Volpe’s Value

One name: Anthony Volpe.

You may not know him yet, but you will.

The 21-year-old New Jersey native’s persistence and heart were second-to-none during spring training, and the big question was whether he’d make the roster or be sent back down to the minors.

Yankees fans waited for the announcement with bated breath, and on Sunday, we finally learned his fate:

Anthony Volpe was named the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees.

He made the freaking roster!

Volpe will be the youngest player to start for the Bronx Bombers on opening day since Derek Jeter. He beat out veterans Isiah Kiner–Falefa and Oswaldo Peraza for the position, his powerful talent and immense potential giving him the edge.

He’s humble and authentic, his stats stellar, his heart and enthusiasm contagious. and, man, is he a fun player to watch!

Many of my students who are fellow Yankees fans and I have watched Volpe rise through the ranks. We admire his passion for baseball, which is like that of an old-fashioned player, and that he plays for the game, not for fame or glory.

His professional approach to his baseball career and his dedication to improving his abilities is something I admire. He is already a positive role model to the younger generation, and there’s no telling how many more people he will inspire both on and off the diamond.

Volpe was born in Watchung, New Jersey on April 28, 2001. He attended Delbarton School in Morristown (NJ) and Perfect Game named him the 2019 New Jersey HIgh School Player of the Year. While he committed to Vanderbilt University, The Yankees selected Volpe in the first round of the 2019 Major League Baseball draft (30th pick). 

Since then, he has played for minor-league affiliates Pulaski Yankees, Tampa Tarpons, and Hudson Valley Renegades. In 2022, he moved up to the Double-A Eastern League Somerset Patriots, where he hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning giving the Patriots a 6-5 win against the visiting Hartford Yard Goats on June 26. Volpe represented the American League at the 2022 All-Star Futures Game in July. He batted .252 with 18 home runs and 60 RBIs in 109 games as a Patriot and was promoted to the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on September 2.

Earlier this week, the former non-roster spring training invitee and Number 1 prospect in the Yankees organization received the 2023 James P. Dawson Award, given annually to the most outstanding Yankees rookie in spring training, the first of many honors no doubt.

That’s how he does it. All heart and hustle.

There’s no doubt Anthony Volpe’s name will become as recognizable as both Jeter’s and Judge’s. I cannot wait to watch him grow into his greatness and witness the birth of another legendary career this season as I wear #11 with pride.

Way to go, kid!

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

With light and love,


“Volpe’s Value” was posted on jillocone.com on March 29, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Why I Write

I went to a ¨retreat on Sunday called “Writing on the River” for teachers who write that was organized by Project Write Now . The event was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. After spending the day with like-minded people and celebrating ME, I left with my spark for writing reignited.

Four years have passed since the event was last held thanks to the pandemic, and those years in between were filled with concern, fear, and unsustainable objectives for educators everywhere.

For educators who write like me, however, the objectives and demands were extra heavy. I put my own writing aside too many times because I was overwhelmed by professional responsibilities.

The result?

My mental well-being suffered greatly.

I should not have abandoned my words in a time when I most needed them.

As they say, hindsight is 20/20, but its time for me to put up or shut up in 20/23.

At the beginning of the retreat, everyone stood in a circle around the room and each person read a line from the remarkable piece “Why I Write” by Terry Tempest Williams. The lines I read aloud were, “I write to honor beauty¨ and “Ï write as a bow to the wilderness.”

Our task after we finished was to spend some time journaling about the reasons we write. Here is what I wrote:

Why do I write?

I write to paint with words because pens work better for me than brushes.

I write to cope with what I cannot control and to make sense of the absurd.

I write to find my place in the world and to belong to myself.

I write to grieve, and those words transform into something to celebrate.

I write to tame the monsters and to walk with the wild.

I write to quench my thirst for life.

I write to colorize my memories’ black-and-white film reels and to fill in the blank gaps.

I write to slow down the hamster running full speed in my mind and to give a voice to my thoughts.

I write to spark a light in the darkness.

I write to overcome the demons of my past, immerse myself fully in my present, and dream for my future.

I write to connect my soul with my heart and my heart with my mind.

I write because it is my religion, the blank page in front of me a baptism, my words a confession.

