Piece I wrote for Gotham’s Writers Workshop

Writing this cheered me up a bit. It was a 15 minute prompt, I teared up a little, but doing so was cathartic.

I yawned and saw the living room light still on. The door is ajar, just like I left it before I went to bed. I quietly make my way downstairs, I’m not in a hurry because I don’t want to confront the worst. What if she passed away? What would I do? I don’t know if I could ever get that image out of my head, if I had to discover her dead.


“Grammy, are you okay?” I make my way to the bottom of the stairs and call out.


“Yes,” she replies in an inaudible voice, she is just lying on the couch, her breathing laboured. It looks like she hasn’t slept at all tonight.


I go over to her, administer some morphine, and I lay down next to her. Grammy takes me into her arms and we hold each other tightly. I’m losing my best friend.


Instead of her playing with my hair, I begin to play with her hair and instead of her telling me stories, I tell her stories about the upcoming semester. My hopes of graduating from college next December, hiding the tears because she will never see me graduate from college.


My eyes become heavy and as the tears subside, I drift off. I awake to the sun, Grammy has declined. Mom and dad are standing over us.


“Why don’t you go out for the day?”


I leave the door ajar, put on my coat, hat, and mittens. The snow is falling on a bleak January day. As I walk the city streets, I am in a daze. By the time I make it out of the blizzard, barely alive myself, Grammy went with the blizzard and a ghost remained in the sunshine.


Everyone in the workshop loved this short piece. They thought it was hauntingly beautiful and reminded them of a story called The Snow Angel.

Thankful Thursday 6 August 2020

First Thursday in August, I can’t believe we’re in August already! In 5 more days, the Dog Days end and hopefully that means the heat will break.

With that said, my summer SAD has been really bad for the past few days. I am grateful for my friends for listening and empathizing. I’m also thankful for my parents.

I’m thankful for Andrew Soloman and his inspiring TED talks, which have been helpful in lifting me up. Let me share one:

I’m going to rest, I found when I rest, I feel better. I will be back next week, after a few days of rest.

What are you thankful for?

Grilled Sea Bass

When I went to the fish monger on Saturday, I bought a whole sea bass. Mom was surprised to see the whole fish last night, and dad and I had a good laugh about it. Dad kept singing “give me that fish” in the McDonald’s commercial voice.

Here is the recipe I used, via All Recipes:

  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon pepper to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt to taste
  • 2 pounds sea bass
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Instructions Checklist

  • Step 1

    Preheat grill for high heat.

  • Step 2

    In a small bowl, stir together the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, lemon pepper, and sea salt. Sprinkle seasonings onto the fish.

  • Step 3

    In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the garlic and parsley. Remove from heat when the butter has melted, and set aside.

  • Step 4

    Lightly oil grill grate. Grill fish for 7 minutes, then turn and drizzle with butter. Continue cooking for 7 minutes, or until easily flaked with a fork. Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Dad helped me with the grill. Once we pulled the sea bass off, dad noticed the fish’s eye was clouded over. “Looks like he has glaucoma.”

“Do you have any eye drops?”

“No, let me call my friend. Maybe he can spare some eye drops for Mr. Fish.”

Dad and I chuckled. I love when food can bring people together. Making memories while cooking and eating.


Welcome Back Academy of Natural Sciences and Philadelphia (1 August 2020)

Since Philadelphia is in the yellow phase and indoor facilities can have 25% inside, the Academy of Natural Sciences decided to re-open. While it’s a modified schedule – hours are only Friday – Sunday 10am – 5pm at 25% capacity, at least they’re opened. The Art Museum has no idea when they will reopen.

Yesterday was a beautiful day and as I was walking around Philadelphia in my mask, this song was playing in my head:


Last week, the Academy sent me an e-mail about reopening and that their sloth, Lulu, would be back. On Thursday I bought my ticket for noon. I got to the city around 10am, had coffee, a gluten-free and kosher rice krispy treat at Starbucks and decided to walk to LOVE Park. It felt nice to take photos of dogs and birds with my DSLR camera again. I had someone take photos of me under the LOVE sign as well.

