A Quarter-of-a-Century Ago, in a Society Far, Far Away…

5864ea4c7d90850fc3ce29efToday marks the 25th anniversary of Forrest Gump’s release.

Let that sink in for a minute.

It’s been 25 years since we were first introduced to Forrest Gump, Mama Gump, Lieutenant Dan Taylor, Benjamin Buford Blue, Jenny Curran Gump, and little Forrest.

There was another 25th anniversary recently, on June 17 to be precise. This one involved a well-known low-speed police chase of a white Ford Bronco containing two former NFL players along various Los Angeles freeways after arrest warrants of varying degrees were issued for both occupants.

If you were alive, chances are you can remember like I can where you were as the chase unfolded on that warm, early-summer evening. I also remember seeing Forrest Gump in the movie theater on its opening weekend. I was moved to tears several times that night as I became engrossed in the story of a simple man who lived a big life and did the best with, as his mother said, what God gave him

Both Forrest Gump and that Bronco chase became two of the biggest pop-culture moments of the mid-1990s, each event in its own right creating thousands of trivia questions, but let’s put it into perspective for a minute, shall we?

Twenty-five years is a quarter-of-a-century, and since 1994…

  • We’ve witnessed the advancement of cell phones go from having to carry a miniature suitcase in order to make a call to phones that fit in the palm of your hand that can also trade stocks, order food, book a trip, hail a ride, play games, and alert you about a traffic snarl while making a call.
  • We’ve witnessed the evolution of what we watch transform from VHS to DVD to digital format, and today, we can instantaneously binge-watch anything we want on demand.
  • We’ve witnessed almost 3,000 innocent people lost, thousands upon thousands of families devastated, and two iconic towers destroyed by evil and hatred, and the coming together of a nation in response.
  • We’ve witnessed, since, the further division of a nation split by opposition and discord with no room for compromise or coexistence as opinions become more and more finite, the concept of truth replaced by whatever those who scream the loudest are screaming.
  • We’ve witnessed shaming and judgment replace compassion and empathy, disrespect replace respect, and entitlement replace accountability.
  • We’ve witnessed texting replace conversation and social media posts replace framed photographs.
  • We’ve witnessed facts explained as falsehoods and falsehoods defended as facts.
  • We’ve become more connected to strangers while simultaneously becoming more disconnected to those closest to us.

I could go on…

To circle back to this post’s point, I recall with extreme clarity both where I was standing when I was glued to the television witnessing that white Ford Bronco weave along the California interstates, and how I felt the first time I viewed that white feather floating along the breeze as Forrest sat, hopeful and content, in a Savannah square.

It doesn’t seem like 25 years have gone by since either happened, and THIS is what scares the hell out of me:

If the last 25 years went by in the blink of an eye, there’s no doubt that the 25 years that lie in front of me will, too.

25 years from right now, I will be 73 years old. Not that there’s anything wrong with turning 73…I know many people who wish they could have made it to 73, and I will be psyched if I make it to 73 and beyond.

My point is this: Time just moves so freaking fast. I’ve written about this before, I know, and my intention is not to belabor the point. However, this particular example of the 25-year anniversary theory punched me hard right in my gut and made the phenomenon of speeding time all the more real for me.

To quote my very good friend Forrest Gump, I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze. But, I, I think maybe it’s both.

Regardless if I have a destiny or if I’m floatin’ around like on a breeze, I cannot control what happens in society but I can take control of my future. There are a lot of miles to cover on the freeway that lies ahead of me and I look forward to many rest stops filled with meaningful, wonderful, and memorable moments.

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

With gratitude,

Jill

Please note that I wrote this entry on July 6, 2019 but didn’t post until July 7, 2019.

Still SEAking, and Still Reflecting

Dear Friend,

In the months since I’ve been “retired” from posting at my personal blog titled SoulSEAker, my heart has felt its loss. It’s true that I found my voice and my purpose, which was the mission of SoulSEAker, but what I didn’t expect is the hole its absence would leave in my soul. I miss posting about life and what-not, although to quote Samantha Baker from Sixteen Candles, “Life is not what-not, and it’s none of your business.”

I have come out of retirement and will resume posting on SoulSEAker with (hopeful) regularity like I used to back when I established it, and I plan to cross-post here as well. Writing is therapeutic and nourishing for me, and I assume there are others who might feel the same as I do. Perhaps my words will nourish them. Perhaps my voice will provide them with some much-needed hope and therapy.