I write with the heart of my inner child, who still loves to play with toys and spin around under the warm sun  with her arms outstretched wide.

I write to feel what it means to be a human having a human experience and to honor all vibes, not just good vibes.

I write because I love the feeling of filling a blank page with words that roll off my pen or I strike on my keyboard with my fingers.

I write from a place which cannot be seen but exists just the same.

I write to remember, and to forget.

I write to keep close the laughter coming from my nieces and nephews.

I write when I am longing, and when I am satisfied.

I write because I have to.

I write because I need to.

I write because I write.

Why do you write?

-Jill Ocone

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I am glad you are here.

With light and gratitude,


“Why I Write” was posted on jillocone.com on March 21, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Published in Winward Review’s Volume 19-Empathy and Entropy

I am elated to announce that my essay, “Molly in My Heart”, was selected for publication in Winward Review’s Volume 19-Empathy and Entropy, which is now available online. “Molly In My Heart” can be found on pages 78-80.

The pandemic threw a lot of wrenches into the process from submission through publication, but the wait was worth it. 

The volume is filled with works like mine themed around the ideas of empathy and entropy. “Molly In My Heart” is about a childhood friend whom I still think about with love (I changed her name to protect her identity). Our world is full of acrimony and disorder, and as such, entropy is currently winning. Empathy is sorely needed across the board, and I hope that this issue reminds readers to understand and support others who are hurting in any fashion.

Windward Review is a student-operated, faculty-advised creative publication of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Islander Creative Writers and the Department of English.The editorial process is led by Dr. Robin Carstensen, who instructs English 4385: Studies in Creative Writing, Literary Publishing each spring semester and works with a core team in the summer and fall. Design and layout team is in partnership with Dr. Catherine Schumann and students in English 3378: Document Design and Publishing. Windward Review’s current editorial staff includes Dylan Lopez (Managing Editor), Zoe Elise Ramos (Senior Editor), Raven Reese (Co-Managing Editor), and Dr. Robin Carstensen (Faculty Advisor).

I’d like to thank Zoe Elise Ramos, who created a wonderful issue, for all of her hard work and for her perseverance. While the issue may not have conformed to original timelines, the final product is a beautiful testament of her dedication to her craft. Congratulations to all of the other artists included in the issue and to the editorial staff on such a poignant issue of Winward Review. It’s an honor to be among you.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I am glad you are here.

With light and gratitude,


“Published in Winward Review’s Volume 19-Empathy and Entropy” was posted on jillocone.com on March 15, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Savor the Spring

Each year, I write down the date of the first time I hear the spring peepers singing in morning´s pre-dawn moments while walking into my school building. I have heard them as early as the last week of February in some years, whereas in others, it’s been as late as mid-April.

My heart galloped last Thursday when I heard them on March 2, 2023, much to the chagrin of the groundhog who predicted six more weeks of winter, I’m sure.

The song of the peepers is my favorite spring harbinger, for their chorus signals that we are on the downside of winter´s hump of darkness and cruising to more daylight hours and new life sprouting in nature. 

We still may have to deal with bone-chilling temperatures and sloppy precipitation, but the moment I can stop using my car´s seat warmer is hiding within the calendar. 

It won’t be long until the tiny blue and white weed flowers spring up between the cracks of the sidewalk or scattered among the fresh, green blades of grass and grape hyacinths shooting out of nowhere in the brown, barren yard.

Spring training baseball is another one of my favorite seasonal precursors. The cracks of the bats, the voices of announcers and umpires, and the cheers (or boos, as it may be) of the crowd on my television sends waves of comfort like no other through my body, and is one of the first indications we are collectively riding spring’s upswing.

And guess what? Yesterday, I noticed a neighborhood cherry tree’s delicate pink blossoms already open and facing the sun.

My intention this year is to slow down and delight in all things spring while disregarding distractions. I will watch the sunrise´s and sunset’s changing colors a little longer. I will inhale deep the clean, rain-sprinkled air and the fragrance of the honeysuckles riding the breeze any chance I get. I will run the silky satinness of new growth through my fingers. I will listen to the peepers and birds serenading the world at the day’s beginning and end. I will enjoy the taste of fresh, springtime strawberries and lie on the grass to watch the clouds pass by above me. I will take my time while walking in nature and let all of my senses play like a child. And most importantly, I will navigate my journey to publication with curiosity, enthusiasm, and pride.

