Travel in the Time of COVID-19

I was an OCD child and teenager. Whenever mom, dad and I would travel, I would bring my own pillow and blanket. I was terrified of germs and I knew my sleeping supplies were clean. True story: I used to inspect silverware at restaurants and if I saw markings on them, I would ask for a new set of utensils. I was a joy to travel with.

I could get away with bringing my pillow and blanket because my parents would drive to our destinations. Whether it was New Jersey or Baltimore, it was easy to get back and forth. Even when I traveled with mom on business, I would do the same thing.

That all changed when I started traveling by myself in 2011. I don’t drive and packing my pillow became too much on flights, especially since flights would charge extra for extra suitcases. I probably could have gotten away with a pillow on a bus and train, but by 2011 I wasn’t thinking about it even though I was missing my pillow and blanket.

Dear readers, that is changing this year and I’m channeling that OCD younger me, the younger me that wasn’t ashamed of her OCD tendencies and wasn’t told to let them go like she was in college. When I go to Belmar in 11 days, I am packing my pillow, a light blanket, and extra towels. I’m only going for three days, so I don’t need to pack a lot of clothes. Mom is letting me use one of her bigger suitcases so I can pack my pillow. I won’t get charged extra on the bus.

When mom and dad went to Cape May last month, they did the same thing. My dad is OCD and usually doesn’t go that far, but they thought bringing their own pillows and towels was important. They stayed in a motel, I’m staying in an Air BNB.

I will be extra careful this summer. I will bring my cloth mask and I’ll bring paper masks for the beach. I am also packing hand sanitizer, along with my sunscreen. I will still have fun while being careful.

31 Candles, Picture Yourself at Jessica’s 31st birthday celebration

This morning when I woke up, I had two cards waiting for me on the breakfast bar. One from my parents and the other one from the Boy.

 

I began to listen to WRTI’s Classical Coffee House with Debra Lew Harder since I requested Stars and Stripes Forever on Wednesday. I missed the first two hours and although I had 4 more hours of the show, I only listened to a half an hour more since I went roller skating.

I went to the local playground and let’s just say, I’m going to try the skate park next time. I think Summerfest has been cancelled, so I’m trying to (carefully skate on my own). I brought my GoPro, but since I forgot to set it up on my new phone, I attempted at the playground and no luck. Another family was there and I asked the guy, but he had no idea. Dejected, I said, “today is my birthday and it seems like my day didn’t get off to a great start.” His 4 year old daughter must have overheard me.

But, I didn’t want that to define me. I put on my skates and skated to another bench. I brought my flag over and instead of using the GoPro, I put my phone on a timer. At this point, the four year old was on the swings and said, “Happy birthday! My birthday is next month! I’m going to be 5!” As I was skating back and forth for different poses, we kept chatting, until her dad said, “how about you leave her alone, she’s trying to do something.” I said I don’t mind chatting, which I didn’t. After the photos, I skated for a half an hour.

The playground is opened again! After skating, I decided to cool down on the swing set. It felt so nice to be able to swing again. Happy birthday to me!

Went home, watched You Bet Your Garden, then mom, dad, and I went out to lunch. We went to Habit Burger and had to sit outside.

After we got back home, it was around 12:30 and Classical Coffee House had ended. I decided to check the playlist and saw my request was last. I tuned into the archive and oh my, what a wonderful surprise.

 

I then noticed the mailbox door was opened, so I walked outside and I had a surprise waiting for me inside the mailbox:

It was a beautiful card from the Browns! They always remember my birthday and I’m so grateful for them! Next month Grady turns 30 and I’ll get him a little something. When I make the greens again, I will save some for the Browns.

We also watched the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest in Coney Island! What a site to behold, especially since the contestants were separated by plexi-glass. The announcers were in masks and there was no crowd. Eating contests in the time of COVID-19! Joey Chestnut won, again, and beat his record by 3 hot dogs. He was 72 last year, 75 this year. I was reminiscing back to Coney Island and can’t wait to get back again.

About an hour later, I heard a knock at the door and it was Aunt Kathy. Another beautiful surprise! She hung out for 15 minutes, and I’m so grateful for her as well. I’m glad she could stop by.

My birthday dinner was a clam bake, which was delicious. I ordered a gluten-free Angel Food cake from Amaranth bakery and yum!

We ended the evening with fireworks.

 

What a wonderful birthday and I’m so grateful for everyone in my life, even during COVID-19. I hope my American readers had a great Independence Day!

Thankful Friday

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Tomorrow is the big day and I’m so grateful that the Post Office was opened today! I received a really sweet card from Kathleen; it made me verklempt.

