A Manifesto for 2018

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

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

Frigging bastards.

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

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

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

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

That stops now.

There’s no resolutions for me this year.

No, sir.

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

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

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

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

I am alive.

And so are you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s do this, 2018!

With gratitude and joy,


Note: This was also posted on jillocone.com. 

Part One of “The Universe Is At It Again!”: Who Am I?

Who are you? Or better yet, who am I? That’s the quintessential question, isn’t it? And I think every one of us is searching for that elusive answer, despite how confident we might be.

Who am I, indeed? What makes me ME?

One of my biggest regrets is never preserving each of my four grandparents’ stories…their backgrounds, families, cultures, heritages, and what made each of them THEM.

Sure, I talked with them a bit when I was young, but I don’t remember much of anything because I never took the time to write anything down.

That part of my story, their individual stories comprised of their contributions to my genetic blueprint, is forever lost.

Huge regret.


I do recall being told over the years that my heritage includes Russian, English, German, and a tad bit of Irish.

Tad bit of Irish? With my connection to all things Ireland over the past 3 years, I longed for more than just a “tad” bit of Irish in my background.

So, last summer, I decided to see if I could find out exactly that that “tad” was comprised of.

Three weeks before I left for Dublin, I began researching my genealogy hoping to find an Irish connection, specifically through my Grandpa C. He never shared much of anything about his background or family, but I vaguely recall him saying there was Irish mixed in with his mostly English heritage.

Our local library offers free Ancestry access to anyone with a library card, so I spent a few summer afternoons playing detective as I tried to uncover at least one Irish link. The more I searched, the more discoveries about my family heritage I made, but with each click ahead I fell further behind on making a concrete Irish connection.

All in all, I ended up learning a lot, but I was unable to confirm or deny what it was that brought me to the library in the first place.

For starters, I found out pretty quickly that my supposed Russian heritage was perhaps incorrectly attributed.

Census from 1930

The line in my heritage through my father’s mother’s family provided very quick and solid information. Grandma C. always said that she was Russian, and she even knew how to speak it. However, I think she might have been mistaken. On every census and official document I could find on her family line, the home country of her parents, J and E, was different. The earliest I could find from the early 1900s listed Galicia (not the one in Spain) as their home country, and that changed over the years to Austria, Poland, and Russia.

Galicia was one of those recurring terms from last summer that guided me, and I wrote a separate entry about that here.

I unearthed more information about Grandma C.’s line, and my mother’s parents and their lines, but the line from my dad’s father gave me the least amount of data. All I found was Grandpa C.’s marriage certificate to Grandma C. (the one with parents from Galicia), which included both of their parent’s names, one entry in a census report from 1940, and his birth and death dates.

When he heard I was trying to learn about our family, my Uncle G (Dad’s brother) gave me a red binder filled with photos from Grandpa C.’s side and obituary clippings and memorial cards from many members of his family. I meticulously went through the album hoping to find a link to Ireland, but I came up with nothing. Most of the pictures didn’t have names, and the ones that did were people who both my Uncle and I had never met or really heard of before.

I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to confirm anything Irish in my heritage. Drats.

I traveled to Dublin in August, unsure of whether or not I had any legit ties to what has become one of my favorite places in the world. That trip changed my life in so many ways regardless of whether I’m truly Irish or not.

When I returned from my trip, the frenzy of back to school hit hard, and I abandoned my genealogy research for the time being. I instead focused on my novel, my writing, and my responsibilities. Another summer would be here, soon, with time for me to once again pursue learning about the origins of my heritage.

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow!


Week 5 Challenges for “SEA”king ME and “SEA”king WE 2017

One month is almost in the books. Yikes! I am happy to share that I completed both challenges for Week 4, despite setbacks from being sick. While I did not write every day on my book, I did write every day in some way, shape, or fashion. I tweaked and revised the timelines I set for my two 2017 goals to be more in line with my past progress and my health. For the WE challenge, I sent thank you notes to the people I interviewed for my articles and to some colleagues I work with.

The challenges for Week 5 are below. In addition to the posted WE challenge, please be kind to others. It’s a scary time right now, and we all could use a little more kindness and compassion. Be a light for others, showing them that there is good in this wacky world.

These challenges are for those looking to better themselves and/or to put the “human” back in humanity in 2017. To learn more about the challenges, click here. And if you’ve been following them, please feel free to leave a comment to let me know what you did and how it went for you!

Have a splendid week, my friend!



Week 4 Challenges for “SEA”king ME and “SEA”king WE 2017

I just looked at my planner…how are we 22 days into 2017 already?!??! Shouldn’t it be like 6? Wow…days fly by faster and faster. For my Week 3 ME Challenge, I certainly did go with the flow. I had no idea when I selected the challenge of marching forward with pride and strength for Week 3 that it would be Inauguration and March week! Indeed, I let my days unfold as they would and put my deadlines and writing goals in front of any sort of political distraction or discourse. Likewise, it was a very good week to speak kindly whenever I could. I held true to the challenge and did not allow any negativity in my words, except for where I had to in my novel story line.