Yes, I will enjoy this equinox and savor this spring.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I am glad you are here.

With light and gratitude,


“Savor the Spring” was posted on jillocone.com on March 8, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Rick Rubin’s “The Creative Act: A Way of Being” Will Change Your Life

I love to read, and in my younger days, I would read a book from cover to cover in as little as a week or less.

These days, I tend to accumulate piles of books, then crack open the covers of as many as I can during the summer months simply because I don’t have the energy, the focus, or the time to read much for pleasure during the school year.

However, the universe led me to noted music producer Rick Rubin’s new book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being, which was published by Penguin Press in January and has since become a #1 New York Times Bestseller.

As a lifelong fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I recognized Rubin’s name immediately. He produced many of their albums, as well as the Beastie Boys’ License to Ill, Tom Petty’s Wildflowers and Echo, and a host of others. He also is an eight-time Grammy winner, and in 2007, MTV called him the “most important producer of the last 20 years. 

At first, I was skeptical, since I’m not at all musically inclined. What could the founder of Def Jam records and the producer behind so many successful albums teach me about creativity? 

My copy, complete with its kaleidoscope of sticky flags.

I now have a new favorite book.

“I set out to write a book about what to do to make a great work of art. Instead, it revealed itself to be a book on how to be.” —Rick Rubin

Many famed music producers are known for a particular sound that has its day. Rick Rubin is known for something else: creating a space where artists of all different genres and traditions can home in on who they really are and what they really offer. He has made a practice of helping people transcend their self-imposed expectations in order to reconnect with a state of innocence from which the surprising becomes inevitable. Over the years, as he has thought deeply about where creativity comes from and where it doesn’t, he has learned that being an artist isn’t about your specific output, it’s about your relationship to the world. Creativity has a place in everyone’s life, and everyone can make that place larger. In fact, there are few more important responsibilities.

The Creative Act is a beautiful and generous course of study that illuminates the path of the artist as a road we all can follow. It distills the wisdom gleaned from a lifetime’s work into a luminous reading experience that puts the power to create moments—and lifetimes—of exhilaration and transcendence within closer reach for all of us.

From Amazon

Rubin’s book is chock full of practical affirmations and inspiration for everyone, not just for artists

I am a writer, and I am absolutely hooked on Rubin’s book.

His chapters are short snippets of grandiose wisdom and profound statements. I can read and absorb one every day without feeling overwhelmed by my job-related to-do lists or stressors.

The book has spoken to me so tremendously, I brought my copy, with a gazillion post-it flags fanning from its pages like feathers, to share with my writing group. 

Our leader, Mike, also brought his copy to share because the book had the same effect on him.

The universe at work, indeed.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Everyone will find a kernel of inspiration or a new way to see the “ordinary” or just “be” within its pages.

I’m about halfway done with reading this bible of creativity and inspiration, and I thought I’d share a few statements that really spoke to me.

Clouds never truly disappear. They change form. They turn into rain and become part of the ocean, and then evaporate and return to being clouds.

The same is true of art.

Art is the circulation of energetic ideas. What makes them appear ne is that they’re combining differently each time they come back. No two clouds are the same.

Page 14

Substitute the word “idea” or “creation” for “art,” if you don’t consider yourself an “artist,” and Rubin’s take still applies. 

When you’re working on a project, you may notice apparent coincidence appearing more often than randomness allows – almost as if there is another hand gilding yours in a certain direction. As if there is an inner knowing gently informing your movements. Faith allows you to trust the direction without needing to understand it. Pay particular attention to the moments that take your breath away – a beautiful sunset, an unusual eye color, a moving piece of music, the elegant design of a complex machine. If a piece of work, a fragment of consciousness, or an element of nature is somehow allowing us to access something bigger, that is its spiritual component made manifest. It awards us a glimpse of the unseen.

Pages 32-22

Rubin just described my experience from my soon-to-be-published-novel’s first seed through today. I’ve tried to use my words to tell others about my journey but never could fully explain my experience. In a few simple yet elegant sentences, Rubin did just that.

