Thankful Thursday 5 December 2019

Today is another hard anniversary – 6 years since the case was dropped and I felt even worse. I remember that Thursday vividly, I was coming home after getting the news and my case worker called, I didn’t answer the phone and I never returned the call. I was too shocked and angry. I was most likely wrong, but I can’t go back and honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with what I was feeling.

Next Sunday will be 6 years since I graduated from college and this time of year usually hits me hard. I love the winter, so it’s not the season, I lost so much in 2013. I wanted to move away to Detroit and I focused the job search there instead of here; I wasted so much time and when I couldn’t find anything full-time after two years, I had to take my current job. I feel stuck because as I try to get out of the field, I get some contacts within the appeals field and I have to tell them ‘no’, I’m looking for something to utilize my English degree. This area is mostly health and finance related, so I feel defeated every year around this time.

Anyway, I have been looking back on the positives from around that time. While many people walked out and blamed me, I had many supportive people. Before I graduated, two of my co-workers from my paid internship took me out to lunch on Friday, 13 December 2013 to celebrate me and my accomplishments. I felt loved and after things happened in November 2013, they both told me that I should have called them for help; I didn’t realize I had Caeli’s phone number; both Caeli and Brittany were supportive. Looking back, now that I am coming from a place of healing, I am grateful and I wish I could have expressed it more back then.

Caeli actually reached out to me yesterday. Ironically; I wonder if she remembered and it was her way of connecting. She requested me on LinkedIn, then recommended me for many skill sets. I sent her a message. I feel grateful.

I am grateful for my friends and family. Dad is friends with a soda distributor and he ordered me Faygo, charged dad only $12 and dad said I don’t have to worry about paying him back. I have a 12 case of 24 oz. orange Faygo and I’m grateful. I’m very grateful.

What are you thankful for?

Sunshine Blogger Award!

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Hello dear readers!

When I first started this blog in April 2018, I was hoping to promote my project and spread positivity. I had just deleted Facebook, and I needed some positivity too. Needless to say, my blog has done that and more! I really am thankful for this blog and all the connections I have been able to make through the past year and a half.  Being able to share my stories, to feel comfortable while being vulnerable with y’all, and read the stories of others has made life far more exciting and interesting; I’ve been able to grow through you as well.  I love my village of bloggers and how we uplift one another.

 

It was such a nice surprise and an honor to receive this Sunshine Blogger Award and I would like to thank Alana from Living Out Loud for nominating me.  Thank you for being such a positive and inspiring person! I love all the fitness posts and thank you for all of the advice over the past few months. Your inspiration keeps me inspired!  Keep doing what you are doing and continue to live your best life!

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My nominator was Alana from Living Out Loud.  She is a mindfulness expert and lifestyle coach. She posts everything from happiness projects, workouts, and self-love.  Visit her blog for a wide variety of  stories, inspiration,  and insights.  You will not be disappointed!

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  1. At the stage you are at in your life…what’s…your own personal definition of the word “Love?”

First, love of oneself is important. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others. To love yourself is to allow yourself to be vulnerable, to be truthful to yourself and to feel good about yourself, regardless of your flaws. It is our flaws that make us unique and it also gives us a light. Love is a lot like light. To love is to be patient, kind, selfless, honest, and vulnerable.  Our vulnerability and honesty allow us to connect deeply and see past ourselves and to hope for the very best for another.  It’s accepting of everything and while not looking past it, but it brings a value.

 

  1. Would you entertain…you…10 years ago…now?

You bet! I am a joy to be with and I am such a joker. Lately, I’ve been learning to laugh at myself. We all make mistakes and let me tell you, I am a riot for some of my faux pas! This laughter has added light to my life and peace. I’ve been in a quiet and peaceful state of mind lately, meditating, reflecting, and giving advice to others. Lately, people have been asking me for advice and honour it. I’ve been honouring my self-advice too.

 

  1. Where’s the place…or places…you feel most at peace…at one with existence?

Peace is a state of mind. Honestly, I feel at peace everywhere I go. I tend to meet friendly people on my travels and friendly people reside everywhere. I tend to learn when I travel and when I am learning, I feel a sense of calm. Also, getting tattooed and pierced provide me with a sense of peace too.