 

I decided to go to the King of Prussia Mall today to pick up some clothing items. Some clothing items I don’t like to buy online, especially when it comes to fitting. After I bought what I needed at Nordstrom’s, I decided to see what I could get for my birthday tomorrow. I went into a few shops, didn’t buy anything, until I went into the Rock Shop. I bought two ICP CDs, and a Nine Inch Nails CD. ICP’s Bizarre has a game board to it and I think I’m going to play it for my birthday tomorrow. I won’t take the dice apart, I’ll use my own. The game looks interesting.

The Rock Shop always has ICP albums and I buy one or two each time I go in there. I always enjoy how ICP and Twiztid includes interactive content in their older albums. Bizarre was released in 2000 and between 1994-2004, those were the golden ages of ICP and Twiztid albums. I like their new material, but I especially love their older material. I’m an older Juggalette, though.

Before I ordered Lyft, a kiosk cornered me and did my hair. The guy pressured me to buy the iron, kept taking $10 off and each time I stood my ground, “no.” He eventually took “no” as the answer and I left without spending $120 on something I didn’t need. I once bought the iron and it wasn’t for me. Irons can be damaging to the hair; I don’t even blow dry my hair, I let it dry naturally. The only time I have my hair blown dry or straightened is when I go to the salon, every once in a while. Back in 2014, I couldn’t say no and I think when I was selling things for Canada, someone bought the iron for $10 or maybe I donated it? I can’t remember, but I didn’t want it and I was proud of myself for saying, “no” and sticking to it.

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Every year for my birthday, I donate a little something to a charity close to my heart: Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary. Tomorrow I will donate food and other needs they have posted on their Amazon wish list. I’m also going to donate a little something to another charity that became close to my heart last year: William Way Center. Since they provided me with therapy and a safe space for me to be my asexual self, I can use their counseling services in October again, and provide me with community, I want to donate $15 to them.

I was going to share a Pride play list the other night, but didn’t get a chance. Since I can’t keep calm that it’s almost my birthday, I will end this entry with high energy Pride anthems. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankful Thursday 2 July 2020

We’re half way through the year, can you believe it? I was looking at the Happiness Box and since we’ve been inside since March, it’s not as full as it normally would be at this time. Usually, by the time Happiness Box is half way full. Right now it’s quarter of the way full. I’ll make some scrapbook pages of my vacation to put in there.

My full-time job decided since 95% of us weren’t comfortable coming back, they wouldn’t send us back, and the 5% who had to go in for their job would be the only ones going in. I can only go in when I have a print job and I’m relegated to one day in the building if I have to print. I had a print job this week and I went in today. It felt weird going in today, after 4 months being away. One of my co-workers was there and she wished me a happy birthday. I had a card waiting for me by my monitor from her. That made my morning and I’m so grateful she remembered. Another one wished me a happy birthday yesterday via e-mail.

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I took home my Tundra calendar, since I forgot in March, and took home some pictures because who knows when things can change. Since they invested so much into work from home and since cases keep rising, they might tell my manager that we can’t go into print at all. If they want to save money; ink, paper and postage cost a lot of money, they may tell us to do everything digitally at home and not even bother coming in for one day from time to time.  I like being proactive and honestly, I missed having Tundra in my Happiness Box. Some of my favourite comics from March, April, May, and June, I’ll just cross out the month and day and put the day in July, August, September, October, November and December. Fortunately, there’s only a handful from those few months that I can use for July (July seems to be a miss). Anyway, today was a nice day, it was nice to catch up with the one co-worker and I just feel grateful for it all.

Yesterday I received a card from Flo. Flo is Mary’s sister, the one who died in March. I was so verklempt that despite everything she remembered my birthday and sent me a card. It felt weird not seeing Mary’s name on the card, however. If I see her sitting outside, I’ll see her and thank her. If not, I’ll call her tomorrow and thank her. I can’t believe my birthday is on Saturday.

Kathleen asked for my address and now I’m curious. I’m thankful for her friendship. I’m also thankful for my parents and friends.

Tuesday was our last daily zoom meditation through my full-time job. For the rest of the year, we’ll meet on Mondays. Avi, Joel, and I were the first three there on Tuesday and Stef said to us, “I’m so happy to see you all! You’re the three I can count on and you always help start the meetings.” We had a dance party for the last daily zoom and since it was the last day of Pride, which I am so happy that the company acknowledged this year, we danced to “We Are Family.” I am so grateful for these meetings.

Joel and Avi are starting a weekly Torah/Bible study and since I want to learn more about the Torah, I’m joining. They are both in Florida and they’re really nice people. I’m grateful that they are starting this and creating more ways to build community in isolating times.

What are you thankful for today?

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

I also took Lyft this afternoon and my driver was such a joy.

