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.

My Reality Is Living…And Writing…

A secret little spot I discovered on one of my more recent walks. Others have discovered it, too.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I figure an update is in order. My lack of posts should not be interpreted that I am not writing. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. I’m working on editorial work for another round of deadlines, and I happily received three writing acceptances over the past month for three creative fiction/essay pieces. I’ll announce details as each publication is released. It felt great to sign my second official writing contract for one of the publications. The acceptances make the bitter pill of rejections easier to swallow, and believe me, there have been more of those than there have been acceptances.

I am also working on the draft of my second novel and a non-fiction book with my nephew, N. Research takes time, and the payoff will be our fact-finding research mission over the summer for our project, which will hopefully be ready to share near the holidays.

All of my nieces and nephews are the apples of my eye, and it’s been a month filled with birthday celebrations, graduation dress shopping, and baseball games. What a difference from a year ago when none of these events could happen. I relish the opportunity to support each of them and celebrate alongside them in person. Zoom birthday parties don’t cut it, and singing to each of them in person makes my heart beat the happiest. My monthly calendars have a lot more things written on them than they did a year ago, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

While my school has been open and I’ve been teaching from my classroom most of the school year (and days I was not physically present in my classroom I actively taught from my home), my students will soon return 5 days a week in a newly reconfigured classroom that can now fit them all safely. I am soooooo looking forward to welcoming them back while also teaching simultaneously to the students who will stay full remote. Sidebar: It drives me nuts when I hear the mantras “Open the schools!” or “Get those teachers back to work!” Ummmm, I HAVE been working the hardest I ever have, and my school HAS been open this entire time. To those who fling judgmental comments from your keyboard, please shut the hell up. Just shut up. I go above and beyond to do my job well (WITH health issues, I might add), so take your judgment and your diatribes elsewhere and find some other profession to hurl your hatred at. I’ve had it with you, and so have the countless educators who DO THEIR JOB just like me. JUST SHUT THE HELL UP and move on.

I am also fully vaccinated. No major side effects, even with a compromised immune system, but I’d rather deal with side effects than contracting the virus again. I chose to get the vaccine because want to have a life. I want to do things. I want to keep those I come into contact with safer than they would be if I didn’t have the vaccine. Getting it was the right choice for me, and I completely respect your choice, too. (See what I did there? I didn’t condemn you if your opinion differs from mine. I still respect you! Imagine that…civility despite disagreeing! It CAN be done!)

My daily walks provide me time to enjoy the present moment and either take in the wonderfully colorful scenery painted by spring’s vivid palette if the weather is conducive to walking outside, or to reading if I walk inside on the treadmill. My walks have become a necessity for my peace of mind, and while the weight is staying put because of my medication, the activity is still beneficial to my mental well-being and to strengthening my legs. I’m battling a bit of a flare, and forcing myself to walk on days I’d rather stay put on the couch helps keep some of my Lupus symptoms at bay.

As Qui-Gon Jinn said in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, “Your focus determines your reality.” Right now, I have two focuses. One is to be a good person who squeezes as much life out of each day as possible. That focus trickles down to making as many memories with the people I love as possible and to being the best teacher I can for my students.

My other focus is writing. Writing writing writing writing writing writing writing. And then some.

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

With gratitude,

Jill

“My Reality Is Living…And Writing…” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on April 18, 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

Letting The Light In

I’ve been writing little snippets of recollections on sticky notes all week long as I planned to post today about reaching the pandemic’s year milestone.

Yesterday, I threw them all into the trash bin.

Thinking about this time last year, as things rapidly developed and our lives changed minute by minute and the overwhelming fear that crippled me….well, it actually made me shudder with anxiety.

Instead of rehashing the traumatic truth about where we used to be and how we got here, I am celebrating the light that has entered through the cracks over the past year, cracks that were formally invisible to my eyes. 

Do I like our current situation? Absolutely not.

Do I miss everything that’s currently on hold? More than anything.

Did I think we’d return to “normal” by now? Of course I did. 

But over the past year, I realized that “normal” does not exist, nor does a “new normal,” which is one of the worst phrases to come out of this year-long reality.

The light, though…

Sun’s First Light – Taken September 2020

The light shines on the goodness that surrounds me, goodness I was formerly too blind to notice. 

The light beams on the moments I can safely spend in the company of loved ones and friends, and those moments have more meaning today than they ever have. The light will eventually beam and create more opportunities to make wonderful memories.

The light glistens on my watch and my planner to highlight the value of my time, and I’ve learned to decline requests for my time that do not enhance my well-being or serve my purpose.

The light coaxes the words out of my soul and onto my journal or my screen. Instead of fighting those words and holding them back, they flow and release me from my self-deprecating prison. Some are crap, and some aren’t, and I’m taking those that aren’t and creating what I hope helps others to know they aren’t alone.

The light brightens the sound of laughter coming from those I love most.

The light illuminates my purpose and my passion, and has allowed me to see meaning in and understand my journey here on Earth so far, especially the hardest times, the most difficult of days, and the failures and rejections. The light also illuminates a clear path to my future that’s full of experiences I want to have and dreams I will make happen. I’ll be sharing those experiences and dreams with you soon.

The light flashed on a vaccine opportunity that I originally believed was not an option for me because of my medical issues and led me to said opportunity with a smooth experience and limited side effects. My desire to have a life outweighs my aversion to the vaccine, and while my choice is right for me, I respect it might not be right for you.

The light radiates on my gratitude for those who have gone above and beyond to help us all and on my resolve to celebrate the lives of those who we’ve lost to this horrible illness.