    The world is constantly changing, so no matter how often we practice paying attention, there will always be something new to notice. It’s up to us to find it.

    Page 56

    Again, Rubin succinctly expresses something I’ve practiced for almost a decade now but had difficulty trying to explain. Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary!

      The purpose of the work is to awaken something in you first, then allow something to be awakened in others. And it’s fine if they’re not the same thing. We can only hope that the magnitude of the charge we experience reverberates as powerfully for others as it does for us.

      Pages 90-91

      When I write something, whether it is a short snippet to share wisdom, like this post, or a larger piece such as a story or a novel, the best moments are when I feel the awakening inside of me. As a writer, my goal is always to hope that my reader experiences a similar feeling of awakening. And this book has awakened me in countless ways.

        Ride the wave as long as it can be ridden. If you are fortunate enough to experience the strike of inspiration, take full advantage of the access. Remain in the energy of this rarefied moment for as long as it lasts. When flowing, keep going. Page 130.

        Page 130

        Simple yet so profound. Whatever your wave is, RIDE IT as long as you can.

          The artist casts a line to the universe. We don’t get to choose when a noticing or inspiration comes. We can only be there to receive it. As with meditation, our engagement in the process is what allows the result.

          Page 144

          Again, I experience this so often, sometimes almost on a daily basis, but I’ve never been able to express this phenomenon in words. Rubin does, and it’s good advice, no matter your profession or role. 

            It’s powerful. It’s profound. And it’s for YOU. Be inspired and see everything with new lenses by reading Rubin’s The Creative Act: A Way of Being.

            Thank you for joining me on my journey. I am glad you are here.

            With light and gratitude,


            “Rick Rubin’s ‘The Creative Act: A Way of Being’ Will Change Your Life” was posted on jillocone.com on March 1, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

            The Perks of Perseverance

            I am beyond elated to share that I signed and submitted a publishing contract with Wild Rose Press for my debut novel earlier this week. This is an absolute dream come true, and I couldn´t be more thrilled. 

            Longtime followers and treasured friends know the seeds for my novel were first planted years ago. Instead of neglecting those seeds, I nourished them by listening to the universe and following its breadcrumbs, and that led me to my main character, Kelly Lynch.

            I finished the first version of the novel in 2018, but what you will read when it is published is quite different. Kelly´s story of navigating the seas of friendship and the storm of loss on her journey of self-discovery, which led her from the beaches of the Jersey Shore to Dublin, Ireland, will hopefully inspire readers long after they turn the last page. 

            The most recent manuscript version grew from each previous one. I’d revise, send it out in queries to agents and publishers, receive rejections, take a break, then revise again, send it out, and so on.

            Signing my contract on Monday, February 20, 2023. It’s real!!!!

            Both perseverance and my passion for crafting Kelly’s story, which became stronger with each rejection, ultimately guided me to the right publication opportunity. I am incredibly grateful to my editor, Judi, for believing in my novel, and to Wild Rose Press for selecting my debut novel for publication.

            I don’t know timelines of anything yet, but the next few months are going to be incredibly exciting as I sail upon uncharted waters towards eventually holding the final, published book in my hands. The novel´s name will be changing, as will some of its content during the editing process, but the changes will only enhance Kelly’s story as it continues to evolve.

            I am abundantly grateful for all the kind words of encouragement and comments of congratulations I’ve received on my social media posts announcing my contract. If you took the time to leave me an encouraging word or two, I see you, I hear you, and I thank you for your role in my journey, whatever that may be. I cannot wait to share this next chapter with you.

            With light and gratitude,


            “The Perks of Perseverance” was posted on jillocone.com on February 22, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

            Everyone Deserves a “Mrs. Barber”

            The clarity of my childhood memories varies, with some nonexistent and others hazy at best.

            But a handful are crystal clear, like they might have happened just a few days ago.

            I loved both school and books as a child, and one of my favorite places in my elementary school was the library. I can picture it in my mind like I’m standing within its magical walls… the circulation desk on the right, the brown faux wood carrels in the center, and the maze of bookshelves that seemed like they reached from the floor to the ceiling encircling them. 