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I include a picture from my 2016 trip to Dublin to accompany today’s post. Demolition on the former Tara Towers Hotel was completed last month. The Tara Towers Hotel played a huge role in my mission from the universe which led me to find myself. Its demolition coincides with both completely re-crafting draft seven of my novel titled Chapter One – A Novel, and with re-launching SoulSEAKER. Just as the owners of the former Tara Towers Hotel set their sights on building a brand-new, state-of-the-art and architecturally savvy hotel on the site, I am focused on re-crafting both my novel and SoulSEAKER to make each as appealing to my readers as possible.

Tara Towers serves as a visual reminder that it’s okay to tear it down and rebuild because its lessons and its influence will always be a part of my foundation. I’m grateful for the role Tara Towers had in my journey, for I would not be who I am today without it. Might sound silly to be grateful for a building, but to me, it’s so much more than that. And because I can see it as more than a dated hotel that needed a facelift, that’s what makes me unabashedly me.

I’m glad to be back at SoulSEAKER, and I’m glad you are with me for the ride. Thanks, friend.

With gratitude,

Jill

Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone. This post originally appeared on both the SoulSEAker blog (www.soulseaker.com) and the personal blog of Jill Ocone (www.jillocone.com) on July 3, 2019. Views and opinions contained in this post are solely those of the author, who was not compensated in any way by any entity, including Maldron Hotels. All rights reserved.

Published in 2019 American Writers Review!

img_5527I am pleased to share that three of my poems appear in the 2019 American Writers Review, a multi-genre literary journal published by San Fedele Press and now available on Amazon in both book and Kindle format. 

The titles of my published poems are “The Sidewinder,” “Futility,” and “Cycle.”

It’s an honor for my poems to appear alongside the work of so many other wonderful writers from around the world.

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Digesting the Goodness

521c8921-b020-4a92-ae9c-89830ae4d8c2I sit here enjoying the silence, exhausted yet satisfied, after spending four intense days at the Yale Writers’ Workshop at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Had to insert a nod to one of my favorite songs from my own college experience, which did not end on a good note.

This experience, however, DID, on so many levels.

It’s true that everyone has their own shit going on, and most of us are orchestrated every day by a ridiculously rigid schedule, including me. My schedule from April leading up to the workshop was so slammed full, I couldn’t even fit a thin pencil line between events and responsibilities. Other writing events and conferences, editorial assignments, school-related tasks including yearbook distribution and end-of-year procedures, writing, family obligations, homework for my Yale workshop, and a never-ending list of chores related to moving and taking care of my uncle’s estate has stretched me thinner than a rubber band pulled back to its maximum length right before it breaks. I’m mystified that even though I came close to snapping a few times, I’m still in one piece like that rubber band.

As is true with my fellow sufferers of imposter syndrome, I did not think my writing was of the “Yale Writers’ Workshop” caliber. However, I literally had this quote appear in my social media feed right above an ad for the Yale Writers’ Workshop:

 

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson

With Hanson’s words resonating in my mind, I took a chance and applied despite my feelings of inferiority, believing I’d fail.

However, I realized it was time for me to fly as I wept tears of joy when I read my acceptance email on April 2.

I then cried for a different reason as I faced the truth I’d have to venture out of my comfort zone by driving on roads that frightened me to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

I promised myself that when it was time to go to Yale, I’d focus solely on the workshop and put all other distractions out of the way, including my feeds, my calendar, and whatever was scribbled on my to-do lists, both real and perpetual.

And I did just that, minus a few Instagram posts…hell, when I see a USPS mailbox decorated like R2D2, I must share!

59c71cb2-50ce-4535-a10f-7f59866ab7fcI’m humbled to have sat in the presence of twelve other phenomenal writers in my workshop titled “The First Ten Pages,” including my teacher, “Marlena” author Julie Buntin. Everyone was kind, enthusiastic, and inspiring as we spent four intense days workshopping the first ten pages of each other’s manuscripts, as well as hearing from speakers Steve Almond, Betsy Lerner, and Chaya Bhuvaneswar. I gained new friends, new insight, and new ideas to re-craft Chapter One-A Novel to make it the best it can be for the reader. I see it, and my intuition knows it is right. My vision will become a reality. I’m looking forward to reading the revised drafts written by my fellow attendees.

And, good news! I successfully navigated the way to and from New Haven surprisingly without any fear! I can do it!

I’m also still absorbing the wonderful advice I acquired from presentations by Neil Gaiman, Amy Tan, and Colum McCann at the third annual Rutgers Writers’ Conference held the first weekend of June.

As I finish out the school year and digest the feedback about my novel, the first steps of Chapter One-A Novel’s re-crafting will begin tomorrow.

I plan to engage more with readers on my blog and to building a better platform over the summer while working on some other side projects.