At 11:45, I decided to start walking to the Academy of Natural Sciences. I went the Ben Franklin Parkway route and managed to get some pretty decent photos too.


Once inside, I noticed the safety precautions the museum was taking. The Academy of Natural Sciences was also virtually empty. The only time I’ve seen it that empty was for adult evening programs. Since only 25% was allowed in, I took advantage of taking my time with the exhibits, and seeing the animals. I loved seeing the Lulu the Sloth. Survival of the Slowest was awesome. Sadly, the butterfly exhibits were closed.

As you could tell I love the Bonds’ scrapbook. I had to take photos of it for the scrapbook group on Reddit. I’ll have to share it with Scrapbook.com too. I love looking at old scrapbooks, especially with the newspaper clippings.

Here are a few videos of other favourites from the Academy:


I just love Lulu.

I got done at the Academy of Natural Sciences at 1:30 and went to the Farmers Market at Rittenhouse Square. Even that was socially distant. It was nice sitting inside the park too. I bought some seafood – I’m going to make the sea bass tomorrow night, the cod on Tuesday night – at Shore Thing. That’s my favourite fish monger. I also bought some gluten free soups, goat chevre, and some peaches. It was a fruitful day.


After about an hour at Rittenhouse Square, I decided to walk down to South Street and visit Repo Records. It felt so good going back inside one of my favourite record shops too. I bought a CD from a local artist that I can’t wait to listen to.


I ended my evening with a gluten-free meal at Magianno’s. Outdoor dining only and I had to wait a half an hour to be seated, but once I was, a street performer serenaded me while I enjoyed dinner. I had a great day out; I kept masked and I washed my hands throughout the day. Every place had hand sanitizer and I used that too.


Also, today Calvin and Hobbes turned 2 weeks old. They’re no longer itchy and they are smooth now, so I believe they’re pretty much healed.

A Different Approach to Scrapping Happiness Jar 2016

Since I ran out of space in March 2016, I managed to write blog entries and keep some calendar pages. I also kept some mementos from trips, as well as photos.

When I posted a video of my finished Happiness Box 2019 scrapbook to Writing.com last month, Elle, one of my pen pals from New Zealand shared one of her jumbo albums she made from 2001. She created it through Blurb books, and the nice thing about that company is you can add your own things after the book arrives. She printed out blog entries and attached them to the album. I thought, “why not do that for Happiness Jar 2016?”

It’s amazing to look at how this project started. While the Jar wasn’t successful in holding a whole year, it was successful in helping me find something bigger to hold a whole year and once I found the Box, the Box was successful. This project has helped me change my thinking, which I wasn’t expecting when I started this at the end of 2015.

Here are the print outs:

In March 2016, my dear friend Shady nominated me for a blog award on Blogger. It was Music and Words Award. It was a special day and I wanted to include it in my Happiness Jar 2016 scrapbook:


Thank you so much Shady for awarding my blog its very first award! I was so excited to receive this comment this morning and it really brightened up my morning. I feel honored, especially since a lot of my travels and writing involves music.

The Music & Words Award was created by music fan Andrea aka Miss Andi for the purpose of acknowledging and bringing together music loving bloggers from all over the world and sharing info

about artists and music of all genres.

No one is obligated to accept the MWA, but those who do are asked to follow these five steps:

1.) Link back to the person who nominated you.

2.) Answer the questions with words AND music.

3.) Pass the award on to 5 bloggers who inspire

     you with their posts about music. Be sure to

     notify them about the award.

4.) Tag your post with #MWA for Music & Words

     Award so we can all find you down the line.

5.) Quote these 5 steps and display the award icon

     in your post and also on your sidebar if you wish. 