            It was so grand, the library, so big, and my love for books grew with each visit. I would wander and browse the shelves with wonder and never felt hurried, unlike Simon Mouse in one of my favorite books (which I renewed and reread countless times during second grade), “Hurry Up, Slowpoke” by Crosby Newall Bonsall. 

            I also loved the book “The Littlest Leaguer” by Syd Hoff. I saw myself in Harold, the main character who also tended to be on the awkward side while lacking natural athletic ability. Harold rode the bench in the little league dugout because he was terrible at baseball. His small stature, however, proved useful, and he ended up making the play of the season when he was given the chance.

            Score for the underdog! 

            But it wasn’t the aisles of spines, the library’s blueprint or deliciously musty aroma, or even the special reading program I was selected for that kindled my love for books, and with it, my innate desire to write and read.

            It was the woman behind that circulation desk.

            Mrs. Barber.

            Whether she was organizing the shelves, teaching us about the Dewey Decimal System, reading a book to my class, decorating for the holidays, or simply sharing a soft-spoken greeting alongside her kindhearted smile, Mrs. Barber was the heart of the library’s soul.

            She’s in every memory I have of that library, even on the dark day when I learned the truth about Santa Claus. I was in fourth grade and a classmate told me, point blank, that Santa wasn’t real. I played it as cool as I could, masking my disillusion with aloofness, but once the library emptied of students, I cried like the dickens in the corner. Mrs. Barber’s comfort and solace in that moment softened the scars of losing a part of my innocence.

            As luck would have it, Mrs. Barber was transferred to the high school at the start of my freshman year. I spent more time in the media center than any other room in the school building during my four years of high school reading, writing, studying, and volunteering alongside her warmth and grace. She never judged me and was a positive and warm confidant, especially when I most needed one, and was a true professional in never stepping over the faculty/student boundary. I even considered following in Mrs. Barber’s footsteps and becoming a school media specialist before another path was chosen for me.

            Despite my best intentions to stay connected, I lost touch with Mrs. Barber after I graduated from high school in 1989.

            Fast forward to the mid-2000s.

            After checking out of the local grocery store on a day when humidity hung in the air, I wheeled my full cart through the exit vestibule into the mugginess and stopped at a table where a small, elder woman solicited donations for a nearby heart hospital. I handed her five-dollar bill, then our eyes connected and our faces lit up.

            “Mrs. Barber!” I exclaimed as she said, “Jill!” in a similar, enthusiastic fashion. 

            She rose to her feet and we hugged, and her frail arms warmed and comforted me just as they did on that dark Santa day. 

            Twenty years had passed by in the blink of an eye, but here she was, well into her seventies, and she remembered ME.

            We chatted for a while, me sharing a bit about my long and winding journey to becoming a teacher and her talking about her retirement and her family, especially her grandchildren. If my memory is correct, she also explained the hospital she was seeking donations for had made a tremendous impact on her life, and she saw it as her duty to pay them back.

            We ran into each other a few more times in the early 2010s, same situation. She’d be manning a hospital donation table at the local grocery store, no matter how hot or how muggy the day, and she’d remember me every time. We’d talk for a bit and say, “See you next time!” while hugging farewell.

            It’s been a few years since our last fortuitous run-in, but unfortunately, there won’t be a next time.

            Mrs. Barber’s obituary ran in the local papers earlier this year.

            She lived a full life and died at 94 years young. A classmate of mine posted a beautiful tribute on the funeral home’s obituary page about how much Mrs. Barber influenced her love of reading, and I couldn’t agree more.

            If it weren’t for Mrs. Barber, I would not have discovered my love for books as a six-year-old, which led to a love of reading and igniting my inherent inclination to write.

            Everyone deserves to have a Mrs. Barber in their life, someone who sparks a light that leads to wonder and discovery, and if we’re lucky, to our true purpose.

            Mrs. Barber was that spark for me.

            I thought about these immortal words from Ralph Waldo Emerson when I read Mrs. Barber’s obituary:

            What is success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

            Ralph Waldo Emerson

            Mrs. Barber, you laughed often and much. You won the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children. You earned appreciation and you endured. You appreciated beauty and found the best in others. You left the world a whole lot better. You made me breathe easier because you lived.

            You succeeded, and I thank you.

