The Gift of the Forever Moment

If you happened to catch any of last night’s Field of Dreams game coverage, where the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox played the first ever MLB game in Iowa to honor the lasting legacy of the film “Field of Dreams,” perhaps you shed a tear at some point like I did.

Credit: Getty Images/Stacy Revere; posted by Newsday.com

Hopefully, you didn’t shed a thousand or more (and counting, I might add), like me.

Last night’s game was a throwback to a time when life was simpler and the good outweighed the bad. We collectively paused to enjoy a ball game between two teams, but there was more going on than just baseball.

And just like in the movie “Field of Dreams,” more was happening than just what we saw on the field.

It was a catharsis, an awakening, an emotional roller coaster ride highlighting the power of the present moment sprinkled with nostalgia and resulting in an experience unlike that of any other game I’ve ever watched.

The awe and wonder and excitement on each player’s face as they strolled around the original field and house from the movie set and the cornfields surrounding the play field… grown men looked like children with boyish grins full of innocence and authenticity, no matter which uniform they wore or how hard life may have treated them in the past.

We escaped society’s acrimony and noise for a few hours and, instead, focused on the gift of the forever moment and the treasure of a single day, as Kevin Costner so eloquently narrated in his introduction

Our imaginations are infinite..

Sculpting a baseball diamond from a farmer’s field in Iowa.

Longing for summer as seasons are painted on its canvas.

Once this game and this land touches you, the wind never blows so hard again.

“Hey, Dad?” Want to have a catch?”

“I’d like that.”

I’m Kevin Costner, and on this field, we once made a movie about dreams … of baseball and years gone by, and much more.

A tale of love, family, character.

The treasure of a single day.

America has embraced the heroes of our youth for over a century. Those who ran on grass so green it took your breath away…touching bases as white as clouds

Tonight, we pause time. 

In the warmth of August, two major league teams gift us the forever moment; the White Sox, the Yankees.

Come to our Field of Dreams and play ball.

Baseball united us last night, no matter what team we religiously cheer for, with every at-bat and every home run hit into the cornfield.

My team should have won, as the Yankees had the lead in the top of the ninth inning, but a swing by the Sox’s Tim Anderson scripted a Hollywood-style ending: a walk-off two-run homer to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, complete with fireworks.

Despite my team’s loss, I cheered and clapped and wept tears of joy because of the moment’s incredible magnitude, a culmination of the night’s immense emotions and how baseball, yet again, brought us all together.

“And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.” – Terence Mann

It was baseball that gave us something to look forward to, a diversion from the dark days after 9-11, when the crack of Mike Piazza’s bat as he launched a home run that was heard around the nation and when Derek Jeter became “Mr. November.” Sidebar: I highly recommend watching ESPN’s “30 for 30: First Pitch,” if you have already seen it, which tells the story of President Bush throwing the first pitch at Yankee Stadium during the 2001 World Series. Politics aside, it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, one that truly captures the gamut of emotions we all felt as we tried to move on with our lives after such a horrific event.

It was baseball that provided a reprieve from lockdown last summer as MLB players were some of the first professional athletes to return to the field. Even with silly cardboard cutout fans filling some of the empty seats and piped-in fake fan noise, we looked to the return of baseball games as a step towards returning to normalcy.

It’s baseball stickers that fill my planner every autumn when the postseason, my favorite sports time of the year, begins. Even when my Yankees do not move on or outright miss the playoffs, I root-root-root for sometimes the home team and sometimes the visiting team as each player on every field pursues their childhood dream of winning the coveted world series ring. 

Back to “Field of Dreams”…

The movie’s premise about a ball field in the middle of a cornfield where ghosts convened to play America’s game is incredibly unbelievable, but that’s the beauty of the film.

Many of our dreams seem unbelievable, like Ray’s, but he did the impossible, the unconventional. He followed his dream, built the field, and they came.

Ray Kinsella made the unbelievable believable.

And 33 years after Ray built his field of dreams on the big screen, Kevin Costner led the Yankees and Sox players onto a neighboring field in front of 8,000 fans in the bleachers and millions of us at home, all because of the lasting impression of a single film with a universal theme.

How many of us can say that about our own dreams? How many of us are willing to put in the work necessary to do the unbelievable like Ray did and make our dreams a reality?

In the quintessential ending scene of the movie, Ray Kinsella and his father, John Kinsella, finally have a catch with each other, making their private personal dreams come true.

How many of us have an ongoing list of the undone things in our life? How many of us, when presented with the opportunity, will make our undone things done?

Behind Ray and John, a line of headlights stretching for miles makes its way to the field.