The Q & A
  1. What Does Music Mean to You?
I love music. Music defines who I am and it's nothing short of magical. Music has brought me closer to a lot of people, has been comforting in tough times, and celebratory in wonderful times. As I've been working on my travel books, I've come to realize that music defines all of my travels. Music defines my life, but I think music defines everyone's lives. I believe music is powerful and healing. When I was learning how to play the guitar and organ, I experienced so much joy writing and playing my own songs. I loved learning chords, frets, tabs, and how to read music. It felt so magical at 22 years of age learning how to read music notes for the first time before I began my organ lessons (I was 19 years of age when I learned how to read tabs for the guitar). Here are some videos of me playing music:

I can associate music with different events in my life. I have an eclectic taste in music and I guess those different tastes go along with my different interests. Today I wrote a poem about the first time I went to a mosque service. Well, when my friend took me to the service and the anticipation for my first service. I will post the poem about the service too (I wrote the poem last year). Whenever I listen to Omar Souleyman (I tend to listen to a lot of foreign music too), it reminds me of those memories of new experiences. It also reminds me of when I studied Arabic in school and first experienced dining in Arabic restaurants. I love Omar Souleyman's voice and style.

I am thankful my friend agreed to drive me

today—a beautiful sunny day without snow,

a Friday no less, their Holy Day; it was clear.

I decided to go for the noon service,

then the Imam and I would talk shortly after;

but there was no bus that went by the little house—

I am thankful my friend agreed to drive me,

you can tell he’s a little nervous as he jokes;

yet they calm me down too—I’m always so nervous

with new experiences, yet I’m excited;

there is no traffic on the road, from the snowy week

and as soon as he spots the house on the small hill

he turns into the steep light gray gravel driveway,

the evergreen pines block the sunshine from our faces

and breaks; wishing me luck as I hop out of the car.

I thank him again and wave goodbye; a new journey awaits

and I walk over to a group of Muslim women and introduce myself,

they are all so welcoming and the Imam’s wife helps me get ready.

(Still looking for a title for this poem.)

Terzanelle of Spirituality

In our corner of the world, where veiled women gather
on our Persian rugs, we face East--
this is the center of our spirituality.

As the prayers are read, our tears released;
when wind whistles and birds chirp a new Spring:
on our Persian rugs, we face East--

the Imam's voice has a soothing and comforting ring;
a change in weather, of the long snowy winter
when wind whistles and birds chirp a new Spring

into our lungs as the water makes my hair splinter,
a new beginning, almost like being reborn;
a change in weather, of the long snowy winter

that illuminate my awakening, no longer torn,
I find my center, I feel for the first time: at peace--
a new beginning, almost like being reborn,

things I cannot say, cannot ignore, curiosity increased.
As prayers are read, our tears released;
I find my center, I feel the first time: at peace--
this is the center of our spirituality.

Music is healing as well. I remember finding comfort in songs like "Outside" by Staind and "LDLHA-IBCSYWA" after a life changing experience in 2013. Yes, those songs vary widely in genre, but they helped me come to grips with what happened and how life will be changing. Those songs put me in tears, but they were healing.

Outside In

Gray clouds in front of me,
cold air chill my cheeks
to a bright reddish pink.
Staind blasts through my earbuds,
I keep my 2003 Sony walkman between my legs—
despite the pumping
as I soar into the air,
the cold, bitter December staleness
without children's laughter,
running around Everhart Park.
It's just me and my music;
the calm before I go back to work,
before I trek back to campus
down the winding streets
avoiding the store on a street I want to forget,
as I miss the crowds heading for treats;
yet I hear the laughter,
friends chattering, gossiping
miles and miles away:
I turn the music up, damn them all to hell,
this is the only place I'm not scared of,
I don't want to leave this swing
of my favorite park,
despite it being the dead of winter,
ten days before graduation.
I don't want to leave,
I just want to swing and forget
the nightmares, the anger, the emptiness,
I love the chill in the air,
even if it freezes the tears
of me looking from the outside in
to an old life that seemed ages ago—
swing high and let the music numb.