I’m finally flying…man, my spirit guide would be so proud of me.

Thanks for accompanying me on my journey!

With gratitude, 

Jill

 

Riding the Writing Wave of Inspiration

It’s been quite a writing roller coaster over the past month, replete with inspiration and learning as much as I can from some wonderful authors.

Author Tim O’Brien speaks at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center at Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ

First up: I attended a local event featuring Tim O’Brien, award-winning author of “The Things They Carried” with a dear friend. His approximately 90-minute long presentation featured anecdotes from both his days as a soldier in Vietnam and from his more recent days as a father. He read a few passages from his forthcoming book titled “Dad’s Maybe Book” which is due to be released later this year. After his presentation, Mr. O’Brien graciously stayed for autographs. A few weeks ago, while surveying my late uncle’s bookshelf, I spotted a copy of “The Things They Carried” on his bookshelf. Now, my uncle was not a reader, but he did serve in Vietnam. My eyes welled up with tears when I saw the book, and that’s the copy I brought for Mr. O’Brien to sign. When I handed him the book, he looked at my Uncle’s picture taken in Vietnam and said, “Another one. Did he come home?” I told him yes, he did, but that he recently passed away. Mr. O’Brien gave me his condolences, and I will cherish my signed copy of his work because it belonged to my hero.

My uncle’s copy, forever a keepsake and an inspiration.
March 31, 2019

One of my favorite writing events of the year is the Writing on the River retreat that’s organized by ProjectWriteNow in Red Bank. I’m a teacher ambassador for PWN and the event is not just for the teacher in me, but also the writer in me. Jennifer, Colleen, and Lisa work very hard to make the day special for all attendees, including writing exercises and time to cultivate our own creativity. It’s refreshing and renewing to talk to other educators who either teach writing or write themselves like me, and I left the retreat with new friends and new writing ideas.

Author Paul Lisicky at the William Paterson Spring Writer’s Conference.

I also attended the Spring Writers Conference at William Paterson University last weekend, which gave me the opportunity to learn from writers Paul Lisicky, Nathan Alling Long, and David Burkowski. I left with great strategies for writing that I aim to put into practice, and with a new appreciation and interest in flash fiction. Lisicky is a master at using detail and flowing his words together in a way that makes it sound almost songlike. His work will inspire me to improve my use of detail.

And now, for the big news…As the result of being guided by the universe, I applied to the 2019 Yale Writers Workshop on a whim, which will be held in June. I had to supply a writing sample as a part of my application, so I chose the first two chapters of “Chapter One-A Novel.” It should come as no surprise that I freely admit that I suffer from “imposter syndrome,” so I never in a gazillion years expected to be accepted.

It’s real!

But I was.

After reading the congratulatory email, I was stunned and overjoyed, and yes, I’ll admit that I cried.

I’m going to YALE in June for a four-day long intensive workshop, and I am simply over the moon about it. I keep thinking of that phrase that goes something along the lines of “what if I fail? But darling, what if you fly?” or something like that. I applied thinking I was going to fail by not being accepted.

But I was.

What if I, indeed, fly?

I dream of someday being in a position where I will be able to sign my books for readers and fellow writers like O’Brien, Lisicky, and Alling Long signed for me over the past month.

I used to think it was a pipe dream, but maybe, just maybe, it might come true someday.

Spring Forward, Setback

Keep on, keeping on, that’s what I’m doing tonight as I suck it up after receiving a rejection today for a creative nonfiction piece I submitted for publication consideration last month. I am extremely proud of the piece and had such a good vibe about it being accepted, but I was dead wrong. While I have received many a rejection, this particular one hit me in my gut despite its positive message and encouraging sentiments.

Surfboard with "Surf On"

Such is the life of a writer, I know, but, man…I really thought the piece was going to be accepted.

I’m not giving up, and if this piece and/or my novel titled “Chapter One-A Novel” are meant to be published, I’m confident that the universe will lead me to the right opportunity for each.

And if not, no worries…I spring forward into researching and writing about the history of wave riders here at home in New Jersey and surf on over this setback.

Surf on!

Published: Jersey Shore Magazine Spring 2019 Issue is Available!

img_3654I am pleased to share the Spring 2019 issue of Jersey Shore Magazine, in which I have three articles: Kohr’s Frozen Custard: Celebrating a Century of Cold, Creamy Goodness; Jersey Shore Profile: Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity, and Surf New Jersey.

I was amazed to learn about all of the good that both the Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity and its flagship source of funds, the ReStore, do for people living at the Jersey Shore. Jersey Shore Profile: Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity explains many programs and initiatives available for those who truly need assistance in the Jersey Shore area.

