An Unlikely Role Model

One of the first assignments I give my students each year is to write about a role model. It’s two-fold, as it provides a sample of each student’s writing strengths and weaknesses, plus it is an introduction to the Heroes unit which begins with my very good friend, Mr. Beowulf. You know, the guy who eats lunch with Bill Shakespeare and Smitty MacBeth every fall.

As I was reading and assessing the responses turned in this school year, I noticed that a few of my students penned their assignment about someone that I, too, think is pretty fantastic.

I’d like to share my response for this assignment…

When I think about what a role model should be, my first thought is, usually, that it has to be someone older. That’s not the case here…mine is about 17 years my junior. But she is wise beyond her years.

I am more positive this year partly because I am trying to emulate her passion for literature and her dedication to the profession. I admire her carefree demeanor, how she champions fairness and ethics, and how she is REAL.

She used to sit at a desk in my classroom, and here she is, years later, with her own desks and her own students.

She is joyful, always smiling when surrounded by her many friends and her family.

She doesn’t hide her emotions. Instead, she is honest whether she’s happy or sad or angry or worried. In my eyes, wearing her heart on her sleeve is what makes her REAL, which is not a flaw, but a sign of strength.

As I embrace my calling of writing, I look to her for inspiration and guidance. I used to be her teacher, and now, the teacher is truly learning from the student.

We have always connected since the day we met back in the early 2000s. She’s an old soul, and even though she was just a baby and then a toddler, the 1980’s left a lasting impression on her interests and likes. Her two true loves are Bruce and Elvis, and even though she thinks she knows more about Seinfeld than I do, I am the master of the Seinfeld domain. Yeah, that’s right!

There’s nothing more satisfying as an educator than reading about a former student (who once completed this same assignment) who was chosen as a role model by current students.

With one book already published, she received word recently that her second one will be published in the coming year. And if I know anything about her at all, she’s not stopping there. She sets the example I want to follow.

Mandi Bean, the world is a much better place because you are in it, my friend.

808ebed71bbe4a4f3c0dbbfc37fefe4dI wish you a very Happy Birthday.

May today be the first day of the most WONDERFUL year of your life, for you certainly deserve it.

With my utmost admiration and gratitude,

OC1

 

 

 

Always Remember…

Ground Zero Spirit by Thomas Franklin
Ground Zero Spirit by Thomas Franklin

It’s been 15 years since my 4th day of teaching, which was September 11, 2001.

Looking back at the timeline of events on that horrendous day, I can picture exactly where my feet were when each happened.

My first real Journalism lesson of this year was my 9/11 Lesson (last week). The lesson and presentation include video clips of events that transpired on September 11, 2001. It’s an important lesson for many reasons, but mostly, it gives students an idea of exactly how much life changed that day both in the world of journalism and for us all.

I begin by explaining that cell phones didn’t have cameras, bags were not searched at public events, a digital camera with .75 megapixel camera was considered “state of the art,” political correctness hadn’t yet run rampant to the point of being utterly ridiculous, social media did not exist (and wouldn’t for four or so more years) and posts on the Internet by news outlets were updated only once a day.

Even with evidence, it’s hard for them to truly grasp what life was like as we woke up that day, and how quickly things changed. Before I show each clip, I speak about the background and have them watch with an observant eye for details with a chance to respond through both discussion and writing.

One part of the lesson is a documentary titled “Witness to History,” created by photographer Thomas Franklin in 2011. He’s the photographer who took the iconic Pulitzer Prize winning photo (above) of the firefighters raising the American flag at Ground Zero for the Bergen Record; I’ve had the privilege of hearing him speak twice at Garden State Scholastic Press Association’s Fall Press Day. “Witness to History” includes Franklin’s account of 9/11, as well as those of other news photographers’ and how each got the “shots” amid sheer chaos and destruction.

One might assume the young eyes watching this year’s presentation were desensitized to violence and pain because of what they see on social media every day in 2016.