 

  1. If you could take a personal life lesson…then turn it into a quote that connected with and helped others…what would it be?

“Just let it all out!” and “you get what you give.”

 

Why two? I learned two important things this year. The first, “just let it all out!” is simple… it’s unhealthy to hold feelings inside. I will admit, I was very ashamed to share my experiences from 7 November 2013 because I was always the intelligent one who never got so desperate and allow someone to violate her. However, we are all human and humans make mistakes. That shame and holding all of that shame inside actually not only led to anger problems and depression, but I think it acerbated my chronic illnesses.

I remember when I first shared my story when I was first starting the Happiness Box Project, some people said, “that’s not very happy! Why would you tell that story with a happiness project.” Well, feelings are healthy. Being happy all the time, just like being depressed all the time, isn’t really healthy. It is through these hard feelings that we become vulnerable and through vulnerability is how joy is created.

Anyway, I was ashamed to share these stories and some of the difficult things that happened to me through the year. I made them protected until two friends said to me, “Jess, don’t be ashamed to tell your stories. They are who you are and how can you be honest with your readers, how can you be honest with your project when you are afraid of telling your stories.” I thought about it, unhid those posts, and now I share my stories with honesty. I feel light now that I have let them all out.

I said to a co-worker this morning, “you get what you give” when she was surprised when many people opted out of giving our manager a gift. Our manager isn’t always nice and can be unfriendly at times, she has made some enemies because of what she puts out. We reap what we sow, if we are unkind to people, expect unkindess. If you are kind to others, that kindness will come back to you.

 

  1. What’s your favourite smell?

I really love vanilla and lavender. Both are comforting smells.

 

  1. What’s your favourite sound?

The sound of music, the ocean, falling rain.

  1. At the stage you are at in your life…what’s…your own personal definition of the word “Success?”

I agree with Alaina: success is setting goals and dreams, then following through and making them come true.

  1. Sum up your blog space in 5 words?
    Daily gratitude, emotions, and joy.
  2. You’re fighting…professionally…for sport…for the championship of the world…and…you win it. Did you highlight reel your opponent in the first round…out cold…or…win on points after warring with each other the entire distance?

As much as I don’t like fighting, I like the drama and we would have to go the entire distance.

 

  1. If I turned your life so far…into a blockbuster movie…what would it be called?

The Joy Jar.

  1. You’re writing a best selling book…fill in the blank. “10 steps to……………”

Living a more mindful and grateful life.

 

My nominations:

Shady – Shady’s Place

Janie – Janie Junebug Righting and Editing

The Armchair Squid

Chelsea Finn- Organized Mess

Andrew- Air Nice to Livelands

Stephanie- World Turn’d Upside Down

Leigh- A Rosier Future

Joy

Lyn

Charlie

 

Gil Shaham and the Philadelphia Orchestra

Last night I went to see Gil Shaham perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra. This was my first time seeing the talented violinist live and his playing brought me to tears. Shaham not only has talent, but grace and beauty. He was a powerhouse with the bow and I sat captivated by his performance for the full forty minutes. Just beautiful and this is the true definition of joy.

I couldn’t take photos or videos, but I found some of his work on YouTube that I would love to share with you. I did try to take photos at the end, but they didn’t come out too well.

 

 

It felt so nice to return to the Kimmel Center last night, after a long summer break.

2009 – 2019 The Decade of Personal Growth (A Slow Journey Towards Happiness)

The decade challenge has made its rounds on social media again. Most people posted pictures on how their looks have changed – weight lost or gained (but mostly lost) and other silly reasons.

I joined the inked club at the end of May when I got my first tattoo, six weeks before I turned 30. I was always too afraid of what mom would say because when I was 18-22, she said as long as I lived here, no. For the past two years her stances have changed since 27+ is a lot different than a teenager and very young adult. I’m not 18-22 anymore and I was proud of myself for going through with it, doing something I’ve always wanted to do. I love my piece and I love flaunting Wraith.

I got my second tattoo three weeks ago, on the sixth anniversary of my rape. 2013 and 2019 have the same days and I wanted to write love on my skin, as well as the day. It also reframed the day and as I was getting “for when I am weak, then I am strong” tattooed on my back, I felt so much love. I was feeling loved as I shared my vulnerability with the artist. Getting a tattoo and two in less than a year is transformative.