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

            With light and gratitude,


            “Everyone Deserves a Mrs. Barber” was posted on jillocone.com on February 15, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

            Back In The Game

            Life activated me from the 33-day injured list (IL), and I’m back on the roster!

            I took a BREAK from posting, pun intended, because I followed my doctor’s orders that I should not use a computer. As of yesterday, I am no longer banished from keyboards and can share what happened:

            I fell flat on my face and went down hard before I even knew what was happening.

            It’s as simple as that.

            I must have instinctively brought my arms in front of my face to brace myself, and the nearest I can figure, both of my elbows and my left knee hit the floor, followed by my whole body hitting the ground.

            I laid there for a few minutes in shock, unable to move or call for help because the jolt knocked the wind out of me. Eventually, I mustered the ability to flip myself from my stomach to sit, then a coworker came upon me in the middle of the hallway floor, dazed and confused. 

            My knee was fine, but I ended up with two fractured elbows and in a crap ton of pain.   

            The first ten days were the worst. Every muscle in my body hurt from the fall’s blow, and the pain in my arms throbbed while radiating like electricity up and down from my fingertips through my shoulders.

            The good news is that I did not require hard casts or surgery.

            Rather, I sported two stylish slings, the likes of which might make Michael Kors drool with envy, and a fancy, black brace on my right wrist. The wrist brace kept me from straining the right elbow, which had the worse of the two fractures.

            I’m thankful each fracture is healing on its own, seemingly without any long-term mobility issues or spurring any sort of Lupus flares. I’ve been cleared to return to work and to normal activities, and I’ll follow my orthopedist’s advice that while movement will help the healing process, I should take care to not overdo it.

            During recovery, I kept a mental list of all the things I was grateful for the ability to do that I formerly took for granted (click here to read that list).

            I also realized that while I now may be labeled a fall risk, life is for living, not for sitting around. 

            Life can surely change in an instant, but I’ll take the risks in living, and in falling.

            Ironically, while healing, I heard Buddy Guy’s new song titled “Blues Don’t Lie” from his new album with the same name. The song begins: “Life is gonna happen whether you’re ready or not…”

            Ain’t that the truth.

            Life never waits for me to be ready. It pitches at me constantly, sometimes with direct hits, other times with near misses. 

            So, why should I wait to live it, since it’s throwing at me, anyway? 

            I will rise when I fall.

            I will survive when I fear.

            I will smile when I cry.

            I will remember with love when I grieve.

            I will learn and improve when I falter or fail, and celebrate both the lessons and the successes.

            And throughout it all, I will shine my light in hopes of sparking the light in others.

            Life is short, and I have nothing to fear.

            It’s go time, and I’m back at home plate, ready to swing.

            Batter up!

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

            With light and gratitude,


            “Back In The Game” was posted on jillocone.com on February 8, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

            2023 #WriterWednesday Week 01: ME in ‘23

            Welcome, 2023! I’ve set the intention to follow the example set by some of my favorite writers by honoring their tradition of #WriterWednesday and posting each Wednesday during 2023, and today marks my first post. 

            In setting this intention, I am also allowing myself grace and forgiveness if I miss a week.

            My word for 2023 is ME. 

            Sorry, not sorry if that comes across as brazenly selfish, but as someone who typically puts the needs of others before mine, it is time for me to focus on MY social, emotional, physical, and mental well-being. Prioritizing my needs does not mean I am abandoning my core values of compassion, empathy, and kindness, nor do I plan to shirk my responsibilities.

            I want to feel alive and energized instead of drained and depleted. 

            Moving forward, when I face a task or a request that causes any sort of dismay in my soul or in my heart, my answer will be NO.

            No, thank you. My needs come first. 

            ME in ‘23.

            In early December, I received a request from a small publisher for my completed novel’s manuscript with a deadline of January 1. I toiled all month, formatting it as they requested and ensuring it is the best it can be. At 10:12 am on December 29, 2022, with my heart full of love, light and hope, I emailed my full “Chapter One-A Novel” manuscript to the editor. I am manifesting positivity and goodness as I believe wholeheartedly the editor will select it for  publication. 

            ME in ‘23.