Ray built it, and not only did he come, but they came. How many of us actually listen to our intuition and attempt to do the impossible?

The Field of Dreams game was so much more than a game.

It was, indeed, like I was dipped in magic water.

It was a pause in time, a gift of the forever moment that amplified the power of the present moment.

It was a reminder of who I used to be, who I am, and most importantly, who I can be.

It was a reminder to love unconditionally and to always treat others with kindness and compassion.

It was a reminder to never lose that sense of wonder or awe in believing each day, each moment, is a treasure.

It was a reminder of a simple moment’s lasting magnitude, such as having a catch with someone we hold dear, or spending time with those we love doing what we love.

It was a reminder to pursue my dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem, and to believe in the dreams of others.

It was a reminder of all that once was good and could be again.

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

With gratitude,

Jill

“The Gift of the Forever Moment” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on August 13, 2021. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Floating Along …

I recently heard a song with lyrics that I don’t remember word for word, but they had to do with floating. Something like I’m floating along the waves and I’ll be back soon…

That’s been my theme this summer. 

I’m floating along the waves, and I’ll be back soon.

Floating along my summer waves has led me to much needed peace of mind, and I’ve floated along to some wonderful places and wonderful experiences with wonderful people in my life.

I floated along a whirlwind road trip dubbed “Roller Coaster Palooza” with my 16-year-old nephew and visited seven amusement parks in six days. We rode 29 different roller coasters, logged a total of 42 roller coaster rides (and several other rides, including Demon Drop at Dorney, which is just like the former Freefall ride at Six Flags Great Adventure and a ride I vowed to never try), traveled over 500 miles, and walked 31 miles. We visited Six Flags Great Adventure (our home park), Dutch Wonderland, HersheyPark, Knoebels, Dorney Park, Land of Make Believe, and Nickelodeon Universe at American Dream, which had the most intense coaster of them all, TMNT Shell Raiser. Boy, was that a doozie! We rode it three times and I recommend the back row, which was a smoother ride than sitting in the front row. My favorite coasters along the Roller Coaster Palooza Float Plan were Twister and Impulse at Knoebels, Steel Force/Talon/Hydra The Revenge at Dorney, HersheyPark’s Great Bear and Storm Runner, and Jersey Devil, of course. I actually think I’m ready to try Kingda Ka.

Maybe. 

I floated along several outings with friends, including riding the Circle Line around New York City like tourists and the least expected yet most exceptional event of the summer: seeing Guns ‘N Roses and Mammoth WVH in concert at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.

You read that right. 

Guns ‘N Freaking Roses.

And it was THE Guns N’ Roses I grew up with… Axl, Slash, Duff (DUFF!), and Dizzy alongside newer band members.

While many people criticized Axl’s voice, I thought he was real and simply wonderful. They can still rock, that’s for sure, and to see Slash jam live….man, can he play the guitar! I loved every single part of the concert, including Mammoth WVF’s opening set. Wolf Van Halen and crew performed a hell of an opener. My favorite songs of the night were Mammouth’s “Distance” and GNR’s “November Rain” and their encore of “Patience” and “Paradise City.” I might not remember what the hell I did yesterday, but I remembered every word of the songs I grew up listening to, and I screamed them loud and proud…what a satisfyingly sensational evening.

I’ve been floating along the local streets on my morning bicycle rides up to the boardwalk with the ocean on my right then down to the Inlet, where the fishing vessels and party boats sailing out to sea provide the backdrop to the morning anglers and the diving terns where I write in my journal and stand for reveille at the Coast Guard Station, if I’m there, before heading back home and logging 5ish miles of activity.

I’ve been floating in the ocean’s waves, literally, by swimming and by fishing with my husband. I am enthusiastically eager for my first surfing lesson this weekend. The ocean, she’s always called to me, and I expect to make a giant mess of myself, but I don’t care. I’ll be doing something I’ve always wanted to try.

I’ve been floating with my niece and checking off our “summer living lists,” savoring every moment we are together as she’s Nashville bound for college later this month. 

I’ve been floating with all of my nieces and nephews on our “special days” together as we laugh while creating memories.

I’ve been floating with family and treasured friends at baseball games, shopping jaunts, get-togethers, and meals together.

I’ve been floating my words and setting them free on paper and on screen. Despite most being unread by anyone except for me, they are there, collecting and forming something worthy, I hope.

Floating has cleaned out the gunk from my mind and the ghoulies from my soul, and I’ve floated back to myself. 

Before September’s hustle and bustle begins, I’ll be floating, still floating along the waves. 

I’ll be back soon. 

I promise.

