The Artist: SHAUN CASSIDY

img_5944This was a time when CHiPs and The Love Boat were my favorite television shows and stars like Shaun Cassidy, Scott Baio, and Leif Garrett graced the covers of Tiger Beat magazine.

And I loved Shaun Cassidy, I think because he used my name in his remake of “Da Doo Ron Ron” instead of Bill.

Before the concert, my mother took me out to dinner at the Old Mill Inn, my choice. After seeing an advertisement for the restaurant in the local newspaper (yes, I read the newspaper just about every day once I could read), my 8-year-old self thought the Old Mill Inn the perfect place for dinner before a swanky, grown-up concert.  At the concert itself, I listened to each song and politely clapped my hands after each one while sitting in my seat. Screaming teenage girls surrounded me, and my mom told me I could stand and scream too if I wanted.

I didn’t want to. Instead, I sat and applauded because the idea of standing and screaming made me uncomfortable.

Why?

I don’t know, but I probably would do the same thing today. I’m accepting input from armchair therapists on that one, so feel free to send along your diagnosis.

img_5983I took a quick look through the remaining boxes and my footlocker. My husband peeked in and laughed at the little toys, the stickers, the momentos, the ticket stubs and programs, the pictures, and the notebooks because these are things I still find joy in keeping, just like I did so long ago.

Nope, I haven’t changed that much at all.

With time NOT on my side, our looming “out date” forced me to abandon sorting the treasure trove of my kid-dom, my teenage-dom, my college-dom, and then some. The retro New Order, WHTG 106.3 FM, and local surf shop stickers slapped on my footlocker in the summer of 1989 alone are worth more than gold, and I can’t wait to see what else I find from the roadmap that made me who I am today.

What’s a trinket from your past you hold dear? I’d love to know in the comments.

Forgive me, but I must answer the loudly roaring battle call from the attic for round three, and time is a-ticking…

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

With gratitude,

Jill

Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone. This was posted on July 12, 2019. Views and opinions contained in this post are solely those of the author, who was not compensated in any way by any entity. All rights reserved.