The challenges for Week 4 are below, and I am taking the ME challenge to heart. These challenges are for those looking to better themselves and/or to put the “human” back in humanity in 2017. To learn more about the challenges, click here.





Week 3 Challenges for “SEA”king ME and “SEA”king WE 2017

Two weeks down already, and I enjoyed completing my week 2 challenges. The quote I chose for myself to guide me this year is “Because you are good.” It was said by my 2.5 year old nephew in October, and I have made it my mantra. It’s amazing how much better life became when I acknowledged that I am worthy. And I am forever thankful to my little best friend for showing me what I couldn’t see for so long. For the WE challenge, I held open the door for others wherever I went. Ironically, I had my arms full of bags at one point and someone opened the door and marched right past me, even knocking into me, without extending the courtesy of holding the door for me. I didn’t let it bring me down, though, and instead of getting mad, I just went on about my day and actually held the door for this person the following day. My true colors of kindness are brighter than that person’s true colors of selfishness.

The challenges for Week 3 are below. These challenges are for those looking to better themselves and/or to put the “human” back in humanity in 2017. To learn more about the challenges, click here.





Week 2 Challenges for “SEA”king ME and “SEA”king WE 2017

How did your Week 1 Challenges for 2017 go? I put my letter in my planner, all ready for December 2017, and dropped off two bags of clothes I no longer wear at the bins near my local police station.

The challenges for Week 2 are below. These challenges are for those looking to better themselves and/or to put the “human” back in humanity in 2017. To learn more about the challenges, click here.




“SEA”king ME and “SEA”king WE for 2017

Happy New Year! 2017 is going to be my year, and I hope to inspire you along my journey. Everyone I know gets so bogged down in img_0917their own schedules, full of busy-ness that ultimately benefits someone else. To that I say: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! As such I will be posting two challenges each Sunday to help you make 2017 your year, too.

“SEA”king ME to be Set Free: These will be simple challenges to inspire you to become your best self in 2017. The challenges will be featured on top of crystal aqua water from a photograph I took in Dublin.img_0918

“SEA”king WE for Humanity: These will be focused on something small you can do to help others and to set a good example while promoting humanity. The WE challenges feature a sunrise water image I shot in Florida.

All you have to do to play along is to complete the challenge sometime during the week, or hell, even the month if your schedule gets too crazy. The weekly challenge images will be posted each Sunday on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and when possible, I’ll write a post providing further insight into and/or ideas about the week’s challenges.

If you want, comment each week to let me know how the challenges are working for you. If not, no worries. There’s no judgment or scolding if you aren’t able to complete a challenge. However, I can guarantee you that you’ll feel pretty good if you do complete them.

I am committed to providing you with 52 weeks of ideas to make 2017 your best year, yet, both for yourself and to help those around you.

“No, this is not the beginning of a new chapter in my life; this is the beginning of a new book! That first book is already closed, ended, and tossed into the seas; this new book is newly opened, has just begun! Look, it is the first page! And it is a beautiful one!” – C. JoyBell C.

I hope you will join me for the new and beautiful chapters that await us in 2017!

Look for the Week 1 Challenges later today, which will be posted right here and also on social media!

With gratitude,


Taking the Long Way this Autumn

There’s a white-throated sparrow proudly singing his song outside my window, with a wren crooning in the distance. The breeze coming in through the window is cool and crisp. The leaves, soon to be exploding with color like fireworks, are beginning to crunch under my feet as the trees have started shedding this year’s attire.

As much as I hate to see summer end, I find this time of year is truly majestic, and it’s even more symbolic for me THIS year.

Nature’s cycle of life can teach us all a lesson. Each day makes its individual mark of beauty amid the subtle changes which culminate in the end of a cycle. When it’s time for a change, which could very well be a massive change similar to autumn, do it the way nature does…with complete enthusiasm and gusto, with as much color and pop as possible. Then, nurture yourself with sleep and comfort as you adjust and prepare to spring ahead with newness when the time is right.

I am experiencing my own autumn, so to speak, and am becoming who I am meant to be. Even though I’ve been quiet here on my blog, my brain, my typing fingers, and my pens have not. The fountain has been tapped and the words, held hostage for so long, are finally finding their way out and gushing onto my notebook pages and type screens.

Not all words will be shared or meant for publication, and not all words have to do with my Mission from the Universe. Some are quite honestly an amalgam of crap, but they are words that have to be set free from the jail cell in my brain.

Others are deep-rooted, symbolic, filled with hope and promise…words I never thought would end up on paper but nonetheless appear.

Those are the words guiding my path right now. They are directing my journey to the backroads of my Mission from the Universe.

I’m taking the long way this time, and every single step along this less-trodden path so far has resulted in insight, joy, and a renewed appreciation of life.