I posted two photos from 2009, when I had henna tattoos painted on my hand. My caption: “2009 was all about henna, 2019 is all about permanence. Don’t get me wrong, I still love henna; I really love my ink!”

The pictures I posted from 2009 were from a festival in West Chester in September, a few weeks before my boyfriend at the time broke up with me. This was before hypothyroidism, Celiac disease, the weight gain and even though I was pretty and thin, you could see the unhappiness in my eyes. I was with my boyfriend that day, we fought before we arrived at this festival, we were fighting a lot then; I’m sure my expression gives it away too.

I was miserable. I hated dating Danny, he was such a jerk. He used to call me a lesbian because I wouldn’t do anything physical with him, in which I would fire back, “I’m not a lesbian because I wouldn’t sleep with women either!” I felt like a freak of nature, especially when he made of the way I looked, but was too afraid to end it because I didn’t want to announce to Facebook that I must be abnormal with a lack of relationship. He ended it three weeks later over AIM and I never saw him again. Looking back, what a coward.

I only had two relationships, both three months long and they were the same in intensity. Both thought I was a lesbian or something because I wouldn’t commit physically. In 2010, I decided that I wasn’t interested in relationships and in 2011 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I gained 80 pounds and was depressed. I wanted to be more involved with people and that fall I became an ally through West Chester University. As an ally, I discovered asexuality and that was me. The lack of interest was me and it felt good to know I wasn’t alone.

I wish I could say that the discovery brought instant peace. I was 22 in 2011 and was heavily influenced by Facebook; I wanted to look normal because I wanted to fit in and belong somewhere, but I also wanted to experience what girls my age experienced, love, getting engaged, and getting married. I didn’t know any other asexuals, even though asexuals could do all of those things too. I also knew my hypothyroidism had no effect on my sexuality because I felt this way even when I had a healthy thyroid.

I continued being an ally and I continued to learn about myself, however, I still felt uncomfortable in my skin, but not dangerously uncomfortable yet. I made friends, mostly female since males didn’t seem interested in friendships – 20 somethings, I found, preferred something physical. I also made tons of friends on Facebook, about 1500, and I felt something good, although it was hollow. I connected with a few in real life that I thought were real friends.

Sadly, Nan died on 25 January 2013 and that began a year of depression and loneliness. The friends I thought were true friends weren’t really interested in my well-being and I started feeling dangerously uncomfortable in my skin. I was very uncomfortable in my skin in the fall of 2013 when I connected with Steven on Facebook. He was a Juggalo in Ohio, but became a very dangerous Facebook friend when he blamed me for ruining his life. This was also around the time I met Brandon and the owners of the cupcake shop in West Chester. While the whole thing was weird, looking back, I failed to listen to myself during this time. Steven and I had a text fight, then he blocked me on 7 November 2013, I felt like an awful human being who failed at life and I wanted to drown my sorrows at the cupcake shop. Sweets tended to bring temporary relief. Brandon came in, said I looked like hell, he took me out, I got really drunk and he raped me. For those who are new, here is the story (read this one too).

I spent the entirety of 2014 and 2015 depressed. I was blamed after it happened and I felt like the ultimate loser. I was depressed and anxious from PTSD. I became a Muslim again, even though that attempt in 2010 failed, I wanted to try again. I lasted for three years, but that added to my unhappiness because some Muslims on Facebook said I couldn’t be associated with my Catholic and atheist family members. I still was, I believe in co-existence.

I started the Happiness Jar in 2016, then the box in 2017 and I still do the Happiness Box Project. I left Facebook, I left Islam and will not get involved in organized religion again. Facebook is a time sink that makes me depressed and since I believe in co-existence the rights of the LGBTQIA community, I rather be spiritual.  I use Instagram still, but have no problem disconnecting if I need to.

I started therapy through LGBTQIA groups, accept my asexuality, and I accepted that I was raped and it wasn’t my fault. I blamed myself for a long time because I went with him. I also shared that I think I was targeted because I mentioned I wasn’t really interested in Brandon and wasn’t interested in anything physical. I made a bad decision, but I didn’t deserve to be raped. I was validated and there’s something transformative about the whole therapy process. With my acceptance of my asexuality and past, I am also celibate. I also never wanted to get married; I am happy single and even though I am single, I tend to meet people when I travel. I love traveling and I love meeting people.

