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.

 

 

Nitro’s Check Mark

I took my teenage niece, nephew, and their friend to Six Flags Great Adventure yesterday (August 10, 2018). My husband and I have given Niece and Nephew season passes to Six Flags Great Adventure for Christmas every year since 2015.

What I love most about our gift is that I also get a season pass, which allows me to spend time with them at the park several times a year. Each visit is special to me because it’s our thing, and it’s a great way to help provide a break for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. If I had a nickel for how many times we laughed together or for each memory we made or silly story we told, I’d be a millionaire by now.

Nephew knows more about Six Flags rides and parks than anyone I’ve ever met. He can tell you when a ride made its park debut, who built it, who designed it, and what park received the ride it might have replaced. He understands the physics and design elements that goes into building a ride and if you ask him what park in the United States had the first looping roller coaster, he will know the answer.

When it comes to actually going on the rides, Niece is fearless and she will go on anything.  Meanwhile, Nephew and I have a similar sense of moderate adventure and we tend to stick to the middle-of-the-road rides and coasters, then when we are ready, we’ll attempt riding a more extreme one.

Our favorite ride is Skull Mountain, which is a fun, little inside coaster that operates in the dark. Two summers ago, Nephew and I set a personal record for going on Skull Mountain 22 times in a row, which took a little over two hours. We only stayed on the ride when the ride queue was empty five times; the rest of the time we got out and walked around. It probably wasn’t my best decision, in hindsight, since I flew to Dublin the following day with a splitting headache.

Our last ride conquests were Superman: Ultimate Flight and Green Lantern at the end of last summer. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Superman experience, considering riders are face down to simulate Superman’s flight. We conquered Bizarro in April of 2017. Man, that one is fast! It’s like the Batman coaster after it had three energy drinks and a shot of super-charged espresso. Batman: The Ride has always been one of my favorites, and we conquered that one together in 2015 at Six Flags Great Adventure’s Holidays in the Park.

The coasters Nephew and I haven’t found the courage to ride yet are notoriously extreme, and we weren’t sure which coaster we’d be brave enough to conquer this year.

Enter Nitro.

Nitro, from the Six Flags Great Adventure website

When Nitro opened in 2001, it was the tallest and fastest roller coaster in New Jersey (Kingda Ka stole those honors from Nitro a few years later). While Nitro does not have any inversions, it is 230 feet high at its peak (which takes almost 60 seconds to climb) and reaches speeds up to 80 miles per hour in its two minute, twenty second mile-long course.

I went on Nitro once while chaperoning a school trip in 2005, thinking it would be like either Rolling Thunder and Scream Machine, two classic, now long-gone, coasters I loved.

I was completely wrong.

Nitro nearly killed me.

Well, maybe not killed, but the experience scared me tremendously.

I ended up uncontrollably shaking and trembling when I walked off the ride, my legs like jelly and my arm muscles sore for several days later due to how much I strained them as I held onto the restraint as tight as I could.

I vowed I was forever done with the infernal contraption known as Nitro.

I shared my Nitro story with Nephew on several occasions, including yesterday when we safely sat and waited for Niece and Friend to return from Friend’s first time riding the steel beast.

Nephew is older now, and I could see the curiosity twinkling in his eye as he told me what he knew about Nitro while he watched a car roaring along its track. “It was designed by B and M,” he said, “and they have a great safety record.”

There was no doubt about it. He was ready to take the Nitro leap and I wasn’t about to let my fear hold him back.

Niece and Friend returned rather quickly since the wait time was a few minutes at best, and Friend absolutely loved the Nitro experience.

Nephew said that if Friend could do it, he could too.

All three looked at me with pleading eyes but I stubbornly shook my head. “You guys have a great time!” I said as I bid them farewell, then I walked over to where people on the ground could see Nitro’s ride cars leave the loading area. Nephew was safely seated between Niece and Friend as their car passed by, their arms flailing in enthusiastic waves.

“Bye!” they yelled in unison.

They returned 140 seconds later with Nephew wearing the widest smile I’ve ever seen on his face. He gave me a thumbs up from up on high as he jubilantly shrieked, “It was awesome!”