I had the chance to meet Twiztid in 2014 when I saw my first Twiztid concert. I was awestruck when I met Monoxide and Madrox; it was one of the many greatest experiences of my life. I also witnessed at the concert when Twiztid ended with "LDLHA-IBCSYWA" that it left everyone in tears. Before the concert, I heard a few stories of the people I met that night and how that song transformed their lives. It was amazing to hear how one song can effect so many people. I think music is amazing like that.
  1. What is your first music related memory?
Growing up Nan housed a foreign exchange student from Slovakia. Daniel lived with Nan from 1991 until 1996 when he moved to New York City after he graduated college. He would drive down every weekend from New York City and spend time with us. Every Saturday morning we would drive around King of Prussia and Bridgeport to get donuts from Suzy Jo's in Bridgeport and then to Starbucks to get coffee before going back to Nan's house. I looked forward to this every weekend because this was our ritual. Daniel loved grunge and 90s music. We would listen to the radio in Nan's 1987 Buick. These were the songs I remember because I love these songs now.

I also remember when my parents bought me my first CD player on my 9th birthday on July 4, 1998. I was so surprised to see a big black boombox along with a Barenaked Ladie's CD. I loved that band and would listen to that CD for hours on that boombox. My parents then bought me an oldies CD and a Hanson CD to go along with Barenaked Ladies. I still use that boombox and mom and I will be seeing the Barenaked Ladies in June.
  1. What was the first album you purchased yourself?
I remember mom saying to me after I was gifted the boombox in 1998, "there will be no rap in this house!" That changed two years later when I fell in love with Eminem. It took a year before I was actually able to buy one of his CDs, but the first CD I purchased myself (because mom refused to buy an Eminem CD for me) was the edited version of The Marshall Mathers LP. I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was August 11, 2001 and I was home from my last week of camp that week. Nan brought me to the King of Prussia Mall and we went into FYE. I walked over to the rap section, picked out the CD, then put my hard earned babysitting money onto the counter and purchased the CD for $17.99. I still have that CD, but I bought the unedited version at the FYE in Philadelphia three years ago. I still love that album.

It's funny because that year for the holidays my parents did get me the edited version of The Slim Shady LP. I listened to edited music until 2003, four months shy of turning 14. The first unedited album I bought myself (with babysitting money and money I made while helping mom at work) was Korn's Follow The Leader. I love that Korn album.
  1. What was the latest music you purchased?(No online streaming or free downloads,
I’m talking about cash here!)

I only purchase my songs - even in the days of Napster and Limewire, I always paid for my services and bought CDs (I still buy CDs). I love supporting artists. Anyway, the latest music I purchased both on iTunes and CD purchases have been the following:

I love Otep and I really loved these songs when I was in middle school. I could relate to them and they made me feel less alone. I have to thank Anna for introducing me to this group - Otep is amazing. I love the raw energy. I was participating in a Soundtrackers challenge and thought about Blood Pigs. I hadn't listened to that song in a while and had to buy it, along with "Possession" and "My Confession." So glad I did.

I loved seeing the Hegazy sisters at the Philadelphia Museum of Art two weeks ago. I loved their songs, especially how they incorporated both English and Arabic. Anyone who covers Amr Diab's"Habibi" is awesome in my book. Just so many great memories of Arabic class and traveling with my class to different events. I had to purchase their CDs - I am so glad I did, I've been listening non-stop. I also sent some CDs to Christina and Andrew (yes, I purchased CDs for my friends as well).

Another act I loved seeing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I had to purchase Arooj Aftab's CD and this has been an album that relaxes me. She has such a soothing voice.

I love Caskey and although I could have downloaded this album for free, I wanted to buy Black Sheep III. I'm glad he was selling CDs because like I said, I like supporting artists. Back in 2014, Caskey sent me Black Sheep I for free and I loved the first album so much I wanted the third one. He even signed Black Sheep III for me. I love Caskey's style and the way he writes his lyrics. The imagery is just so raw and everything he raps about is heartfelt. 