They weren’t.

They shared what will stick with them, long after the lesson’s objectives are forgotten.

I’ll remember the priest who was carried out by the men who were helping,” wrote one student. The priest was Father Mychal Judge. As a part of this year’s presentation, I included a picture I took in June of his name on the Reflecting Pool Memorial.

Another wrote that while she doesn’t want to ever see something like 9/11 happen again, she wished our country was still unified, together, as one with flags all over. She explained that she hates seeing everyone judge others so fast on social media. “People didn’t hate each other back then over what they posted. They maybe didn’t agree but everyone was together.”

One wrote that he’ll remember the tears in the players’ eyes and the emotions during the Mets/Braves game clip from September 21, 2001, and the Yankees/Diamondbacks World Series Game 3 and Game 4 clips he watched (including Tino’s and Jeter’s-Mr. November’s home runs in the 9th). For him, that show of emotion by pro ball players as well as by fans from all over demonstrated the immensity of 9/11 and its aftermath.

Another wrote that as he watched President Bush throw out the first pitch at Game 3, he’ll remember the chant of USA and that Americans did not let party lines divide them. It didn’t matter that Bush was a Republican. What mattered is that moment brought the country together. While I summed up his response, a lot of the words here were directly from the student.

A student reacted that she was surprised it was baseball that got us back to normal, even for a little while. She said she didn’t like baseball, but if she lived during 9/11, she’d probably like it more because of how important the games were to our country.

After writing that he will remember strangers hugging each other and the looks on everyone’s faces as they watched the towers fall, one of my students wondered if people would be as willing to hug strangers or be as shocked if something like this happened today. “But I would hug and be shocked,” he admitted.

Someone remarked that he’d remember me saying the smoke could actually be seen from the Inlet in Point Pleasant Beach that afternoon. “That’s crazy but shows how close it was.”

One of the reactions that hit me hard was, “Wow. It really did happen.”

As I do each year, I ask my students to put aside their personal opinions and keep an open mind; to see the bigger picture; to see the important role of first responders/police/firefighters and the military not only on 9/11 but in every day life; to see the connection each of them has to this ugly day in history by looking down at their desk and realizing that Nick Ott or Ron Kubik might have sat right there, in the same seat (both were killed in action in Afghanistan, a conflict that was a direct result of 9/11).

I also ask them to visualize a teacher running out of the school in uncontrollable tears because someone she loved worked in one of the towers, or another teacher crying because her husband’s brother worked there too and she didn’t know he missed his train that morning and wasn’t there.

I hope they realize a lot of people surrounding them every day have a personal connection to 9/11 in one way or another. I end by telling them I wish I could take them all back to September 10, 2001, for even just 60 seconds so they can get a small glimpse of the way things used to be.

Every photo and video clip in my lesson still gives me chills. It seems like a yesterday but so long ago…my emotions are still raw, still new, and still filled with denial that something like this could actually happen here.

But the truth is, it did happen.

15 years later, and I still remember how much life changed on that day.

I’m sure you remember too.

It’s our duty to make sure that WE, AS A COLLECTIVE, NEVER FORGET, so the next generation also remembers the selfless sacrifices of so many and the legacies of those who were lost.

Thank you to all police, firefighters, first responders, military, and everyone who put our safety before theirs, no matter what.

God Bless America.

To learn more about Thomas Franklin’s photo, please click here.

 

Looking Back: Day 8 in Photos – Goodbye, Ireland, and Thank You!

Monday, August 22, 2016: The time has come to say goodbye to Dublin. I didn’t take many photos, but here are a few to sum up our final day. If you click on one of the pictures below, it will turn into a gallery which you might find easier to view.

What did Ireland give to me? A whole hell of a lot…

I returned with over 2,000 images and even more memories.

I returned with an overwhelming sense of calm and a joyful soul.