Dammit.

I knew what I had to do.

A minute later, they surrounded me as they jumped around in sheer excitement and joy. A chorus of “please?”s rose up.  Nephew looked me right in my eyes and said, “You can do it. I did it, and so can you.”

I remembered a story told by a colleague who was in a similar situation. Her grandson wanted her to go on a thrill ride with him, and her outlook was, “I can do anything for two minutes.”

Realizing that I could too, I sighed then nodded my head as I said, “Okay.”

A whoop emanated from all three as Niece took my hand to lead me to certain death.

“You’re lucky I love you,” I grumbled as we walked through the air gate to the seats in Row 4.

My pulse raced as I sat down between Niece and Nephew, with Friend to Nephew’s left. The yellow restraints locked and were subsequently checked by the ride attendants. It’s a good thing mine was secure because at the last second, I cried, “I don’t want to do this!” and I honestly would have ran if I could.

However, it was zero hour and flight was not an option.

After the “visual scan” and “all clear” over the loudspeaker by what I was sure was the Grim Reaper disguised as Nitro’s head supervisor, our car was set free.

Nitro, from the Six Flags Great Adventure website

I closed my eyes and leaned my head as far back into my seat as possible. With each upward click, I squeezed Niece’s hand a little tighter. She, along with Nephew and Friend, found my reaction highly amusing. I think they were all laughing, but I can’t exactly remember because I was concentrating so hard on praying for redemption.

“Here we go, Aunt Jill!” Niece shouted as we reached Nitro’s summit.

This is it.

I. Am. Going. To. Die.

Within seconds, we were traveling down the 215-feet drop at the advertised eighty miles-per-hour.  I’m pretty sure my heart rate matched the number of expletives I let fly.

“I’m going to die! My eyes are closed! My eyes are open! No, they’re not! I’m going to die!”

Towards the end of the journey to my undeniable demise, Niece yelled, “Bunny hops!!”

I opened my eyes to see the blue and yellow hilly path we were on as we smoothly rode over each bump. It was surprisingly much smoother than the Runaway Mine Train bunny hops at the end of its path, that was for sure.

“Hold on!”

The car suddenly came to a halting stop.

And I was alive.

Sure, my legs were once again like jelly as we walked off the ride, and I felt a surge of electricity pulsing through my entire body.

But it was a good energy, and I did not die.

The sleek, wicked-fast roller coaster was one of the smoothest rides I’ve ever experienced, and the sensation of weightlessness was exhilarating.

I looked at Nephew, who threw his arms around me and exclaimed, “I’m so proud of you!” Niece and friend hugged me too. “You did it, Aunt Jill!”

Somewhere along the ride route, a remote camera snaps a photograph which is then displayed for about a minute or so on the monitors at the Nitro photo kiosk near the ride’s exit. The picture of our row featured three gleeful faces with arms up in the air and one red face screaming for mercy as she gripped onto the restraint for dear life.

We didn’t buy the photograph, but I’ll be able to picture it perfectly in my mind’s eye for the rest of my life.

The unspoken question hovered in the air around us as we regrouped outside the ride.

It was answered by all four of us walking together once again through Nitro’s entrance.

Three minutes later, a photograph with four delighted smiles in our row flashed upon the photo kiosk’s screen.

2018 Roller Coaster: Nitro. Check mark achieved.

 

Nitro’s Check Mark“: Copyright 2018 – 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 August 11, 2018. Views and opinions contained in this post are solely those of the author, who was not compensated in any way by any entity, including Six Flags Great Adventure, the Six Flags corporation, or their affiliates. All rights reserved.

“Chapter One” is finished!

The idea first hit me in August of 2014 while in Dublin…it pulled my heartstrings and magnified my grief in losing a friend to the point of almost a lost obsession…

Then the universe began sprinkling clues like breadcrumbs, and once I started paying attention to them, I accumulated over ten pages of signs…

I journeyed twice more to Dublin without knowing why or what the hell I was doing there…

but now I do.