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

With gratitude,

Jill

“Floating Along…” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on August 11, 2021. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

The Blessings of “Un”-Summer

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Taken 7/13/2020 in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

I’ve officially titled the summer of 2020 the “Un”-Summer as it’s been the strangest summer of all my forty-nine years.

But I don’t mind.

Summer is my season, face masks required or not. I’ve always been a summer girl, and despite the abnormalities of this particular summer, I’m reveling in its magnificence.

The sunshine and heat, the thunder and rain, the humidity with its accompanying brassiness… it’s all good in my book.

Days are longer, hair is messier, feet are bare, and the carefree feeling of summer is like no other.

Summer just brims with absolute goodness: nectarines and pluots and watermelon and berries and ice cream from the ice cream truck, pedaling around my neighborhood or up to the beach and back with the wind blowing through my hair, searching for tiny shells or sea glass along the ocean’s wash line with sand between my toes on an empty early morning beach with a friend, sipping my morning coffee outside while the birds and the crickets and the cicadas sing-sing-sing along with each other, reading and writing outside as a cool breeze caresses my face, observing the fireflies dance with each other as the sun goes to bed for the night, watching the plants blossom from seedlings into flowers and fruits and vegetables…

I still enjoy these summer blessings in light of our current circumstances.

To be honest, I think our current state of affairs has actually increased both my awareness of and appreciation for every summer moment and experience.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss the freedom of going to an amusement park without a reservation and a face mask, having lunch at some of my favorite restaurants that are currently shuttered due to a lack of outside dining availability or comfort, or strolling the boardwalk in the early morning without worrying about someone passing within six feet of me.

But the overriding arch here is that IT IS SUMMER.

I will continue living in my own little bubble of summerhood where life is good and bask in the glory of each summer moment and every summer day with appreciation for every summer blessing.

One of my accomplishments during this unprecedented “un”-summer is a complete revision/overhaul to my novel, Chapter One-A Novel, and this time, it’s the real deal. Over the past two months, I painstakingly dissected the manuscript and examined every word and sentence to improve its flow, voice, and story. That is why I’ve been absent from posting here; I focused wholeheartedly on the revision and did not want to become distracted by writing anything else. My hard work paid off, and I am wholeheartedly proud of and believe in the manuscript I produced. Chapter One-A Novel is now worthy of representation and publication. Here’s my one-sentence pitch:

Kelly Lynch, the twenty-something protagonist of Chapter One-A Novel, navigates the seas of friendship and the storms of loss as she travels from the Jersey Shore to Dublin, Ireland on a journey of self-discovery.

I know the universe will lead me to the right opportunity to put it into the hands of readers everywhere.

I hope that your “un-summer” blesses you with joyous memories filled with too many smiles to count. It will, if you make the best of it.

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

With gratitude,

Jill

“The Blessings of ‘Un’-Summer” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on July 19, 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Dedication to Fellow Dreamers

“A Dedication to Fellow Dreamers” – May 24, 2020

 

This is for all of the dreamers out there…

The ones who chase the rainbows

And take a front-row seat as the birdies perform their daily concerto…

The ones who rejoice at the birth of the seedling

As its tiny green head sprouts up through the dirt…

The ones who joyfully in the rain

And let the snowflakes tickle their eyelashes.

 

This goes out to the ones who make dandelion wishes

And leave the heads-up penny on the ground for someone who needs it more…

The ones who blow iridescent bubbles into the wafting breeze

And take the long way home on a Friday afternoon…

The ones whose skin prickles as the sun peeks up from beneath the horizon

And are inspired by the day’s end masterpiece.

 

This is for all who let the wet sand flow between their toes

As the sea’s wave caresses their feet…

The ones who accept a little hand into theirs

As they walk alongside the future…

The ones who continue their search for the light

In spite of overwhelming darkness…

The ones who believe in love

And faith

And hope

And joy.

 

This goes out to

You.

 

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

With gratitude,

Jill

 

“A Dedication to Fellow Dreamers” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on May 24, 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.

Marching Onward, With My Heart at the Forefront

Logo Color RedI slept until 6:45 AM this morning, although, in reality, it was 5:45 AM and the time I normally wake up. When you’re an early riser like me, March’s time change is of no consequence in the morning, although my eyelids will probably become heavy before the sun has completely gone to bed for the night until I adjust to the change.

An extra hour of sunlight at the back-end of the day. It’s one of my favorite harbingers of spring, along with dancing to the song of the spring peeper frogs as I waltz into school, which I did on Friday morning.

Even though it’s still technically winter, March has come in like a lamb along the Jersey Shore, and I’ll take it.