            My spring Jersey Shore Magazine assignments always accompany January’s arrival, so in between writing at least 150-words each morning for either posts or my next novel (tentatively titled “John Doe”), I intend to make progress each day towards those assignments. 

            ME in ‘23.

            After four years of living in limbo while also living through a pandemic, 2023’s arrival also heralded in a new chapter for my husband and I as we spent our first night at our old address in our new home as the calendar flipped its page. In “Avengers: Endgame,” Tony Stark said, “Part of the journey is the end,” and leaving our temporary place filled me with emotions I did not expect. I will take the comfort and the lessons that fueled my strength along the long and winding course to this moment and fill our new home with love and laughter while continuing to emulate my uncle’s example of being a good person. I am especially looking forward to celebrating life, especially my birthday next month, in our new home and surrounded by the people I love.

            ME in ‘23.

            I want to spend more time in nature this year, take more walks, see more sunsets and new places, and laugh alongside those I cherish more this year. And come the end of December, when I look back on 2023, I know I will say, “Man, this has been a great year.”

            ME in ‘23.

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

            With light and gratitude,


            “2023 #WriterWednesday Week 01: ME in ‘23” was posted on jillocone.com on January 4, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

            Carpenter Builds Story After Story

            Matt Carpenter during the curtain call from the Yankees/Red Sox game on July 16, 2022, as posted by the New York Yankees’ Twitter account.

            If you aren’t an avid Yankees or baseball fan, you might not recognize Matt Carpenter’s name.

            But you should.

            Carpenter’s journey this season is the story that America needs as we collectively navigate a world filled with acrimony and discord.

            The three-time All-Star went from riding the bench in the minors earlier this year to one of the biggest phenoms in Major League Baseball.

            And Carpenter is no spring chicken. He’s a 36-year-old veteran with more than a decade of playing time in the majors.

            Back in May, the Yankees placed three players on the COVID list, which left holes on the roster that needed to be filled. The team took a chance and signed Carpenter after he was released by the Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers’ minor league AAA-affiliate) in hopes he’d fill one of those holes.

            That hole has not only been closed, but now overflows with sheer awesomeness.

            When Carpenter, with his old school Mattingly-esque mustache, stepped up to home plate in Tampa during his first at-bat as a Yankee on May 26, many skeptically asked, “Who is THIS guy?” Yankees fans can be harshly judgmental, and I plead the fifth about my opinion of the recycled veteran in that moment.

            Well, his two at-bat appearances in that game, which yielded two runs scored in the Yankees 7-2 victory, combined with slugging his first home-run of the season the following night that helped the Yankees defeat the Rays 2-1, answered that question:

            He is MATT CARPENTER, and he has been the living embodiment of baseball magic since. As he crushes his bat and sets new records, baseball fans across the nation stand with their mouths agape.

            As of this post, he has had 75 at-bats in 30 games so far this season, with 27 hits, 13 home runs, and 31 runs batted in. Remember, he didn’t play for almost two months, and those numbers are only since May 26!

            Make that 31 games, 77 at-bats, and 32 RBIs-he added another as I am writing.

            Those numbers don’t lie. Carpenter is the real deal.

            In last night’s 14-1 trouncing of the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, Carpenter batted in 7 runs with TWO 3-run home runs, one in the first inning and the second in the fifth inning. Shortly after high-fiving his teammates in the dugout after home run number two, he answered the fans’ cheering for a curtain call with waves of authentic emotion riding his face as seen in the above image.

            “You never know when the last time you’re going to put this uniform is or on what day that is and I felt like I might have had that a couple of times this year.,” Carpenter told FOX Broadcasting’s Ken Rosenthal after last night’s game. “To be here, and to be playing for this team, in this city, for this franchise, I don’t take it for granted. I come to the ballpark every day overwhelmed with joy and gratitude and, man, it’s just been a lot of fun.” 

            Last night wasn’t Carpenter’s first multi-hit home run game this season. During the Yankees’ 18-4 victory over the Cubs at home on June 12, Carpenter also batted in 7 RBIs with two home runs. His performance in that game made him the first player in Yankees’ history to hit six home runs in his first 10 games with the team.