And Dublin trip number four is booked for July 2018, my celebratory victory tour, so to speak.

Over the course of the past three years, I devoted countless hours and days to crafting the story of Kelly Lynch and her friend, Shannon Moran. I ultimately surprising even myself as my initial story idea took off on its own, unique course, and held its own through fruition.

All of a sudden, I wrote the last word without even realizing it at the time that it was THE LAST WORD.

I burst into tears as I realize that the draft was technically done.

An intense round of editing followed over the course of the past few weeks, and now?

I AM DONE.

And I cried tears of joy again.

CHAPTER ONE, a novel by Jill Ocone, is finished. Complete.

How does it feel?

I truly feel like a different person now that Chapter One is finished. I feel…..well, astonished that I did it, in disbelief that I did it, in awe that I did it, and…..

It’s very hard for me to describe how I feel, other than it’s an awesomely overwhelmingly satisfied sense of accomplishment.

I set out to do something, and I accomplished my goal. I mean, I REALLY DID IT.

As I crafted a story that the universe brought to me, a story that needed to be told, I learned a lot about myself in the process. I accepted who I am, just like how my main character, Kelly Lynch, learned to accept herself.

I also know that there are many more words to be strung together and stories to tell.

Above all else, I learned that I am, indeed, a writer, just like Kelly Lynch learns in Chapter One.

Life imitating art that imitates life?

It’s pretty freaking awesome.

There’s a litany of thank-yous to come, but I must thank my spirit guides, Tara (Hey, You!) and Nick (You, Too!).

Chapter One is for you both. Thanks for guiding me along this spectacular journey.

I have begun reaching out to literary agents and publishers with confidence that the universe will lead me to the right opportunity to take Chapter One to the next level.

And if nothing ever comes of it, no worries. I fulfilled my destiny as dictated by the universe and will trust the journey, no matter the outcome.

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A Manifesto for 2018

We are once again standing on the cusp of a new year.

It’s a time every year when my failures each ring their own bell and demand my attention. “Look at me,” they each scream. “Look at me! Don’t forget the detour I created! You suck and are teeming with regret at the sight of me!”

Frigging bastards.

When looking ahead to a new calendar, I’ve tended to play the victim and blame my failures and shortcomings on my self-perceived inadequacies, half of which are undoubtedly formed by unrealistic societal expectations.

I’ve also blamed time: there’s not enough, or there’s too much.

Either way, I’m continually thrown off the path that I believed would lead me to attaining my goals, yet while I paved it with good intentions, I also paved it with excuses chock full of my own bullshit.

The cycle of getting nowhere very quickly happens every year because I allow it to.

That stops now.

There’s no resolutions for me this year.

No, sir.

Instead, my goal from today forward is to live the hell out of every minute of this extraordinary life and truly cherish the miracle that is the present moment.

Whether I am writing, swimming, driving, exploring, laughing with family and friends, teaching…whatever I am doing, I will give myself fully to that miraculous moment.

The fact that I’m sitting here all snug and warm, with a cup of hot coffee to my left and quiet music playing as snowflakes delicately dance down from the clouds to the ground…there’s so tiny miracles right here in this present moment, miracles that I always took for granted or overlooked.

What matters, I mean what truly matters, is this moment.

I am alive.

And so are you.

This is a time of rebirth, a time to take those lessons from past failures and regret, be thankful for them, and apply their wisdom while moving forward.

No more bowing down to society’s expectations or to feeding the trolls of self-deprecation. I am not inadequate and I do matter, if only to myself.

It’s time to live the hell out of this one and precious life I’ve been given, because I am not promised a tomorrow. Wasting time is no longer an option, either.

I will live with those who are alongside me in real life and for those who are alongside me in spirit.

I will be a beacon of kindness and empathy as I look to stand alongside my fellow humans with understanding and compassion.

I will be grateful for everything I experience and for everyone I interact with.

Most importantly, I will embrace and celebrate the moments extraordinary that fill my days with joy and with purpose as I pursue my passions with conviction.

Let’s do this, 2018!

With gratitude and joy,

Jill