There’s always the possibility that a seemingly calm March can turn into a lion on a dime with Jack Frost busting in and riding that lion like a rodeo cowboy. However, the best thing about a March snowstorm is that it melts rather quickly.

Snow or no snow, light or dark, sunshine or rain, I’m all aquiver today.

Despite my best efforts and attempts to keep a positive outlook, the first two months of 2020 were emotionally difficult for me.

I dug out of the funk by adopting a new mindset: I dedicated myself to ME. Making myself the top priority in my life, along with incorporating lifestyle changes such as a regular and honest journaling practice, daily meditation, and yoga, has resulted in an awakening of massive proportions.

I’m experiencing life with a whole new level of awareness, one I never knew existed before, and it’s freaking amazing. I’ve got a new bounce in my step and a ridiculously stupid grin on my face as my heart now matters most.

My heart is simultaneously content and thrilled about the limitless possibilities that lie ahead of me, and my soul joyfully celebrates alongside my heart in camaraderie and sheer bliss.

I am now enlightened with a vision that will allow me to use my gifts and talents to serve others while as I follow the breadcrumbs I encounter along my path, ones I now see with absolute clarity.

Finally, I’ve found my dharma.

I am wholeheartedly devoting myself to my vision as I create it and give it life. As such, I’m looking for a few educators who would be willing to serve as beta-testers of my idea during the month of April. Should you be interested, please shoot me an email with your name, school name, and grade/subject you teach to jillocone@gmail.com.

Out of three ideas I have in my hopper, this particular vision will enact positive changes in the lives of fellow educators through leadership, support and encouragement, and if it proceeds as I envision, it will also shift the course of my future for the better.

I have a vision.

I have a plan.

I have a goal.

I have a purpose.

I am productive and focused.

And throughout it all, my heart will matter the most, as should yours.

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

With gratitude,

Jill

“Marching Onward, With My Heart at the Forefront” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on March 8, 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.

O Captain! My Captain!

img_1593Earlier this week, Major League Baseball announced that Derek Jeter was one of two players selected to the Hall of Fame for 2020.

Jeter received 396 out of 397 votes, finishing just behind fellow teammate Mariano Rivera for most votes ever received; Rivera was unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame last year.

Anyone who doubts Jeter’s selection to Cooperstown merely has to examine his stats and career accomplishments. In his 20 seasons with the New York Yankees, he played in 2,747 games with 11,195 at-bats. He had 3,465 hits, with 2,595 of them singles and 544 doubles. He earned five career Gold Glove Awards at shortstop, tied for fifth-most by a shortstop in baseball history. He retired in 2014 with a personal career winning percentage of .593, five World Series championships, and 14 American League All-Star appearances.  Jeter was named captain of the Yankees in 2003, and that title has been vacant since he retired in 2014.

Nobody could fill his shoes.

Jeter’s talent would have resulted in similar numbers regardless of what uniform he wore, skills he honed through hard work and determination as a child, a teenager, and a man. It just so happens that uniform had the classic navy and white pinstripes with the quintessential Yankees logo emblazoned on his cap, which puts a target on his back.

Yankee fans love Jeter.

As much as they would hate to admit it, rival fans also respect Jeter despite those pinstripes.

I am a Yankees fan, but that’s not why I admire Derek Jeter.

I am a female, but that’s not why I admire Derek Jeter.

I admire Derek Jeter because of his character and his legacy of leadership. Even though he’s three years younger than me, he’s been a role model to me since his rookie season in 1995.

As a kid, Jeter had the goal of making it to the majors. With support from his two parents and coaches, he focused on that goal and wholly devoted himself to it. He worked hard on and off the field, hours each day, to improve his skill and become a better player.

It paid off.

As a player, Jeter always put his team before himself. Even as a captain, it was never about him. He wasn’t the best shortstop in history, but his determination and leadership game after game, season after season, and year after year made his stats rise and his character commendable. He played the game right, with class, and never allowed himself to get distracted with scandals or by feeding his ego. His confidence wasn’t cocky but inspirational and he focused on the positives rather than the negatives. Jeter’s impact and legacy both on and off the field is immeasurable.

That’s why there hasn’t been a team captain named by the Yankees since 2014.

The slogan RE2PECT, which first appeared in 2014, is still appropriate as it stands for not only Jeter the baseball player but Jeter the person.

Integrity. Honor. Determination. Loyalty. Class.

Derek Jeter not only inspired a generation of athletes, but scores of everymen and women like me. He led by example, and his example makes me want to be a better person.

Congrats, Captain, on your well-deserved selection to Cooperstown.

img_1592 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“O Captain! My Captain!” was posted on jillocone.com on January 25, 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.

 

 

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.