I returned with a deeper understanding of human behavior, of James Joyce and his literature, and of what it would be like to live in Dublin.

I returned with a sense of accomplishment and awe. I still can’t believe I actually did this.

I returned filled with gratitude for every single moment I enjoyed. I am immensely thankful for not only this experience, but also for my traveling companion who joined me (by choice!) on this awesome journey.

I returned with my spirit guide still at my side. SHE has given me clarity and assurance, and continues to guide me towards my focus, which is finally clearer than ever.

Part 1 of my mission from the universe has now ended, but part 2 has already begun: writing a novel.

OC1_16IRE_0820_1758

I believed I could, so I did.

How about that?

*** All photographs that are a part of this gallery were taken by me, Jill Ocone, on August 22, 2016 and are copyrighted. However, since there’s nothing all that Earth shattering here, you have my permission to steal these images and claim them as your own!

Looking Back: Dublin Day 5 (Part 2) In Pictures: Celtic Boyne Valley Tour

After visiting the Hill of Tara on August 19, 2016, our day trip took us to four more locations, all with deep history. If you click on one of the pictures below, it will turn into a gallery which you might find easier to view.

As you can see, the day did not disappoint. I would definitely recommend Extreme Ireland’s tour. They offer day trips to a lot of other locations, too. To learn more about each of the locations from today’s post, please click on the links below.

Trim Castle

Loughcrew Megalithic Cairns

Monasterboice

Drogheda

St. Peter’s Church

Saint Oliver

Extreme Ireland Adventures

Coming tomorrow: Day 5 Part 3: Howth

*** All photographs that are a part of this gallery were taken by me, Jill Ocone, on August 19, 2016 and are copyrighted. It is illegal to reproduce or to take credit for my intellectual property contained on this post. Thank you for your compliance.

 

 

Looking Back: Dublin Day 2 (Part 2) In Pictures

Today we will look back at the second part of Dublin Day 2. I think we did the most walking on Day 2, and while my legs were screaming in pain by the end of the day, I was glad the reason they were screaming was because of such a wonderful day versus hurting for nothing at all. Surprisingly, the pain subsided while I slept, which hardly ever happens. I know I had some special spirits looking over me, and I like to think they played a hand in my better than expected health throughout the week. Day 2 Part 2 takes us through Merrion Square through our storytelling dinner at The Brazen Head Pub, Ireland’s oldest pub. If you click on one of the pictures below, it will turn into a gallery which you might find easier to view. Cheers!

If you would like to learn more about the sights I saw on Day 2 Part 2, here are links for you:

PDF Copy of “A Selection of Stories from An Evening of Food, Folklore and Fairies at The Brazen Head

Oscar Wilde Statue, Merrion Square

O’Neill’s Pub

Knobs and Knockers

Molly Malone

Bewley’s Oriental Cafe on Grafton

Dame Tavern

Costa

Dublin Castle

Queen of Tarts

Dublina Viking and Medieval Museum

The Brazen Head

I hope that you visit tomorrow for Dublin, Day 3, Part 1 (including James Joyce statue and James Joyce Centre). Until then, be well my friend!

*** All photographs that are a part of this gallery were taken by me, Jill Ocone, on August 16,2016 and are copyrighted. It is illegal to reproduce or to take credit for my intellectual property contained on this post. Thank you for your compliance.

“Mission from the Universe” Part 7: I Go!

20160814 TODAY USE Days Blog Photo New Fonts

go!

It sounds like something my 2-year-old nephew or Ivan Drago from Rocky IV would say.

It is time.

Tomorrow evening I will be walking onto a United plane in New Jersey, and after about 7 hours or so, walking off in Dublin, Ireland.

I’m in awe that I had the courage to make this trip idea a reality. I’m actually doing it!

I am open.

I expect nothing.

I will be mindful and present and let life happen as it should.

I will treasure each footstep and everything I see.

I will watch the sun rise and set in a new land.