Drake - Hotline Bling. Yes, this is a guilty pleasure song of mine. I've actually started really getting into Drake. I also bought If You're Reading This, You're Too Late... such a great album.

In This Moment- Adrenalize: I have to thank my dear friend Shady for introducing me to this song. I love it and I love working out to this song. I can't wait to listen to more of this band!

P.O.D.'s Alive and Youth of the Nation. These two were my favorite songs from when I was 12-14. I still love these songs very much.
  1. Which song did you listen to last? (No cheating, come out with the dirty pleasures!)
I have a lot of guilty pleasures, but the last song I listened to was Rainey Quailey's Me & Johnny Cash. I LOVE this song and I will admit that I do like country music. I'm not sure if I shared this back in January, but my aunt and uncle put Daphne to sleep. When I watched her for Thanksgiving, I had to leave the TV on for her to calm her. She hated being left alone - when I wasn't sleeping or with my parents, Daphne and I would watch TV together. One morning after Cooking with Julie Taboolie (awesome Arabic cooking show!) was over, I flipped on MTV U and they were playing Rainey Quailey's song. Daphne and I watched it and I will admit that I was dancing with her (lightly of course, she had hip displasia) with that song. Daphne and I enjoyed watching TV together - it was a very special moment. I think I might write a poem about that. :)

Now my nominations:

Charlie's Life's Needle Drop. One of my Writing.com friends and his blog is awesome. I love the music he posts and the vignettes he writes to the songs he posts. Charlie has many wonderful stories.

Andrew's Air Nice-to-Livelands. I love Andrew's blog posts and the music he posts. He has introduced me to some wonderful music over the years! He tells some wonderful stories and posts some great pictures along with his music.

Janie's Righting and Editing. I love the music battles she holds every week - like Andrew, she has introduced me to some great music. I just love Janie's blog in general.

Norb's Soundtracked. This was his blog for Soundtrackers - he has a lot of great music and stories to go along with the music. I love the way Norb writes.

Kitti's Soundtrack to a Feline's Life. Another Soundtracker blog, but amazing!


Back then I blogged on Blogger and while it’s private now, I still have the blog. I printed my Toronto and Asbury Park travels, I’ll print later in the year at a later time.

I scrapped some of the big events and photos already. There are still others I will have to create.


2016 was a good year. While I didn’t get to Canada in 2017, I am going to try again and next time I try again, I know what to do. I feel like even though there are some hard and uncomfortable moments in my life, there are also some beautiful and grateful moments too.

Thankful Thursday 30 July 2020

The last Thursday in July?! Already?! Time, please slow down a little bit! Calvin and Hobbes turned 11 days today, in three more days, it’ll be two weeks old! They’re almost healed, although they’re still in the milky phase.


I went into the office today and I’m thankful for Shetana. She was telling me about her grandson, who just turned 6 months old, and how full of energy he is. Over lunch, she was in a Facetime chat with her daughter and grandson; he was learning how to crawl. She invited me into the conversation and we all chatted while Adonis was crawling a bit. I feel grateful to be included and watching him grow. One aspect of love about work, at both jobs and every job I’ve held. I like being close to my co-workers.

Today is international friendship day and I’m thankful for everyone I call a friend. Jared sent me the postcards I left in his car while I was away; I was having so much fun that it totally slipped my mind until I was packing. I sent the postcards off to other friends and pen pals. I’m thankful that Jared treated that night and I’m thankful to have called him a friend for so long. I’m thankful for Marsha, Christina, Anna, Liz, and everyone who has graced my life for the past 10+ years. Friendships make our lives richer.

close up photo of sticky note
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

I am also thankful for my parents. What are you thankful for today?

Kosher Fish Dish

Since the start of quarantine, I’ve enjoyed cooking one meal per week for myself. One of my Writing.com friends suggested I create a food Instagram. So, last Friday, I created a food Instagram that is now the sister Instagram of The Happiness Box. It’s @joy.of.gf.cooking.