I also learned a few months ago that if someone crosses my boundaries, I will trigger and it lasts for about a week. I have also learned to let go of caring so much with what others think of me. I live my life and I am the boss of my own life.

It’s funny because before Brandon even came to the cupcake shops, I reached out to “close” Facebook friends for advice, and I also reached out to Christine, Christina, and some other college friends, but they didn’t want to spend time with me. Since deleting Facebook, I realized that Facebook friends for the most part aren’t true friends. In 2014, I let go of Christine after she told me that she was finally glad I got some action. No, just no. I recently let go of Christina and the people in my life now, they are true friends that I can count on. Through this ordeal, I learned who my tribe was.

Through my project, I have learned that I have a lot to be grateful for and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Getting these tattoos mean more than the physical changes, but the mental changes that happened in the past decade and the changes to come in the new decade. I will flaunt my transformation and will use it to fuel the next decade, where I continue the process of personal growth and joy.

 

Thankful Thursday 28 November 2019 | Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers! Happy Thankful Thursday to all!

I am thankful for my family and family because I am truly loved. I am grateful for the love we show one another. I’m also thankful to have  a roof over my head, food on the table, water, and two jobs. I may not be monetarily wealthy, but I am wealthy in all other aspects. I am truly blessed.

Aunt Linda and Uncle Joey moved to Florida; Josh and Jason are the two that remained in our area, but Josh went down to Florida for the holidays. Jason thought he had to work at Wegmans today, he didn’t, and we had him over for Thanksgiving dinner.

What a lovely Thanksgiving! Before he arrived, dad lit the fireplace and we all sat together, the Boy included, and bonded as a family. I decided to scrapbook a little and Jason came at four. We enjoyed the fire and I loved chatting with Jason about music and travel. I’m so grateful he joined us and I’m grateful for a lovely day.

 

I also worked on a piece for the Farmer’s Almanac’s essay contest. The prompt for the contest is: “What worn-out possession is dearest to you, and why?” Here is my essay; I feel good about it and I submitted it to the website already. I am a winner, and I am eternally grateful for the belated gift I was given on 4 January 2000.

It’s January 4, 2000, and I just finished my first day back to fourth grade after a fun Christmas break. I couldn’t wait to visit Nan and tell her all about my day.

 

“I have a surprise for you!” She excitedly called out as I walked through the door.

 

“Oh?” I looked puzzled, but nonetheless excited. I followed Nan upstairs and she led me to her hallway closet. I am puzzled at this point and she laughed at my expression.

 

“Remember something you wanted for Christmas?” I was thinking about my list, I received everything I wanted for Christmas. “Well, I was cleaning today and came across this Sears bag. I opened it and I saw something yellow.” Nan handed me the bag. I quickly opened the bag and to my delight, I grabbed a giant stuffed Pikachu out. My wish came true! I hugged Nan tightly; I added him to the bear collection on my bed.

 

Nan died on January 25, 2013. After her passing, I hugged Pikachu tightly; the grief was too much to bear. Pikachu still lays on my bed, almost twenty years later. He is well-loved, just like the love Nan showed to me.

What are you grateful for today? I hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday, dear readers!

Grateful Sunday | Brunch at Tel Hai Retirement Community

Mrs. Friese invited us over for brunch at Tel Hai Retirement Community in Honey Brook, PA. Mom, dad, Aunt Kathy, Aunt Peg, Uncle Tom, his twin brother Bill, and I met at 12:30. I haven’t seen Bill in a while and we caught up for a bit. We talked sports – I told him I mostly follow the Toronto teams (except for the Ravens) and was telling him about the time I saw a Blue Jays home opener in April 2016 and it snowed. Mrs. Friese is a Canadian, so Bill enjoyed my story. Mrs. Friese then showed us her apartment and we gathered there briefly until brunch.

Ah, brunch! We went to Garrett Hall and they had a large table set up for us. I ordered my gluten-free meal: French toast, hash browns and a salad; mom, dad, Bill, Mrs. Friese, and Uncle Tom ordered Prime Rib; Aunt Kathy and Aunt Peg ordered eggs. As we waited for our food to come out to us, we all told different stories and had fun laughing. The elders talked about the old days, Bill works in hospitality and we chatted travel and about my gluten-free diet; unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos because I was savouring the moments and I wasn’t sure how others would have felt. That’s okay, our meals were delicious and I enjoyed listening to the stories. I will remember the beauty of Garrett Hall and how the sun eventually came out, lighting the room.