            I’ve always rooted for the underdog, but the humble Carpenter tops them all. He’s tenacious, unassuming, and gives his all, no matter what. And the first words listed on his Twitter and Instagram bios of Christian, Husband, Father, all before NY Yankee, speak volumes about the type of person Carpenter is. 

            What hits home (pun intended) for me is Carpenter’s determination and authenticity. He’s never sacrificed his values for his career nor forgotten his roots or taken anything for granted. He’s nobly faced setbacks by bettering himself in whatever way necessary as he strove to bounce back. While many major leaguers his age call it quits after being demoted, he chose to stay in the game and reemerged bigger and better than ever, all the while exuding gratitude that his name is on the Yankees’ roster. 

            Today’s young people desperately need an example like Carpenter, but you know what? 

            So do I. 

            Trade out the baseball for words, and I aim to emulate Carpenter as I face my own strikeouts while querying my manuscript as a 51-year-old aspiring novelist. Like Carpenter, I’ve celebrated many successes in my early life and career alongside unexpected setbacks, and writing is no exception. He may be 15 years younger than me, but Carpenter is living proof that I am not too old to pursue my dream of publishing a book, and eventually, transitioning to full-time writer. It will happen if I mirror his tenacity and drive, but if I’ve done my best and it doesn’t happen? I’ll follow Carpenter’s lead and roll optimistically towards another opportunity that presents itself.

            And, surprise! Carpenter is ALSO a writer! Read his farewell to St. Louis here, which he wrote for The Players’ Tribute after electing free agency in November 2021. Who knew?!?!?

            Last Sunday (July 10), while sitting in Fenway Park with my nephew and sister-in-law, Carpenter blasted a 2-run homer in the third inning which gave the Yankees a 6-2 lead. I jumped in joy and cheered as loud as I could despite the Sox sharks swirling around me as I relished experiencing one of his home runs firsthand. Unfortunately, the team absolutely imploded in the seventh inning, and Sox fans rejoiced in their 6-11 victory over the Yankees. 

            Whatever the future holds for Carpenter, there’s no doubt his accomplishments and his contributions have had an incredibly positive impact on his teammates and on his team’s current 63-28 record, which is the best in the majors. 

            Sometimes life imitates art, and what a storybook ending it will be if he and his teammates hold the World Series trophy high in the air come November. 

            No matter the outcome, I’ll remember this season as the one where Carpenter built his foundation to become an inspiration to me evermore.

            Thank you, Matt Carpenter. Just….thank you.

            Matt Carpenter’s Stats and Notable Achievements

            • Born: November 26, 1985 in Galveston, Texas
            • Married to Mackenzie since 2011, father to daughter Kinley and son Kannon
            • Positions: outfield, third base, first base, second base, designated hitter
            • 2009: Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round of the MLB draft (399 pick)
            • June 4, 2011: MLB debut; started at third base for the Cardinals
              • 2013, 2014, 2016: MLB National League All-Star Selection
              • 2013: led MLB in runs (126), hits (199), and doubles (55); NL Silver Slugger; finished 4th in NL MVP award; played with Cardinals in postseason (NL Champs, World Series-lost to Boston)
              • 2013, 2013, 2015: MLBPAA Cardinals Heart and Hustle Award
              • 2014: led NL in plate appearances and base-on-balls
              • 2015: Led NL in doubles, 8th in NL in home runs
              • 2015, 2016, 2018 (twice): NL Player of the Week
              • May 7, 2016: First walk-off home run (6-4 win over Pittsburgh)
              • April 27, 2017: First grand-slam vs. the Toronto Blue Jays in the 11th inning of an 8-4 victory (walk-off grand slam)
              • July 2018: NL Player of the Month
              • 2018: 3rd in NL in home runs
            • November 2021: Elected free agency and penned a farewell to St. Louis which was posted by The Players’ Tribune
            • March 2022: Signed to minor league contract and invited to spring training with Texas Rangers; played 21 games with their AAA-affiliate Round Rock Express
            • May 19, 2022: Released by Round Rock Express
            • May 26, 2022: signed by New York Yankees. The rest is history!
            • Sources: New York Yankees, ESPN, MLB, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, NJ.com, The Players’ Tribune

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

            With love and gratitude,


            “Carpenter Builds Story After Story” was posted on jillocone.com on July 17, 2022. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2022, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.