It’s not summer without a cone from Kohr’s, and this summer is noteworthy because the iconic Kohr’s Frozen Custard Seaside locations are gearing up to celebrate their 100-year anniversary. In Kohr’s Frozen Custard: Celebrating a Century of Cold, you can learn about the store history. Owner Greg Kohr is busy both at the helm of his stores and at the center of celebration planning and said that details about the celebration would soon be announced on the Kohr’s Frozen Custard: The Original Facebook Page.

I’m particularly proud of the Surf New Jersey article, which has been one of the most inspirational and energizing pieces I’ve ever written. While I love getting to know the people I interview and write about, interviewing local surf legends about the New Jersey Hall of Fame was simply blissful. I had the opportunity of visiting the New Jersey Surf Museum, which is located at Tuckerton Seaport, and man, what an awesome place! In fact, my article work has sparked an exciting mission to see what kind of books about the history of Jersey’s surf culture are out there. So far, I haven’t found any, and since the book I’m searching for doesn’t seem to exist, might I be so bold as to announce that, no matter how long it takes, I will write it. Stay tuned!

I also provided editorial content, editorial work, and several photographs found in the magazine issue.

Additionally, My work was featured on the New Jersey Education Association website today. I wrote an article titled Manchester Township High School Receives U.S. Flag Flown in Afghanistan Mission.

Finally, I’d like to share a post from fellow writer Mandi Bean, who eloquently described every obstacle I’ve faced as a writer. She’s someone I simply adore and I’m proud to be a member of her writing tribe. You can read her post by clicking here.

Should you be a practicing mathematician, I wish you Happy Pi Day!

3 Poems: Accepted!

IMG_3614[327]I love to write poetry but I freely admit it’s a challenge for me to pen a poem I deem worthy of sharing, so I usually keep my poems to myself.

I also freely admit that I’ve crossed the threshold into a “braver” phase of life, so to speak, so I’ve been stepping outside of my comfort zone in many ways. One such way is by taking some chances and submitting some of my poems here and there to literary journals and publications.

And it paid off. I’m pleased to announce that three of my poems were accepted for publication in the 2019 edition of American Writers Review published by San Fedele Press. My poems titled “The Sidewinder,” “Futility,” and “Cycle” will appear in the publication, which is due to be released mid-spring.

It’s my first acceptance of what I hope are many more.

It took a long time for me to feel at home in my body and in my life, but I’ve finally stepped into “me.”

Welcome home!

I Won The Lottery!

Winner.JPGHere’s a neat little thing that happened last week…

I bought a ticket for the mid-week Powerball drawing. The ticket cost me $2.

My ticket had the winning Powerball number for that day’s drawing. The prize: $4.

I also bought a ticket for the last Mega Millions drawing of the week. The ticket cost me $2.

My ticket had the winning Mega Ball for that day’s drawing. The prize: $2.

Total amount I paid for both tickets: $4.

Total Prize Money: $6

Total Amount Won: $2.

All of my late night prayers were answered and my wishes came true.

I, indeed, won the lottery.

It’s all a matter of perspective, folks.

I am a lottery winner!

 

48 for 48

IMG_3258.JPGToday I turn 48 years old.

How is that even possible?

I’m sitting here contemplating where the hell the last 47 years went. A few years ago, I cursed the fact that my birth year was finally mentioned on those commercials for insurance that begin “If you were born in the years…” and now I’m two years away from the big 5-0.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that turning 48 isn’t all that bad.

I’m still here, still breathing, still learning, still laughing, and still living. What’s there to be bitter about?

There’s actually a lot to be thankful for as February 12 smiles back at me from my planner. As a gift to myself, I penned the following list of 48 reasons why it’s great to turn 48. I hope you can relate to and enjoy my observations and lessons.