On Monday, I made a a Kosher fish dish, thanks to a recipe from the Jewish Exponent. I would like to share it with you. I made it with a side of lentils.

Fish with Tomato-Olive Sauce
Serves 4

1½ pounds fish filets
Sprinkles of salt and pepper, plus more to taste if needed
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 large very ripe tomato, chopped with juice or 1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes
10 large green pitted olives, cut in quarters

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and sauté the garlic and onions until fragrant.

Spritz the fish with lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and then set aside.

Add tomatoes with juice and olives to the skillet. Bring it to a simmer and allow it to cook, uncovered, for a few minutes to blend the flavors, thicken and reduce a bit.

Using a large spoon or spatula, push the sauce and solids to the perimeter of the pan and carefully place the fish in the center. Spoon the sauce and solids over the fish, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer the fish until done, about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness. When done, the fish should be opaque throughout and flake easily.

Taste the sauce for seasoning; add salt and pepper, if needed, and serve.

Happy 1 week, Calvin and Hobbes! (Happy 14 months, Wraith!)

Today, Calvin and Hobbes turned one week old. Peeling has subsided, but now the colours are turning milky. That is normal, as that happens during the last stage of the healing process. Here’s what LoveToKnow had to say:

The milky phase, or drying out phase, generally happens after the itchy scab has fallen off the tattoo. It happens in the last stage of healing. The milky layer of skin that is obscuring your tattoo will naturally slough off with time. It lasts about two weeks. Depending on your own body and healing, this can be longer or shorter. Once you make it through this stage, you are home free.

I’m quite happy with how Calvin and Hobbes turned out. Marz did an awesome, excellent job. I bought a thank you card today and I’m going to send him a brief note, thanking him for the experience and a lovely job done. I can’t wait to go back to him.

Wraith also turned 14 months old today! Today was also a year since I started therapy and while it ended on 27 September 2019, Mitch said I could come back in October 2020. Who knows what the world will look like then. It’s crazy to think how much has changed since 2019. When I was in therapy, I only had one tattoo, now I have three. I’ve grown as a person and none of us would have predicted COVID-19 a year ago.

Time keeps marching, and my body art is joining me for the journey.

Thankful Thursday 23 July 2020

Ah, the first Thursday after vacation and I have tomorrow off; my full-time job gave us a holiday tomorrow to thank us for providing excellent service through COVID-19. I only worked a two day week this week, which I am grateful for, but next week will be a rude awakening with 5 days of work.

On Tuesday, when I was off and catching up with laundry, grocery shopping, writing, and resting, I took the Rambler bus to do my errands. The bus drivers were so happy to see me again, since it’s been a few years, and on the way back a driver said, “you must be popular with the WRTI hosts since they always play your requests.” I just laughed and he joined me in laughing. It was good-hearted banter and I feel grateful for the day. Even the few other riders remembered me and were happy to see me.

Aunt Peg stopped by and gave me a belated birthday card and gift. I am grateful for her thoughtfulness and I am grateful for my family in general. I love the card she gave me, which I put into my Happiness Box: Collect moments, not things. I collect my moments in my Happiness Box and later, scrapbooks. I am a big believer in it and in the future, maybe I’ll do a special post about the concept.

Calvin and Hobbes began to peel. While that is part of the normal healing process, peeling makes me nervous. Wraith peeled, tattoo #2 didn’t really. I remember when Wraith peeled, I was expecting it, and after I got out of the shower I saw the flecks and texted Anna and Christina. They explained. I was expecting it with the colour pigments of Calvin and Hobbes, but I still texted Christina and asked her how long her colour tattoos took until the peeling was done. Her’s took a while, but they are much bigger, so mine probably won’t be long. I’m noticing the colours are more vibrant (which is supposed to happen), so I’m going to enjoy the healing process and document it. I’m grateful for all of their help.

I’m also thankful for Jared. I just had a great vacation, he’s on vacation now, and I’ve been following along. I’m thankful for Marsha, Kathleen and Ms. Ernestine too.