To Everything a Season…

Here’s a prompt from Writing.com I answered tonight. I’m probably one of the few who can say, “I really love this quarantine.” Not only since I paid off some debt and continue to do so, not only did I get back in touch with my creative side, and took a deep look at my life. I also experienced a lot of kindness and Mother Earth has benefited from our quarantine.

Prompt: For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Since it is so, spiritually speaking, why do you think our planet now has this Covid 19 pandemic?

Since we’ve been under quarantine, Mother Nature has healed herself. Without our driving, without our pollution, without what us humans do to destroy beautiful Earth, Mama has reset herself. Carbon emissions have gone down, smog has gone down, and every negative trend has turned positive.

Until George Floyd’s murder, the world was getting kinder; even though we had to be physically distant, we could get together online, or we could talk to others from a distance on walks around neighbourhoods. Without gyms, people have been walking around where they have lived for many years, and getting to know their neighbours. I can say with the internet socials, we’ve been able to connect with friends, family, and other co-workers, we’ve been able to be more kinder and gentler. I’ve also gotten to know people even better than when things were my frenetic normal. We have been able to slow down with our frenetic energy

I would also say greed has subsided for a bit too. Everything that needed to happen without a pandemic has been able to happen because of the quarantine. Although putting our lives on hold is annoying, we needed this reset.

 

There’s a lesson here and I hope others heed it, I know I am and will continue to do so, even when there’s a vaccine available.

Venturing out in the Green Phase, but still Distancing like in the Red

On Friday, SE Pennsylvania switched to the green phase, although Philadelphia pausing. Yesterday, mom, dad and I ventured to the Bryn Mawr farmers market to pick up my Amaranth order. Mom and dad also picked up some vegetables and I enjoyed a classical performance.

 

After, we went to Hymie’s in Narberth and this was my first time there. Oh my, yum! Their gluten-free Reuben was just like Frieman’s in NYC and I’m so happy I finally found a kosher deli that serves GF in the Philadelphia Area.

Hymie’s is sticking to the 6-feet rule and the tables that weren’t part of the 6-feet parameter were filled with stuffed animals.

Although we are now in the green, we can easily go back to yellow and red, so everyone is still acting like we’re in yellow and red, minimizing going out, where we go to, mask on and physically distancing ourselves.

Summer will be different this year, but we can still maintain joy while being safe.

Get Excited, You’re Going to Belmar Instead!

I cancelled Keansburg. After doing some research and listening to advice of some other travelers, I realized that even though the accomodation was a steal, since I don’t drive and the transit isn’t that great in Keansburg, all my money would go to transit. There’s also not much in Keansburg, and just the other costs of that, it would add up and break a budget.

I looked at some of the places I was looking at near Asbury Park. I’m more familiar with the area around Asbury Park, there’s good transit and there’s a lot of gluten-free options. I also did some more thinking, there are no grocery stores in Keansburg and I don’t really feel comfortable cooking in someone’s else kitchen. While I’m sure they are clean, I have to deep clean my cooking spaces here at home, because gluten can be hidden. I also use my own cookware and I’m not dragging that on trains and buses. Gluten-free shopping can be as expensive as eating out.

Anyway, I requested a space in Long Branch on Air bnb, but the only room that was affordable, the woman responded back that she didn’t feel comfortable renting out this year. I understand. I then looked at the Belmar listing that I looked at before Keansburg. I asked the owner if she was near a train and she is, within walking distance. $95/night, $50 more a night, but I’m near a train that can take me to Asbury Park, that can take me to gluten-free dining, and Belmar has gluten-free eateries too. The beach is a 43 minute walk, and that’s okay. One day I can also take the train to Asbury Park beach, that’s only a 30 minute walk. I might see if Belmar boardwalk and Asbury Park boardwalk connect.

I want to share a piece I wrote for Gotham Writer’s Workshop because I think it sums up the lessons I’ve been learning about frugality and living within my means. It’s also not only about money, as another writer put it, it’s also about time. Time is just as important as money.

Prompt: let’s mess up our lives the right way.

I tried really hard to live a frugal life, I swear I did. I paid off a mountain of debt in the process of learning how to budget and shop around.

However, I’ve been learning that just because something is cheap that it’ll remain cheap or in budget. For example: one has to replace cheap clothes within a season – cheap clothes can break a budget. Theoretically, more expensive clothes are made better, last longer, and one only needs to purchase the item once. The same issue can happen with appliances.

I love to travel, but I’m a non-driver. Cheap accommodations in the middle of nowhere are attractive until you add up the costs of transit, ride shares, and food; that cheap vacation becomes more expensive than the room downtown.