As suggested by John Keating in Dead Poets Society, I am doing something I consider extraordinary.

Most importantly,

I seize the day.

Thank you for reading, for listening, and for supporting my journey. I am immensely grateful for the loving support of my husband, family, and friends who have had to listen to be jabber on for months now about my mission from the universe. Most of all, a huge thank you to my travel partner in crime, my dear friend for over 20 years now, who is accompanying me on this adventure.

As I will be focusing on LIFE and LIVING while in Dublin, I do not plan to post here on SoulSEAker until I return. I will most likely post a few photographs to my Facebook and Instagram pages only, depending on access to technology. If you are interested, please follow me there for updates (links below).

The time is here.

Let’s do this! 

Jill

SoulSEAker Instagram

SoulSEAker Facebook Page

Personal Instagram

 

“Mission from the Universe” Part 6: Who am I?

20160812 3 Days Blog Photo New Fonts

(Click HERE to read Part 1Click HERE to read Part 2 – Click HERE to read Part 3 – Click HERE to read Part 4 – Click HERE to read Part 5)

Today is August 13, 2016.

Who am I today?

I Am…

  • Kind
  • Honest
  • Open
  • Worthy
  • A Wife
  • A Sister
  • A Daughter
  • An Auntie
  • A Godmother
  • A Writer
  • A Teacher
  • A Student
  • A Friend
  • A Dreamer
  • A Traveler
  • One of a Kind

I am a lover of blue, sunrises, butterflies, summer, the sea.

I help when I can and find a lesson in every day.

I value honesty and kindness.

I am excited about opportunity, concerned about my health, enthusiastic about living.

I need laughter, waves, and words.

I give compassion, respect, encouragement, and support.

I fear lost time and Kingda Ka (the rollercoaster).

I would like to see a world filled with humanity instead of acrimony.

I live to live and dream to make my life come alive.

I believe in filling my soul with joy and my heart with love.

 

Stay tuned the final installment, Part 7: I Go!, tomorrow.

“Mission from the Universe” Part 4: The Web of Connections

20160810 4 Days Blog Photo New Fonts(Click HERE to read Part 1Click HERE to read Part 2 – Click HERE to read Part 3)

I’ve been aware of these so-called signs for about 10 months or so. It kills me thinking about all of the signs I might have missed before I figured out what was going on, but alas, that’s doing the very thing I vowed to STOP doing, which is looking at the past.

Move on, Jill. Move on.

The signs or clues come in a variety of forms and through a variety of means, including through the words of others, through technology by emails and posts, through song lyrics and recurring songs that “randomly” are played, and through books and articles, to name a few.

Some of the signs have actually been physical, tangible items. Those are the ones with the strongest punch, the ones that fill me with chills and awe and joy.

One such example is a post I wrote last month, where GALICIA, a region I had never heard of before, popped up twice in one day from two completely separate sources. You can read that post here.

Now, did SHE actually send me that connection or that word?

Probably not.

Can I connect her to that line on my web somehow?

Yes I can.

Because I am headed to Dublin, I began researching my family history to see if we have an Irish connection. Through that research, I unearthed the region of GALICIA on my family tree, as well as read about it in a book given to me by a former student from where SHE was my colleague. Roundabout yes, but without this trip, I probably wouldn’t have even thought to take a look at my heritage.

It’s like a massive 6 Degrees of Separation thing.

I’m still hoping to find an Irish connection in my heritage before the trip, but if I don’t, no worries. Perhaps that story I was told about one of my great-grandfathers coming from Ireland wasn’t accurate. With the way my luck goes, I’ll find a connection on the first day I return. 😉  And if that happens, that’s the way the universe wants it to happen. I’m okay with it.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the terms on my Web of Connections that I’ve been led to over the past year. While I am comfortable sharing these terms, I am not open to discussing possible meanings at this time, as this is very personal. I have an idea about what some might be referring to or where some might be leading, but I need to figure everything out on my own.  I kindly request that you refrain from providing any insight, comments, interpretations, or opinions about what you think something might mean or symbolize. The time will come when I will ask for opinions and the like (believe me, I’m looking forward to it!).