What are you thankful for?

Jessica’s Beach Vacation

Let the summer soundtrack begin! Let the music set the mood as you follow along with Jessica’s adventures.



I started my trip early on Friday morning. SEPTA was virtually empty and when I arrived at the Greyhound Bus Station on Filbert Street in Philadelphia, I had to order my NJ Transit bus ticket from the machine. I’m glad I only bought a one-way ticket because when I got onto the bus going to Asbury Park, the driver told me to keep my ticket and use it to come home. NJ Transit is honouring all tickets for the entire summer. That saved me $22.50 coming back home! What a lucky day.


As I was riding the bus to Asbury Park, I switched on Amazon music and this was some of my playlist for the next 4 hours:








I arrived in Asbury Park at 11:15 am, checked into my Air BNB at noon, and was greeted by an adorable Husky and a cute gray cat that reminded me of my aunt’s old cat. They were both friendly and became my new furry friends during my stay.


My lucky day kept getting better! Once I arrived at Belmar Beach, I didn’t notice anyone at the badge booth, I asked the boardwalk patrol guys if the shack was still opened and they told me the beach was free today! Friday was overcast, so I guess that is why they gave everyone a freebie! There weren’t a lot of people on the beach, but that is okay because I enjoyed the water. The waves were rough, and the rip current kept pulling me to the rocks. I had to keep mindful and kept swimming back to near where I was sitting.



I had fun swimming and diving under the waves for 4 hours and after, I decided to take photos of the beach. Since the beach wasn’t really that crowded, the seagulls were pests. They were going up to people, sitting on their towels, stealing foods, you name it. The young couple I was sitting near told me they had to chase the seagulls away from my towel because they were pulling it, looking for food. They may be pests, but they make decent photo subjects!



I walked back to my Air BNB; a half an hour and it was so hot. When I finally arrived, Michelle, my host, greeted me and we chatted. I realized she had another cat, Twigs. Twigs wasn’t as friendly as Roots, and after some smelling, he welcomed me.


Dinner at Barrio Costero and all the food except the churros were gluten-free. I ordered chips and guac, then shrimp tacos. Delicious! I went back to my Air BNB and fell asleep. I was wiped out from the travelling and beach afternoon. I noticed I was burned.


Saturday, woke up and ate breakfast. Twigs greeted me and had breakfast with me. I was so happy that he warmed up to me! I walked down to Belmar Beach and ordered a smoothie from Playa Bowls. I also bought a surf shirt to protect me from the sun. Since I was getting a tattoo on Sunday evening, I didn’t want to get sunburned even more. While I put on 100 SPF, with how rough the waves were on Friday, I didn’t want to chance it. I did bring a shirt, but I wanted something else for protection. Eastern Lines Surf Shopped helped me and I got a shirt that was 50 SPF. Between the sunscreen and the shirt, I was in the water for 7 hours and my body didn’t burn. Only my arms and face were red. Woohoo!


Between a smoothie at Playa Bowls and the Surf Shop, then music I heard on the beach, my soundtrack for Saturday:








Saturday on Belmar Beach was fun and crowded. Full sun, heat and humidity, it drew a crowd. We were all able to socially distance, even in the water. The waves weren’t as rough, but I still enjoyed swimming and diving under them. I saw a crab swim by me and he hung out with me for five minutes before the waves took him further out to sea. That was a neat experience. I loved that. I also chatted with someone from Yardley and he was telling me the ocean was calmer than last week, last week the rip currents were extreme and pulling people out.



In photos the following photos, this family was camped out next to me. Their two year old just loved the water and didn’t want to stay on land. His energy was infectious and they were friendly to chat with.


The following photos are just the signs of the time:


After 7 hours in the water and the heat, I didn’t feel like walking back and ordered a Lyft. Got ready and at 5pm, I was off to Allaire State Park for Allaire Arts Alive. Allaire State Park reminded me of Valley Forge Park and the performers were amazing! It was a peaceful and serene evening. I ended the evening at Cavè Bistro in Avon-by-the-Sea. Another highly recommended place on Find Me Gluten Free and it was delicious. I experienced eating dinner at sunset and the experience was beautiful.