I was supposed to go to Keansburg; 3 nights for $188. I was excited to be taking my first trip post COVID-19 quarantine until I did my research, added up costs of ride shares, food, and the time I’d have to invest in getting to places. I also researched the area and was left with a pit of despair in my stomach. Dangerous, gang activities, robberies, burglaries, the list went on. CANCEL!

I’m going to Belmar instead and while it’s double the price of Keansburg, it’s safe, I can walk places, I’m more familiar with the area as I’ve traveled in that area for the past 4 years, there are more transit options, and I have more access to gluten-free and other allergen free eateries.

Sure, I could probably do it cheaper, but I rather mess up my life the right way – by coming home alive with beautiful memories to write about.

I’m excited to go to Belmar and the family I’m staying with seems very nice! That makes half of the trip.

Thankful Thursday 25 June 2020

The last Thursday in June, we’re half way through the year. 2020, please slow down a little!

I’m so grateful for WRTI; I’m so grateful that Philadelphia has a classical and jazz radio station that extends all over the world. They’ve helped make holidays special for my friends overseas and yesterday was a day that had me verklempt. Wednesdays are At Your Request, from noon until 3pm, they’ll play any classical song that is requested. I decided to dedicate Pachelbel’s Canon to the memory of Mrs. Davenport.

Debra honoured my request at 12:32, and read, “this is a request from a listener member in King of Prussia who always requests beautiful and amazing pieces, who is dedicating Pachelbel’s Canon in memory of Mrs. Davenport.” The song played and it brought me to tears, she ended it with, “lovely remembrance for Mrs. Davenport from Jessica in King of Prussia.” Oh my, I teared up a bit, but it was therapeutic.

Besides Mrs. Collier, who once asked me after she retired, if I was the Jessica that was always making requests on WRTI. We laughed. Well, yesterday, I received an e-mail from Mrs. Brown. It was a forward from one of her friends who asked her if I knew Mrs. Davenport. The rest of the e-mail said:

“There is a request that just came in to WRTI from Jessica in King of Prussia in memory of Mary Davenport.
It is the Pachobel Canon.
Ask her, and if it was her, please tell her that I heard it and was very moved.”

I’m so grateful that my selection also brought someone the comfort and peace; and even though the song brought us to tears, grief is healthy and from that grief, we remember the loving and good times.  Debra was on vacation today, but after I finish this post, I want to e-mail her and thank her for remembering Mrs. Davenport.

Yesterday after I was done, one of my co-workers at my full-time job asked me for my work. She was going to print it for me so I don’t have to come in one day next week. I finished my appeal letters and I felt very grateful for that kind gesture.

I’m having an off day today. Since working from home, printing to the office printer doesn’t work. I have to manually save it and it’s tedious. I didn’t save the medical records for the appeals, someone is printing my work for me and I feel so bad that I missed it. Most projects we don’t have to appeal with medical records, just the EOBs. Medicaid requires it, but they don’t usually pay. We’re disputing payment because they paid us triage rate instead of emergency.

Anyway, I saved 200 of the records, then my co-worker told me she couldn’t print all of them, so she was going to print out the rest. Only 100 more. I just feel really bad because she’s doing her work too. I feel bad asking for help sometimes, especially when something new is tedious.
Thankful for Kathleen because she said, “don’t worry about it. We’re not perfect and things happen.” She ended up finishing my last project after I figured out regular printing isn’t going to work. I did most of it, but she finished the first 100 for me. Next project, I know how this will work and can do better.
Once things return to “normal.” I’m going to return the favour and help her with her project. If she’s out, I’ll pick up her work to help her.
I’m also thankful for Marsha, Christina, and my parents. What are you grateful for today?

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Sorry that this is a few days late; Mrs. Davenport’s death still has me feeling pretty low. I sent a sympathy card to the family yesterday, that pretty much finalized everything. Mrs. Brown sent me funeral arrangements, but funerals are still limited to family only in Pennsylvania and Pottstown is a bit of a hike.

Also, I wanted to take a few days to celebrate dad; spend time with him and mom, and do things together as a family. Putting blogs and social media aside is the best way to spend time with friends and family.

When dad got up on Sunday morning, he saw the big Mickey bag that was waiting for him.

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I was still asleep, but I’m sure he was almost like a small child , he tossed the paper out of the bag and pulled out his gifts: PJs, a frame, and a kosher chocolate bar. When I woke up on Sunday, I said good morning and wished him a Happy Father’s Day. He gave me a big hug and kiss, thanked me and agreed to some photos with two of his gifts.

We relaxed on Sunday and for dinner, mom made us prime rib. The perfect meal for a wonderful man that does so much for us. I made collard greens and we both enjoyed the greens with the meat.

 

I’m so thankful for my dad and all that he does for me. I’m daddy’s little girl and even at almost 31, I will always be daddy’s girl.