Now is not that time. Thank you very much for your understanding.

  • Ireland/Dublin (of course)
  • James Joyce

    FullSizeRender
    My Web of Connections, intentionally blurred to protect confidentiality
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Midnight
  • Light
  • Dark
  • Open
  • Serve
  • Galicia/Austria/Poland/Russia
  • Malcolm Gladwell
  • Dig/Digging
  • Write/Writing
  • Soul
  • Me/We
  • Treasure
  • Signs
  • Sun/Sunlight
  • Sky
  • Green
  • Pilgrimage
  • Paulo Coelho
  • Triskelion symbol
  • Terms from the past that have made an appearance include ships and ghost story.

Stay tuned for Part 5: Walking the Path tomorrow.

“Mission from the Universe” Part 2: SHE and ME

“Mission from the Universe” Part 2: SHE and ME

(If you missed Part 1, please click here to read.)

SHE loved James Joyce, Seamus Heaney, and other British and Irish authors. SHE was of Irish heritage, but SHE never got to visit her homeland, the place she loved, the place she hoped to see with her own eyes and walk with her own feet.

While on the streets of Dublin in 2014, I swear I saw her at least three times in the crowd. I recognized her hair, her smile, and her eyes immediately. She was happy and at peace. Those 3 sightings are as clear in my brain as what I just looked at a second ago.

SHE and I were colleagues for 14 years and spent a lot of time together from September through June. We’d share duty periods, lunch periods, meetings, activities, and prep periods together as much as our schedules would allow.

Whenever she’d see me, she’d say, “Hey, you.”

I can still hear her voice say those two words, and I probably will for the rest of my life.

Outside of our work hours and months, we texted here and there and saw each other for lunch usually once a summer. We weren’t best friends by any means, but we confided in and supported each other no matter what. A treasured friend. That’s how I think of her.

As I wrote yesterday, I lost my father-in-law four months after SHE was gone, then was hit with another punch to my soul when my own father died from a massive stroke in his sleep 8 months later.

For the most part, it was a real shitty time for me from December 2013 through early 2015.

The upside since?

I am more aware of LIFE and what the term “living” actually means.

I want to LIVE MY LIFE, which is, unfortunately, a life negatively affected by a very active Lupus flare since last year. My health limitations amplify the importance of “living” as much as possible every minute of every day.

And man, do I cherish the good days and moments.

I am no longer a lackey. Instead, I confidently and unwaveringly say NO when my life, my health, my peace of mind, or my well-being will be negatively affected, nor do I allow the precious time I have left here on Earth to be pilfered away by someone else’s agenda, to do list, or so-called “emergency.”

Yep, there SHE is, that spit-fire, coming out through my words! Loving it!

For some reason, SHE has definitely been more in my life since her passing than when she physically walked on Earth, which has been pretty freaking awesome.

Our connection is stronger now than ever. It took me a while to believe it too, so I don’t begrudge you for thinking that I might be a little nutty or if you doubt that this is all part of a bigger thing going on.

But it is. It’s much bigger than me.

I’m following my heart and listening to the universe. SHE’s playing a very active hand with the universe, and at times, she is holding the winning card.

It’s definitely more than so-called “coincidences.”

Things that happened in my past, and I mean like 20 years ago past are now making sense through the massive web of signs and connections SHE has, in part, guided me to over the past year and a half.

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The James Joyce Tower near Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland

SHE is giving me confidence and the gumption to say YES to life on my terms.

SHE is helping me find my voice.

And in 6 days, SHE will have succeeded in her long campaign of getting me to return to Dublin.

Stay tuned for Part 3: Be Open tomorrow.