Sunday, I knew I couldn’t swim as long since it was Tattoo Evening. I went to Spring Lake and sadly, their daily passes were sold out. I went to Spring Lake with Taylor in 2012, we had such a great time and I wanted to go back. That’s the wealthy people beach (LOL!) and only had limited passes for COVID-19. I took a few boardwalk photos, then took Lyft to Belmar Beach. Bought a daily badge and swam for two hours. The waves were calm and even though it was an abbreviated day, it was still fun.






After, went to Playa Bowls, got my Mermaid smoothie and they made me apple juice. As I was waiting for Lyft, I was texting back and forth with Jared, trying to figure out where we were going to eat after my tattoo. All of the gluten-free places I suggested were booked, so I suggested Barrio Costero and our reservations were for 7pm.  My appointment was from 5-6pm, but he wanted to make it a little later just in case.

Went back to my Air BNB and I hung out with Michelle for the rest of the day. I told her I was getting a tattoo and I also said, “I hope you don’t mind me hanging out. Usually, I would just go to Catsbury Park in Asbury Park, but since things are closed, it’s hard.” She said, “I don’t mind at all. Yeah, you don’t want to get burned before your tattoo.” We watched Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix, chatted and the cats hung out with us.

I’m glad Jared made the reservation for 7! After I was done my appointment, I walked down to Bangs Avenue and met Jared at Barrio Costero. Even though Calvin and Hobbes was covered, a little bit of the word bubble showed. Jared was impressed with Marz’s work. We had the waitress I had on Friday night and she was surprised to see me again, we laughed. I ordered the shrimp tacos again, Jared ordered pork and we split guac and chips. Jared ordered more shrimp tacos and we shared those.

Jared and I have been friends for 8 years, we met in 2012 at the Packers/Brown pre-season game in Green Bay, WI on 17 August 2012. We caught up in 2016 in Asbury Park, meant to catch up in 2018 and 2019, but schedules conflicted. Last night we were able to finally get together!

When we were first seated, Jared said to me, “you inspire me. I love how you just live life to the fullest, take photos and document everything. You’re not afraid to go anywhere alone and you have a wonderful sense of adventure.” He also admires how I document everything, how I capture memories and scrapbook them. He still has the first scrapbook I made him of his little girl (long story, but she lives in the Midwest and every time a photo was shared with him, he shared with me and I made him an album in 2018 for Christmas). I was speechless because sometimes I feel so self-conscious about my quirks. All I could do was this: *Happycry* and thank you.


After dinner, we drove down to Asbury Park beach and took photos along the beach and boardwalk. I’m so grateful to have him as a friend and it’s been an honour for the past 8 years. I just love the positivity and energy. It’s crazy that August will be 8 years since we met at the Packers/Browns game in Green Bay, WI.


Soundtrack with Jared:






At 9, Jared dropped me back on at my Air BNB. I washed up and Michelle was excited to see my tattoo. Michelle loved Marz’s work too and was just amazed with the quality. After, I walked downstairs and her new guests were watching Hamilton. They invited me to watch with them, I found out the young lady was from Lafayette Hill and her boyfriend was from North Jersey. Michelle’s living room was set up to allow social distancing, so we enjoyed Hamilton socially distant. I was grateful that they invited me to watch with them. It was a good evening.


I left at 8:30 am on Monday, got home at 1:45 pm. I had a wonderful vacation filled with joyful memories and it felt just felt wonderful. My soundtrack was a bit different coming home:






When I got home, I reinstalled Instagram, Jared tagged me in one of his stories and I did this again: *Happycry*. Let me share. I’m speechless, but *Happycry*. I added this series to my Happiness Box for 2020.


Album: Jessica’s Beach Vacation