After our meal, which Mrs. Friese treated us to, she showed us around Tel Hai. Her daughter used to work for the Upper Merion Township Library when she was younger and she knows how much I love libraries. She showed me the library she volunteers for and recommended some books. It was a spacious room with shelves and shelves of books, magazines, and some chairs. It was a cozy space and I could have stayed for hours.

We went back to her apartment and all sat in the living room. Mrs. Friese showed us some of her belongings that she traded with the Canadian Indians when she was younger. Some were handmade boxes made of quills, and some were made from Teak wood. They were beautiful and she was telling us about her life in Canada. Her one brother lives in Prince Edward Island and I enjoyed hearing about him. Dad loved the recliner she had and it was just comfortable sitting in her living room for an hour, just chatting as a loving family. Her apartment was warm and welcoming.

Before we left, Mrs. Friese gave everyone slices of chocolate cake. She said, “I feel bad that I can’t give Jessica any! How about the Prime rib I had wrapped?” She gave me her Prime rib and I feel verklempt. I am beyond grateful and the Prime rib she gave me will be lunch tomorrow. We all thanked her, gave her a big hug and kiss before we left; we can’t wait to go back to Tel Hai. I did capture a photo of the retirement community as we pulled out of the parking lot.

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Throwing Axes

Last night I decided to return to Kick Ax after a six month hiatus. I made a reservation for 4:30 and I was excited to start throwing perfection again like the last time.

 

I was running a little late, but I made it early. I had to wait for a little bit and at a little past 4:30, I was paired with four others. Two young women and two young men. Our instructor gave us pointers and safety rules and I mentioned last time I did well and threw bullseyes.

Well, I was off last night. I couldn’t hit and I finally got my groove back in the last 20 minutes of the session. See, perfection isn’t a human quality! Once I stopped thinking and stressing so much, let go and just throw, I did much better.

MK (Mary Kate), Kathleen, Bill, and Dylan were the people I joined. Kathleen, Dylan, and Bill were from Long Island and MK was from New Jersey. They were in town for a Luke Bryant concert. MK, Kathleen and I were in a group, Axetually Insane, and Bill and Dylan were the other group: Baxestreet Boys. We laughed and joked and just had a good time.

Kathleen and I were chatting between turns and she said to me, “I don’t tell people often that I’m from Long Island because most people hate New Yorkers.” I said, “Oh, I love New Yorkers and I want to visit Long Island the next time I visit. I actually want to move to Brighton Beach before I move to Toronto.” We were chatting about that and she gave me some pointers.

At the end of the session, we had the obligatory group photo, and the instructor took the obligatory photos with our phones too. Before we parted, we all shook hands, said it was nice meeting one another, and wished each other well. I gave them so go-to places too. The instructor was shocked that we had just met because he assumed that we were all friends and all came together because it looked like it. I guess that is my gift… I travel alone and I often don’t have a difficult time meeting others and having a good time either.

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As I was walking to Super Cuts after, I thought to myself, “I actually really love New Yorkers and find most of them to be so kind. While I’m sure some of them are a-holes, but that can be true anywhere, I’ve met mostly kind New Yorkers. I was so grateful when young women helped me with my luggage back in July because they saw me struggling between subway cars. While I don’t like Philly sports teams, there are many kind people here too. There are kind people everywhere and the world is mostly kind.”

I guess I must have channeled something because when I walked into Super Cuts, the long time hair stylists were back, including one I am friends with on Instagram. She exclaimed, “Woohoo! Jess is here! I absolutely love following your Instagram and travels, you are just a positive space!” That made me smile. Trish freshened up my undercut and it was just a lovely experience.

As I was walking to dinner, I stopped off at Repo Records and saw the punk rock Grinch they had out. They have him out every year and I love taking photos of him. Someone took a photo of me with him and I posted it to the Happiness Box Instagram. Repo Records saw it, liked it, and commented with a heart. That made my day too.

A lovely Friday in the city.