  1. I remember when MTV played music videos and the names of all 5 original VeeJays without looking them up: Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, JJ Jackson, Nina Blackwood, and Mark Goodman. The first music videos I ever saw were “Our House” by Madness followed by “Come Dancing” by The Kinks…my dad taped them for me using our brand-new VCR but not from MTV. Since we didn’t yet get MTV on our cable system, he taped “Friday Night Videos” which aired on NBC.
  2. I can have ice cream for dinner and run with scissors if I want to.
  3. I appreciate real, classic comedies and the good actors who played some of my favorite characters in Cheers, Barney Miller, M*A*S*H, and Seinfeld, to name a few.
  4. I was alive during the US Space Shuttle Program from its first days to its last and witnessed the last Shuttle launch ever, Atlantis in July of 2011, at Kennedy Space Center with my own eyes.
  5. I know who shot J.R.
  6. I can complete one side of a Rubik’s Cube.
  7. I was a guest at Luke and Laura’s wedding.
  8. I saw every Star Wars episode in the theater even before they had episode titles or numbers.
  9. I still get excited when the first snowflakes of the season fall from the sky.
  10. There’s nobody who can slink around better to Beastie’s “Paul Revere” than me.
  11. I know every word to “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. I learned them by stopping my cassette tape after each line and writing the words down. And for the record, I can still get jiggy with it when I want to.
  12. I can outrun Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde.
  13. I learned its okay to say “No” to anything that doesn’t bring me joy.
  14. I have treasured friends who are honest and true. My memories with them go way back to the Barry Manilow age of Copacabana and to sharing a table in Kindergarten 1976.
  15. And Speaking of 1976, I remember events that celebrated the Bicentennial of the United States, especially the fire hydrants that were painted to look like historic figures.
  16. I feel a certain sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when I am finished mowing my lawn.
  17. I love to listen to the birds, see the clouds, and feel the ocean and sand caress my feet.
  18. Much of my life is commemorated through my collection of pins, patches, stickers, and little trinkets.
  19. I don’t mind my wrinkles or my crow’s feet. Each line has its own story, and together, they form the roadmap of my journey to now. Sidebar: I really wish society and the media would stop telling me that there’s something wrong with my face and my skin and my weight and everything about the way I look. I’m okay with how I am, assclowns…sell your wares and your forced insecurities somewhere else!
  20. I remember the joy of making out my list for Santa using the newest Sears and JCPenney catalogs and crying over the polka-dotted elephant because he was too cute in my eyes to be a misfit.
  21. I have six true loves: my husband, my two nieces, and my three nephews. Oh, and maybe a seventh if you count Boba Fett.
  22. I’m never too old to play with toys or to get a Happy Meal.
  23. I believe in kindness, compassion, and doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.
  24. There was nothing better than Saturday morning cartoons, especially the Smurfs and the Laffalympics, and I loved the Battle of the Network Stars. I can still hear Mutley’s laugh and Snagglepuss say, “Exit, Stage Right!”
  25. No whammy, no whammy, big money, stop! And Higher, lower, higher, freeze!
  26. I no longer have to refer to things as my “guilty” pleasures. They are my pleasures, plain and simple.
  27. I’ve stopped apologizing for being human. If I’m sad, I’m sad. If I’m angry, I’m angry. If I’m happy, I’m happy. No apologies.
  28. One of my favorite sounds is the ice cream truck on a warm afternoon, and I might be known to flag the truck down from time to time with my money in my hand just like I did when I was little.
  29. My past does not define me. It might have helped form this person, but who I was is not who I am.
  30. I still own a rotary phone and know how to use it. And yes, it still works and was the only functioning phone for days during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. I also remember how awesome it felt to finally get my own phone number for my 14th
  31. I know exactly where I was standing the moment I found out the truth about Santa, and I mean the specific table and seat where I was sitting in my elementary school library. Talk about disillusionment!
  32. I can still picture the interior of the old Grand Union and Jamesway in town and the inside of the local roller rinks.
  33. I remember the gritty sweet taste of Harold’s Cherry Lemonade on the boardwalk and can picture the little fishing game near the Harold’s stand on the way into where the kiddie ride pavilion was…that’s where Castaway Cove golf is now. I can see that in my mind as clear as what I see right now in front of me.
  34. There’s nothing like a slice of Vesuvio’s with a can of Sioux City Sarsparilla.
  35. The smell of salt air mixed with cotton candy and grease will always be the smell of home.
  36. I’m grateful I grew up with friends to play with and a bicycle instead of social media and smart devices.
  37. Four words: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
  38. I know that no matter how bad things get or how awful a day might be, it could always be worse.
  39. I’ve never experienced another fear like that of the day when Skylab fell to Earth thinking it was going to crash right into my house.
  40. I understand the value of the present moment and truly believe that we are all, indeed, just walking each other home.
  41. Hardly anything of what I’ve worried about ever happened.
  42. Saying goodbye is hard, but not saying goodbye can be harder.
  43. I will always be excited when I go to New York City.
  44. The crack of the bat on a warm, spring day is one of the best sounds in the world.
  45. My soul is happy when I take the long way home.
  46. A piece of sea glass and a shell are the best treasures to find.
  47. I was raised on radio and still listen to it by choice.
  48. This is me. I ain’t a beauty, but hey, I’m alright.

Time sure does go by fast. Embrace the day, my friend. Embrace the day and celebrate all that makes you unabashedly you, every day.

With my love and gratitude…

Jill