The universe works in very mysterious ways. I know she guides me with breadcrumbs, most of which validate that I am in the right place at the right time and doing what I need to be doing at that moment. Case in point: when I sat down this morning to write this post, I put my music on shuffle. The first song to play was “Namaste” by Beastie Boys. A sampling of the lyrics:

…A cold chill of fear cut through me

I felt my heart contract

To my mind I brought the image of light

And I expanded out of it

My fear was just a shadow

And then I voice spoke in my head

And she said dark is not the opposite of light

It’s the absence of light

And I thought to myself

She knows what she’s talking about

And for a moment I know

What it was all about.

Songwriters: Horovitz Adam Keefe / Diamond Michael Louis / Yauch Adam Nathaniel / Nishita Mark Ramos. Namasté lyrics © Brooklyn Dust Music, Polygram Int. Publishing, Inc.

I know what it was all about.

As I said earlier, normal doesn’t exist. What does exist is change: Routines change. Circumstances change. Expectations change. Opportunities change. Schedules change. People change. Persevering while adapting to change is essential to survival.

I also exist, as does my purpose, and what hasn’t changed is my authentic desire to thrive despite change and to strive for my words to speak to others.

The fresh air and sunshine, the clouds and the snow, the singing birds, the ocean’s rollers and mountain’s peaks, and all of nature’s miracles, are still here a year later. They always have been, and they always will be if we allow the light in through the cracks.

And someday, we’ll be able to look back on all of this and celebrate our collective strength and victory over the pandemic with joyous light and fireworks, but you don’t have to wait that long…

Today, celebrate your light. Celebrate your perseverance. Celebrate your life. Celebrate you.

____________________________________________________________________________

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

With gratitude,

Jill

“Letting The Light In” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on March 14, 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

Become to Believe

I sit here facing the onset of a new year, much like I did last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and so on…

This time around, though, it’s different. 

Today, when I say that hindsight is 2020, that’s literally true.

Tomorrow, when I sing “20 20 24 hours to go…” as immortalized by The Ramones, that’s literally true.

When I wake up on Friday morning, my childhood fantasies about having a flying car by 2021 won’t be realized, but something better will have happened.

Together, we will have crossed the finish line from the most bizarre and unsettling year we’ve ever experienced as our next race through the calendar and around the Earth will begin.

Despite its challenges, 2020 also had its silver linings. My word for 2020 was BECOMING, and while it didn’t seem too fitting as the year unfolded and I felt so incredibly lost, the pandemic provided me with time: time to sit and be, time to think, and time to shift my priorities and appreciate what I formerly took for granted. I might not have been able to travel, but I felt the sunshine on my face and the rain hit my skin in my backyard. I wasn’t able to see loved ones and friends as much as I had hoped, but now I am more present when I am in the company of others. I experienced euphoria and sheer joy by witnessing the return of Boba Fett, my favorite Star Wars character since I was 9 years old, in Season 2 of “The Mandalorian” and enthusiastically look forward to seeing more of him “The Book of Boba Fett” series coming in 2021.

Most importantly, the pandemic provided me with time to write. Over the past year, journaling gave me the gifts of clarity, acceptance, and courage. I freed myself from the layers of self-perpetuated bullshit and scars and blindness and indecisiveness that essentially crippled me for years and realized I am meant to live and thrive, not just exist while unconsciously muddling through day after day after day like a lemming or a droid.

Words are my life raft, my passion and my purpose, and dammit, and I AM worthy of good things and fantastic experiences.

I am more ME today than I ever have been, and this time, without judgment and without shame. 

Wow, I can actually breathe now. 

My word for 2021 came to me earlier this month with unwavering certainty.

My word for 2021 is BELIEVE

This will be the year I wholeheartedly believe in myself and everything I do as I pursue my passion of writing with all of my heart and soul. 

I believe I can successfully market an exciting project that will come to fruition in early 2021. Teaser: It combines my love of the shore and summer with my passion of writing and thriving, and the universe suggested it was time to pursue making this idea a reality.

I believe I can finish the two novels I’ve walked away from over the past year and use my powerful voice to create two very different stories that each have a purpose and need to be told.

I believe I can be more active by walking, riding my bicycle, or practicing yoga at least five times a week. 

I believe I can learn to surf.

I believe I can overcome my terrible habit of pulling and clawing at my fingernails. 

I believe I can successfully weave words together about difficult topics and chapters of my life in hopes that others in similar situations or who might be battling similar demons will know they aren’t alone.

I believe I can build a life full of wonder and authentic experiences by getting out into our amazing world, whether close to home or on the other side of the globe (when the time is right). 

I believe I can trust both my intuition and the universe for guidance. 

I believe I can embrace my idiosyncrasies and celebrate my journey with delight.

I believe I can make my eyes shine.

I believe I can serve myself first while no longer disappointing ME.

I believe I can.

So I will.

May 2021 bring you good health and all that your heart desires. 

My love and light to you, as always.

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

With gratitude,

Jill

“Become to Believe” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on December 30, 2020. 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 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

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.

Status Update for “Chapter One-A Novel”

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

My answer is: A LOT!

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

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

Melt-down?

Yes.

Crying?

Absolutely.

Walking away?

Thought about it, but not a chance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With gratitude,

Jill

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

Still SEAking, and Still Reflecting

Dear Friend,

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

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

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

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

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

With gratitude,

Jill

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

Published in 2019 American Writers Review!

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

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

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

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Digesting the Goodness

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for accompanying me on my journey!

With gratitude, 

Jill